Skip to main content

Euro coins

The Negative Rates Club

After years of quantitative easing and negative interest rates, it is becoming clear that these policies work as expected only in debtor economies, but have little effect in creditor economies. The reason is simple: creditors lose when rates go negative, and debtors gain.

BRUSSELS – For the better part of a decade, central banks have been making only limited headway in curbing powerful global deflationary forces. Since 2008, the US Federal Reserve has maintained zero interest rates, while pursuing multiple waves of unprecedented balance-sheet expansion through large-scale bond purchases. The Bank of England, the Bank of Japan, and the European Central Bank have followed suit, each with its own version of so-called “quantitative easing” (QE). Yet inflation has not picked up appreciably anywhere.

Despite their shared struggles with deflationary pressures, these countries’ monetary policies – and economic performance – are now diverging. Whereas the United States and the United Kingdom are now growing strongly enough to exit their expansionary policies and raise interest rates, the eurozone and Japan are doubling down on QE, pushing policy long-term interest rates further into negative territory. What explains this difference?

The short answer is debt. The US and the UK have been running current-account deficits for decades, and are thus debtors, while the eurozone and Japan have been running external surpluses, making them creditors. Because negative rates benefit debtors and harm creditors, introducing them after the global economic crisis spurred a recovery in the US and the UK, but had little effect in the eurozone and Japan.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

https://prosyn.org/GXpPlwM;
  1. mallochbrown10_ANDREW MILLIGANAFPGetty Images_boris johnson cow Andrew Milligan/AFP/Getty Images

    Brexit House of Cards

    Mark Malloch-Brown

    Following British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's suspension of Parliament, and an appeals court ruling declaring that act unlawful, the United Kingdom finds itself in a state of political frenzy. With rational decision-making having become all but impossible, any new political agreement that emerges is likely to be both temporary and deeply flawed.

    0
  2. sufi2_getty Images_graph Getty Images

    Could Ultra-Low Interest Rates Be Contractionary?

    Ernest Liu, et al.

    Although low interest rates have traditionally been viewed as positive for economic growth because they encourage businesses to invest in enhancing productivity, this may not be the case. Instead, Ernest Liu, Amir Sufi, and Atif Mian contend, extremely low rates may lead to slower growth by increasing market concentration and thus weakening firms' incentive to boost productivity.

    4

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated Cookie policy, Privacy policy and Terms & Conditions