Category Archives:

Interest rates

Negative rates – a tax on saving? Don’t forget about actual tax

There has been much discussion recently that by introducing negative rates central banks are effectively taxing savings. This is self-explanatory, and is one of the criticisms of how negative rates can distort economic behaviour. This however is not a new phenomenon.  Let’s not forget that money has always been effectively clipped by the traditional enemy of savers – inflation. Fortunately, hol…

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Negative Rate World (NRW) – a wiki of unintended consequences

The world has seen negative interest rates before – Switzerland set interest rates below zero for foreigners in the 1970s in order to slow flows into the Franc.  But today’s negative rate environment is far more widespread, with Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Japan, and the Eurozone all setting negative policy rates.  Lots has been written about the intended transmission mechanisms of negative r…

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Three reasons why the UK will not raise rates anytime soon

With the Fed recently raising its interest rates via a unanimous vote, I’ve been wondering whether the UK will shortly follow suit. The market seems to think not, pricing in the first UK rate rise in Q1 of 2017, compared to two further US rate hikes in 2016. At face value this huge divergence feels strange; both countries are targeting (and undershooting) a 2% inflation rate, both have similar …

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As economists predict a Fed rate hike, can we learn anything from the 2013 “Fed Fake”?

Thirty-five out of forty-one economists surveyed by Bloomberg currently expect the FOMC to hike the Fed Funds rate on September 17, thereby starting a period of policy normalisation. Most have pointed towards the July FOMC statement which noted better data on net in June and suggested some progress toward the conditions for lift-off. Those economists forecasting a rate hike will tell you that t…

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M&G Panoramic Outlook: The Case for Global Corporate Bond Investing

The euro’s 12-year low against the dollar is a mixed blessing for US companies. On the one hand, the US manufacturing sector is suffering from an uncompetitive currency and lower export revenues. But on the other, rock bottom European interest rates have given US companies an attractive opportunity to issue bonds denominated in euros and lock in cheap financing. For example, in the first quarte…

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The inherent monetary policy lag

Timing the Fed Rate Hike

The graph below shows US unemployment alongside the Fed rate over a period of 45 years. From this you can observe the broad relationship between the two, specifically the time delays between Fed rate hikes and the upturn in employment which has historically followed. This time the Fed have delayed the rate hike for a number of reasons, but if history is anything to go by, we can perhaps use thi…

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Why have bonds sold off – and why did they even rally in the first place?

Ben Bernanke has spent a good deal of time explaining on his blog why he thinks interest rates are so low (something that Martin Wolf wrote a column on earlier this week).  An extremely quick and dirty summary is low nominal interest rates and yields can be explained by low inflation, however this doesn’t explain why real interest rates are also low.  Bernanke doesn’t think low real interest ra…

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The falling US unemployment rate could benefit some emerging markets

The declining unemployment rate in the US has renewed the debate on the timing and pace of monetary tightening by the Fed. While wage pressures have been muted thus far, the risk is rising that further declines of unemployment will lower the rate below non-inflationary (NAIRU) levels and prompt the Fed to start hiking.

For emerging markets, one of the main transmission mechanisms is through wea…

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The zero bound debate – are negative rates a tightening of policy?

Matt’s and James’s recent blogs outlined some of the issues markets face when rates go negative. This is obviously no longer just a theoretical debate, but has real investment implications. Why do investors accept sub-zero rates when they can hold cash ?

To recap using Swiss Francs for example, it makes sense for a saver from a purely economic view not to deposit a Swiss Franc note into a negat…

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Demurrage – a tale of gold, cash and mercenaries

Historically I’ve struggled with the concept of gold as an investment. Presumably if you bought gold for this purpose you would want to store it somewhere safe and insure it. However, investors in gold should account for the fact that there is a cost to sleeping well at night. Vaults and insurance don’t come for free, and that cost can be thought of as a negative yield or the demurrage of gold….

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