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Sweden’s negative interest rates.

November 15, 2015 Leave a comment

To boost spending in any economy you would assume that the central bank would reduce interest rates – encourages borrowing and reduces saving. But very low interest rates could encourage people to hold cash rather than keep the money in the bank – this could slow economic activity in the economy.

Sweden’s central bank – Riksbank – has gone negative with interest rates. Sweden has the third highest savings rate in the developed world but there is a significant positive output gap. With inflation at 0.2% it remains well below the central bank’s 2% target but the mandate from the Swedish government encourages radical measures to rectify the threats of deflation. 

But with lower rates in the eurozone to stimulate growth this has weakened the Euro against the Swedish krona making Swedish imports cheaper and putting further deflation pressure on the economy. Therefore the Riksbank has had to cut its own rates in response in an attempt to avoid deep deflation. Switzerland has also go the negative way with a rate of -0.75%.

Swedish Interest Rates

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OECD Deflation

January 7, 2015 Leave a comment

In 2014, 9 of the 34 members of the OECD experienced deflation whilst 3 others had zero inflation. Over the whole area consumer prices rose by only 1.7% mainly due to the fall in oil prices.

However in the Euro area inflation was only 0.4% over the year which is worrying especially as the European Central Bank (ECB) targets an annual rate of 2%. With interest rates at the ECB at 0.05% there is little scope for any stimulatory activity to increase inflation. Furthermore they are also charging banks deposits on money in the bank through a negative rate of 0.2%. Although lower oil prices will benefits businesses and consumers alike it maybe paradoxical if people expect lower inflation as cheaper energy pushes the headline rate into negative territory. So, the ECB has taken a leaf out of the US Fed’s book and decided on a form of quantitative easing by purchasing covered bonds and asset-backed securities.

Mario Draghi, President of the ECB, has not ruled out using additional measures “should it become necessary to further address risks of too prolonged a period of low inflation”.

Although Japan has an annual rate of inflation of 2.9% this has been largely due to an increase in the retail sales tax – if you exclude it from the calculation the inflation rate would be 0.9%. The Japanese Central Bank has a target of 2% inflation. As with the ECB interest rates in Japan are very low – 0.1% – so this leaves no scope for any stimulatory cuts. They are hoping that a further stimulus package of ¥3.5 trillion (NZ$ 37.41billion) on 27th December will boost the economy.

In New Zealand the annual inflation rate in September was 1% – the Reserve Bank Act 1989 stipulates a band of 1-3% while targeting future inflation at 2%. Unlike their counterparts at the ECB and the Bank of Japan they do have scope for stimulatory cuts as the official cash rate is currently 3.5%.

Deflation OECD

Categories: Deflation Tags: , , ,

The Perils of Deflation

December 18, 2014 Leave a comment

DeflationFor so long central banks and policy makers have been obsessed with inflation but with inflation falling the dangers of deflation are now on the horizon. In the USA, Britain and the euro zone inflation is dropping below the 2% target and Japan is struggling to maintain higher prices. Why is deflation bad:

1. Money made today will be worth less tomorrow so investment is discouraged
2. Goods cheaper tomorrow reduces consumption and therefore aggregate demand
3. Central banks struggle to set real interest rates which are stimulatory
4. People who borrow money find that what they owe is worth more in real terms
5. Demand runs below the economy’s capacity to supply goods and services leaving an output gap. This can lead to unemployment and wage cuts which worsens the situation

One of the main problems at present is the fact that Central Banks are running out of ammunition – interest rate cuts – as rates are close to 0%. Therefore in order to stimulate demand they now have to use fiscal policy and more government spending would assist especially in areas that are in need – e.g. roads, bridges etc.

Would US public infrastructure spending drive up prices?

Some alarming figures have been banded about with regard to America’s infrastructure. It is estimated that over 700,000 bridges are rated as structurally deficient. In 2009 Americans lost approximately $78 billion to traffic delays – inefficient use of time and petrol costs. Also crashes which to a large extent have been caused by road conditions, cost a further $230 billion.

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers the US needs to spend $2.2 trillion bring their infrastructure up to standard. The Congressional Budget Office estimated in 2011 that for every dollar the federal government spent on infrastructure the multiplier effect was up to 2.5. Other indicators state that every $1 billion spent on infrastructure creates 18,000 jobs, almost 30% more than if the same amount were used to cut personal income taxes. – The Economist

Positive Externalities from infrastructure.

Investment in infrastructure has a lot of positive externalities – faster traveling time for consumers and companies, spending less time on maintenance. Research has shown that the completion of a road led to an increase in economic activity between 3 and 8 times bigger than it initial outlay with eight years after its completion. But what must be considered is that now is the best time to invest in infrastructure as it is very cheap – much cheaper than it will be when the economy is going through a boom period.

Deflation fears on the agenda once more

October 19, 2014 Leave a comment

Deflation has emerged as a major risk to the global economy with it being particularly evident in Europe and Japan where leaders have found it hard to come up with any solutions to generate economic growth. In Europe inflation was just 0.3% in September well below the 2% target of the European Central Bank. With this low rate any weakness in the Germany economy could tip the Euro economy over the edge into a deflationary downturn. The extent of the concern with deflation was evident by the ECB’s record low interest rates – 0.05% – and a negative rates for deposits. With austerity measures in place in France and Italy one wonders about their ability to bring about any sort of growth and ultimately some mild inflation.

Deflation Oct 2014

Why is deflation a concern?

1. Holding back on spending: Consumers may opt to postpone demand if they expect prices to fall further in the future

2. Debts increase:

• The real value of debt rises when the general price level is falling and a
higher real debt mountain can be a drag on confidence
• Mortgage payers on fixed mortgage interest rates will see the real cost of servicing their debt increase

3. The real cost of borrowing increases: Real interest rates will rise if nominal rates of interest do not fall in line with prices

4. Lower profit margins: This can lead to higher unemployment as firms seek to reduce their costs.

5. Confidence and saving: Falling asset prices such as price deflation in the housing market hit personal sector wealth and confidence – leading to further declines in AD. Higher savings can lead to the paradox of thrift

Source: Tutor2u

Categories: Deflation Tags:

Deflation threat for Euro area

January 17, 2014 Leave a comment

Today inflation in the Euro area is at dangerously low levels – 0.8% in the year to December. This is well below the target of 2% set by the European Central Bank. It doesn’t help that unemployment in the area is 12.1% and this will need to fall if there is to be some sort of recovery which will put upward pressure on prices. The ECB cut its Main Refinance Rate to 0.25% on 13th November last year and could be running out of options. It might be looking at imposing negative interest rates on deposits held at the ECB by trading banks.

Euro Area Inflation

Why is deflation a concern?

1. Holding back on spending: Consumers may opt to postpone demand if they expect prices to fall further in the future

2. Debts increase:

• The real value of debt rises when the general price level is falling and a
higher real debt mountain can be a drag on confidence
• Mortgage payers on fixed mortgage interest rates will see the real cost of servicing their debt increase

3. The real cost of borrowing increases: Real interest rates will rise if nominal rates of interest do not fall in line with prices

4. Lower profit margins: This can lead to higher unemployment as firms seek to reduce their costs.

5. Confidence and saving: Falling asset prices such as price deflation in the housing market hit personal sector wealth and confidence – leading to further declines in AD. Higher savings can lead to the paradox of thrift

Source: Tutor2u

Categories: Deflation, Euro, Inflation Tags:

Japan pours more fuel on the ‘dull’ embers

November 1, 2012 Leave a comment

The New York Times recently reported that the Japanese authorities are once again trying to stimulate a rather moribund economy with injecting more money into the circular flow.

* A ¥11 trillion is to be added to an asset buying programme
* The Bank of Japan will supply banks with cheap long-term funds in the hope of stimulating borrowing.
* Base interest rate to stay at 0-0.1% – see graph below
* These measures will stay in place until inflation has reached at least 1% – Bank of Japan forecast of this figure is March 2014.

There has been some return to growth with the reconstruction after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. However global demand has declines and the issue of territory with China hasn’t helped – Japanese goods are not being favoured by Chinese consumers. Japan’s deflationary decade hasn’t been helped with a contracting population and monetary policy needs to be accompanied by government fiscal policy as private sector companies don’t have the confidence to invest in major expansions. To this end the government have thrown money at the economy to the tune of ¥422.6 billion (in the form of government spending) but this is already twice the size of the Japanese economy. A strengthening yen hasn’t helped matters as exporters find their products uncompetitive.

Deflation for New Zealand Economy?

July 17, 2012 Leave a comment

The recent CPI figures published by the Dept of Statistics in Wellington show that there was a 1% in the CPI from the June 2011 quarter to the June 2012 – the lowest annual rise since 1999. This is at the bottom of the Policy Target Agreement which stipulates that the CPI should be kept between 1-3%. The question now is whether annual headline CPI inflation can avoid dipping below the bottom of the 1.0% and whether the threat of deflation is a serious concern?

Deflation – why is it a concern?

In the short-term a period of deflation can help the economy. Falling prices mean that consumers can buy more with their income and rising purchasing power would provide a boost to confidence and could assist the economy by increased growth.

However a longer period of deflation can be very damaging to an economy for two reasons:

1. Expecting prices to be lower in the future consumers put off purchasing goods and services in the expectation that they will get lower. This leads to a contraction of demand and ultimately lower growth. Japan in the 1990’s is a good example of this – see graph below.

2. A more dangerous scenario is debt deflation. As prices fall the real value (nominal – CPI) of debt increases – just as it decreases if prices are rising.

The increase in debt that people have taken on over the last 5 years makes this latter point very worrying. However, commentators have suggested that deflation shouldn’t become a problem in NZ.

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