Pulse: Monetary Policy
I normally feel after reading, reviewing, and discussing the events of the previous week that I’m able to discern a direction or constructive theme. Today however, every corner of the world seems mired in some degree of turmoil, and markets are reacting. There is so much noise that it is difficult to decide what is causing this new volatility. Is it China, the Fed, the Mueller investigation, Yellow Jackets, or technology run amuck?
As everyone knows, October has been a terrible month for equity markets. Some market participants feel that this did not just coincide with higher interest rates, but was caused by flawed Fed monetary policy and comments on overshooting. Like the humming chorus in Madama Butterfly, there has been a steady rise in the number of voices supporting a Fed pause in December. These include members of the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee itself, such as Neel Kashkari, and leading economists such as Jason Furman.
Gradually, inch by painful inch, the central bankers are losing their clothes – the comforting ideology that has enveloped them like a warm garment for more than a generation. This is the ideology, or “regime”, of central bank independence and inflation targeting (CBI+IT). Oh, how shy they are! Look how they hold onto any scraps!
A leading economist has predicted that central banks will not remain independent much longer. His forecast was made at a Bank of England conference called to celebrate – yes – 20 years of independence. Guests included Mrs Theresa May, the Prime Minster. It was opened by the Governor, Mark Carney, who drew a different, but equally startling, lesson from the crisis.
Willem Buiter, chief economist of Citi, put up two slides where he declared that: