Has the Euro Been Saved?

Philip Arestis and Malcolm Sawyer

A number of changes have been taken or proposed as a result of the financial crisis of August 2007 and the “Great Recession” that are worth discussing in terms of the euro crisis. Most important, though, are the changes of the period between late 2011 and 2012: strict budget rules, banking oversight stripped from national governments might make the European Central Bank (ECB) become “lender of last resort.” We concentrate on the most recent ones at some length before we reach conclusions as to whether the euro has been saved from the euro crisis.

The European Union (EU) summit meeting, 28/29 June 2012, took a number of decisions: banking licence for the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) that would give access to ECB funding and thus greatly increase its firepower; banking supervision by the ECB; a “growth pact,” which would involve issuing project bonds to finance infrastructure. Two long-term solutions are proposed: one is a move towards a banking union and a single euro-area bank deposit guarantee scheme; another is the introduction of eurobonds and eurobills. Germany has resisted the latter, arguing that it would only contemplate such action only under a full-blown fiscal union; not much has been implemented in any case.

Read the rest of this entry »

What Happened to the Recovery, Part II

Gerald Friedman, Guest Blogger

This is the second part of a two-part series on the reasons for the sluggish U.S. economic “recovery” since the Great Recession, by Gerald Friedman, professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts and author of Microeconomics: Individual Choice in Communities. This post, from Friedman’s “Economy in Numbers” column in Dollars & Sense magazine, focuses on the failings of various government policy responses to the crisis.

Government Policy and Why the Recovery Has Been So Slow

The recovery from the Great Recession has been so slow because government policy has not addressed the underlying problem: the weakness of demand that restrained growth before the recession and that ultimately brought on a crisis. Focused on the dramatic events of fall 2008, including the collapse of Lehman Brothers, policymakers approached the Great Recession as a financial crisis and sought to minimize the effects of the meltdown on the real economy, mainly by providing liquidity to the banking sector. While monetary policy has focused on protecting the financial system, including protecting financial firms from the consequences of their own actions, government has done less to address the real causes of economic malaise: declining domestic investment and the lack of effective demand. Monetary policy has been unable to spark recovery because low interest rates have not been enough to encourage businesses and consumers to invest. Instead, we need a much more robust fiscal policy to stimulate a stronger recovery.

Read the rest of this entry »

As the Wage-Profit Conflict Sets In, Troubles Deepen for Global Capital

Erinç Yeldan

As the recession in Europe painfully proves all attempts at austerity to be dead-ends, the search for the miraculous “silver-bullet” continues. The European Central Bank (ECB) has initiated a negative “nominal” interest rate. That means the ECB, the first monetary authority to ever take such an action in a common currency zone, will be charging commercial banks for the funds they deposit (overnight) rather than paying them interest.

The ECB is pursuing an inflation target of 2% with a dogmatic belief that “this is he rate at which agents [read this as financial speculators and the rentiers] will not be affected in their economic decisions.” To this end, it utilizes three sets of interest rates: (1) the marginal overnight borrowing rate of the banks from the ECB; (2) the basic rate for their re-financing operations; and (3) the rate that is applied to the banks’ deposits at the ECB. In order for the monetary interventions of the ECB to have any effect, the rates on these interests ought to be differentiated. Until very recently, the ECB rate on deposits was set to zero, and the rate on the re-financing operations was 0.25%. The decision of the ECB has now been to reduce the latter rate to 0.15% and  the deposit to negative 0.10%. The textbook explanation for this unusual negative interest rate on money deposited by banks rests on the expectation that they should be now motivated to lend their funds instead of keeping them in reserves. Hopefully, this will restore eurozone economic growth by encouraging more lending for “real” investment.

Read the rest of this entry »

Are We All Post Keynesians Now?!

Philip Arestis and Malcolm Sawyer

Within two weeks in March, two publications came from the Bank of England which overturned the conventional wisdom of monetary policy and macroeconomic thinking of the past few decades. Yet the key elements of the contents of these two publications have been common knowledge in the post Keynesian community for many years.

The first came with the publication in the Bank of England Quarterly Bulletin of articles on the nature and endogeneity of money (and a video). The second came with the Mais Lecture delivered by the Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney in which he argued that the narrow view of central banks as guardians of stable inflation as “fatally flawed,” as he unveiled a “transformative” overhaul of the Bank of England.

The endogeneity of money has been long known to post Keynesian economists and has formed the bedrock of their macroeconomic analyses for at least three decades. The practice of Central Banks has in effect similarly recognized endogeneity and the new consensus in macroeconomics did not mention money—money for this framework is a “residual.” The Bank of England was (not surprisingly) well aware of the endogeneity of money when it was instructed by the monetarist Thatcher government to pursue the task of controlling the money supply, which proved impossible since the money supply is endogenous!

Read the rest of this entry »

Turkey's Hot-Money Problem

Bilge Erten and José Antonio Ocampo, Guest Bloggers

The ongoing financial volatility in emerging economies is fueling debate about whether the so-called “Fragile Five” – Brazil, India, Indonesia, South Africa, and Turkey – should be viewed as victims of advanced countries’ monetary policies or victims of their own excessive integration into global financial markets. To answer that question requires examining their different policy responses to monetary expansion – and the different levels of risk that these responses have created.

Although all of the Fragile Five – identified based on their twin fiscal and current-account deficits, which make them particularly vulnerable to capital-flow volatility – have adopted some macroprudential measures since the global financial crisis, the mix of such policies, and their outcomes, has varied substantially. Whereas Brazil, India, and Indonesia have responded to surging inflows with new capital-account regulations, South Africa and Turkey have allowed capital to flow freely across their borders.

Read the rest of this entry »

Turkey’s Hot-Money Problem

Bilge Erten and José Antonio Ocampo, Guest Bloggers

The ongoing financial volatility in emerging economies is fueling debate about whether the so-called “Fragile Five” – Brazil, India, Indonesia, South Africa, and Turkey – should be viewed as victims of advanced countries’ monetary policies or victims of their own excessive integration into global financial markets. To answer that question requires examining their different policy responses to monetary expansion – and the different levels of risk that these responses have created.

Although all of the Fragile Five – identified based on their twin fiscal and current-account deficits, which make them particularly vulnerable to capital-flow volatility – have adopted some macroprudential measures since the global financial crisis, the mix of such policies, and their outcomes, has varied substantially. Whereas Brazil, India, and Indonesia have responded to surging inflows with new capital-account regulations, South Africa and Turkey have allowed capital to flow freely across their borders.

Read the rest of this entry »

Is a Second Euro Crisis Possible?

Philip Arestis and Malcolm Sawyer

The announcement by the European Central Bank (ECB) of its Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT) programme in July 2012, along with the prior statement by the ECB’s president that the bank would do “whatever it takes” to save the euro, restored the confidence of the markets. The interest rates on Italian and Spanish sovereign debt, for example, fell to more tolerable levels.

Further details of the OMT programme have emerged since September 2012, when it was announced that relevant candidate countries would receive help and be allowed access to OMT if they only had complete market access—that is, the ability to get credit from private sources. (The ECB, instead of publishing OMT’s legal documentation “soon” after September 2012, shifted its stance to “only publish when a country applies.”) The ECB shifted to the stricter condition of complete market access from the one of July 2012, under which the programme might help those countries that were simply regaining market access.

The German central bank, the Bundesbank, though, opposes OMT on the grounds that it is close to the monetary financing of budget deficits. In other words, OMT implies clear and direct borrowing by governments from their own central banks, which, it is stressed, is banned by the Maastricht Treaty. It is clear, though, that the treaty permits the ECB to buy public debt in the secondary markets.

Read the rest of this entry »

Goodbye Price Stability, Hello Exchange Rate Volatility

Erinç Yeldan

Over the last six months, many developing emerging market economies had witnessed large, unforeseen, and unpredictable swings in their exchange rates.  With rumors, and counter-rumors of likely tapering of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s Quantitative Easing (QE) programme, such swings resulted in abrupt depreciations by 16.7% in Indonesia, 7.3% in Thailand, 10.4% in Turkey, 9.3% in Brazil, 13.4% in India, and 8.8% in South Africa…

A recent policy brief by the Peterson Institute for International Economics provided Estimates of Fundamental Equilibrium Exchange Rates and revealed that many of these depreciations were, in fact, overshooting the fundamental equilibrium exchange rates that are consistent with the current account balances of these economies.  Now it is found that Indonesia needs its currency to appreciate by 3.9%; Thailand, by 2.4%; the Philippines, by 3.8%; Malaysia, by 4.3%. Meanwhile, Turkey has to let its currency depreciate by 18.1%; South Africa, by 6.8%; Poland, by 4%; Brazil, by 3.4%.  Table 1 below summarizes the relevant data.

Table 1

Read the rest of this entry »

Global Finance Celebrates at the Gates of Paradise

Erinc Yeldan

In the episode The Apple, of the classic TV series Star Trek, our heroes, led by Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock, land on a paradise planet inhabited by seemingly peaceful and immortal humanoids. At first, the bounties of the planet dazzle the Enterprise crew, but they soon discover that the planet is actually trying to kill them. Eventually, their investigations lead them to the discovery of an all-controlling artificial “god.”

Witness the reaction of the global “markets,” the artificial gods of global capitalism, to the Fed’s reassuring announcements that it will postpone the withdrawal (or “taper”) of the so-called quantitative easing (QE) packages. It mirrors, in many ways, the drama that played out on that unknown planet, where no one has gone before.

Read the rest of this entry »

Quantitative Easing: Can it Be Unwound?

Malcolm Sawyer and Philip Arestis

The general response to the financial crisis of 2007 onwards by central banks included large cuts to the policy interest rate and then adoption of ‘quantitative easing’ alongside many other policies of bail-outs. The low interest rate regime aided the government’s budget position by enabling borrowing at low rates. But they did little to aid recovery as economies continued to dip into and out of recession. Central Banks started to engage in ‘quantitative easing’.

‘Quantitative easing’ has been an unorthodox piece of policy comprising of two elements: the ‘conventional unconventional’ measures: whereby central banks purchase financial assets, such as government securities or gilts, that boosts the stock of money in the form of M0; and ‘unconventional unconventional’ measures: in this way central banks buy high-quality, but illiquid corporate bonds and commercial paper. In this way the stock of money is expected to increase.

Read the rest of this entry »