Is “zero” an unavoidable magnet or sign of Central Bank incompetence?

Matt O´Brien has a wonderful post – The Federal Reserve is trying to do what nobody else has been able to do – which opens with this picture:

Zero Attractor

And writes:

But wait, why is raising rates from zero so difficult? It seems like you should just be able to … raise them from zero. Well, there are two problems with that. The first is that an economy that needs zero interest rates is probably an economy that needs even more than zero interest rates. It probably needs negative interest rates, like the U.S. did, but can’t get them since central banks can’t cut rates that far without lenders hoarding money rather than paying people to borrow it. Now, it’s true that central banks can make up for at least some of that by buying bonds with newly-printed money, but they don’t like to do that. The result is that economies with zero interest rates don’t get as much monetary stimulus as they need, so they don’t grow as much as they could. And since rates follow growth, that means there isn’t as much pressure for rates to rise once they do fall to zero.

The next sentence says everything about their incompetence:

The second reason lifting off is hard to do is that central bankers want to do it too much. They just don’t like zero interest rates. Central bankers, after all, are supposed to be the ones taking away the punch bowl just as the party gets going, not plying recovering alcoholics with bottomless booze. Or at least that’s what they tell themselves.

To top it off, today the alternative measure of inflation, the CPI, declined 0.1% in August over July. The core version showed an increase of 0.1%!

The Fed just doesn´t get that its incompetence is contributing to the fall in oil (and commodity) prices!

2 thoughts on “Is “zero” an unavoidable magnet or sign of Central Bank incompetence?

  1. Heh heh, wasn’t the biggest spike of all, Bank of Israel’s rise from 0.5 to 3.25%, the work of our own Stanley Fischer, who now sees inflation on the horizon?

    Hopefully he got his premature exit out of his system, and isn’t just another trigger happy banker.

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