Why Europeans Lost Trust in the ECB

by David Herok and Andreas Hoffmann*

Since the financial crisis, trust in the European Central Bank (ECB) has declined substantially among Europeans. We argue that the decline in trust is worrisome and can be both a cause and a consequence of the ECB’s policy failure.

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Government Revenues from Low-Interest Rate Policies

by Andreas Hoffmann and Holger Zemanek*

Over the last two years Carmen Reinhart and Belen Sbrancia have published a series of papers on financial repression and its historical role in financing government debt. They show that throughout the Bretton Woods period governments in many advanced economies repressed financial markets to liquidate the high levels of debt that had been accumulated by the end of World War II.

During this period, low policy rates reduced debt servicing costs. Financial repression raised the attractiveness of government bonds relative to other investments. Inflation liquidated government debt. The authors report an annual debt liquidation effect for, e.g., the US and UK government debt of about 3 – 4 percent of GDP (Reinhart and Sbrancia 2011).

Today government debt levels in many countries are comparable to those after the Second World War II! After all, good politicians do not need a World War. There are plenty of other ways to spend. But in the light of the European debt crisis, governments are feeling the need to correct the spending-revenue misalignments in order to make debt-service sustainable. Continue reading

The European Central Bank Turns into the Fed?

by Andreas Hoffmann*

The European Central Bank (ECB) and the Fed differ in many aspects. First, the ECB is considered to be more hawkish on fighting inflationary tendencies. Its primary goal is price stability and it has continued to watch money growth. Output gaps below full-employment are only considered secondary as instrument to forecast inflation.

Secondly the ECB was constructed to be more independent than the Fed. Thus there has been less interaction with fiscal authorities. Less mobility from governments to the ECB (and vice versa) documents this independence. While in the US it is common to see central bank officials and the secretary of treasury plan the future of the economy, in Europe this is not the case. Central bank independence is considered an important aspect of credibility and stability of the currency (the German central bank model). However, the current crisis has made the ECB more “Anglo-Saxon.” Continue reading

Greece as a Danger to Euro Stability

by Andreas Hoffmann*

Entering the Eurozone, Greece handed over monetary policy to the European Central Bank and introduced the euro. In a formerly unstable economy, without the danger of depreciation, the risk premium on Greek interest rates shrank to less than half a percent above that of Germany. This brought about convergence of the Greek interest rates. Thus investment and debt could be financed at lower rates. But the advantages from entering the eurozone also have a price. Continue reading

Four Reasons Why The EXIT Will Fail

by Andreas Hoffmann and Gunther Schnabl*

With central bank balance sheets and government debt levels exploding, discomfort about future inflation arises. A discussion about the appropriate exit strategy from low-interest rate policies has started. The standpoints of central banks are different. The ECB seems more decisively in favour of an early exit. The Federal Reserve discusses the technical aspects rather than an early timing (see Mario’s earlier blog entry). The Bank of Japan is said not to exit earlier than in five years. What situation are we facing? A return to monetary policies that are neutral to inflation and bubbles is unlikely for four reasons: Continue reading