Bank of England Chooses Not To Panic

Central bank across the pond chooses to hold rates steady, giving the pound a boost over there and, along with JP Morgan earnings, some market optimism over here.

A surprise decision by the Bank of England this week not to lower rates has boosted the value of the pound. That sort of central bank decision is usually greeted with boos, not cheers, but the BOE had said it wanted more time to assess conditions post-Brexit. It’s nice to see a central bank that does not react in panic.

That, along with very strong earnings by JP Morgan, has also boosted the animal spirits of the bulls on Wall Street as new highs continue to be tested. Doubts are creeping in for bonds, however.

There has been a lot of buying of treasuries since the Brexit vote; most of those positions are now at losses. Buyers are unlikely to give up on the market this quickly, but doubts must be creeping in.

Meanwhile, Ben Bernanke is at it again. Bernanke left the Fed more than two years ago, but apparently he isn’t done with wanting to perform experiments on the economy. Bloomberg is reporting that an aide to Japan’s prime minister said that Bernanke, who serves as a consultant to the government of Japan, has suggested that Japan start a helicopter money program. Helicopter money refers to a variety of schemes to create money to be used for fiscal, not monetary, means to boost the economy.

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Bernanke suggested that the government of Japan issue long-term debt, perhaps 100-year bonds, directly to the Bank of Japan. The government would then use that money in various forms of fiscal stimulus; possibilities include infrastructure programs and direct money given to all the citizens of Japan.

Despite the obvious fact that another of his grand plans, negative rates, is being played out in Japan and Europe and isn’t working, Bernanke is unbowed. Really, Ben? Can’t you just go away and collect your big speaking fees and leave us alone? Let’s all hope that Japan ignores his advice.

July 14, 2016

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