Bubbles in the Broth

As below-trend GDP growth and high unemployment continue to afflict most advanced economies, their central banks have served up an alphabet soup of unconventional monetary policy measures. But, with asset prices continuing to rise, many countries may have more helpings than they can stand.

NEW YORK – As below-trend GDP growth and high unemployment continue to afflict most advanced economies, their central banks have resorted to increasingly unconventional monetary policy. An alphabet soup of measures has been served up: ZIRP (zero-interest-rate policy); QE (quantitative easing, or purchases of government bonds to reduce long-term rates when short-term policy rates are zero); CE (credit easing, or purchases of private assets aimed at lowering the private sector’s cost of capital); and FG (forward guidance, or the commitment to maintain QE or ZIRP until, say, the unemployment rate reaches a certain target). Some have gone as far as proposing NIPR (negative-interest-rate policy).

And yet, through it all, growth rates have remained stubbornly low and unemployment rates unacceptably high, partly because the increase in money supply following QE has not led to credit creation to finance private consumption or investment. Instead, banks have hoarded the increase in the monetary base in the form of idle excess reserves. There is a credit crunch, as banks with insufficient capital do not want to lend to risky borrowers, while slow growth and high levels of household debt have also depressed credit demand.

As a result, all of this excess liquidity is flowing to the financial sector rather than the real economy. Near-zero policy rates encourage “carry trades” – debt-financed investment in higher-yielding risky assets such as longer-term government and private bonds, equities, commodities and currencies of countries with high interest rates. The result has been frothy financial markets that could eventually turn bubbly.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.

required

Log in

http://prosyn.org/EDT8DFT;
  1. Trump & Turkey ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images.

    A Tax Plan that’s All Stuffing?

    US President Donald Trump has set a Christmas deadline for enacting the Republican tax plan, and economic observers are virtually unanimous in judging it a turkey. A scheme that squeezes the middle class and blows out the fiscal and current-account deficits may pass, but it will never fly. 

  2. China corruption Isaac Lawrence/Getty Images

    The Next Battle in China’s War on Corruption

    • Chinese President Xi Jinping knows well the threat that corruption poses to the authority of the Communist Party of China and the state it controls. 
    • But moving beyond Xi's anti-corruption purge to build robust and lasting anti-graft institutions will not be easy, owing to enduring opportunities for bureaucratic capture.
  3. Trump at UN Drew Angerer/Getty Images

    The Dangers of Nuclear Bombast

    US President Donald Trump has refused to recertify the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, an agreement that he once predicted would "lead to a nuclear holocaust." Unfortunately, by creating more perverse incentives for hostile regimes to pursue nuclear armaments at all costs, Trump has made the nightmare scenario he fears even more likely.

  4. Adam Michnik Gallo Images/Getty Images

    Europe’s New Eastern Question

    interviews

    Insider Interview

    • With right-wing populists ascendant in Poland and Hungary, and gaining ground elsewhere in the European Union, politics in some parts of the West looks increasingly like politics in Russia.

    • Sławomir Sierakowski, Director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Warsaw interviews Adam Michnik, one of the intellectual architects of Solidarity and of the transition from communism in Central Europe, on Europe's illiberal turn.
  5. Italy unemployed demonstration SalvatoreEsposito/Barcroftimages / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

    Putting Europe’s Long-Term Unemployed Back to Work

    Across the European Union, millions of people who are willing and able to work have been unemployed for a year or longer, at great cost to social cohesion and political stability. If the EU is serious about stopping the rise of populism, it will need to do more to ensure that labor markets are working for everyone.

  6. Latin America market Federico Parra/Getty Images

    A Belt and Road for the Americas?

    In a time of global uncertainty, a vision of “made in the Americas” prosperity provides a unifying agenda for the continent. If implemented, the US could reassert its historical leadership among a group of countries that share its fundamental values, as well as an interest in inclusive economic growth and rising living standards.

  7. Startup office Mladlen Antonov/Getty Images

    How Best to Promote Research and Development

    Clearly, there is something appealing about a start-up-based innovation strategy: it feels democratic, accessible, and so California. But it is definitely not the only way to boost research and development, or even the main way, and it is certainly not the way most major innovations in the US came about during the twentieth century.