El-Erian Discusses Inflation Targeting and Roubini Looks at the Euro Zone's Day of Reckoning
First El-Erian discusses the historic change that Central Banking is going through:
NEWPORT BEACH – In a four-day period in mid-December, three seemingly unrelated developments suggested that modern central banking is in the midst of an historic change. The implications go well beyond academia and policy circles. To the extent that this shift gains momentum – which appears likely – it will affect economic performance, the functioning of markets, and asset-price valuations.The three developments began on December 12 in the United States, where the Federal Reserve, led by Ben Bernanke, announced that it will go much further than doubling (to $1 trillion) the volume of market securities that it intends to buy in 2013 in order to stimulate the economy. The Fed also left no doubt that it will maintain its foot on the accelerator until the US unemployment rate declines significantly, at least to 6.5%, and as long as inflation is contained at or below 2.5%.
According to most analysts, the novelty in the announcement was the Fed’s willingness to be explicit about its quantitative policy thresholds and, therefore, about the future course of its monetary policy. But my reading of what the Fed announced (and what Bernanke said in the subsequent press conference) suggests that the innovation goes beyond this.
The Fed is taking very different approaches to the specification of the two quantitative thresholds: unemployment will be based on historical data, while inflation will be based on the Fed’s own projections. This subtle difference has interesting operational effects. Most important, it prioritizes the unemployment objective over the inflation target. This realignment of the Fed’s dual mandate, which I have called the “reverse Volcker moment,” has been evident for a few months.
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Then Roubini discusses why the Euro Zone's day of reckoning has only been delayed, not avoided:
NEW YORK – The risks facing the eurozone have been reduced since the summer, when a Greek exit looked imminent and borrowing costs for Spain and Italy reached new and unsustainable heights. But, while financial strains have since eased, economic conditions on the eurozone’s periphery remain shaky.
Several factors account for the reduction in risks. For starters, the European Central Bank’s “outright monetary transactions” program has been incredibly effective: interest-rate spreads for Spain and Italy have fallen by about 250 basis points, even before a single euro has been spent to purchase government bonds. The introduction of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), which provides another €500 billion ($650 billion) to be used to backstop banks and sovereigns, has also helped, as has European leaders’ recognition that a monetary union alone is unstable and incomplete, requiring deeper banking, fiscal, economic, and political integration.
But, perhaps most important, Germany’s attitude toward the eurozone in general, and Greece in particular, has changed. German officials now understand that, given extensive trade and financial links, a disorderly eurozone hurts not just the periphery but the core. They have stopped making public statements about a possible Greek exit, and just supported a third bailout package for the country. As long as Spain and Italy remain vulnerable, a Greek blowup could spark severe contagion before Germany’s election next year, jeopardizing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chances of winning another term. So Germany will continue to finance Greece for the time being.
Nonetheless, the eurozone periphery shows little sign of recovery: GDP continues to shrink, owing to ongoing fiscal austerity, the euro’s excessive strength, a severe credit crunch underpinned by banks’ shortage of capital, and depressed business and consumer confidence. Moreover, recession on the periphery is now spreading to the eurozone core, with French output contracting and even Germany stalling as growth in its two main export markets is either falling (the rest of the eurozone) or slowing (China and elsewhere in Asia).
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