Economics Of Banking And Finance: Monetary Policy In The Post Crisis Period

The banking system is intricate and may seem impenetrable to many. However, once an individual grasps its fundamentals, they realize how financial numbers and market dynamics can significantly impact the lives of everyday workers. Markets can be influenced positively or negatively, and governments often adjust national finances to maintain economic equilibrium. Today, I will explore some techniques Central Banks employ to modulate the economy.

Explain the term “loosen monetary policy” and distinguish between conventional and unconventional monetary policy.

Let's clarify what "loosening monetary policy" means and differentiate between conventional and unconventional monetary policies.

Loosening monetary policy involves expanding the money supply and making it more accessible to the public to stimulate economic growth. Central banks achieve this by lowering discount rates and encouraging banks to lend more freely. According to Long (2019), such policies benefit small businesses by increasing their access to credit and boosting investment, production, and employment opportunities. However, loosening monetary policy can lead to inflation, potentially diminishing economic productivity and affecting growth. Conversely, an overly tight monetary policy might cause deflation, decreasing production, and higher unemployment rates. Thus, striking the right balance in monetary policy is essential for economic stability.

Conventional monetary policies involve direct manipulation of interest rates and the economic base by the central bank through tools like Open Market Operations (OMO), discount rates, and reserve requirements. For instance, the central bank can buy or sell government securities through OMO to influence the amount of money circulating in the economy. As Wikipedia (2019) notes, purchasing government debt lowers interest rates, encouraging banks to lend more and making loans cheaper. This, in turn, stimulates consumer spending and employment as businesses expand to meet rising demand.

When interest rates are near zero, and deflation is a concern, central banks may resort to unconventional monetary policies such as asset purchases (quantitative easing), forward guidance, and liquidity provisions. Roubini (2016) explains that a central bank buys private sector assets through credit easing to boost liquidity and credit access. As Chappelow (2016) describes, quantitative easing involves the central bank buying assets with newly created bank reserves to increase liquidity and encourage lending and investment.

Beyond these primary instruments, other factors can affect the monetary base outside the central bank's control, including the float and Treasury deposits at the central bank. Float refers to the temporary double counting of money in the banking system due to processing delays, which can briefly inflate the banking sector's reserves (Segal, 2019).

Different countries utilize various monetary policy strategies to bolster their economies. As discussed, these policies can manipulate market conditions, interest rates, consumer demand, and employment levels, showcasing the central bank's pivotal role in shaping economic landscapes.

Compare and contrast U.K., U.S., and ECB quantitative easing policies and explain how differences in financial system structure may have influenced unconventional monetary policies in these jurisdictions.

Quantitative easing (Q.E.) is a monetary policy tool central banks use to stimulate economic growth by lowering interest rates and encouraging spending and investment. The primary aim of Q.E. is to keep inflation near a target level, typically around 2% annually in most advanced economies, and in some cases, to also support employment objectives. When inflation is too low or negative, consumers may delay spending, anticipating further price drops. This can reduce corporate earnings, job losses, and a negative economic cycle.

Negative interest rates represent an unconventional monetary policy tool. Sweden's central bank was the first to introduce negative rates in July 2009, followed by the European Central Bank (ECB) in June 2014. Negative rates aim to prevent a deflationary spiral, where falling prices lead to reduced production, lower wages, decreased demand, and further price declines. Central banks may adopt expansionary monetary policies to counteract deflation and stimulate growth.

The ECB, for example, has set its deposit rate to an all-time low of -0.5% to rejuvenate the Eurozone economy, indicating a willingness to maintain low rates and resume purchasing government bonds. This could motivate governments to increase borrowing for national projects. However, more significant negative rates could significantly impact European banks' earnings. The ECB has introduced a two-tier system to mitigate this, exempting a portion of banks' excess liquidity from negative rates to maintain inflation near its target and support the bank-based transmission of monetary policy.

In contrast, from the onset of the Great Recession in 2007 through December 2018, the U.S. Federal Reserve employed Q.E. by lowering the federal funds rate to near zero and purchasing over $3.7 trillion in bonds. This approach aimed to reduce interest rates across various maturities, influencing short-term and longer-term borrowing costs. The Fed also requires banks to hold a portion of deposits as reserves, providing banks with excess funds to encourage lending.

The main risk associated with Q.E. is the potential for inflation. When interest rates are near zero, there's a risk of a liquidity trap, where people hoard money instead of investing it, hindering economic recovery. Negative rates aim to devalue a currency to boost exports and inflation by increasing import costs. However, they can also reduce the profitability of financial institutions, potentially leading to reduced lending and economic harm.

The Bank of England responded to the 2008 global recession by cutting interest rates from 5% to 0.5% and injecting new money into the financial system. Despite concerns over Brexit and economic growth, Q.E. in Europe has boosted economic growth, though inflation remains low. The U.K.'s economy has recovered, but its currency has been affected by Q.E.

The differences in financial system structures across the U.K., U.S., and ECB have influenced their unconventional monetary policies. The U.S.'s diversified economic system, with its bank and market-based financing mix, allowed for a broad application of Q.E., focusing on bond purchases to lower interest rates. The ECB's approach, dealing with multiple nations with varying economic conditions, necessitated a more cautious application of negative rates and bond purchases to stimulate the Eurozone economy without exacerbating disparities among member states. The U.K.'s response, tailored to its unique financial landscape and challenges posed by Brexit, combined interest rate cuts with Q.E. to support economic recovery while managing inflation and currency impacts.

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In the context of the E.U. and the ECB, identify the weaknesses of quantitative easing policies and discuss why there would be opposition to a further loosening monetary policy.

Quantitative easing (Q.E.) can provide a short-term economic boost but may lead to long-term financial instability. While Q.E. aims to solve immediate economic issues, it can introduce new challenges, as seen in the European Union (E.U.) and the United Kingdom. The primary concerns associated with Q.E. include the risk of inflation, low or negative interest rates, unemployment, and a depreciating exchange rate. Q.E. can be inflationary by increasing the money supply, potentially leading to inflation when the economy recovers. However, in a liquidity trap, inflation could aid economic recovery.

Critics argue that the European Central Bank (ECB)'s Q.E. policies verge on monetary financing of government spending, a practice prohibited by the Maastricht Treaty. Negative interest rates, a consequence of Q.E., can disproportionately benefit real asset owners and exacerbate social tensions. Low or negative interest rates reduce borrowing costs, which helps businesses. However, when rates are near zero, demand may decrease, leading to job cuts and risking a liquidity trap where investment stalls and money hoarding prevents recovery.

Despite Q.E.'s intention to stimulate economic growth, the Eurozone has seen only modest increases in wages and lending, with inflation remaining low. This complicates the ECB's exit strategy from Q.E., ensuring that interest rates stay at record lows for the foreseeable future. The ECB's balance sheet expanded significantly, reaching about 4.65 trillion euros, with asset purchases peaking at 80 billion euros monthly in 2016 before reducing to 15 billion euros by the end of 2018.

While Q.E. has lowered long-term borrowing rates, boosted equity prices, and weakened the euro against the dollar, it has not significantly increased price inflation in the Eurozone. Critics suggest that to make substantial progress; individual countries should focus less on Q.E. and more on structural reforms and fiscal stimulus.

Central banks emphasize communication about their responses to economic changes, relying on the private sector's understanding of these responses. A credible strategy to keep inflation near its target over the medium term can lower private sector inflation expectations, stabilizing the economy. Although the global economy has recovered from the recession, ongoing challenges in the economic landscape require attention, highlighting the complex nature of managing monetary policy, where solving one problem often leads to another.


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  19. Feldstein, M. (2019). What's wrong with Europe's quantitative easing strategy? [online] World Economic Forum. 

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