Aug 16, 2019

Central banking's brave new world

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The European Central Bank is leading the charge in the next wave of central bank stimulus measures, but experts and former central bankers argue it will be insufficient to deal with the looming global downturn.

Why it matters: Central banks see that the global economy is in trouble and they are stepping in to act, but are responding to new problems with old solutions. The eurozone already has negative interest rates and the ECB already has spent trillions buying bonds in an attempt to stimulate the economy. In spite of these efforts, major European economies have been unable to generate inflation or growth that's even close to their targets for years.

What's happening: ECB governing board member Olli Rehn said the central bank will announce a fresh package of “impactful and significant” stimulus at its September meeting that's expected to include “substantial" bond purchases as well as cuts to the ECB’s already-negative interest rate, WSJ reported.

  • Analysts expect the central bank will cut rates to -0.5% and restart its quantitative easing program with around $56 billion a month of fresh bond purchases.

What they're saying: "Unprecedented policies will be needed to respond to the next economic downturn," a report released Thursday from the BlackRock Investment Institute argues.

  • The report was authored by former Fed vice chair Stanley Fischer, former Swiss central bank chief Philipp Hildebrand, former Bank of Canada deputy governor Jean Boivin and other former central bankers.
  • "Monetary policy is almost exhausted as global interest rates plunge towards zero or below...There is not enough monetary policy space to deal with the next downturn."

The intrigue: The paper urges the introduction of "helicopter money," or “going direct” with "an explicit and permanent monetary financing of a fiscal expansion" otherwise known as central banks giving money directly to the public.

The bottom line: Central banks are gearing up to stave off a recession and highly respected former central bank leaders now see quantitative easing and negative interest rates — both considered extraordinarily and controversially powerful when they were first discussed — as insufficient to deal with the world's problems.

Go deeper: Fund managers see highest probability of recession since 2011

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 5,410,228 — Total deaths: 345,105 — Total recoveries — 2,169,005Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 1,643,499 — Total deaths: 97,722 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,915Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil, coronavirus hotspot in Southern Hemisphere Over 100 coronavirus cases in Germany tied to single day of church services — Boris Johnson backs top aide amid reports that he broke U.K. lockdown while exhibiting symptoms.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks headed into Memorial Day weekend Report finds "little evidence" coronavirus under control in most statesHurricanes, wildfires, the flu could strain COVID-19 response
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Public employees brace for layoffs.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 29 mins ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

The CDC is warning of potentially "aggressive rodent behavior" amid a rise in reports of rat activity in several areas, as the animals search further for food while Americans stay home more during the coronavirus pandemic.

By the numbers: More than 97,700 people have died from COVID-19 and over 1.6 million have tested positive in the U.S. Over 366,700 Americans have recovered and more than 14.1 million tests have been conducted.

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

Japan's economy minister outlined plans on Monday to end the nationwide state of emergency as the number of new novel coronavirus cases continues to decline to fewer than 50 a day, per Bloomberg. Japan has reported 16,550 cases and 820 deaths.

By the numbers: Over 5.4 million people have tested positive for the virus as of Monday, and more than 2.1 million have recovered. The U.S. has reported the most cases in the world (over 1.6 million from 13.7 million tests). The U.K. is reporting over 36,800 deaths from the coronavirus — the most fatalities outside the U.S.