Download publication

Policy Contribution

How should the European Central Bank ‘normalise’ its monetary policy?

During the crisis, the ECB resorted to a number of unconventional monetary tools. This paper discusses how to phase out these policies and what the ‘new normal’ in monetary policy should look like.

By: and Date: November 23, 2017 Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance

This policy contribution was prepared for the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs of the European Parliament (ECON) as an input for the Monetary Dialogue of 20 November 2017 between ECON and the President of the ECB.  Copyright remains with the European Parliament at all times

As the global financial crisis unfolded, the European Central Bank (ECB) and other central banks greatly extended their monetary policy toolboxes and adjusted their operational frameworks. These unconventional monetary policies have left central banks with large balance sheets.

As growth picks up in the euro area, there are discussions about how to normalise monetary policy, but it is unclear if normalisation means returning to monetary policy as it was prior to the crisis, or whether there is a ‘new normal’ that would justify different monetary policies.

The debate on the optimal size of the central bank’s balance sheet has not yet been settled. We discuss the benefits and drawbacks of central banks having permanently large balance sheets. It might be difficult to reduce them quickly without negatively affecting financial markets. In order to avoid market volatility, this process needs to be done gradually and preferably passively, by holding to maturity assets purchased during the crisis.

The interest rate – the central banks’ main conventional tool – might stay at a much lower level than historical standards and closer to the zero-lower bound because of a fall in the neutral rate, implying that in the future monetary policy would have to rely more on balance sheet policies and less on interest rate cuts to provide accommodation during recessions.

The combination of these two issues implies that the normalisation of monetary policy will be very slow and entail a long period with a large balance sheet. In the meantime, the ECB will not be able to go back to its pre-crisis operational framework.

In terms of the sequencing of the normalisation process, the experience of the US Federal Reserve, which was one of the first central banks to use unconventional tools during the crisis, could provide useful pointers to the ECB. Following the Fed’s example would involve tapering (ie gradually reducing asset purchases), then increasing key policy rates slowly before reducing passively the size of the balance sheet.

The Fed’s experience shows that the normalisation process needs to be communicated early in order to reduce uncertainty for market participants and avoid any disruption of financial markets. So far, the ECB has been quite successful in smoothly scaling back its asset purchases, but it has not yet provided a clear vision of what its monetary policy or operational framework will look like at the end of the normalisation process.

View comments
Read article Download PDF

Policy Contribution

European Parliament

Excess liquidity and bank lending risks in the euro area

In this Policy Contribution prepared for the European Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) as an input to the Monetary Dialogue, the authors clarify what excess liquidity is and argue that it is not a good indicator of whether banks’ have more incentives in risk-taking and look at indicators that might signal that bank lending in the euro area creates undue risks.

By: Zsolt Darvas and David Pichler Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, European Parliament, Testimonies Date: September 26, 2018
Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

Structural reforms in Europe: policy lessons from the crisis

When are structural reform efforts successful in fostering productivity and growth when and why do they fail?

Speakers: Ana Fontoura Gouveia, Paolo Manasse, Klaus Masuch and Alessio Terzi Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: September 18, 2018
Read article More on this topic

Blog Post

The higher yield on Italian government securities could soon be a burden for the real economy

The increase in the spread between Italian (BTP) and German (Bund) government securities is directly an additional burden for Italy public finance, and thus for tax payers. But it could soon also become a burden for the real economy, as the increased yield on Italian government securities could pull up the cost of bank loans for Italian firms, thus imparting a deflationary impact onto the economy.

By: Francesco Papadia and Inês Goncalves Raposo Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: September 10, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

Monetary policy and superstar firms

The yearly Jackson Hole gathering of central bankers has focused this year on the topic of changing market structure, the rise of superstar firms, and the implications of the way they compete for central banks.

By: Silvia Merler Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: September 4, 2018
Read article Download PDF More on this topic

Policy Contribution

Should we care about central bank profits?

The authors investigate the ECB’s profit-making activity of the last 20 years, assessing how this was achieved and the reasons why we should care more broadly about central banks generating profits.

By: Francesco Chiacchio, Grégory Claeys and Francesco Papadia Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: August 30, 2018
Read article More on this topic

Opinion

The ECB is compromising the attractiveness of euro-area sovereign bonds

The ECB should refine its collateral framework in order to continue protecting its balance sheet without putting at risk the safe-asset status of sovereign bonds of the euro area.

By: Grégory Claeys and Inês Goncalves Raposo Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Date: August 29, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

Criteria for entry into the ERMII and the banking union: the precedent from Bulgaria

In its bid to join the single currency Bulgaria has made commitments on financial supervision but also wider structural reform which set a precedent for future applicants for participation in the exchange rate mechanism ERMII. Most conditions, though not all, are justified by the additional demands of the banking union. But the envisaged timeline seems ambitious, and verification will not be straightforward.

By: Alexander Lehmann Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: August 29, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

Germany’s Government Still Has an Allergy to Investing

The new coalition budget looks a lot like the old German coalition budget.

By: Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: July 23, 2018
Read article

Blog Post

Germany’s savings banks: uniquely intertwined with local politics

German savings banks, known as Sparkassen, form an important feature of the country's banking assets. Unlike in other European countries, German Sparkassen also hold direct links with local political communities. This post focuses on the Sparkassen's structural links and relationships with elected politicians. Three findings which do not appear to have been specifically documented previously stand out.

By: Jonas Markgraf and Nicolas Véron Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, Finance & Financial Regulation Date: July 18, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Podcast

Podcast

Italy's economic and political outlook

In this week's Sound of Economics, Bruegel affiliate fellow, Silvia Merler, is joined by Marcello Minenna, PhD lecturer at the London Graduate School and Head of Quants at Consob, as well as Lorenzo Codogno, LSE visiting professor, to discuss the Italian government's economic outlook in the European context.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: July 11, 2018
Read article Download PDF

Policy Contribution

European Parliament

Cryptocurrencies and monetary policy

Can cryptocurrencies acquire the role of money? And what are the implications for central banks and monetary policy? Read the policy contribution to understand what challenges cryptocurrencies have to overcome to replace official currencies.

By: Grégory Claeys, Maria Demertzis and Konstantinos Efstathiou Topic: European Parliament, Finance & Financial Regulation, Testimonies Date: June 28, 2018
Read article More on this topic

Opinion

Making Italy grow again

On March 4th, Italians sent a resounding message in favour of a break with the past. The ultimate test for the new ‘government of change’ will be whether it succeeds where all others have failed over the past two decades: bringing the country back to growth. The authors propose three different actions to revamp Italy’s ailing productivity and gear the country’s productive capacity towards the 21st century: human capital, e-government, and green growth.

By: Simone Tagliapietra, Alessio Terzi and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: June 26, 2018
Load more posts