Not that QE ever really went away, but the European Central Bank is taking it up a notch with today's rate cut. According to the Wall Street Journal today :
The European Central Bank cut its key interest rate and launched a sweeping package of bond purchases Thursday that lays the ground work for a long period of ultraloose monetary policy, jolting European financial markets and triggering an immediate response from President Trump.
The ECB’s pre-emptive move was aimed at insulating the eurozone’s wobbling economy from a global slowdown and trade tensions. It is the ECB’s largest dose of monetary stimulus in 3½ years and a bold finale for departing President Mario Draghi, who looks to be committing his successor to negative interest rates and an open-ended bond-buying program, possibly for years.
But the move triggered opposition from a handful of ECB officials, according to people familiar with the matter, while leaving key practical questions unanswered. Primarily: How long can the ECB keep purchasing bonds without significantly enlarging the pool of assets it can buy? Some analysts estimated it might be less than a year.
Meanwhile, the president attempted to use the move to put additional pressure on the Fed to ratchet up its own QE plans, writing: "European Central Bank, acting quickly, Cuts Rates 10 Basis Points. They are trying, and succeeding, in depreciating the Euro against the VERY strong Dollar, hurting U.S. exports.... And the Fed sits, and sits, and sits. They get paid to borrow money, while we are paying interest!"
Trump, apparently is unconcerned by the effects of negative rates on the banking sector or on family budgets.
For example, the European banking sector has been hit hard by negative rates, as shown by Maurus Adam recently at mises.org:
Low interest rates make credit for private banks — and in turn, for consumers — cheaper. But at the same time, the low return on government bonds makes investment in these long-term options unattractive. Inflation and low return on investment options discourage people from saving and investing capital but encourage spending. Moreover, the low interest rates result in a low return for banks on the credit they grant to consumers. High consumption, low investment, and low profit on all banking activities strongly affects the ability of European banks to compete. Consequently, Markets Insider reports :
The extremely low interest rates in the Eurozone hit the bank’s investment branch hard...
The bank has struggled financially amid rock-bottom interest rates in Europe and fierce competition in the German banking industry, limiting its ability to invest and expand in line with US rivals.
And, as reported by Matt Egan at CNN:
Deutsche Bank's struggles have also been amplified by something the 149-year-old lender never imagined, mostly because it had never happened before in modern history: negative interest rates. In 2014, the European Central Bank wanted to boost the sluggish economy but interest rates were already at zero. The unconventional decision to take them into negative territory was aimed at encouraging growth and avoiding deflation, but it meant banks were charged a fee for parking their reserves with the central bank. The ECB's extreme policies may have injected some life into Europe's sleepy economy, in turn giving Deutsche Bank and other lenders a boost. However, negative rates are also crushing the profitability of all banks, Deutsche Bank included. And this unorthodox policy — one that the ECB is on the verge of doubling down on — is making it awfully difficult to revive the champion of Germany's banking system. But rates don't have to be negative to have a negative impact on savers and pensioners. In order to see any meaningful gains from saving in an economy with ultra-low rates, an investor must engage in yield chasing. but that;s much more difficult for ordinary households who don't have the tools of wealthy investors at their disposal - tools that allow for a variety of risky investments that may bring sizable returns. Ordinary people, in contrast, can't gamble their savings in that way, and can't even access hedge funds and other tools designed to seek out returns in an environment with so few opportunities for yield.
Moreover, pension funds that rely on more safe and traditional investments must pursue riskier investments, or do without the sorts of gains they need. That means future retirees will face far fewer returns and a falling standard of living.
None of this concerns the president, apparently, as he now appears to be champing at the bit to get his over version of European style QE.
Just yesterday, he was demanding the Fed cut the federal funds target rate "down to ZERO, or less":
That is, the president apparently believes savers should have to pay to save money, as is potentially the case under a negative-rate regime.
The president might also want to consider the fact that even after a decade of extreme easy-money policies, the European economy is still weak, and the euro zone's growth has slowed to under one percent.
This won't surprise hawks who understand that easy money is not exactly a miracle formula for economic growth. But this fact is seemingly irrelevant to the president who sees monetary policy as little more than a tool to spur exports.
Although the Fed is now expected to cut its own target rate later this month, one can only hope that it keeps to only 25 basis points.
After all, the good news here is that, with a target rate of 2.25 percent, the US's central bank looks relatively sane compared to the ECB and the Bank of Japan, both of which are employing negative rates. The Fed is even clocking in at well above the Bank of England's target rate of 0.75 percent.
So long as the Fed does not significantly increase its own balance sheet and other QE efforts in response to the ECB and other central banks, the dollar will continue to look relatively attractive compared to other currencies. Predictions that the dollar will quickly devalue in relation to other currencies are likely overstated. It is true that larger geopolitical trends, such as de-dollarization efforts among some major world economies , are a threat. But these efforts lie outside run-of-the-mill monetary policy right now which continues to point to a relatively sound dollar.
A summary of the most recently set rates:
- USA: 2.25%
- Canada: 1.75%
- UK: 0.75%
- Australia: 1.0%
- ECB: -0.5%
- Japan: -0.1%
Note: All graphs by Ryan McMaken. Here are the specific key rates discussed here, with links: