L'unique possibilité

TOKYO – Que doivent faire les banques centrales quand les politiciens semblent incapables d'agir ? Jusqu'à présent, elles ont été prêtes à s'engouffrer dans la brèche, à trouver de nouveaux moyens de plus en plus non conventionnels pour tenter d'influencer l'orientation des économies en difficulté. Mais comment peut-on déterminer le moment où les banques centrales outrepassent leurs limites ? Quand l'audace devient-elle de la témérité ?

Les banques centrales peuvent jouer un rôle important en cas de ralentissement conjoncturel. Les baisses de taux d’intérêt peuvent stimuler l'emprunt – et donc les dépenses d'investissement et de consommation. Les banques centrales peuvent aussi jouer un rôle lors du gel des marchés financiers. En offrant des prêts gratuits contre des garanties, elles « fluidifient » les actifs et empêchent les banques d'être obligées de vendre des prêts ou des titres à prix bradés. En anticipant sur une telle assurance de liquidité, les banques peuvent faire des prêts à long terme non liquides ou détenir d'autres actifs financiers non liquides.

Dans la mesure où la politique monétaire non conventionnelle (y compris les diverses formes d'assouplissement quantitatif, ainsi que des prises de position à propos de la prolongation des faibles taux d'intérêt) remplit ces fonctions, elle est justifiable.

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