LIKE teenagers, central bankers long to feel normal. For many of them (the central bankers, that is), the past decade has been an unusually angst-ridden one. They stumbled through it, confused by the way their policymaking bodies were changing, unsure what to do with their interest rates, embarrassed by their burgeoning balance-sheets. Teenagers often seek to quell their anxiety and insecurity by imitating behaviour they regard as normal. So too for central bankers.
But the desire to normalise policy, and leave crisis-era measures behind, could distract central bankers from their main goals, namely to support growth and control inflation. The Bank for International Settlements, a global club for central bankers, recently urged officials not to let market jitters discourage them from raising interest rates. Yet at worst, chasing some elusive notion of normal could put the global recovery at risk.
What central bankers mean by normalising policy is clear enough. As Peter Praet, the chief economist of the European Central Bank (ECB), explained in a recent speech, to normalise is to end their reliance on “unconventional” or “non-standard” tools such as quantitative easing (QE, the printing of new money to buy assets). It means returning to a familiar world in which adjustments to interest rates are their main policy lever.
Central bankers make no…Continue reading