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On the 13th of March (IEA, London) I had the pleasure to participate in the launch of the new MSc in Money, Banking and Central Banking (University of Buckingham, with the collaboration of the Institute of International Monetary Research), starting in September 2017; and I did it with two of the professors who will be teaching in the MSc, indeed two excellent and very well-known experts in the field: Professors Geoffrey Wood and Tim Congdon. I have known them both for long and shared research projects and co-authored works in money and central banking; and it was a privilege for me to have the chance to  introduce the new MSc, as well as to engage in a fascinating dialogue with them on very topical and key questions in monetary economics in our days: amongst others, ‘How is money determined? And how does this affect the economy?’; ‘Is a fractional reserve banking system inherently fragile?’; ‘Does the size of central banks’ balance sheet matter?’; ‘If we opt for inflation targeting as a policy strategy, which should be the variable to measure and target inflation?’; ‘Why the obsession amongst economists and academics with interest rates, and the disregard of money?”; ‘Who is to blame for the Global Financial Crisis, banks or regulators?’; ‘Does tougher bank regulation result in saver banks?’; ‘Is the US Fed conducting Quantitative Tightening in the last few months?’.

You can find the video with the full event here; with the presentation of the MSc in Money, Banking and Central Banking up to minute 9:20 and the discussion on the topics mentioned above onwards.  Several lessons can be learned from our discussion, and however evident they may sound, academics and policy-makers should be reminded of them again and again:

  • Inflation and deflation are monetary phenomena over the medium and long term.
  • Central banks‘ main missions are to preserve the purchasing power of the currency and maintain financial stability; and thus they should have never disregarded the analysis of money growth and its impact on prices and nominal income in the years running up to the Global Financial Crisis.
  • A central bank acting as the lender of last resort of the banking sector does not mean rescuing every bank in trouble. Broke banks need to fail to preserve the stability of the banking system over the long term.
  • The analysis of both the composition and the changes in central banks’ balance sheets is key to assess monetary conditions in the economy and ultimately make policy prescriptions.
  • The analysis of the central banks’ decisions and operations cannot be done properly without the study of the relevant historical precedents: to learn monetary and central banking history is vital to understand current policies monetary questions.
  • Tighter bank regulation, such as Basel III new liquidity ratios and the much higher capital ratios announced in the midst of the Global Financial Crisis, resulted in a greater contraction in the amount of money, and so it had even greater deflationary effects and worsened the crisis.

These are indeed key lessons and principles to apply should we want to achieve both monetary and financial stability over the medium and long term.

I hope you enjoy the discussion as much as I did. As ever, comments and feedback will be most welcome.

Apply for the MSc here!

Juan Castaneda

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El 2 de marzo de 12 a 14 horas en la Fundación Rafael del Pino (Madrid) tendré la oportunidad de participar en un coloquio con Jose Manuel González Páramo (BBVA, moderador), Pedro Schwartz (UCJC) y David Marsh (OMFIF) sobre cómo afectará Brexit a la Unión Bancaria Europea y a los servicios financieros que presta la llamada ‘City’ de Londres.

El tema, mejor dicho, los temas que hay sobre la mesa son verdaderamente complejos. Pero por supuesto que pueden tratarse de manera asequible para no especialistas; si hay algo que realmente me disgusta en Economía es cuando especialistas en la materia se enzarzan en un debate utilizando un lenguaje innecesariamente oscuro que no entiende nadie (algo que ocurre con demasiada frecuencia, casi de manera generalizada, con los artículos académicos en Economía …, lo que no les hace mejores sino más alejados de la realidad e incomprensibles). En concreto, seguro se tratará de cómo la salida del Reino Unido de la Unión Europea (UE) afectará a los servicios financieros que Londres, como plaza financiera de referencia en Europa, presta tanto a países como a empresas financieras y no financieras en el continente. Uno de las ideas que sostendré en el debate es que si Londres ha sido durante décadas (siglos) una plaza eficiente en la prestación de tales servicios, que por supuesto cumple con la regulación financiera Europea, por qué no debería seguir haciéndolo? Desde una perspectiva puramente económica, la cuestión no admite controversia: es eficiente y beneficioso para las dos partes aprovechar las ventajas competitivas que cada uno puede aportar en el comercio de bienes y servicios. Esto es algo que un estudiante de primero de Economía debería saber.

Hablaremos también de la union bancaria Europea, y de lo que implica e implicará en los próximos años en lo que se refiere a la regulación y, si fuera necesario, la liquidación ordenada de un banco en una futura crisis bancaria. Se trata de un conjunto de nuevas regulaciones e instituciones aprobadas por todos los países de la UE que tratan de paliar alguno de los fallos observados en las respuestas que los Estados Miembros dieron a las distintas crisis bancarias nacionales en la reciente crisis financieras. Y, aunque no muchos lo sepan, el Reino Unido, aún no siendo parte de la zona del Euro, como miembro de la UE sí ha tenido que cumplir con parte de la regulación que acompaña a la union bancaria Europea.

El evento también servirá para presentar el libro, ‘European Banking Union. Prospects and Challenges’ (Routledge), que hemos editado G. Wood D. Mayes y yo mismo. Se trata de una colección de capítulos que tratan de cómo se ha diseñado la union bancaria, su definición y funcionamiento, así como de algunos de los aspectos que en opinión de algunos de los autores puede poner en peligro su efectividad y viabilidad. Aquí podéis encontrar un resumen del libro, así como más información sobre los temas de los que trata:

‘Recent failures and rescues of large banks have resulted in colossal costs to society. In wake of such turmoil a new banking union must enable better supervision, pre-emptive coordinated action and taxpayer protection. While these aims are meritorious they will be difficult to achieve. This book explores the potential of a new banking union in Europe.

This book brings together leading experts to analyse the challenges of banking in the European Union. While not all contributors agree, the constructive criticism provided in this book will help ensure that a new banking union will mature into a stable yet vibrant financial system that encourages the growth of economic activity and the efficient allocation of resources.’

Quedáis invitados todos!

Juan Castañeda

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Broad money growth (M3, Shadow Government Statistics) in the US keeps on decelerating since the end of 2015. As reported in the latest Monthly Monetary Update (Institute of International Monetary Research, IIMR), ‘In the final quarter of 2016 US M3 grew at an annualised rate of 2.2%. This follows on from a mere 0.9% in the three months to November, the slowest annualised quarterly growth rate in over five years. 2016 ends with US broad money growing at an annual rate of 4.0%, which is respectable, but down on 2015’s figure of 4.3%. In mid- 2016, the figure was 4.5%. The subsequent slowdown in broad money growth has been primarily caused by “quantitative tightening” ‘.

money-growth-us

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: January Money Update, IIMR

 

What is ‘Quantitative Tightening’? As stated in the IIMR’s January money update cited above ‘ (…) “quantitative tightening” (i.e., the reversal of quantitative easing) when it allows its stock of asset-backed securities to run off at maturity. The Fed can use proceeds from the maturing ABSs to reduce its cash reserve liabilities to the banks rather than to finance new, offsetting purchases of securities.’ (See the January Monetary Update, IIMR). What we do not know yet is whether the Fed has intentionally pursued such a monetary contractive policy, or rather it is just the (indeed surprisingly unnoticed) consequence of the fall securities in its balance sheet when they reach maturity. As far as I know the Fed has not made a public policy announcement in this regard nor committed to such policy.

Why does this matter? Well it does matter when the medium to the long term correlation between money growth and nominal income is acknowledged. Of course it is not a mechanical or a one-to-one correlation,  and indeed time lags should be taken into account; anyhow in an environment where the demand of money is fairly stable, changes in the rate of growth of money do translate into changes in nominal income. Table below shows such empirical relation in the US in the last five decades:

nominal-income-and-money-us

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: January Money Update, IIMR

 

Thus should this weakening in money growth in the US continue in the next quarters it will most likely have an impact on economic growth forecasts. This is subject to several caveats though; the new US administration has already announced a profound change in bank regulation which may well ease the pressure put in the midst of the Global Financial Crisis on small and medium size banks particularly to expand their balance sheets. If this materialises in the near future, the creation of more bank deposits in the economy could offset the monetary contractive policy followed by the Fed in the last few months, intentionally or not.

 

Juan Castañeda

 

 

 

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This was the title of George Selgin (CFMA, Cato) talk at the Institute of International Monetary Research (IIMR) and the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) seminar, ‘Quantitative Easing. Triumph or Folly?’ (3rd Nov. 2016). The title of course evokes Ben Bernanke‘s words at the conference held in 2002 to honour Milton Friedman for his 90th birthday; in his speech Bernanke ended with some words that have resonated everywhere in the midst and the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis in 2007-09: ‘Let me end my talk by abusing slightly my status as an official representative of the Federal Reserve. I would like to say to Milton and Anna: Regarding the Great Depression. You’re right, we did it. We’re very sorry. But thanks to you, we won’t do it again.‘ True, banks’ deposits have not contracted (as it did happened in the early 1930’s) around 30% in the recent crisis, but broad monetary growth (M2) plummeted in 2009 and did have a subsequent impact in the extension, amplitude and the severity of the crisis.

The 1930’s crisis is the historical precedent used by George Selgin to judge the Fed’s response to the two major financial crises occurred since the establishment of the US Fed in 1913; the Great Depression and the Global Financial Crisis. Selgin resorts to well-established monetary theory to recommend an early intervention in monetary markets in case of a banking crisis occurs in order to prevent the payment system and financial markets from falling. And he does so by using Walter Bagehot‘s well-known criteria for central banks to act effectively as the lenders of last resort in a monetary system where the reserves are held by a single bank: (1) the central bank must act promptly and provide loans to illiquid but solvent banks with no limit (2) against collateral (assets that would have been used in normal times) and (3) at a penalty rate; that is an interest rate higher than the normal or policy rate.

Did the Fed abide by those criteria?

As you can surely tell by the title of his talk, Selgin is very critical with the lack of an effective response of the Fed in 2008, which ended up in a drastic fall in monetary growth in the economy in 2009 (see the rate of growth of US M2 since 2007 here). Normally banks’ deposits at the central bank are a sort of a restriction that constraint the potential expansion of their balance sheets. The Fed’s policy of increasing the remuneration US banks’ deposits (or excess reserves) in the midst of the crisis (at a time where there were not many profitable investments options for banks) turned those deposits at the Fed as an asset. In this new policy scenario US banks comfortably sat on a vast amount of cash at the Fed, and did get a profit for doing so; this indeed discouraged them from channelling the money lent out by the Fed to the economy and resulted in an ineffective threefold expansion in the US monetary base. This recent example helps to explain the lack of a mechanical connection between expansions in the monetary base and those in  broader measures of money (such as M2, which hardly grew, if at all, at the time).

Watch out George Selgin’s video with his talk in full here for further details. In a nutshell, according to Selgin it was a combination of bad policy measures which caused the Great Contraction and not an inevitable policy outcome. Enjoy the talk!

Juan Castañeda

 

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As announced last month on this blog, you can find now the video of the IIMR 2016 Public Lecture given by Charles Goodhart (Financial Markets Group, LSE) available on the Institute of International Monetary Research website: http://www.mv-pt.org/2016-lecture-and-conference

Professor Goodhart, indeed a distinguished academic figure in monetary economics in the UK and a former member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, criticised many features of monetary policy-making both before and after the sharp global downturn of 2008 and early 2009. He also underlined some of the most important flaws in current macroeconomic models:

(1) The use of macroeconomic models with no money, nor a banking sector.
(2) No analysis of the monetary transmission mechanisms via the banking or the wider financial sectors.
(3) The assumption that there is a direct correlation between changes in the monetary base and changes in the amount of money.

In my view those flaws are yet to be properly addressed and if we could just agree on those very simple points we would make a major progress in current monetary economics! And we will very much reduce monetary instability and thus minimise the risk another financial collapse.

Just a final note on the Institute of International Monetary Research. Its main purpose is to demonstrate and to bring public attention to the strong relationship between the quantity of money on the one hand, and the levels of national income and expenditure on the other. The Institute has been established in association with the university of Buckingham and is heavily involved in the analysis of banking systems, particularly their role in the creation of new money balances. You can subscribe to its newsletter and publications here: http://www.mv-pt.org/contactus

Juan Castañeda

PS. The text with the lecture will be available soon at the IIMR website.

 

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The Institute of International Monetary Research (IIMR, affiliated with the University of Buckingham) is holding an international conference on the assessment of Quantitative Easing (QE) in the US, UK, Eurozone and Japan on the 3rd of November (London). In the last few years a return to a more conventional set of monetary policies has been widely heralded, and in particular the return to a monetary policy rule focused on monetary stability and the stability of the overall economy over the long term (see the excellent conference organised by CATO and the Mercatus Centre  (George Mason University, US) on this very question just few weeks ago); but we believe the first priority at the moment is to analyse and clarify the impact of QE on financial markets and the broader economy. Amongst others, the following questions will be discussed: Has QE been instrumental in preventing another Great Depression? If QE is meant to boost asset prices, why has inflation generally been so low in recent years? Has QE increased inequality? Has QE been able to expand effectively broad money growth? Should QE programmes be extended at all? These are all vital questions we will address at the conference.

The conference is by invitation only and there are still (very few) places available, so please send an email to Gail Grimston at gail.grimston@buckingham.ac.uk should you wish to attend. It will be held on Thursday 3rd November 2016, in collaboration with Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), at the IEA headquarters in London. You will be able to find a programme with all the topics and the speakers here  As you will see we are delighted to have an excellent panel of experts on this field from the US, continental Europe and the UK. There will be of course very well-known academics but also practitioners as well as central bank economists. In particular economists such as George Selgin (CATO), Kevin Dowd (Durham University), Christopher Neely (Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis), Ryland Thomas (Bank of England) or Tim Congdon (IIMR, University of Buckingham) amongst many other very distinguished  economists will be giving a talk at the conference, which provides a unique opportunity to analyse in detail the effects and the effectiveness of QE in the most developed economies.

For your information you can also follow the conference live/streaming; please visit the IIMR website this week for further details on how to follow it remotely on the day. In addition the presentations (but not the discussion) will be filmed and published on our website later on. Drop us an email (enquiries@mv-pt.org) should you want to be updated on the Institute’s agenda and latest news.

Thank you,

Juan Castaneda

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Pasos en favor de una mayor competencia monetaria

Hace unos meses tuve la ocasión de dar una charla sobre el sistema monetario actual y sus alternativas de mercado en el Instituto Juan de Mariana de Madrid (18 de Mayo de 2013), titulada ‘Los Bancos Centrales y la reforma monetaria pendiente’. Lo que traté de transmitir es que un sistema caracterizado por la introducción de más competencia en el mercado de la creación de dinero no ha de llevarnos al caos monetario, como muchos aún creen, sino todo lo contrario; por cierto, resulta muy chocante esta creencia y crítica a la competencia entre monedas visto cómo el actual sistema de control estatal de la moneda ha estado muy cerca de llevarnos a un auténtico caos financiero muy recientemente. Además, ese sistema monetario más competitivo no ha de ser necesariamente uno en el que desaparezca completamente el dinero actual y sea sustituido de la noche a la mañana por una miríada de emisores privados de diferentes medios de pago. Tanto algunos de los partidarios como los muchos detractores de introducir competencia en este mercado lo entienden como un sistema en que la gente llevaría algo así como tres o cuatros (o incluso más) monedas distintas para usarlas en el mercado a conveniencia. No creo fuera así, pues sería ciertamente ineficiente y costoso realizar las operaciones normales de mercado en ese escenario de múltiples monedas y precios. De hecho, cuando hubo competencia monetaria, porque la hubo en siglos pasados y en mucho países, convivían a lo sumo dos o tres monedas, pero su uso estaba bastante diferenciado en función de la naturaleza de la operación a realizar: una moneda de menor valor era destinada para los pequeños pagos del día a día, otra de mayor valor para el pago de grandes sumas e impuestos en el país y una tercera (que podía ser una moneda circulante o sólo un patrón monetario) era destinada a operaciones con terceros en el resto del mundo. Un sistema así funcionó durante muchos años en la Castilla en la Edad Moderna.

Dado el elevado grado de intervención de las autoridades económicas en la emisión y verdadero ‘manejo’ de la moneda (por ejemplo, con la política monetaria), intervención que viene de muy antiguo, concentrarse en conseguir de manera fulminante ese ideal de mercado abierto y competitivo resulta poco realista, al menos a corto y medio plazo. Pero sí que hay cambios que pueden ir haciéndose en esa dirección: desde permitir la competencia de dos monedas en paralelo en el área del euro (algo que defendemos y explicamos varios profesores aquí) hasta, ‘simplemente’, eliminar la cláusula de dinero de curso legal de la moneda nacional (estatal); la eliminación de esa auténtica barrera legal (cierto, junto con otras condiciones adicionales) permitiría dar un gran salto en favor de la creación de un mercado abierto y disputable en el que podrían competir el banco central nacional y otros emisores privados (nacionales o extranjeros) por la provisión del mejor medio para realizar transacciones y también para diferir pagos, lo que no deja de ser una forma de ahorro claro. En función de la calidad de la moneda emitida en el mercado, la demanda de una y otras variará y, con ella, la apreciación o depreciación de las mismas; de esta forma, las variaciones del tipo de cambio (flexible) en el medio y largo plazo entre las monedas sería un buen indicador del mayor o menor poder adquisitivo de las mismas. Como maravillosamente explicó Vera Smith (1936) en sus Fundamentos de la Banca Central y de la Libertad Bancaria y detalla George Selgin(*) (1988) en La libertad de emisión del dinero bancario, en un sistema abierto a la competencia, los emisores de monedas tendrían incentivos para asociarse y formar una especie de clubes de emisión de moneda en el que proveerían por si mismos los servicios esenciales para el mantenimiento del poder de compra de la moneda y la fiabilidad de los pagos hechos con ella en el mercado. Si, bajo este sistema monetario abierto a la competencia, el Estado quiere seguir monetizando sus déficits fiscales e inflar el mercado con emisiones excesivas de esa moneda, la respuesta de los usuarios será desprenderse paulatinamente de ella; lo que se reflejará en una depreciación de la moneda estatal y en la consiguiente pérdida de las ganancias por señoreaje de emisión del Estado en favor del resto de competidores. Ello sería sin duda el mejor incentivo para abandonar tales políticas inflacionistas que acaban por deteriorar la calidad de la moneda.

Pero, como decía más arriba, hasta llegar a ese sistema más competitivo mucho nos queda por mejorar el presente. Y es a ello a lo que dediqué la segunda parte de mi intervención en el Instituto Juan de Mariana; al estudio de otras reglas de emisión de los bancos centrales distintas a las actuales que pueden contribuir a mejorar la calidad del dinero que emiten. La charla fue seguida de un muy activo turno de preguntas y comentarios por parte de los asistentes que espero os resulte de interés; especialmente animada fue sin duda la discusión sobre el patrón oro clásico y su posible aplicación en la actualidad. Os dejo a continuación el vídeo y una entrevista resumen de la misma. Como siempre, los comentarios y especialmente las críticas son muy bienvenidas:

Vídeo completo de la conferencia

Entrevista resumen

Juan Castañeda

Nota: (*) G. Selgin dará una charla en Madrid el 2 de Octubre, en la Fundación Rafael del Pino. Merece muy mucho la pena ir a escucharle. Es un auténtico especialista en estos temas, es muy ameno y se explica de maravilla. Toda la información para asistir la encontraréis aquí:

http://www.frdelpino.es/selgin/

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