Central Bank Interest Rates – more increases in the horizon

Jerome Powell US Fed Chair increased the Fed Funds Rate by 0.75% last week to 3.25% and has signalled that he will do what is required to get the inflation rate down to the 2% target. Policy rates are still negative almost everywhere, the main exceptions being China, Brazil, Hong Kong, and Saudi Arabia. Mexico and Indonesia are almost there, too.

Thoughts from the Frontline – Mauldin Economics.

If there is a negative real interest rate, it means that the inflation rate is greater than the nominal interest rate. If the interest rate is 2% and the inflation rate is 10%, then the borrower would gain 8% of every dollar borrowed per year. In the early 1970s, the US and UK both reduced their debt burden by about 30% to 40% of GDP by taking advantage of negative real interest rates.

It is possible to control inflation while keeping real rates well below zero but it is more likely that reducing demand will require raising real rates at least to 0%, and probably a bit higher. Higher interest rates globally are on the horizon as at present they aren’t high enough to significantly reduce inflation pressure in most countries. Central banks have work to do.

Source: Mauldin Economics

A2 Economics – Liquidity Preference Curve

With mock exams this week here is something on Liquidity Preference – included is a mind map that has been modified from Susan Grant’s CIE revision book.

Demand for money

TRANSACTIONS DEMAND – T – this is money used for the purchase of goods and services. The transactions demand for money is positively related to real incomes and inflation. As an individual’s income rises or as prices in the shops increase, he will have to hold more cash to carry out his everyday transactions. The quantity of nominal money demand is therefore proportional to the price level in the economy. (note:  the real demand for money is independent of the price level)

PRECAUTIONARY BALANCES – P – this is money held to cover unexpected items of expenditure. As with the transactions demand for money, it is positively correlated with real incomes and inflation.

SPECULATIVE BALANCES – S – this is money not held for transaction purposes but in place of other financial assets, usually because they are expected to fall in price.

Bond prices and interest rates are inversely related – Interest Rates ↑ = Bond Prices ↓ and Interest Rates ↓ = Bond Prices ↑.

If a bond has a fixed return, e.g. $10 a year. If the price of a bond is $100 this represents a 10% return. If the price of the bond is $50 this represents a 20% return, i.e. the lower the price of the bond, the greater the return.

At high rates of interest, individuals expect interest rates to fall and bond prices to rise. To benefit from the rise in bond prices individuals use their speculative balances to buy bonds. Thus when interest rates are high speculative money balances are low.

At low rates of interest, individuals expect interest rates to rise and bond prices to fall. To avoid the capital loses associated with a fall in the price of bonds individuals will sell their bonds and add to their speculative cash balances. Thus, when interest rates are low speculative money balances will be high.

There is an inverse relationship between the rate of interest and the speculative demand for money.

The total demand for money is obtained by the summation of the transactions, precautionary and speculative demands. Represented graphically, it is sometimes called the liquidity preference curve and is inversely related to the rate of interest.

 

 

Global interest rates in sync

Below is a graphic from the IMF showing both developing and developed countries interest rate movements. Obviously during the the COVID pandemic interest rates were lowered to stimulate aggregate demand and reduce the debt burden on consumers and businesses. However with inflation now being well above the 2% threshold that most countries have as their target, interest rates have been on the rise. Central banks need to act resolutely to bring inflation back to their target, avoiding a de-anchoring of inflation expectations that would damage credibility built over the past decades. Although the war in Ukraine and the supply chain disruptions can’t be resolved by central banks, higher interest rates can slow aggregate demand and therefore reduce inflationary pressure.

IMF – Central Banks Hike Interest Rates in Sync to Tame Inflation Pressures – 10th August 2022

Causes of recessions and how do you manipulate the economy for a ‘soft landing’?

Below is a very good video from CNBC that covers the main causes of recessions – overheated economy, asset bubbles and black swan events. Good analysis of soft and hard landings as well as the wage price spiral effect.

“History teaches us that recessions are inevitable,” said David Wessel, a senior fellow in economic studies at The Brookings Institution. “I think there are things we can do with a policy that makes recessions less likely or when they occur, less severe. We’ve learned a lot, but we haven’t learned enough to say that we’re never going to have another recession.” As the nation’s authority on monetary policies, the Federal Reserve plays a critical role in managing recessions. The Fed is currently attempting to avoid a recession by engineering what’s known as a “soft landing,” in which incremental interest rate hikes are used to curb inflation without pushing the economy into recession.

Are we actually in recession and is a wage-price spiral on the cards?

For the majority of textbooks a recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative GDP. Whilst a lot of economies might technically go through this objective measure in the next year it is a rather strange economic environment that we live. I don’t recall a recession that coincides with record level unemployment, high consumer spending and a huge number of job openings which in turn has led to wage increases. Recession is usually associated with the opposite – high unemployment, low to nil wage growth and little spending. Therefore the economy isn’t in the usual boom-bust cycle but more of an intentional slowdown. Central banks need to get inflation under control by reducing aggregate demand through higher interest rates. Consumer prices, especially in food and energy, rising faster than wages but with wages rising there is a risk of a wage-price spiral. In order to get the inflation down most central banks only have the tools of interest rates and bank liquidity with both currently in the tightening phase.

New Zealand Employment Data – 3rd August 2022

Today’s figures labour data statistics in New Zealand were interesting to say the least. Although unemployment went up 0.1% to 3.3% against expectations it was wage growth of 7% that really stood out and reflected a really tight labour market almost matching the CPI of 7.3%. This is a major concern for the RBNZ the labour market appears to be the major driver of inflation and the threat of a wage-price spiral is very real. A self-perpetuating inflation cycle could cause domestic inflation in New Zealand to remain high, even if global pressure start to ease. In previous periods of inflation the RBNZ got help in the form of redundancies that forced numbers of consumers to cut their spending. This is unlikely in such labour market conditions and what can be sure is that the OCR will be on the rise again and is likely to increase to 4% by the end of the year.

Theory behind the wage-price spiral

As from previous posts, the Phillips Curve analysed data for money wages against the rate of unemployment over the period 1862-1958. Money wages and prices were seen to be strongly correlated, mainly because the former are the most significant costs of production. Hence the resulting curve purported to provide a “trade-off’ between inflation and unemployment – i.e. the government could ‘select’ its desired position on the curve. During the 1970’s higher rates of inflation than previously were associated with any given level of unemployment. It was generally considered that the whole curve had shifted right – i.e. to achieve full employment a higher rate of inflation than previously had to be accepted.

Milton Friedman’s expectations-augmented Phillips Curve denies the existence of any long-run trade off between inflation and unemployment. In short, attempts to reduce unemployment below its natural rate by fiscal reflation will succeed only at the cost of generating a wage-price spiral, as wages are quickly cancelled out by increases in prices.

Each time the government reflates the economy, a period of accelerating inflation will follow a temporary fall in unemployment as workers anticipate a future rise in inflation in their pay demands, and unemployment returns to its natural rate.

The process can be seen in the diagram below – a movement from A to B to C to D to E

Friedman thus concludes that the long-run Phillips Curve (LRPC) is vertical (at the natural rate of unemployment), and the following propositions emerge:

1. At the natural rate of unemployment, the rate of inflation will be constant (but not necessarily zero).

2. The rate of unemployment can only be maintained below its natural rate at the cost of accelerating inflation. (Reflation is doomed to failure).

3. Reduction in the rate of inflation requires deflation in the economy – i.e. unemployment must rise (in the short term at least) above its natural rate.

Some economists go still further, and argue that the natural rate has increased over time and that the LRPC slopes upwards to the right. If inflation is persistently higher in one country that elsewhere, the resulting loss of competitiveness reduces sales and destroys capacity. Hence inflation is seen to be a cause of higher inflation.

Rational expectations theorists deny Friedman’s view that reflation reduces unemployment even in the short-run. Since economic agents on average correctly predicted that the outcome of reflation will be higher inflation, higher money wages have no effect upon employment and the result of relations simply a movement up the LRPC to a higher level of inflation.

Strong US dollar is a problem for other economies

This year the US dollar has appreciated by 10% against other major currencies. The main reason behind this is the US Fed increasing interest rates in tackling the inflationary pressure in its economy – since the beginning of the year the Fed Funds rate has increased from 0% to 2.25-2.5%. This increase in interest rates has been quicker than other major economies which has led to the strengthening of the US dollar. This stronger dollar makes US exports less competitive and imports cheaper as the US dollar buys more of the other currency. However even if a country doesn’t trade with the US it can still be impacted by the US dollar when pricing goods and services. The problem lies in the invoicing of fuel and food which is usually quoted in US dollars – an IMF paper suggested that approximately 40% of invoices are in US dollars – see Figure 4 below. Furthermore they also found prices for businesses doing trade between two distant countries can be much more sensitive to the value of the US dollar than the relative levels of the tow local currencies.

With the US Fed focused on inflation further interest rate increases on the cards which could lead to further strengthening of the US dollar. To counter this action other countries central banks could increase their interest rates ahead of time to protect their currency.

IMF – July 2020

The graph above reveals that the share of global exports invoiced in dollars is much larger than the share of exports destined to the US. This difference indicates that the dollar plays an outsized role in the invoicing of global exports; the patterns for imports are quite similar. The right panel of Figure 4 establishes that the dollar’s leading role reflects more than its use for the invoicing of commodity exports: once exports of commodities are removed from both the invoicing and export shares, the dollar share of invoicing (23%) still exceeds – by a sizeable margin – the share of exports destined for the US (10%). Figure 4 also reveals that the euro’s share in global export invoicing is an impressive 46%. While this appears as a very large number, recall that a currency’s vehicle currency role can be gauged only by comparing its share in global invoicing to the share of global exports that involve the jurisdiction issuing the currency. This comparison reveals that the euro’s share in global export invoicing is not much larger than its share, 37%, of exports destined to EA countries.

Sources:

Strong dollar is a major headache for other countries. FT 30th July 2022

IMF – Patterns in Invoicing Currency in Global Trade. Emine Boz, Camila Casas, Georgios Georgiadis, Gita Gopinath, Helena Le Mezo, Arnaud Mehl, Tra Nguyen. July 2020

Inflationary Expectations – Households v Economists

In recent years more attention has been paid to the psychological effects which rising prices have on people’s behaviour. The various groups which make up the economy, acting in their own self-interest, will actually cause inflation to rise faster than otherwise would be the case if they believe rising prices are set to continue.

Workers, who have tended to get wage rises to ‘catch up’ with previous price increases, will attempt to gain a little extra compensate them for the expected further inflation, especially if they cannot negotiate wage increases for another year. Consumers, in belief that prices will keep rising, buy now to beat the price rises, but this extra buying adds to demand pressures on prices.

At a recent press conference US Fed chair Jerome Powell expressed concern about expectations”
“We can’t allow a wage-price spiral to happen,” he said. “And we can’t allow inflation expectations to become unanchored. It’s just something that we can’t allow to happen.”

A recent IMF blog post by Carlo Pizzinelli looked at the inflationary expectations of consumers against those of policy makers. When monetary or fiscal policy are in the news how do consumer expectations for inflation change? Additionally how do economic events influence expectations? Can we say that consumers form the same expectations as those who deliver policy decisions? The researchers asked consumers to consider four speculative shocks and then make predictions about their impact on inflation and unemployment. The four were as follows:

  • a sharp increase in crude oil prices as a result of falling world supply,
  • a rise in income taxes,
  • an increase in government spending,
  • a rise in the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate.

It is an assumption that these shocks are generally understood by consumers. Researchers provided current figures for the rates of inflation and unemployment and asked them to give their forecasts for the two variables over the following year. They then provided news about one of the four speculative shocks and asked them to make new predictions for inflation and unemployment.

Results show that there are large differences in expectations from consumers and experts. Of note is consumers belief that an increase in income tax and interest rates would increase inflation which is contrary to what experts predict – see Chart 1.

In order to look into why there is a disagreement between two groups consumers were asked as to what they were thinking when they made their predictions – a focus was on demand side v supply side theory. Experts drew on their technical knowledge whilst consumers rely on personal experiences. Consumers believe that higher costs (interest rates up) for firms are then added to the price of the good or service. Experts predict a decline in prices as consumers spend less and save more – see Chart 2

It is important that central banks make their statements in a simple language so that there is clarity for the general public – e.g. when a central bank raises interest rates unexpectedly households are under the assumption that this action will lower inflation and their actions will ultimately lead to a reduction in inflation.

BoJ still buying bonds as other central banks reverse asset purchases.

Within the OECD are annual inflation has been rising at an average of 9.6% – its ranges from 2.5% in Japan to 73.5% in Turkey. The US and the UK has inflation of 9.1%, Australia 6.3% and NZ 7.3%. Most of the bigger economies target a 2% inflation rate and in response to these higher rates the US Fed increased its interest rates by 75 basis points to 1.5-1.75% with a potential 50 or 75 basis point rise in July. The Reserve Bank of Australia also lifted its interest rate by 50 basis points to 1.35% in July.
In order to tackle this inflationary pressure it is normal for central banks to sell bonds / assets back into the market which is turn reduces the money supply and raises interest rates. This should depress aggregate demand as there is now less money in the circular flow and the cost of borrowing goes up. However, the Bank of Japan (BoJ) is out of kilter with accelerating interest rates as it has committed to its policy of yield curve control intended to keep yields on 10-year bonds below 0.25% by buying as much public debt as is required – see graph below:

FT – Investors crank up bets on BoJ surrendering yield curve controls

How to Bond Yields work?
Say market interest rates are 10% and the government issue a bond and agree to pay 10% on a $1000 bond = annual return of $100.
100/1000 = 10%
If the central bank increase interest rates to 12% the previous bond is bad value for money as it pays $100 as compared to $120 with the a new bond. The value of the new bond is effectively reduced to $833 as in order to give it annual payment of $100 a year the price would have to be $833 to it a market based return.
100/833 = 12%

Yield curve control
Yield curve control (YCC) involves the BOJ targeting a longer-term interest rate by buying as many bonds as necessary to hit that rate target. It has been buying Japanese Government Bonds (JGB) at a monthly rate of ¥20trn which is double its previous peak of bond buying in 2016. Although there is no theoretical limit on its buying ability it has impacted the currency which has fallen to a 24 year low against the US dollar. This will push up the price of imports and inflation although the BOJ is confident that the price rises in its economy are transitory. If inflation does start to consistently hit levels above the BOJ’s target of 2% will they reverse their bond purchasing policy and shift to a higher yield cap?

Shorting JGB’s
A lot of investment banks are looking to short JGB’s. In this situation the trader suspects that bond prices will fall, and wishes to take advantage of that bearish sentiment—for instance, if interest rates are expected to rise. This will likely happen if the Japanese relax their YCC with interest rates rising and bond prices falling – see image below for a simple explanation of shorting.

Source: Online Trading Academy

Sources:

  • The Economist: – BoJ v the markets. June 25th 2022.
  • Financial Times: Investors crank up bets on BoJ surrendering yield curve controls. June 23rd 2022

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Inflation and the Base Year Effect

A price index is a means of comparing a set of prices as they change over time. Index numbers allow for a comparison of prices with those in an arbitrary chosen reference (base year), a year that current values can be compared against. This base year is usually given a numerical value of 100 or 1000. The index number allows for percentage changes to be calculated between various time periods.

If we look at the last few years some of the current inflation increases has been exaggerated by what are known as base-year effects. What has happened is that annual inflation has been measured against a time during the COVID-19 pandemic when economies were locked down and prices slumped. Therefore the inflation figures around the world have been increasing quite rapidly but soon they will be measured against the current higher prices which should mean a lower inflation figure. Regions such as Europe that rely on imported energy may see a greater fall in inflation than others if the price of fuels like oil and gas were to quickly cool. But that doesn’t seem likely in the current climate especially with the war in the Ukraine and come October the northern hemisphere heads back into winter with greater energy use. The graph above is a little out-of-date in that inflation in the UK is now 9.1% and the Bank of England expect it to exceed 11% in October. The USA has an inflation rate of 8.6% and it is expected to reach 9%.

Central Bank rate increases in 2022
Below are the central bank rate hikes this year and the big question is have they got their timing and rate increases right.

  • With the threat of inflation should banks have increased their rates earlier?
  • If they tighten too quickly will that tip their economy into recession and a hard landing?
  • What is the right rate increase for the current inflation figure?
  • How long (pipeline effect) will it take for interest changes to impact the inflation figure?
  • These are the challenging questions that central bankers face in today’s environment.

For more on Inflation and Base Rates view the key notes (accompanied by fully coloured diagrams/models) on elearneconomics that will assist students to understand concepts and terms for external examinations, assignments or topic tests.

IB/A2 Economics – Macroeconomic policies essay

With the mid-year exams next week here are a couple of mindmaps I produced using OmniGraffle (Apple software). I found it a useful starting point for students to discuss the effectiveness of each policy and the conflicts within macro objectives. This is a very common essay question in CIE Paper 4. My question would be:

What policies has the government in your country implemented since Covid-19 and how successful have they been in meeting macro economic objectives? (25)

Interest rates and controlling inflation

Excellent video from The Economist. It goes through the impact of raising interest rates in an economy – mortgages, spending patterns, inflationary expectations. Also looks at when interest rates in the US went to 19.5% during the 1980’s. There is a fine line between increasing interest rates too quickly and tipping the economy into a recession or being too slow with the tightening process and letting inflation spiral upwards. The video discusses all these points – great revision for the Inflation topic at NCEA, IB and CIE.

Sign up to elearneconomics for multiple choice test questions (many with coloured diagrams and models) and the reasoned answers on Interest Rates and Inflation. Immediate feedback and tracked results allow students to identify areas of strength and weakness vital for student-centred learning and understanding.

Turkish inflation hits 73.5% but not surprising.

Most economists are in agreement that when there is an increase in inflation the central bank increases the base interest rates in order to reduce spending and encouraging saving. This takes money out of the circular flow and should lead to less borrowing and therefore less pressure on prices.

The Turkish lira dropped by 17% this year with three cuts in interest rates since September. This comes as inflation has climbed to 73.5%. So why would you drop interest rates when you have rapidly increasing inflation? President Erdogan sacked the governor of the head of central bank Naci Agbal who had been hiking interest rates to dampen down inflation – he was the third governor to lose his job in the last two years. Erdogan believes that raising interest rates would raise inflation rather than reduce it and he proceeded to cut rates further which saw an even steeper decline in the lira. An argument for this policy could be that the cheaper exports can drive economic growth.

Source: FT4th June 2022

The collapse of the lira make exports competitive and imports more expensive and in September Turkey posted a current account surplus thanks in large to a recovery in tourist numbers. Turkey relies heavily on imports of raw materials and energy and with the exchange rate falling these have become a lot more expensive. Although Turkish exports should be cheaper, the heavy import component of finished exports makes those goods more expensive so this outweighs the benefits of having a cheaper lira – e.g. in assembling kitchen appliances the price of imports of the component parts make the overall price of the appliance more expensive. This just fuels more inflation. Supermarkets are limiting customers to one item as they know people will stockpile produce with the ever increasing inflation rate.

So with inflation now at 73.5% and and interest rates at 14% this makes real interest rates = – 59.5%. The central bank kept its benchmark interest rate at 14% at its May meeting, extending a pause that followed 5% of cuts last year. This has led to the local population to turn to other currencies – US$ Euro – in order to protect the value of their money. Below is a very good video clip from Deutsche Welle (German World Service) outlining the crisis that Turkey face and how a policy of cutting interest rates has backfired.

The impact of a tighter monetary policy.

Below is a CNBC video on the impact of higher interest rates which is now the case in many developed economies. As post-covid demand surges and supply chain problems exacerbate, inflation has started to impact many economies with higher prices and a cost of living crisis. In order to control this inflationary pressure central banks around the world have been forced to adapt a more contractionary monetary policy which means higher interest rates. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand even gets a mention. Good for revision of the flow on effects in an economy from higher interest rates.

Housing affordability in New Zealand

I blogged on this topic earlier in the year and found it interesting that although mortgage repayments have become more affordable it is the deposits which people find hard to muster mainly due to the significant increase in house prices over the years. Below is an informative graphic about housing affordability in New Zealand.

Over the last 20 years mortgages have become much more affordable even with the increase in house prices mainly due to lower interest rates. Remember even though house prices were lower 20 years ago the interest payments were much higher. Today we have seen much lower interest rates and higher house prices but it also should be noted that the banks have got much more flexible mortgage plans that allow buyers to spread payments over many years which means lower weekly payments.
*Mortgage affordability is measured by the weekly cost of servicing a two year fixed rate mortgage at a normal house price compared to the change in median income.

Deposit affordability is key
Note that it is the deposit which is much less affordable but the mortgage payments are much more affordable. It is twice as hard to get a deposit on a house on a median income than it was 20 years ago. Therefore those that can muster a deposit find the repayments very affordable. The increase in house prices has become a major problem to those trying to muster a deposit – higher house price = higher deposit. Therefore unless incomes rise with house prices deposit affordability becomes out of reach for many.

Source: WSBG Commerce Teachers’ Professional Development Day 2021

“New Zealand housing market: the importance of interest rates and urban land supply”, Dominick Stephens, Deputy Secretary, Chief Economic Advisor at The Treasury

BBC Podcast – How do we stop high inflation?

This is a very good podcast on inflation and for anyone new to the subject it explains a lot concepts in very simple language. Concepts like fiscal policy, monetary policy, recession, stagflation etc. Click link below:

BBC – The Real Story – How do we stop high inflation?

The question that the economists try and answer is will the global economy go through a recession in order to get inflation down. Both central banks and governments cushioned the economic shock of the pandemic with low interest rates and spending respectively but this action has been blamed for increased inflation.

Larry Summers suggested that the US Fed had mistakenly seen the inflationary problem as transitory but there is a bit more stubbornness about price increases today. As he put it – some central banks need to go through their ‘full course of antibiotics’ (interest rate hikes) to control inflation as failure to do so means that inflation will return promptly and another course of antibiotics will need to be administered. The longer you leave it the more damaging the downturn/recession will be. He also states that every time the US economy has had an inflation rate greater than 4% and an unemployment rate below 4% the US economy has gone into a recession within two years. Those figures align with US inflation 8.5% and unemployment 3.6%.

Some great discussion and would be useful for a macro policy essay at CIE AS or A2 level. Good for revision of policies and their usefulness today.

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Global Economic Outlook

Below is a look at economic conditions in leading global economies. Unemployment is surprising low and with the rise in the cost of living (see inflation figures) this should put pressure on wages. The unemployment rate within the OECD area fell to 5.2% in February, the first time it has fallen below the pre-pandemic unemployment rate (which was recorded in February 2020). The unemployment rate within the OCED had peaked at 8.8% in April 2020.

Inflation, Unemployment and Interest Rates
Annual inflation within the OECD area rose to 8.8% in March 2022, its highest annual increase since 1988. Energy prices have risen by over a third during the past year, while food prices have risen by ten percent within the OECD area. Most central banks have already commenced a tightening programme with the on-going threat of inflation. The Australian Reserve Bank commenced tightening their cash rate in early May, increasing the cash rate by 25 basis points to 0.35%. It is expected that the RBNZ will increase the OCR by 50 basis points next week.

Outlook
If you look at conditions in the major economies you find the following:

  • China – limited growth potential with severe lockdowns
  • USA – higher interest rates could lead to a bust scenario
  • Euro Zone – cost of living crisis
  • Emerging markets – food crisis / famines.

With the indicators looking at recessionary conditions the best news for the global economy would be a withdrawal from Ukraine by Russian troops and an end to a zero-Covid strategy in China. These actions should reduce food and energy prices and therefore save government spending on raising benefits and subsidising food and energy. Economists are fairly optimistic that we will avoid a recession in 2022 as they still have the tools to stimulate if things get worse. However with no end in sight for the Ukraine conflict and interest rates on the rise a recession is on the cards.

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AS & A2 Economics Revision – Monetary Policy Mind Map

Going over monetary policy with my A2 class and have modified a mind map done by Susan Grant from a CIE Economics Revision Guide. Useful for those who are sitting the June AS and A2 Economics papers.

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Strong US$ bad news for global recovery

The recent tightening of monetary policy by US Fed Chair Jerome Powell to combat inflation has seen higher borrowing costs and financial-market volatility. The US$ has risen 7% against a series of major currencies since January this year – a two year high. It has always been a safe haven currency and with a rising Fed Rate and market rates even more capital could flow into the US increasing the demand for US dollars and therefore appreciating its value. See mindmap below for the theory behind a stronger currency.

Adapted from: CIE A Level Economics Revision by Susan Grant

A high value of a currency makes exports more expensive but does lead to cheaper imports especially of the inelastic nature. But to foreign economies it does drive up import prices further fueling inflation. For developing countries this is a concern as they are being forced to either allow their currencies to weaken or raise interest rates to try and stem the fall in value. Also developing economies are concerned with the risk of a ‘currency mismatch’ which happens when governments have borrowed in US dollars and lent it out in their local currency. However it is not just developing countries that have had currency issues. This last week saw the euro hit a new five-year low with the US Fed’s aggressive tightening of monetary policy. The real problem for some economies is that they are further down the business cycle than the US so in a weaker position.

“While domestic ‘overheating’ is mostly a US phenomenon, weaker exchange rates add to imported price pressures, keeping inflation significantly above central banks’ 2% targets. Monetary tightening might alleviate this problem, but at the cost of further domestic economic pain.” Dario Perkins – chief European economist at TS Lombard in London

Source: Bloomberg – Dollar’s Strength Pushes World Economy Deeper Into Slowdown. 15th May 2022

Sign up to elearneconomics for multiple choice test questions (many with coloured diagrams and models) and the reasoned answers on exchange rates and monetary policy. Immediate feedback and tracked
results allow students to identify areas of strength and weakness vital for student-centred learning and understanding.

Inflation – should central banks hold off on tightening?

In New Zealand the recently published CPI figures published yesterday saw the yearly inflation rate climb to 6.9%. The main points to note are:

  • Tradeables inflation (imported) – makes up 40% of CPI – 8.5%
  • Non-tradeables (domestic) – makes up 60% of CPI – 6.0%
  • Housing and household utilities increased 8.6 %,
  • Transport increased 14 %,
  • Food prices increased 6.7 %,
  • Petrol prices 32.3%

The continued rise in domestic inflation means that the RBNZ will probably look at another 50 basis points rise later in the year.

Source: IMF

Ukraine War adds another supply shock – are higher interest rates the way to go?
With a second supply shock and inflation globally on the rise (see graphs) central banks have raised interest rates. However the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent increase in food and energy prices has asked questions of how central banks should approach monetary policy in what is unusual circumstances. Martin Sandbu in the FT suggest that they should rethink how they look at the operation of an economy. He made 3 main points:

  • Are central banks committed to aggressively increasing increasing rates every time there is a supply shock? This has a huge impact on households and businesses.
  • Do central banks know how their monetary policy works? Higher interest rates reduce aggregate demand and therefore easing the pressure on the supply side. However this is difficult to vindicate in that nominal spending has only just returned to pre-pandemic levels and still fell short in the EU and the UK.
  • These supply-shocks are ‘out of left field’. COVID caused greater spending on durable goods and non-durable goods by 25% and 10% respectively. Services remained depressed.

With the energy shortages arising from the Ukraine War there will be a movement away from production and consumption that use coal, oil and gas. Russian coal is already banned and it is likely that oil and gas will follow. Sandbu asks how monetary policy should approach a supply shock of this nature. If lower interest rates makes it easier to relocate resources then that is the best option for central banks. A tightening of monetary policy would make investments in new capacity both more expensive and less attractive as demand growth slows.

Today there are abnormal circumstances – COVID, Climate Crisis, Ukraine War, supply chain problems. These will mean huge structural shifts which can improve an economy’s productivity and lower inflationary expectations. If there are still higher interest rates productive potential would be reduced which would mean added pressure on inflation. Heading into a time of global supply chain problems monetary policy seems to be less effective.

Source: Central bankers should think twice before pressing the brake even harder – Martin Sandbu – FT 20th April 2022

Teaching Monetary Policy – Every Breath You Take – Every Change of Rate (Fed Funds Rate)

Here is a really funny video by the students of Columbia Business School (CBS) – you may have seen it before but I find it very useful when you start teaching monetary policy and interest rates.

Back in 2006 Alan Greenspan vacated the role of chairman of the US Federal Reserve and the two main candidates for the job were Ben Bernanke and Glenn Hubbard. Glen Hubbard was (and still is) the Dean at Columbia Business School and was no doubt disappointed about losing out to Ben Bernanke. His students obviously felt a certain amount of sympathy for him and used the song “Every Breath You Take” by The Police to voice their opinion as to who should have got the job. They have altered the lyrics and the lead singer plays Glenn Hubbard.

Some significant economic words in it are: – interest rates, stagflate, inflate, bps, jobs, growth etc.