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Esta es la charla que di el 23 de Marzo de 2017 en una de las sesiones del ‘Free Market Road Show’ organizado por el Circulo Liberal Bastiat en Sevilla. Hablé de las bases del comercio internacional y recordé con ello lo que para muchos serán obviedades, y para muchos otros ideas revolucionarias. Por lo oído en los últimos meses tras la victoria de D. Trump en EEUU, así como las posiciones de unos y otros en el debate de Brexit y las negociaciones que ya se apuntan entre el Reino Unido y el resto de la Unión Europea, los fundamentos del comercio internacional que durante décadas eran conocidos por todos, y casi diría que sus beneficios eran reconocidos por la mayoría de los economistas, han pasado a estar en entredicho. Es frecuente oír a líderes políticos (en incluso a economistas, lo que es de echarse a temblar!) de ambos lados del Atlántico que los puestos de trabajo del país deben ser para los nacionales así como ha de favorecerse a la producción nacional, incluso cuando ésta es más cara e ineficiente que la producida en el exterior.

Dicen los contrarios a la globalización que la protección de la producción nacional beneficia al país que la aplica; y lo hacen sin fundarlo en absoluto en evidencia empírica alguna, ni presentar una explicación teórica alternativa del comercio y sus efectos. Esto no es sólo intelectualmente muy pobre y desolador, sino que la aplicación de su nacionalismo económico llevaría a nefastas políticas económicas que sabemos bien en que terminan; porque se han aplicado repetidamente en varias ocasiones a lo largo del la historia y siempre acabaron en: (1) menos desarrollo de la economía y la riqueza a escala mundial y (2) más pobreza para los países que restringen más el comercio (mayores precios de los bienes y servicios, subsidio de empresas nacionales ineficientes, meso dinamismo e innovación, …). Los bien intencionados parecen no querer aprender y se empecinan en restringir el comercio todo lo que pueden … . Otros, aún a sabiendas de sus efectos sobre la mayoría de la población apoyan estas medidas porque les benefician (me refiero a los sectores productores nacionales menos competitivos que presionan cual ‘lobbies’ al gobierno de turno en búsqueda de protección comercial). De verdad hace falta otra contracción del comercio como la de los años 1930 para dares cuenta de sus efectos tan perjudiciales para todos?

Como digo, es lamentable si bien muy necesario tener que insistir una vez más en los efectos perniciosos para la economía provocados por la imposición de políticas proteccionistas. El nacionalismo económico siempre ha conducido al empobrecimiento de las naciones, y en algunas ocasiones al enconamiento de las rivalidades y conflictos políticos entre naciones que nunca acabó bien … . Recordemos algunas de esas obviedades en cuanto al comercio internacional que cuento en más detalle en la presentación:

(1) El comercio beneficia a las dos partes:

  • No se impone, se acuerda
  • La imposición de aranceles y otras trabas al comercio:
    • Perjudica a los consumidores: encarecimiento de los bienes y servicios
    • Sostiene una industria nacional ineficiente, necesitada de proteccion
    • Aumenta los ingresos del Estado (en el corto plazo)
    • Supone, al final, un impuesto a los exportadores nacionales: menos competitiva en mercados internacional.

(2) Comercian personas y empresas:

  • No hacen falta tratados para comerciar
    • Los tratados comerciales suponen la politización del comercio
    • Son el instrumento de los Estados para dar entrada a ‘grupos de interés’ en la mesa de negociación
  • Los acuerdos generales de comercio multilateral son más eficientes que los acuerdos bilaterales entre Estados

(3) A partir de ello, lo que propongo para el Reino Unido y el resto de la UE es lo siguiente:

  • Reino Unido: Declaración unilateral de libre comercio con el resto de Europa
    • No importa lo que haga el resto de Europa: beneficia a los consumidores y productores británicos
    • Y si el resto de Europa impone aranceles? Perjudicara a los consumidores Europeos
  • Ventajas:
    • Fin a una hipotética ‘guerra comercial’ que perjudicaría a todos
    • Fin a interminables y costosos tratados comerciales …
    • Evita la actuación de grupos de presión que solo buscan intereses corporativos
  • No soy nada original. Esta es la propuesta reciente hecha por Patrick Minford (2016) ‘No Need To Queue: The benefits of free trade without trade agreements’. IEA. London

 

Aquí podréis ver el video con mi presentación. Como siempre, vuestros comentarios serán muy bienvenidos.

Juan Castañeda

 

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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

Tuve el placer de visitar la Universidad Francisco Marroquín (UFM) en Guatemala el pasado mes de Febrero e impartir unas charlas sobre moneda y banca; lo que me permitió conocer mejor a sus estudiantes así como los programas que desarrollan en las áreas de economía y finanzas. Es una universidad muy exitosa y totalmente independiente del gobierno, lo que le da la autonomía financiera y profesional para seleccionar sus alumnos, profesorado y los programas que ofrece a los mismos. Solo así se puede ser realmente responsable como institución y aspirar a la excelencia académica.

Una de las ventajas de operar en un país donde el Estado no ha crecido tanto como en la vieja Europa es que da oportunidades a la iniciativa privada para innovar y prosperar de maneras difícilmente previsibles ni controlables por el regulador; aunque sólo sea porque no tiene una maquinaria administrativa lo suficientemente desarrollada como para poder intervenir de manera más activa (no es porque no quiera es porque no puede!). Esto ha sido una bendición para quienes pusieron en práctica en su día, y lo continúan desarrollando y expandiendo en la actualidad, el proyecto de una universidad independiente y comprometida con la educación y formación de personas libres y responsables de sus decisiones, en una una economía de libre empresa. Acostumbrado a vivir en países donde el Estado ‘llega a todo’, fue un gusto comprobar cómo proyectos distintos e innovadores pueden desarrollarse y asentarse de manera tan exitosa. Como la UFM, la Universidad de Buckingham es una institución verdaderamente independiente del Estado, que no por casualidad está a la cabeza de la excelencia docente en el Reino Unido.  He trabajado 14 años en una universidad estatal y desde 2012 en Buckingham y puedo dar fe de las diferencias entre ambos ‘modelos’ institucionales; uno representativo de una universidad altamente burocratizada donde se desincentiva la innovación, y el otro donde la iniciativa individual y la buena docencia son premiadas.

Entrevista sobre dinero y banca central

Durante mi estancia en la UFM, Luis Figueroa y yo mantuvimos una entrevista sobre moneda y banca central; en concreto, hablamos de la posibilidad de tener un sistema monetario sin un banco central estatal y de como reformar la política monetaria a la luz de los errores que condujeron a la crisis financiera de 2007/08. Aquí podéis encontrar el contenido completo de la entrevista para el canal online ‘NewMedia UFM’: http://newmedia.ufm.edu/video/es-posible-un-sistema-monetario-sin-banca-central/. Para aquellos interesados en el tema, podeis leer mi entrada en el blog del mes pasado sobre la viabilidad de un sistema monetario con un banco central privado (entrevista con Standard and Poor’s).

Como siempre, los comentarios y críticas sobre el contenido de la entrevista serán muy bienvenidos.

Juan Castañeda

 

 

 

On March 2nd (Fundación Rafael del Pino, Madrid) I had the pleasure to join a panel on the future of the European Banking Union (EBU) (and on Brexit) with very distinguished colleagues and friends: Jose Manuel Gonzalez Paramo (BBVA and former member of the ECB Executive Committee), David Marsh (OMFIF, London) and Pedro Schwartz (UCJC, Madrid) (see the video of the seminar here). During the  event I also had the opportunity to launch in Madrid the book I co-edited last year on the European Banking Union. Prospects and Challenges (Routledge). The book is a collection of essays on the EBU by central banks’ analysts, academics and practitioners from different jurisdictions. Each of them addresses the topic from a different perspective, either legal or economic, and highlights the pros and cons of the EBU as well as its expected challenges over the next few years.

It is obvious to all now, but also to many experts at the time of the launch of the euro, that the institutional architecture of the euro was, at the very least, weak and incomplete (see some of the articles in the 1990s written by W. Buiter, C. Goodhart, P. Schwartz, T. Congdon or G. Wood, amongst others). No currency union has survived for long without a political union or a supranational Treasury, with enough powers and policies to back the currency. And this is particularly true in the case of an area, such as the Euro area, which is far from being a flexible and fully functioning monetary area. You may want to check out the results of the research report just published by the Institute of International Monetary Research on the measurement of the integration of the euro area or its ‘optimality’ as a single currency.

The reference to the classical gold standard (1870s – 1913) as a comparison with the current euro standard deserves some attention. We should be aware of the differences between both standards: the gold standard was indeed a monetary union, where member economies fixed their currencies against gold; whereas the euro standard is a currency union, where countries get rid completely of their national currencies and adopt a single currency for all. The latter is much more rigid and demanding during a crisis, since member states have no room to alter the parity of the currency (there is no national currency!), nor to abandon the parity on a temporary basis. Under a currency union member countries have effectively no central bank of issue, as this function has been fully delegated to a supranational central bank. We have experienced since 2008 how demanding this monetary system becomes under a crisis, much more a severe financial crisis, as countries have no other option but to cut costs and prices in an effort to regain competitiveness (the so-called ‘internal devaluation’). This is an option to sort out the crisis, but it has proven to be a painful one our economies (and even more, our populations) seem not to be ready to implement or even to accept.

In a nutshell, the EBU implies the following (more details on the presentation here):

  • The establishment of the European Banking Authority (EBA), which overseas the implementation of the new (much higher) Basel III banks’ capital ratio and the new liquidity ratio across the EU.
  • The establishment of a single banking regulator under the ‘Single Supervisory Mechanism‘ (SSM) for big banks or transnational banks in the Eurozone (around 80% of all), in the hands of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. In addition the new Single Resolution Mechanism (SRM) has been stablished to deal with the recovery or resolution of a bank (see more details below).
  • According to the new EU Recovery and Resolution Directive (RRD), every bank must draft a resolution plan to be approved by the regulator, in order to resolve the bank if needed be in an orderly and timely manner. In addition, should a bank under the SSM need to be resolved, the government will not use taxpayers’ money in the first place. Actually the resolution or recovery process is going to be handled by the SRM. And only when the bank’s shareholders and creditors’ money has been (mostly) exhausted (so they have absorbed losses of at least 8% of the total liabilities), the bank can benefit from other sources of funding to pay its debt or conduct other operations (such as the Resolution Fund, see below). This is what the literature calls a bail-in rather than the bail-outs of the banks with taxpayers’  money we have seen in the recent crisis.
  • In addition, all member states have agreed to guarantee the deposits up to 100,000 euros per person per bank (however there is not yet a pan-EU deposit guarantee scheme but national schemes).
  • Finally, the EBU would not be complete should we not pay attention to the role of the ECB and the National Central Banks as the lenders of last resort in the Euro area. Modern central banks (particularly since the 19th century, but also earlier in the case of the Bank of England) were established to support the banks in case of a liquidity crisis. If a bank is solvent but illiquid, and thus cannot pay its deposits temporarily, the bank can always request extraordinary lending to the central bank (as W. Bagehot put it in his famous 1873’s seminal book: unlimited lending but always against collateral and at a penalty rate). However, this competence is still in the hands of the National Central Banks in the Euro zone which, provided there is no objection of the ECB, can lend money to the national bank in crisis at request. This division of competences between the ECB and the National Central Bank should be better coordinated so no banking crisis is artificially ‘hidden’ or postponed under the provision of liquidity by the national central bank.

The ‘Euro 2.0’

As Jose Manuel Gonzalez Paramo put it, the European Banking Union is a sort of ‘Euro 2.0‘ as it comes to remedy (at least some) of the Euro 1.0 institutional problems and weaknesses. In this regard, I agree it is an improvement as it helps to create a more consistent and credible institutional setting (*); however it does not tackle important aspects I will just briefly mention below:

  • First of all, the EBU and the new Resolution Fund (paid for by the banks, its amount will be no less than 1% of banks’  guaranteed deposits) will not be completed until 2024. So, should a banking crisis occurs in the meantime the banking sector will not have enough funds to pay for the banks’ liabilities on its own or to fund and implement the decisions made by the SRM.
  • Secondly, if a bank needs to be assisted and finally resolved, a complicated coordination between many actors of divorced nature and aims (political, national and supranational) is required in a question of days/hours. Of course the test to this procedure will come when we experience the next banking crisis (see more details on chapter 2 by T. Huertas, see book mentioned above).
  • But finally and most importantly, in my opinion, the EBU does not resolve the fundamental problems of the Euro zone; which are the abysmal internal asymmetries amongst member states in terms of competitiveness, public finances or costs (see some measurements here), as well as the actual lack in internal and cross-border flexibility as regards labour and good and services markets. Just a view of the asymmetries in Target-2 member states’ balances is as striking as self-explanatory.

The EBU adds consistency and predictability to the supervision and resolution of banks. In this sense, it is an improvement. It also makes banks pay for the losses before applying any other funding, even less taxpayers money; but we are yet to see the robustness of the new institutions established as well as the political commitment to the bail-in option in reality. The EBU is in my view another ‘patch’ on the euro’s structural weaknesses.

 

Juan Castañeda

Notes:

(*) However more consistent, I do not think this type of euro currency, very much centralised and linked to an increasingly powerful supranational State, is the best we could have established to preserve the purchasing power of the euro; I will elaborate further on the alternatives in next posts.

Within the launch event of the new MSc in Money, Banking and Central Banking (hosted by the Institute of Economic Affairs in London, 13th March, 12:00-14:00), I will be delighted to introduce two of the teaching staff of the programme, Professors Tim Congdon and Geoffrey Wood, who will be discussing the major topics covered in the programme: such as policies aimed at achieving price stability and financial stability, as well as the current debates on alternative central banks’ strategies and the effects of tighter bank regulation in a post-crisis era. A key question is to assess whether central banks should shrink their balance sheets and, if so, the strategy to do it so economic recovery is not harmed by a shortage in the amount of money. Ins this regard, the US Fed’s Quantitative Tightening policy in recent months will be discussed (see a more detailed analysis here: http://www.mv-pt.org/monthly-monetary-update) along with other alternatives.

This is a new MSc focused on how money is created in modern economies and on how changes in the amount of money affect prices (all prices, consumer and asset prices!) as well as income along the cycle. In addition emphasis is given to the functions, operations and monetary policy strategies of major central banks, so we can understand better the way monetary policy makers actually make a decision. Surprisingly enough, this very classical approach to money and central banking has become quite distinct and unique,  since monetary analysis has been labelled as ‘out-fashioned’ and has somehow been disregarded in the last two decades. The MSc is offered by the University of Buckingham and you can find more on the programme and how to apply here: https://www.buckingham.ac.uk/humanities/msc/money-banking .

Places for the launch event are still available. Should you want to attend RSVP to enquiries@mv-pt.org or call Gail Grimston on 01280 827524. For those who will not be able to make it we will be recording the presentation and the debate and upload it on the Institute of International Monetary Research‘s website (http://www.mv-pt.org/index).

All welcome!

Juan Castaneda

launch-msc-invite

 

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

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