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These are some of the main questions addressed in a paper just published in the Journal of Policy Modeling, written with my colleague Jose Luis Cendejas (Universidad Francisco de Vitoria, Spain).

Title of the paper: ‘Macroeconomic asymmetry in the Eurozone before and after the Global Financial Crisis: An appraisal of the role of the ECB’.

Abstract:

‘The launch of the euro in 1999 was assumed to enhance macroeconomic convergence among EMU economies. We test this hypothesis from a comparative perspective, by calculating different indices to measure the degree of macroeconomic dispersion within the Eurozone, the UK and the USA (1999–2019). We use common factor models to produce a single index for each monetary area out of different measures of dispersion. These indices can be used to inform on the degree of optimality of a monetary area. Our results show that macroeconomic dispersion in the Eurozone increased notably even before 2007 and it took significantly longer to return to pre-crisis levels, as compared to the UK and the USA. The paper shows the critical role played by the ECB’s asset purchases programmes in reducing macroeconomic divergences among EMU member states since 2015.’

Fig. 1. Overall indices of dispersion for the Eurozone, the UK, and the US. 1999 = 100. The higher the figure the higher dispersion is. You will find individual dispersion indices for 12 macroeconomic and monetary indicators for each economic area in the paper.

The paper can be accessed freely on the following link for the next 50 days: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0161893821001009?dgcid=author

Comments and feedback most welcome.

Juan Castañeda

PS. Special mention to Professor Pedro Schwartz, with whom I started to work in this area years ago and have published on the topic before (see here and here).

Este es el título del seminario de la UNIR al que contribuiré como ponente esta semana. Será el viernes 12 de Noviembre a las 12:30, hora de Madrid. El seminario forma parte de un ciclo sobre ‘Inflación y política monetaria’, dirigido por un buen colega y amigo, Francisco Cabrillo (UNIR). Asimismo, contará con la participación y comentarios de Elena Márquez de la Cruz (UCM). Podéis venir a la sede de la UNIR en Madrid en la calle Almansa 101 o seguirlo ‘online’. En cualquier caso, os tenéis que registrar previamente aquí: https://seminarioinflacion.unir.net/ .

Nos os sorprenderá si os anticipo que comentaré el ‘estado de la cuestión’ sobre la inflación creciente en EEUU (y, en menor medida, en la Eurozona y el Reino Unido) utilizando los datos de la evolución reciente de la oferta monetaria ampliamente definida en estas economías (recogidos en el siguiente gráfico). Lo haré adoptando como marco de análisis de la inflación/deflación la Teoría Cuantitativa del Dinero.

Fuente: IIMR October 2021 video. Por Tim Congdon.

Vale la pena recordar que hace más de un año, banqueros centrales y analistas macroeconómicos coincidían casi unánimemente en que la crisis del Covid-19 tendría consecuencias des-inflacionistas a medio plazo. Desde el Institute of International Monetary Research hemos venido defendiendo la posición contraria desde marzo de 2020; lo que reflejamos en nuestros informes mensuales (ver aquí), así como en un informe que mi colega Tim Congdon y yo mismo publicamos para el Institute of Economic Affairs en la primavera de 2020 (‘Inflation, the next threat?’, traducido y editado en español por un verdadero maestro en temas monetarios, José Antonio Aguirre, ‘Es la inflation la próxima amenaza?’). En nuestra opinión, el crecimiento tan extraordinario de la cantidad de dinero (medida de manera amplia) en EEUU y en otras economías avanzadas no podía (ni puede) ser neutral en cuanto a la evolución del ciclo económico y los precios. Por la fuerza de los hechos, ya todos hablan de la elevada inflación de los últimos meses y de la venidera en 2022 como un problema. El debate en la actualidad está en la duración e intensidad de este episodio inflacionista. Desgraciadamente, en este nuevo debate los banqueros centrales siguen cometiendo el error de explicar el aumento de los precios, que estiman transitoria, por factores no monetarios. Con ello, dejan de lado una de las pocas leyes generales de la macroeconomía, aquella que explica la inflación en el medio y largo plazo por un aumento excesivo de la cantidad de dinero (una vieja ley en Economía a la que Jose Antonio Aguirre y yo mismo nos referimos hace años como la ‘ley de la física monetaria’ por la contundencia de sus resultados).

En el seminario hablaré del alcance del episodio inflacionista sobre todo en EEUU, así como de las condiciones monetarias para que la inflación vuelva a valores compatibles con lo que los bancos centrales definen como estabilidad de precios; condiciones que no se cumplen en la actualidad ni en EEUU ni en la Eurozona.

Estaré encantado de responder a vuestros comentarios o preguntas con ocasión de este seminario, ya sea en persona u ‘online’.

Juan E. Castañeda

In a recent forum held by the ECB (ECB Forum on Central Banking 2021: Part 4 – Panel 1: The future of inflation, see min. 15:40 – 26:20), Professor Charles Goodhart criticised central banks for relying too much on what he called the ‘bootstrap theory of inflation’, one that affirms that ‘as long as inflation expectations are anchored inflation will also remain anchored’. Therefore, this theory mainly explains inflation according to changes in inflation expectations. Charles Goodhart also summarised the reasons why we shouldn’t rely too much on such a theory of inflation. In what he referred to as the absence of a general theory of inflation by central banks and other policy actors and international organisations, there seems to be a preference for a ‘bits and pieces’ approach to inflation; one that incorporates inflation of commodities, inflation in services, shipping shortages, … among many other indicators, without the proper analytical theoretical framework to support it. In his brief presentation Charles Goodhart stressed the need to incorporate supply side factors in the explanation of inflation trends in the long term. Do not miss it. In just 10 minutes he summarises the poor state of macroeconomics as regards the explanation of inflation, which can lead to also very poor policy decisions.

In my opinion, there is such a general theory of inflation/deflation; one that links changes in the amount of money broadly defined and changes in the price level over the medium to the long term. I don’t claim that this theory can explain every single change in inflation, particularly on a monthly basis, but indeed it does explain changes in inflation trends. The ECB should rely much more on its own monetary pillar to explain changes in inflation in the right time horizon (1-2 years). It missed an excellent opportunity to do so in its recent review of its monetary strategy.

Video of the presentation to the Centre for Global Finance (SOAS, University of London) on 12/5/2021, via webinar.

Summary points:

  • The monetisation of enlarged budget deficits, combined with official support for emergency bank lending to cash-strained corporates, has led to extremely high growth- rates of the quantity of money (broadly defined) in leading economies, which are incompatible with price stability over the medium term. The excess in money balances by financial companies in 2020 has already led to a big bounce-back in financial markets and asset price inflation. In addition, once lockdowns are over and the pandemic is under control, the excess in money holdings by households and non-financial companies will result in higher nominal spending and output, and eventually CPI inflation.
  • In sharp contrast with the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis, the central banks’ response to Covid-19 crisis has resulted in an expansion of their balance sheets but also critically of bank deposits, and thus of the amount of money in the economy broadly defined (M3 in the USA). It is changes in the latter what explains changes in inflation over the medium term, and central banks should pay more attention in monitoring changes in broad money as effective leading indicators of inflation in 1-2 years.
  • We are already seeing a significant increase in commodity prices, industrial prices and also in CPI prices in the USA. The extremely high growth rates of money seen in the USA since March 2021 (the highest rate in modern peacetime, over 25% year on year in 2020) will end up in an inflationary boom over the next few years. The duration and scale of the boom will be conditioned by the speed of broad money growth in the rest of 2021 and in early 2022; thus, on the reaction of the US Fed to rising CPI inflation in the rest of 2021 and 2022.
  • The quantity theory of money provides a valid theoretical framework which relates trends in money growth to changes in inflation and nominal GDP over the medium and long term. More details on this analysis on the report by myself in collaboration with my colleague T. Congdon (IIMR) (https://iea.org.uk/publications/33536/), published in the spring 2020 by the IEA. More up to date data can be accessed at the IIMR website.

Video available below (on CFG’s YouTube channel) :

With thanks to the CGF for hosting the webinar.

Comments welcome.

Juan Castañeda

Acabo de participar en un seminario organizado por la Fundación Civismo sobre dinero e inflación con dos buenos amigos y colegas (auténticos maestros), especializados en banca central; Pedro Schwartz y José Antonio Aguirre. Hablamos de si importa que la cantidad de dinero, en su medida más amplia (incluidos depósitos bancarios), esté creciendo a tasas tan elevadas desde Marzo de 2020 (alrededor del 22% anual en EEUU y de 15% en el Reino Unido), y de sus consecuencias sobre gasto nominal e inflación en 2021 y 2022.

Además, hicimos la presentación de un curso ‘online’ sobre dinero e inflación que hemos realizado desde el Institute of Internacional Monetary Research, en que se trata de cómo se crea el dinero (y también de cómo se destruye), y de cómo cambios en la cantidad de dinero afectan a los precios de los activos (reales y financieros) primero, y posteriormente al gasto nominal y a los precios de los bienes y servicios de consumo. Es un curso con una introducción a estas cuestiones desde una perspectiva monetarista. Más información sobre el curso aquí: https://mv-pt.org/online-course/

Un saludo,

Juan Castañeda

Mañana tendré el placer que dar un seminario online para los estudiantes de la Universidad Francisco Marroquín. Miércoles 24 de Marzo de 2021. 11:30 hora de Guatemala, 18:30 hora de Madrid. Trataré de cómo crean dinero los bancos centrales y bancos comerciales, qué explica la inflación y la deflación y cómo desarrollar una política monetaria compatible con la estabilidad de los precios en el medio y largo plazo. En definitiva se trata de analizar cómo podemos restringir la capacidad de los Estados (a través de los bancos centrales nacionales) de crear dinero; capacidad que, en los sistemas monetarios actuales, es ilimitada.

Esta caricatura de James Gillray de 1797 representa al Primer Ministro de entonces, William Pitt ‘el joven’, con el poder de emitir papel moneda. Entonces, esa capacidad de emisión estaba limitada por por el funcionamiento del patrón oro. Hablaremos de cómo intentar poner un freno efectivo a esas emisiones en sistemas monetarios puramente fiduciarios.

Fuente: ‘Amusing, shocking, informing: the Bank of England’s cartoons and caricatures’. Bank of England. https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/-/media/boe/files/archive/publications/cartoons-and-caricatures.pdf

Más información del evento y cómo registrarse aquí: https://fce.ufm.edu/landing/inflacion/

Juan Castañeda

At a time when major central banks are reviewing their policy strategies (the US Fed already did so in September 2020, see George Selgin‘s excellent analysis here), there is always the temptation to call for an extension of the remit of central banks, to go ‘bold’ and ‘modern’, which effectively means to go beyond maintaining price stability. As the leading British economist, Charles Goodhart (LSE), has put it before, if you want to know what major central banks will do in the future, check what the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) is doing now. Well, the RBNZ is already giving us a hint about what’s coming. As announced few days ago, the bank has been instructed by the government to consider ‘how it can contribute to the Government’s housing policy objectives, consistent with its financial stability objective of promoting a sound and efficient financial system.‘ In the reply of the RBNZ to the government’s instructions, the monetary authority makes it clear that this ‘requires the Bank to have regard to the impact of its actions on the Government’s policy of supporting more sustainable house prices, including by dampening investor demand for existing housing stock, which would improve affordability for first-home buyers‘.

Since the very launch of ‘inflation targeting’ as a policy strategy by the RBNZ in 1989, followed by many other central banks in the 1990s, the definition of what price stability means and how to measure it have been at the core of the policy and academic debates and discussions. At the time it was decided to measure price stability in terms of a consumer price index (CPI), which excludes asset prices. Of course, monetary policy decisions do affect asset prices (see a recent paper on it here, by Tim Congdon, IIMR); but adding asset prices to the remit of the central bank would mean that we know in advance what the long term equilibrium of asset prices is, that compatible with macroeconomic and financial stability. In real time, under uncertainty, we can identify trends and changes in asset prices which we may believe are not compatible with financial stability, but we can only know for sure ‘ex post’. Even if such a target for asset prices were easy to identify in real time, having both a CPI target and another one in terms of ‘sustainable house prices’ may become am impossible task for the central banks to achieve when both price indices move in opposite directions. For example, the aggressive response to Covid-19 crisis by major central banks since the Spring 2020 has resulted in an extraordinary increase in the amount of money broadly defined in major economies, indeed led by the USA; which has first affected asset prices, very much on the rise since then. However, CPI prices have not increased much yet (here we explain why CPI inflation will very likely increase later in 2021, particularly in the USA). At this juncture, should a central bank have a dual-price mandate, which prices should be prioritised?

The answer is very straightforward if central banks were to adopt a simpler and more effective policy strategy. By maintaining a moderate and stable rate of growth of money (broadly defined), central banks will be contributing to both CPI price stability and financial stability, but over the medium to the long term (approx. 2-3 years). Before the outbreak of the Global Financial Crisis in 2008, we observed a higher than 10% annual rate of growth in the amount of money in the Eurozone, while CPI inflation was still quite moderate. My colleague Pedro Schwartz and myself very much raised our concerns about this situation in 2007, in this report for the ECON Committee of the European Parliament. We didn’t know the extent of the crisis that was coming, but we knew that that rate of growth of money from 2004 to 2007 was not compatible with macroeconomic and financial stability. Of course, no one really paid much attention to it. As we estimated it at the time, following a price-stability rule would have meant a much lower rate of growth of money (broadly defined, by M3 in the Eurozone, see the red line below), around 5% – 6% per annum. The actual rate of growth of money in the Eurozone in 2007 (see the blue line below) doubled that benchmark rate compatible with price stability. M3 growth rates in the Eurozone are again in the double-digit territory (see IIMR February 2021 report here) and this can only mean higher inflation once the economy goes back to ‘normal’ (i.e. the demand for money reverts to levels closer to pre-crisis levels) and agents start to get rid of their excess in money holdings. We will see.

Source: Schwartz and Castañeda, 2007. https://www.europarl.europa.eu/cmsdata/178681/20071220ATT16955EN.pdf. You can find more details in the report on the calculations of the benchmark rules we used to assess the rate of growth of M3 in the Eurozone.

Let’s task central banks with what we know they can achieve. Central banks are very powerful policy-makers but they cannot do it all, and they shouldn’t either. Adding more tasks to their remits, be it an extra target in terms of asset prices, jobs creation, or contributing to a more green economy, among others, would put central banks in a very difficult technical and institutional position; one where they wouldn’t be able to achieve their mandate and they will be more exposed to political pressures. Let’s leave all the ‘extras’ for parliaments to deal with, if they like. This arrangement will preserve central bank independence and enhance their effectiveness in achieving monetary stability and financial stability, no more no less. Here you can find more details on this all in a 2020 report I wrote for SUERF on the ECB 2020-21 policy review strategy.

Thank you. Comments welcome.

Juan Castañeda

Dear readers and blog followers,

Please, find below a unique Christmas card with a very relevant message, as sent by the Institute of International Monetary Research earlier this week. The card has a text from the Spanish scholastic, Martín de Azpilicueta (School of Salamanca), who alerted to the effects of the over-issue of the currency and the subsequent danger of inflation back in the XVI c. in Spain. I wish current regulators and monetary-policy makers read him much more often.

Merry Christmas to you all.

—————————————-

Estimado lector y seguidor de este foro,

Es un placer poder despedir este año con una felicitación Navideña como ésta, tan única y apropiada para estos tiempos que corren, enviada por el Institute of International Monetary Research esta semana. Contiene una cita del gran escolástico Navarro, Martín de Azpilicueta (Escuela de Salamanca), quien ya alertara de los peligros de la sobre-emisión de moneda y de la inflación subsiguiente a mediados de la España del siglo XVI. Ojalá le leyeran más los reguladores y hacedores de la política monetaria en la actualidad.

Muy Feliz Navidad a todos.

Os mando el video del evento de la presentación del libro , The Economics of Monetary Unions
Past Experiences and the Eurozone
, en el que participamos Pedro Schwartz, Luis de Guindos y yo mismo, bajo la buena batuta de Vicente Montes
(Fundación Rafael del Pino). El tema era el análisis de la Eurozona y de su arquitectura como unión monetaria para, a continuación, hablar de sus mayores problemas y vías de reforma. Pedro y yo presentamos los resultados de nuestro estudio de la dispersión macroeconómica en la Eurozona, y su comparación con la de la libra esterlina y el dólar de EEUU. Podéis acceder aquí a los resultados del mismo, que están recogidos en un capítulo del libro, con un índice de dispersión macroeconómica para las tres monedas (1999 – 2019). Pero, como suele pasar, lo que más atractivo me pareció de todo el evento fue el diálogo posterior sobre tres temas fundamentales en economía monetaria:

  • Tiene la llamada Teoría Monetaria Moderna validez como para ser adoptada en la práctica? En definitiva, podemos librarnos de las restricciones de financiación del deficit público simplemente emitiendo más dinero? Es ello deseable?
  • En vista de la cantidad tan extraordinaria de dinero (entendido como ‘dinero amplio’, con depósitos bancarios incluidos) desde Marzo de 2020, qué efectos tendrá a medio y largo plazo? Qué relación hay entre dinero y precios?
  • Van a permitir los Estados la libre competencia entre el dinero electrónico que se están planteando emitir los bancos centrales y el que emita cualquier otra entidad, en este caso privada? Qué explica el tradicional monopolio de emisión?

Aquí os dejo el video de la presentación y el debate posterior. Como siempre, comentarios muy bienvenidos. Muy agradecido a la Fundación por su invitación.

Juan Castañeda

Tendremos un seminario online organizado por la Fundación Rafael del Pino el próximo 17 de diciembre de 2020 a las 18.30 hora de Madrid. Para seguir el seminario en directo, puedes acceder a la pagina de la Fundación a través de www.frdelpino.es. Estaré acompañado por Luis de Guindos (Vicepresidente del BCE) y Pedro Schwartz (UCJC). Se trata de un seminario con motivo de la publicación del libro que he co-editado con Alessandro Roselli y Geoffrey Wood, titulado The Economics of Monetary Unions. Past Experiences and the Eurozone(Routledge, 2020). Aquí podréis acceder a un resumen del libro. Se trata de un volumen que (1) analiza las uniones monetarias, y muy particularmente la del euro, en perspectiva histórica, así como (2) plantea los principales problemas que afronta la Eurozona y (3) ofrece las principales alternativas para resolverlos desde puntos de vista bien distintos.

Mi intervención con Pedro Schwartz se centrará en la necesidad de echar la vista atrás y ver qué nos enseñan experiencias monetarias similares en el pasado, así como sugerir un modelo de funcionamiento del euro que sea coherente, ya sea el del area monetaria descentralizada ‘a la Maastricht’ (que nunca se ha seguido realmente), o una versión más parecida a la creación de una moneda en un Estado (plurinacional) moderno; esto es, el modelo tradicional de una moneda, un banco central y un poder fiscal relevante en el centro de tal Estado, con capacidad para transferir riesgos y recursos entre los Estados Miembros.

Podéis mandar vuestras preguntas previamente a confirmaciones@frdelpino.es. Estaré encantado de hablar de estos temas y tratar de vuestras preguntas, aunque solo pueda hacerse ‘online’.