Category Archives: Inflation

Lessons from the 1970s and monetary policy today

In my previous analysis (link) I contrasted the Bundesbank and the Fed during the high-inflation episodes of the 1970s. I concluded that the Bundesbank fared better: German inflation was lower and less volatile. Today’s situation resembles the situation in the 1970s. What can monetary policymakers today learn from events back then? A lot, I think. At the same time it also seems as if some important lessons have been forgotten.

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Lessons from the 1970s: Germany vs. U.S.

Today’s situation shares many similarities with the situation in the 1970s: Sky-high inflation, war, insufficient tightening of monetary policy, uncertainty about the economic outlook, and more. Countries responded differently to the events back then, though. I analyse the reactions of the German and U.S. central banks and emphasize lessons relevant for today. My next analysis will examine what current monetary policy can learn from those experiences.

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Yield spreads and recessions

The slope of the yield curve, or the yield spread, has consistently predicted recessions. Following a flattening of the yield curve–a rise in yields on short-dated government bonds relative to yields on long-dated government bonds–the economy often contracts. There are different yield spreads, though. Right now some indicate that we are heading for a recession while others imply low recession probabilities. Which ones should you rely upon and what are the implications? I analyse data from the US and Europe (Germany) and provide answers.

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ECB’s additional dilemma

In December I argued that inflation is too high but that the European Central Bank (ECB) faced a dilemma (link): Raise rates and high-debt countries will suffer, or keep rates low and inflation will remain too high. I concluded that the ECB should start raising rates. Inflation is now even higher, and the ECB faces an additional dilemma: Raise rates and risk derailing a recovery already suffering under the weight of elevated uncertainty and high energy prices, or keep rates low and inflation will remain too high for too long. Another worrying development is that ECB risks losing its grip on inflation expectations. What to do?

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ECB’s dilemma: Choosing between the devil (raise rates) and the deep blue sea (don’t raise rates)

Inflation in the Eurozone is historically high. One would expect that the European Central Bank (the ECB) would only talk about raising rates. Instead, they only talk about keeping rates low, in contrast to other central banks. Why is the ECB so strongly ruling out even the possibility that rates might be raised? Probably because there are highly indebted countries in the Eurozone that would suffer. The ECB is caught in a dilemma: Raise rates and risk that Italy (and other countries) will face debt-servicing challenges or keep rates low and risk that inflation remains too high. What to do?

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Summer reading: Probabilities of tail-events

What is the likelihood that we will see high inflation? What is the likelihood that we will see deflation? What is the likelihood that the stock market will crash? And what is the likelihood that it will continue rising? How likely is it that real estate prices will fall, and how likely is it that they will rise? And what about the exchange rate? Find the answers to these questions in this summer story.

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Yields and inflation expectations

During the last couple of weeks, yields have been rising and stock markets falling. Standard market turbulence is not interesting for this blog – stocks go up and down, most of the time up, and yields fluctuate – but intriguing (and expected) patterns characterize recent events.

Everybody seems to agree what is going on markets these weeks: Vaccines are successful and being rolled out, so economies will open up soon, and Biden will get his stimulus package to the tune of USD1.9tn. These two things (an already strong economy when opening up and on top of that a large stimulus package) will lead to very strong growth during the second half of 2021. Inflation will rise and the Fed will have to tighten monetary policy. The expected rise in inflation and the policy rate leads to increases in yields today. This hurts stocks. These US developments spill over to other countries.

This story largely makes sense. Looking at the data, however, interesting outstanding issues remain.

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