At the meeting of the Shadow ECB Council on 1 December 2011 a large majority recommended an immediate cut of the ECB’s main refinancing rate of half a percentage point or more. Three members argued in favor of a smaller cut, one recommended leaving rates unchanged at 1.25 %.
Forecasters expect a stagnant economy
Members continued to lower their forecasts for euro area real GDP in 2012. The average forecast declined to 01 % from 0.6 % a month ago. This compares to the ECB staff’s September projection of 1.3% and the Shadow ECB Council’s own projection of 1.6% back in July. Half the forecasters projected a negative growth rate. Meanwhile, in the view of the Shadow Council, euro area HICP inflation is expected to decline to 1.7% in 2012, down from 2.6% this year.
Shadow Council macroeconomic forecasts
(Forecast means in %, previous forecasts in brackets)
|2011||2.6 (2.6)||1.6 (1.7)|
|2012||1.7 (1.7)||0.1 (0.6)|
Contributors: M. Annunziata, M. Balmaseda; E. Bartsch; J. Cailloux; J. Callow; E. Chaney, M. Diron, G. Horn; J. Krämer, E. Nielsen, J.-M. Six
Assumptions: Most forecaster assumed that the ECB will cut its key policy rate to 0.75 % within the next three months.
In Favour of a Large Rate Cut
Where was near unanimity on the Shadow Council that the ECB Governing Council should lower interest rates further. One member advocated a cut of a full percentage point to 0.25 % for the refinancing rate, three a cut of 0.75 %, eleven a cut of 0.5 % and three of 0.25 %. Only one member recommended an unchanged policy rate.
Members who advocated a large rate cut stressed the high likelihood that the economy would go into recession and the possibility that a deep recession, comparable to the one of 2009 would materialize. Furthermore, most members diagnosed an ongoing or emerging credit crunch and judged the state of the banking system as very precarious. They felt that a significant rate cut would contribute to alleviating these problems and that it would also contribute to keeping the level of bond yields down, in Germany as well as in other countries.
Those argueing for a cut of more than half a percentage point argued that a strong signal of resolve from the central bank was required to inspire confidence and that several smaller steps would be less effective in this respect.
Of the three members who advocated a small rate cut, one member argued that interest rates were not the main issue currently; another expressed a bias toward a further rate cut in the ensuing months.
The member who opposed a rate cut said that lower interest rates would do nothing to solve the current crisis and stressed that it had been excessively low interest rates which had caused the crisis.
Support for Attaching Strong Conditionality to Bond Purchases
There was an intensive discussion about the dangers or merits of the ECB committing to unlimited purchases of government bonds once a certain yield level had been reached. Many members warned that such a move or any significant extension of bond purchases would take away the pressure and incentive for governments of crisis countries to reform and to consolidate public finances. Others countered that such mistrust was not warranted, as these governments were taking almost unprecedented steps to reign in budget deficits.
A move for the Shadow Council to explicitly support the restrictive stance of Bundesbank representatives and others vis-à-vis bond purchases, demanding a commitment to rewrite the rules of financial coordination between governments before any significant extension, found a narrow majority on the Shadow Council.
Those opposed to such a resolution argued that the euro area was in imminent danger of breaking up and that therefore, this was no time for insisting on first principles. They stressed that nations with their own central bank willing to buy government bonds if needed, including the UK and the US, did not face a government funding crisis, even if government finances were in worse state than in some affected euro area countries. They also considered it not in the remit of the ECB to impose fiscal policy measures on elected governments. However, for the majority, the risks of a central bank committing to indirectly finance government deficits weighed more heavily.
In Favor of Lengthening LTROs and Loosening Collateral Requirements
To ease severe funding strains of banks, many members advocated a broadening of the list of acceptable collateral for refinancing with the ECB, including accepting foreign currency collateral issued by non-euro-area issuers. Several members also recommended that the ECB should offer refinancing operations of longer maturities than the current maximum length of 13 months. Some advocated a maximum of two year, others of three years. There was very little opposition to these suggestions on the Shadow Council, but no formal vote was taken.
Members’ individual votes:
|José Alzola||The Observatory Group||cut 0.5%|
|Marco Annunziata||General Electric||cut 0.25%|
|Manuel Balmaseda||CEMEX||cut 0.5%|
|Elga Bartsch||Morgan Stanley||cut 0.5%|
|Andrew Bosomworth||Pimco||cut 0.5%|
|Jacques Cailloux||RBS||cut 1.0 %|
|Julian Callow||Barclays Capital||cut 0.75%|
|Eric Chaney||Axa||cut 0.5%|
|Marie Diron||Oxford Economics||cut 0.5%|
|Janet Henry||HSBC||cut 0.5%|
|Gustav Horn||IMK, Düsseldorf||cut 0.25%|
|Erik Nielsen||Unicredit||cut 0.25%|
|Jean-Michel Six||Standard & Poor's||cut 0.5%|
|Angel Ubide||Tudor||cut 0.5%|
Frankfurt, 2 December 2011
Non-voting Chair of the Shadow ECB Council
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