Saturday, November 22, 2014

Golden Rules for the Eurozone

LONDON – The European Monetary Union, as many of its critics maintain, looks a lot like the pre-1913 gold standard, which imposed fixed exchange rates on extremely diverse economies. But is that resemblance as bad as it sounds, or as the euro’s critics insist?

The appeal of the historic gold standard lay in an institutional capacity to build confidence. A completely fixed exchange rate rules out monetary-policy initiative, and consequently makes adjustment to large external imbalances very difficult to carry out. And the burden is unequal, because there is much more pressure on deficit countries to adjust via deflation than on creditor countries to allow higher inflation.

Pessimists are especially worried by the unpleasant gold-standard analogies and lessons. They foresee years and even decades of slow growth in Europe. Politically, too, the process of adjustment by deflation in deficit countries is so unpleasant and difficult that many pessimists think it will ultimately prove to be unsustainable.

But critics of the euro should take the gold-standard analogy more seriously. Like any system in the real world, it was more complex, more interesting, and also filled with more real policy possibilities than textbook caricatures suggest.

First, there was no automatic deflationary pressure following from some alleged peculiarity of the adjustment mechanism. The question of overall deflationary – or inflationary – impact depended (and still depends) on the total quantity of money.

Thus, in periods after large new gold discoveries – for example, following the California Gold Rush of 1849, and again in the 1890’s, when new mining techniques opened up South African, Alaskan, and Australian reserves – the classical gold standard had a mild inflationary bias. In an era of paper money, however, the link to a physical stock of some precious metal – or, indeed, some other commodity – does not exist, and there should be no reason why a central bank cannot aim at an overall inflation rate. In fact, almost all modern central banks, including the European Central Bank, do precisely that.

The second lesson to be learned from the gold standard concerns the extent and limits of capital-market integration. In the early 1990’s, policymakers, market participants, and economists alike simply assumed that the European Community’s “1992 program” – the legislative framework for the single market, and thus for a single capital market – would create a new reality, within which the single currency would work its magic. From this followed an official obligation to treat all types of risk in the monetary union – bank risk or government risk – as identical.

But the history of the gold standard, and of other large common-currency areas, was more complex. Despite the theoretical possibility of capital being sent over vast distances to other parts of the world, much capital remained local. Creditors and banks often preferred to do business with known borrowers, and where local jurisdictions could settle any disputes.

In particular, a critical part of the gold standard was that individual national central banks set their own interest rates, with the aim of influencing the direction of capital movements. This became the central feature of the gold-standard world: a country that was losing gold reserves would tighten interest rates in order to attract money.

The gold-standard rules look very different from the modern practice of monetary union, which relies on a single uniform interest rate. That one-size-fits-all approach meant that interest rates in southern European countries were too low before 2009, and too high in northern Europe. A gold-standard rule would have produced higher rates for the southern European borrowers, which would have attracted funds to where capital might be productively used, and at the same time acted as a deterrent against purely speculative capital flows.

Since the 2008 financial crisis erupted, there has been something of a renationalization of financial behavior in Europe. Up to the late 1990’s and the advent of monetary union, most European Union sovereign debt was domestically held: in 1998, the overall ratio of foreign-held debt was only one-fifth. That ratio climbed rapidly in the aftermath of the euro’s introduction.

In 2008, on the eve of the crisis, three-quarters of Portuguese debt, one-half of Spanish and Greek debt, and more than two-fifths of Italian debt was held by foreigners, with foreign banks holding a significant proportion, especially in the case of Greece, Portugal, and Italy. One consequence of the ECB’s large-scale long-term refinancing operation (LTRO) has been that Italian banks are once again buying Italian government bonds, and Spanish banks are buying Spanish bonds.

German Economics Minister Philipp Rösler has made the fascinating suggestion that members of the European System of Central Banks should set their own interest rates (though, interestingly, he made this suggestion explicitly as a party politician, not as a government minister). Autonomous interest-rate determination would penalize banks that have borrowed in southern Europe from their national central banks. Meanwhile, the German Bundesbank would have lower rates, but southern European banks would be unlikely to have access to that credit for use in their own markets.

There are also signs that individual central banks are using the leeway that they have within the existing framework in order to carry out important policy shifts. The Bundesbank has stated that it will no longer accept bank securities as collateral from banks that have undergone a government recapitalization.

The new collateral requirements, together with tentative talk of autonomous interest rates, represents a remarkable incipient innovation. In the aftermath of the crisis, some policymakers are beginning to see that a monetary union is not necessarily identical with unfettered capital mobility. Recognition of diverse credit quality is a step back into the nineteenth-century world, and at the same time forward to a more market-oriented and less distorting currency policy. Different interest rates in different countries might open the door to a more stable eurozone.

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    1. CommentedJonathan Lam

      Gamesmith94134: Golden Rules for the Eurozone

      After reading the issue on regulating European insurers, I was dumbfounded for the attitude for which how Brussels see solvency works with the currency exchange. I apologize in resurfacing the old records that are relevant to the issue on the golden rules and insurers. I lost my appetite to write for days after the fall of 3% China Stock and DJ.

      Regulating European insurers---from Economists
      From Brussels, with shove
      “Solvency 2” will transform not just insurance but capital markets, too

      Just before we can see the foundation of the currencies exchanges rate in Libor and ECB’s large-scale long-term refinancing operation (LTRO) has been that Italian banks are once again buying Italian government bonds, and Spanish banks are buying Spanish bonds with its lower rates. But, we must realistically decide the two speeds economies in the EU system will not be integrated even Brussels cannot control or agree on many issues. Consequently, we must talk of the reality of growth that is not coming in the next years. It is not liquidity of Bank or solvency of the debts, but the basis of exchange and balance of trade id due to a correction.

      I only hope Mr. Harold James remember the consequences of the Lloyd of Landon (97) and AIG (2008), just before he suggested his golden rules for Euro Zone, and he may regret it; if his golden rules would ever polarize the developed nations and emerging market nations with more argument of the currency exchange rate or bagger thy neighbors could be eminent for the coming WTO meetings. Personally, I think EU or Euros will not last if its financial system is not complying with fairer trade on the foundation of good will.

      May the Buddha bless you?

      Gamesmith94134: Striking Euro Gold (and Silver) 11032011

      “Milton Friedman’s bimetallic standard inherently more stable than a monometallic (gold-based) regime.”

      When you recieve two bids of Euros, in from Germany and the other from Greece; you would take the bid from Germany over Greece. Would you discount the euros of Greece with 15% just for sake of the confidence vote? Why should you discriminate one over the other as in Euros? It was the deficiency of credit that Greece may bear or the contagion as you may believe. If it is the investment consisted of US dollar and Euro in the open market trading, you would have no choice on the bids. Reluctently, you may have to accept the higher bid, even though you realized that you are under the attack by a raider or hedge fund manager. Suddenly, you may lost your company with the lesser of 51% of the control of it. It is how hedge fund managers or raiders use monetarism to undermine the weaker ones with weak currencies even for sovereignty nations; since the open market system does not provide a gatekeeper to stop the manipulation. Since the investments from aboard may not create growth or productivity if there is not sufficient time to grow in completion of the business cycle or create productivity on the invested with no innovation or products. It is merely exchange of hands for such transaction. It is how the sovereignty debts are created under the influence of the activity of hedging with the cost of living rises; and loss of credit as the pooling of its fund weakens. Therefore, it is advisable to revive the bimetallic standard to create the gatekeeper on the handicaps of the domestic currencies and international currencies; whenever investments are made by the foreign communities or sovereignty debts.

      If the bussiness transaction happens in a community only like London, people buy, people sell within a single circuitry of currency that share the same standard of credits, commodities and culture; such transaction do not affect the value of the its currency or increase on productivity. If a foreign investment is involved; the circuitry expands or contracts for its excesses or shortages in the pooling of its currencies, or commodities. Subsequently, it would create a shortfall or surge in value of the exchange that is not a bottomline to the business cycle or productivity.

      When there is a 3% interest credit charge on the market, I would gain 2% with my 1% interest credit charge even I have my US dollars exchanged to British Pounds, since there is no handicaps on the exchange. It is why many complain on the fiat money and the liquidity traps when the foreign investments are often being manipulated the currency rate changes for a stronger currency to weaken its own that caused inflation of the weaker currency; or withdrew at great mass that cause the shortage of cashflow or credit.

      In term of redistribution of wealth, the middle class of earnings did not match the growth after inflation; because the investment was dislocated while business cycle was not completed; or the productivity was not sufficient for a pay raise in matching the profit growth. Perhaps, we can blame on the competitions, but there is no comparison if there is no foreign investment or import of goods; and if it were a enclosed environment that no export is made. But, if we are taking advanage of the foreign investment or imported goods or resources to create productivities, sovereignty nations must restore the soveignty currencies to safeguard its citizenry from the invasion of currencies or resources that creates hardship for its people and allot resources for the exchange of goods and services from the foreigners. Then, the citizen must not pay for what the banker did; and stop telling me to pay tax my million dollar house that I did not earn. Parhaps, the line is drawn that the politicians must realize they must pay their bills too; instead of raisng our tax for their mishaps.

      As we learn from the recent soveriegnty debt crisis an financial disaster, we are clear at principle of the fiscal and monetary system must sustain both of balance and growth. Free Trade must free of mainpulation of the resources or invasion of others by using currencies or political powers; and each sovereignty nations are entitled to feed its people with domestic currency and trade it goods with the common currency availbale to obtain a better bargain for imported or exported. In addition, I prefer Zones in continents in protection of the weaker sovereignty nations with its neighbors nations to fend off the unwelcomed transaction that would be considered as hostile; because some investments are not solely privatized as it claimed; and free trade must be invited and not broken in or out at free will. If we all play the same rule, the world would be better for the citizens and governments too.

      May the Buddha bless you?

    2. CommentedJonathan Lam

      gamesmith94134 08:07 06 Oct 11

      Gamesmith94134: Catching up is so very hard to do 67

      Justlistenall said well, ”how about “nations of higher living standards” in lieu of “rich nations”, except for those who really qualify as such?” It was not the yuan or GDP that make China the emerging nation; and the fact is the affordability that gives impetus to growth and not the higher living standard.

      If the rich nations must catch up the up-ward growth spiral, they must cut their living standard to make its people live to grow, instead of, strive to survive. The rich nations are only think of their people are rich but they are not; not afford to consume make its economies anemic. If they want to catch up, they must make it affordable for their people.

      Even if the troika can get 2 trillion to cover the PIIGS, the onward slow or anemic growth is not getting to the level of the proportion on the normalcy. In addition, the solution is short of the fiscal and tax equation among its EU members. Then, the 2 trillion would be spent in vain if the present higher living standard does not meet its affordability level, then, there is no demand to consume. It is still no growth if the durables or oil do not go down enough to provide the cash flow that will change the marginal affordability level and ready to consume.

      The bank or central bank may free of the old debts with the fresh new debts like the 2 trillion with longer term bonds with low interest, however, the low rate will halt lending to commercial based on the non-profitable, eventually, it will die or go bankrupt itself unless banking cut its own size like BOA or JPM. Such condition will turn into another tourniquet to the commercial needs if the bonds are not restructured by 2013 with the short-term basis. Depression will become inevitable even the BRICS can help to restructure the loans.

      Inflation and deflation is much as virus in fever and cold to one body as it is to an economy; it is understandable that disease works with one’s body to create its anti-biotic to fight diseases. Now, what our economist is facing the anemic economy with too much of sterilization with sub-prime and long-term interest rate that the body or the economy will not respond till the inflation or deflation can take its effects to make the economy change.

      In order to face reality, EU and US must settle on the coming depression, deflation helps in cutting the cost of living in a down turn spiral till the private industries can use human capitals in a lower valuation in wages. If the affordability allows more consumption; then, production will rise. Eventually, growth comes only after there is demand of it.

      If there is no systematic cut the valuation of the present, and the lowest interest of today only make the financial industry suffers. Let the nature take its course to adjust. Any attitude like no on my watch can only make it-- Japanification.

      If the economy is immune to inflation or deflation, then, valuation on price is not valid. I was not surprise if gold can fall 6% in a day; and how about you, Soros? What is you gold standard of monetization if immunization stands?
      Anything else is just excuses, isn’t it?

      May the Buddha bless you?

    3. Commentedares lui

      In Eurozone, the intergration of labour market is not done enough as the capital market. With the labour market mobility, workers in Greece,for example, are encourage to work in other EU countries. As a result, first, it lowers the unemployment rate in EU. Secondly, the tax money repatriate back home reduce the budget deficit. Thirdly, it helps other countries to achieve higher growth without boosting the inflation. The workforce mobility is one of the main reason why US can use single currency among 50 states.

    4. CommentedZsolt Hermann

      There is no financial or economical solution for the Eurozone, or for the European Union.
      It is like we keep trying different coating of paint on an otherwise rotten building, thinking that the external coating can keep the building together.
      Any solution has to start from the foundations.
      And the foundation is total in depth integration for any kind of union.
      Thus we need to completely rebuild the Eurozone and the European Union in a supra-national democratic fashion.
      A new union has to take into consideration all the strength and weaknesses of all participants and create a system where all those differences are balanced out.
      Only when a system has a common goal, attractive to all participants without coercion and trickery, can provide all sides with the necessary drive to maintain a mutual responsibility and keep up their side of the work and commitment.
      The present foundation and structure of the European experiment is very far from this ideal picture, the question is how much crisis, public suffering, demonstrations, even uprisings we need to go through until we start considering the natural laws governing integral, united systems, and start applying them ourselves.

        CommentedDaniel Gomes

        Or perhaps we should just scrap the ECB (aka European Bundesbank).

        Without it setting policies always favorable to countries like German by euro-socializing German banks losses stemming from their irresponsible over leveraging and risk assessment both int the property bubble and in the sovereign debt crisis thus cutting the link between risk and reward and allowing them to offload Peripheral countries bonds sending their interest rates into an upwards spiral thus allowing German banks to reap up the profit for them to reinvest in German bonds while sending the peripheral countries into the bond market abyss.. then, and only perhaps then, we could have a Europe that works!

        Why should ECB (all Europe) foot the bill for German banks losses helping them to further bury Greece while at the same time Germany prevents the ECB from being lender of last resort to countries?

        Have you ever thought that if the ECB let the over leveraged German banks collapse in 2008, as always the healthier banks would sooner or later prosper (in this case southern European banks - oh the irony), then they wouldn't be able to send the periphery bond markets into spiral when they started offloading peripheral bonds like there's no tomorrow?

        This is not fiction, there are several reports on how in 2008 and 2009 small healthy banks were prospering from the credit crunch in the bug banks!

        So spare us the hypocrisy!

        German has received a lot more of cheap money from the ECB to prevent its collapse than it ever lent at loan shark rates to periphery countries!

        German financial discipline in the past 20 years is a myth debunked time and time again!

        Ignorant arrogant propaganda is still propaganda!
        Facts are facts, please check them!