Blog Post

-15% to +4%: Taylor-rule interest rates for euro area countries

Does one size fit all? Before the crisis, there was a major debate on whether the single interest rate set by the European Central Bank (ECB) would be suitable for all members of the euro area, which have diverse economic conditions.

By: and Date: September 18, 2013 European Macroeconomics & Governance Tags & Topics

Before the crisis, there was a major debate on whether the single interest rate set by the European Central Bank (ECB) would be suitable for all members of the euro area, which have diverse economic conditions. The debate became quieter since the euro-crisis, as there is now widespread recognition that this is not the case. Moreover, financial fragmentation, which has emerged with the crisis, made things even worse.

There is an extensive academic research on monetary policy rules and it is frequently found that a rather simple Taylor-rule, which prescribes the central bank interest rate as a function of inflation and a measure of economic activity, describes reasonably well actual central bank interest rates developments (see John Taylor’s webpage on monetary policy rules here).

In a 2011 FRBSF Economic Letter Fernanda Nechio calculated Taylor-rule recommendations for the euro-area as whole, plus separately for the euro-area core and periphery, basing the rule on core inflation and the unemployment gap. She showed that for the euro-area aggregate the ECB’s interest rate well follows the recommendation of the rule, but the diverse economic developments within the euro-area make the rate suboptimal for the two groups considered separately, and especially for the periphery.

We used Nechio’s version of the Taylor-rule to calculate recommendations for the euro area as a whole, plus for first twelve euro member states individually, over the period 1999Q1-2013Q3. Figure 1 reports our results and Figure 2 the underlying data we use. Panel A of Figure 1 shows the ECB’s actual Main Refinancing Operations (MRO) interest rate and the Taylor-rule recommendation. The two lines are not that far apart, suggesting that this simple Taylor-rule is not a too bad description of actual policies (in most part of the sample period, actual interest rate changes precede the changes in the recommended interest rate, most likely because the ECB’s Governing Council took a forward-looking view and acted in anticipation of future changes in economic conditions).

The next three panels show the recommendations for the twelve countries, in comparison with the euro-area aggregate. The countries are ordered according to the average absolute deviation from the euro-area recommendation in 1999-2013. This ranking is topped by France, suggesting that in this country the developments are the closest to the euro area average. Greece and Ireland are instead the farthest from the euro-area average. The recommendations for Germany, the largest country in the euro area, were also quite apart from the euro-area average but in the opposite direction than in Ireland: the ECB’s policy was too tight for Germany before the crisis, and too loose now, according to the version of the Taylor-rule we adopted.

Figure 1: Taylor-rule recommendations for the central bank interest rate (percent per year), 1999Q1-2013Q3

Notes: Taylor-rule target = 1 + 1.5 x  Inflation – 1 x Unemployment gap. Similarly to Mechio (2011), we use core inflation (all items HICP excluding volatile food and energy prices; change relative to the same quarter of the previous year) and the deviation of the actual unemployment rate from the estimated non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment (NAIRU), as estimated by the OECD. MRO = Main refinancing operations. The 2013Q3 recommendations are based on July-August 2013 inflation rate and the July 2013 unemployment rate.

The most recent recommendations would suggest that conditions in Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Greece are such to warrant even a negative interest rate (minus 15 percent in Greece!), whereas the optimal prescription for Austria, Germany and Luxembourg would be a positive interest rate of about four percent. In theory, such differences can help to rebalance intra-euro price-competitiveness divergences, whereby a boom in Germany increases prices and wages, while the high unemployment in Spain reduces them. But when unemployment is as high as in Spain, increasing unemployment further should not be the way to go and in Germany prices do not increase much despite low unemployment.

Therefore, the other side of the coin is that those countries experiencing the most depressed economic conditions face at present very tight monetary conditions, while countries in which the economic situation is better get loose monetary policy. What is more, the vicious circle linking together banks and sovereigns (whereby banks hold a large amount of debt of the government of their country of residence and are expected to be bailed out by the same government, with negative implication for the debt sustainability of the latter) in some euro-area countries further pushed both banks and governments to the abyss, thereby leading to even larger nominal interest rates.

What’s the solution to this quandary? We note that divergences are not uncommon in other currency areas, like the United States (though certainly less extreme than in the euro area now). In the US, however, the intra-state adjustment capacity, such as labour mobility, is much stronger. Plus there is a large federal budget which helps to smooth regional economic shocks. These would also be the way to go for the euro area: improving cross-country adjustment capacity through rigorous structural reforms, better regulation and proper incentives for cross-country mobility, as well as designing a fiscal capacity for the euro area. Beyond these tasks, the vicious circle between banks and sovereigns should be fully broken. The project of banking union was initially expected to deal with this issue, but to ensure its success a more ambitious banking union would be needed than what is on the cards now. And there is a case, in the first place, to act pre-emptively and limit divergences before they become excessive: the EU’s Macroeconomic Imbalances Procedure aims to do that, and entrusting the ECB with macro-prudential tools – as currently envisaged in the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM) proposal – may also help. But these latter tools can only help once the euro-area recovers from the current gloom, which is unfortunately seems to be far off. In the meantime, given the powerlessness of the traditional interest rate channel, other ways to ease the credit conditions in the South of the euro area should be explored, such as improving the access of SMEs to credit, by means for example of a properly designed scheme for targeted central bank lending, after bank balance sheets have been cleaned-up (Darvas, 2013).

Figure 2: Core inflation, the unemployment rate and the estimated NAIRU (non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment), percent

Note: the OECD’s NAIRU (non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment) estimate is available at the annual frequency. We converted it to quarterly frequency by using a filter which assumes smooth change within the year.

 

 


Republishing and referencing

Bruegel considers itself a public good and takes no institutional standpoint. Anyone is free to republish and/or quote this post without prior consent. Please provide a full reference, clearly stating Bruegel and the relevant author as the source, and include a prominent hyperlink to the original post.

View comments
Read article Download PDF More on this topic More by this author

Policy Contribution

pc15_16

Low long-term rates: bond bubble or symptom of secular stagnation?

Yields on European sovereign bonds have reached historically low levels in 2016. This secular decline in long-term sovereign yields is not limited to the euro area. Why are interest rates currently so low? Are low long-term trates justified by fundamental factors or is it an artificial phenomenon?

By: Grégory Claeys Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: September 26, 2016
Read about event More on this topic

Upcoming Event

Sep
29
08:30

Inclusive growth in the European Union

Why is inclusive growth important and how do the EU’s social problems differ from social problems in other parts of the world?

Speakers: Brando Benifei, Monica Brezzi, Bea Cantillon, Zsolt Darvas, Jana Hainsworth, Stefaan Hermans, Barbara Kauffmann, Dalia Marin, Tim Murphy, Reinhilde Veugelers, Luca Visentini and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels
Read about event More on this topic

Upcoming Event

Oct
4
12:30

Potential impediments to long-term investment

How can we encourage long-term investment in Europe? Many factors hinder long-term investment but are there risks involved in reviewing existing regulation?

Speakers: Sophie Barbier, Grégory Claeys, Miguel Gil Tertre, Edoardo Reviglio and Sandra Rigot Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels
Read about event More on this topic

Upcoming Event

Oct
10
12:00

Financial Times/Bruegel European Forum: Where now for the UK and the EU after the vote for Brexit?

Three months after the results of the UK referendum there is still a lot of uncertainty about the future. The Financial Times and Bruegel bring together a panel to discuss the most crucial questions.

Speakers: Lionel Barber, James Blitz, Maria Demertzis, Sylvie Goulard and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels
Read about event More on this topic

Upcoming Event

Oct
13
08:30

The Euro and the battle of ideas

Why is the Euro in trouble? Are philosophical differences between the founding countries to blame and can those differences be reconciled?

Speakers: Markus K. Brunnermeier, Harold James and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels
Read article Download PDF More by this author

Parliamentary Testimony

written-evidence-house-of-lords-12-9House of Lords

The future of financial services in the UK following the Brexit vote

UK House of Lords EU Sub-Committee on Financial Affairs' call for evidence on the future of Financial Services in the UK following the vote to leave the European Union.

By: Dirk Schoenmaker Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, House of Lords, Parliamentary Testimonies Date: September 15, 2016
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

Nicolas Véron

The City will decline—and we will be the poorer for it

Just as the City owes much of its current awe-inspiring prosperity to European integration, the brutal realities of Brexit will make it shrink, not thrive. All this is bleak news, not just for the City but for the UK's economy.

By: Nicolas Véron Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: September 14, 2016
Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

From crisis management to launching economic growth

What have been the most effective strategies in limiting the impact of the economic crisis in Europe? What challenges lie ahead? Bruegel's 10th anniversary event in Budapest will foster discussion of these important topics.

Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Budapest, Hungary Date: September 14, 2016
Read article Download PDF More on this topic

Policy Contribution

cover

What are the prerequisites for a euro-area fiscal capacity?

In this Policy Contribution, Maria Demertzsis and Guntram B. Wolff discuss three progressive steps for strengthening the fiscal framework at the euro-area level. These lead to less interference in national fiscal policymaking thanks to a more credible no-bailout clause, increased risk sharing and different degrees of provision of euro-area-wide public goods and fiscal stabilisation.

By: Maria Demertzis and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: September 9, 2016
Read about event More on this topic

Upcoming Event

Nov
21-22
13:30

Vision Europe Summit 2016

The 2016 Vision Europe Summit is titled "Redesigning European Migration and Refugee Policy" and will be held in Lisbon on 21-22 November 2016.

Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Lisbon
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

Dijsselbloem photo

Speech by Jeroen Dijsselbloem at Bruegel Annual Dinner 2016

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, President f the Eurogroup, delivered the keynote speech at Bruegel's Annual Dinner 2016, held on 6 September 2016.

By: Jeroen Dijsselbloem Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: September 7, 2016
Read article More by this author

Podcast

Podcast

The future of Europe

Europe is at a crossroads. What must European leaders do to combat populism, the refugee crisis, and low growth?

By: Bruegel Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, Global Economics & Governance Date: September 7, 2016
Load more posts