To understand how interest rates influence inflation, we need to understand how inflation works. Inflation is the result of too much money chasing too few goods. Over the last several months, this has occurred amid a surge in demand and supply chain disruptions worsened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In an effort to combat inflation, central banks will raise their policy rate. This is the rate they charge commercial banks for loans or pay commercial banks for deposits. Commercial banks pass on a portion of these higher rates to their customers, which reduces the purchasing power of businesses and consumers. For example, it becomes more expensive to borrow money for a house or car.
Ultimately, interest rate hikes act to slow spending and encourage saving. This motivates companies to increase prices at a slower rate, or lower prices, to stimulate demand.
The Governing Council today decided to raise the three key ECB interest rates by 75 basis points. This major step frontloads the transition from the prevailing highly accommodative level of policy rates towards levels that will ensure the timely return of inflation to our two per cent medium-term target. Based on our current assessment, over the next several meetings we expect to raise interest rates further to dampen demand and guard against the risk of a persistent upward shift in inflation expectations.
Inflation remains far too high and is likely to stay above our target for an extended period. According to Eurostat’s flash estimate, inflation reached 9.1 per cent in August. Soaring energy and food prices, demand pressures in some sectors owing to the reopening of the economy, and supply bottlenecks are still driving up inflation.
Price pressures have continued to strengthen and broaden across the economy and inflation may rise further in the near term.
Very high energy prices are reducing the purchasing power of people’s incomes and, although supply bottlenecks are easing, they are still constraining economic activity. In addition, the adverse geopolitical situation, especially Russia’s unjustified aggression towards Ukraine, is weighing on the confidence of businesses and consumers.
At the ECB, you better be gung-ho pro-EU. You better believe negative interest rates are a good idea. And you must back the idea that targeting 2% inflation makes sense.
Finally, if somehow you find yourself at the ECB disagreeing with any of those things, you are expected to shut your mouth so the consensus view never shows any dissent.
At FRBNY, I recall the people who ran Treasury markets, money markets, etc. literally had no relevant experience or expertise. The job of staff was to make them appear competent, but it didn’t really matter what they did because Fed can’t fail and they can’t get fired.
This creates a culture where anyone with talent or ambition GTFO ASAP. There are exceptions, but those who rise tend to be those who have no where else go. It’s a weird structure where the higher you go, the more incompetent you are.
Facing surging inflation, three of the world’s most influential central banks — the Federal Reserve, Bank of England and European Central Bank — took decisive steps within 24 hours of each other to look past Omicron’s economic uncertainty.
Aside from Omicron, the central banks were running out of reasons to continue emergency levels of monetary stimulus designed to keep money flowing through financial markets and to keep lending to businesses and households robust throughout the pandemic. The drastic measures of the past two years had done the job — and then some: Inflation is at a nearly 40-year high in the United States; in the eurozone it is the highest since records began in 1997; and price rises in Britain have consistently exceeded expectations.
The Federal Reserve and Bank of England are worried about the persistence of high inflation. For the European Central Bank, inflation in the medium term is too low, not too high. It is still forecasting inflation to be below its 2 percent target in 2023 and 2024. To help reach that target in coming years, the central bank will increase the size of an older bond-buying program beginning in April, after purchases end in the larger, pandemic-era program. This is to avoid “a brutal transition,” Ms. Lagarde said.
Italy’s Enel SpA, one of Europe’s biggest electricity producers, has short-term commercial paper that recently offered an annualized yield of minus 0.61%, according to FactSet: That is 0.11 percentage point lower than the ECB’s deposit rate of minus 0.5%.
When interest rates are negative, borrowers pay back less than they were lent when their debt comes due. At Enel’s rate, if it borrowed $100 for a year, it would pay back $99.39. For the lender, in this case the money-market funds that buy commercial paper, the opposite is true. They get back less money.
“It took a couple of years for clients to get their heads around the idea that they’d have to pay to leave money in a safe spot,” said Kim Hochfeld, global head of State Street’s cash business. State Street’s EUR Liquidity LVNAV Fund — worth 6.6 billion euros, equivalent to $7.9 billion — yields minus 0.68% after fees, but that compares with total costs on large bank deposits of up to 1%, she added.
Germany’s biggest lenders, Deutsche Bank AG and Commerzbank AG , have told new customers since last year to pay a 0.5% annual rate to keep large sums of money with them. The banks say they can no longer absorb the negative interest rates the European Central Bank charges them. The more customer deposits banks have, the more they have to park with the central bank.
That is creating an unusual incentive, where banks that usually want deposits as an inexpensive form of financing, are essentially telling customers to go away. Banks are even providing new online tools to help customers take their deposits elsewhere.
Banks in Europe resisted passing negative rates on to customers when the ECB first introduced them in 2014, fearing backlash. Some did it only with corporate depositors, who were less likely to complain to local politicians. The banks resorted to other ways to pass on the costs of negative rates, charging higher fees, for instance.