The European Central Bank can’t change the fundamental goal of its monetary policy, even in times that call for extraordinary measures, said European Central Bank Executive Board member Yves Mersch in remarks published Monday.
“What anchors trust in the central bank is that our objective and strategy stay constant–and this is even more important when monetary policy becomes more unconventional,” he said. “For this reason, innovative ideas to change our strategy, such as targeting a price level, would in fact be counterproductive in the current environment.”
The ECB´s target is an inflation rate close to but slightly below 2%. From 1999 to 2007 they did an almost perfect job, with inflation averaging 2%. Over the last few years, however, inflation has been on a downtrend and has recently even become negative!
The chart shows what happens under the IT and PLT alternatives. Given that the price level has fallen significantly below the 2% trend line from 1999, if, as Mr Mersch prefers, the ECB keeps to its IT strategy, the price level will be permanently lower. This means that the ECB will not be ‘penalized’ for having missed the inflation target for a long time. It´s sufficient that from now on it hits it!
Adopting a price level target, on the other hand, would force the ECB to offset its previous error. Temporarily, inflation would be higher than 2%, which, in any case, is exactly what´s needed!
It would be even better if, instead of a price level target the ECB adopted an NGDP level target, but that would be asking too much from such a conservative body.