Tag Archives: Treaty on European Union

From SMP to OMT: ECB commits to destroy monetary transmission

This is not a humorous title, and this is not a funny post. A couple of days ago, the ECB announced after its Governing Council meeting that it would initiate a new program of sovereign debt purchases. The program is named Outright Monetary Transactions, which adds OMT to the endless list of acronyms that has emerged after the onset of the financial crisis. The program replaces the Securities Markets Programme (SMP), or, rather, extends it in a number of directions. As mentioned in my post on the last ECB policy meeting, its need for emphasizing that what it does is not illegal strikes me as odd if not suspicious. At … Continue reading

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May in August at the ECB

After the recent meeting at the ECB’s Governing Council, it was decided to keep the policy rate fixed at its record-low level of 0.75%. As the (bleak) economic outlook has not changed markedly since the last meeting, it seems a sensible decision given the ECB’s mandate. Many, however, forget that the mandate of the ECB is to secure stable prices in the Euro area, which by the ECB is defined as a HICP inflation rate close to, but not above, 2%. It is currently at 2.4%, so it is difficult to accuse the ECB for being particularly hawkish. But the policy rate setting, and how it was aligned with the … Continue reading

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That strange feeling of Déjà Vu: EU’s New Fiscal Compact

The new “Fiscal Compact” of the European Union is now ready to be signed. The purpose of the compact is to strengthen fiscal discipline among member countries (at least those who sign). The desire for enhancing discipline is obviously triggered by the debt crises felt by many EU countries recently. It is, however, still an open question to which extent the current debt performance is due to the global recession or prior fiscal indiscipline. As debt is cumulated deficits it is hard to separate these matters. As seen in the data, it is nevertheless clear that the crisis itself is associated with a substantial worsening of the average government deficit … Continue reading

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Draghi cuts and markets flip

Last week marked the second time where new President of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, governed an interest-rate decision for the Euro area. And for the second time it was and interest rate cut, implying an interest rate on main refinancing operations of 1.00% effective from 14 December. This ties the lowest level in Euro history, which was effective from 13 May 2009 to 13 April 2011. So, loosely speaking the interest rate is back at the financial crisis level. The decision makes sense given the economic outlook for the Euro area: A continuation of high unemployment and absence of inflationary pressures. It was, however, not a unanimous decision. … Continue reading

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Trichet says Goodbye and SMP peaks at 173 bn. €

Today marks the last day of Jean-Claude Trichet’s tenure as president of the European Central Bank. Bild am Sonntag interviews him on the occasion. In terms of being the main person responsible for the ECB’s mandate of price stability, he has been a success. The inflation measure used by the ECB has moved quite closely around the value which after some introductory opaqueness is stated as close to, but not above, 2%. Surely, during the peaks of the financial crises there were upward and downward swings, but on average you would not call Trichet a man that leaves a bank with little anti-inflation credibility. What he does leave is a … Continue reading

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ECB buys public debt again: Otmar Issing voices strong critique

In a rare Sunday press release (August 7) , the President of the ECB, Jean-Claude Trichet (on behalf of the Governing Council), hailed the fiscal and structural measures of Spain and Italy and their commitments—along with other member countries—to strictly adhere to “fiscal targets”. Then he emphasized that countries are sovereign states that themselves should honor their own “signature as a key element in ensuring financial stability in the euro area as a whole“. (Oh, and he supports the joint statement of the same day by France and Germany, which is not surprising given the occasional word-by-word similarities.) Then he concludes that the Securities Markets Programme (SMP) will be activated. … Continue reading

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ECB, SMP (II): Direct vs. secondary purchases

In my recent post on the ECB’s Securities Market Programme (SMP), I noted that the programme was in violation of the Treaty of the European Union. I based this on Article 21.1, which states: “. . . overdrafts or any other type of credit facility with the ECB or with the national central banks in favour of Union institutions, bodies, offices or agencies, central governments, regional, local or other public authorities, other bodies governed by public law, or public undertakings of Member States shall be prohibited, as shall the purchase directly from them by the ECB or national central banks of debt instruments.” – Article 21.1 of “ON THE STATUTE … Continue reading

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ECB, SMP, ETC. Who pays for what?

After the financial crisis hit in 2008, new acronyms have been appearing at a rapid pace around the globe. These mainly describe the various measures taken by the world’s central banks to offset the troubles caused by the crisis. Many took the form of liquidity provisions to aid “frozen” banking markets. The European Central Bank launched on May 14, 2010 a so-called Securities Market Programme (SMP), under which it – temporarily – allows itself to purchase Euro denominated government bonds. In its decision, the ECB motivated the move by “ . . . in view of the current exceptional circumstances in financial markets, characterised by severe tensions in certain market … Continue reading

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