Central banks have always said that the unconventional monetary policy measures they have introduced in recent years are temporary, and they have been keen to restore policy to “normality” when the time is right. As that time approaches, the urgent question is what the great unwind will entail and how they will carry it out.
For much of the last 8 years, there has been an active debate on what central banks were doing to combat the threat of a second Great Recession. But as the period of extreme monetary policy draws to a close, the discussion is beginning to look forward, and to what the future policy framework for central banking should be.
Should central banks shrink their swollen balance sheets? And, if they do, how should it be done and how far should it go? In the two months since we last addressed this subject the debate has developed further.
For many years it was assumed that official interest rates, as set by central banks, could not go below zero. In recent years this rule – the “Zero Lower Bound” constraint, as it was known – has been decisively broken. How does monetary policy work in the brave new world of negative official interest rates, and what are the longer term implications?