The (Divisia) money trail – a very bullish UK story

Recently, the data for the UK economy has been very strong, and it is very clear that the UK economy is in recovery. So what is the reason? Well, you guessed it – monetary policy.

I think it is fairly easy to understand this recovery if we follow the money trail. It is a story about how UK households are reducing precautionary cash holdings (in long-term time deposits) because they no longer fear a deflationary scenario for the British economy and, that is due to the shift in UK monetary policy that basically started with the Bank of England’s second round of quantitative easing being initiated in October 2011.

The graphs below I think tells most of the story.

Lets start out with a series for growth of the Divisia Money Supply in the UK.

Divisia Money UK

Take a look at the pick-up in Divisia Money growth from around October 2011 and all through 2012 and 2013.

Historically, UK Divisia Money has been a quite strong leading indicator for UK nominal GDP growth so the sharp pick-up in Divisia Money growth is an indication of a future pick-up in NGDP growth. In fact recently, actual NGDP growth has picked up substantially, and other indicators show that the pick-up is continuing.

If you don’t believe me on the correlation between UK Divisia Money growth and NGDP growth, then take a look at this very informative blog post by Duncan Brown, who has done the econometrics to demonstrate the correlation between Divisia (and Broad) Money and NGDP growth in the UK.

Shifting money

So what caused Divisia Money growth to pick-up like this? Well, as I indicated, above the pick-up has coincided with a major movement of money in the UK economy – from less liquid time deposits to more liquid readably available short-term deposits. The graph below shows this.

Deposits UK

So here is the story as I see it.

In October 2011 (A:QE in the chart), the Bank of England restarts its quantitative easing program in response the escalating euro crisis. The BoE then steps up quantitative easing in both February 2012 (B: QE) and in July 2012 (C: QE). This I believe had two impacts.

First of all, it reduced deflationary fears in the UK economy, and as a result households moved to reduced their precautionary holdings of cash in higher-yielding time deposits. This is the drop in time deposits we are starting to see in the Autumn of 2011.

Second, there is a hot potato effect. As the Bank of England is buying assets, banks and financial institutions’ holdings of cash increase. As liquidity is now readily available to these institutions, they no longer to the same extent as earlier need to get liquidity from the household sector, and therefore they become less willing to accept time deposits than before.

Furthermore, it should be noted that in December 2012, the ECB started its so-called Long-Term Refinancing Operation (LTRO), which also made euro liquidity available to UK financial institutions. This further dramatically helped the liquidity situation for UK financial institutions.

Hence, we are seeing both a push and pull effect on the households’ time deposits. The net result has been a marked drop in time deposits and a similar increase in instant access deposits. I believe it has been equally important that there has been a marked shift in expectations about UK monetary policy with the appointment of Mark Carney in December 2012 (D: Carney).

Mark Carney’s hints – also in December 2012 – that he could favour NGDP targeting also helped send the signal that more monetary easing would be forthcoming if needed, as did the introduction of more clear forward guidance in August 2013 (E: ‘Carney Rule’). In addition to that, the general global easing of monetary conditions on the back of the Federal Reserve’s introduction of the Evans rule in September 2012 and the Bank of Japan’s aggressive measures to hit it new 2% inflation undoubtedly have also helped ease financial conditions in Britain.

Hence, I believe the shift in UK (and global) monetary policy that started in the Autumn of 2011 is the main reason for the shift in the UK households’ behaviour over the past two years.

Monetary policy is highly potent

But you might of course say – isn’t it just money being shifted around? How is that impacting the economy? Well, here the Divisia Money concept helps us. Divisia money uses a form of aggregation of money supply components that takes this into account and weights the components of money according to their usefulness in transactions.

Hence, as short-term deposits are more liquid and hence readably available for transactions (consumption or investments) than  time deposits a shift in cash holdings from time deposits to short-term deposits will cause an increase in the Divisia Money supply. This is exactly what we have seen in the UK over the past two years.

And since as we know that UK Divisia Money growth leads UK NGDP growth, there is good reason to expect this to continue to feed through to higher NGDP growth and higher economic activity in Britain.

Concluding, it seems rather clear that the quantitative easing implemented in 2011-12 in the UK and the change in forward guidance overall has not only increased UK money base growth, but also the much broader measures of money supply growth such as Divisia Money. This demonstrates that monetary policy is highly potent and also that expectations of future monetary policy, which helped caused this basic portfolio readjustment process, works quite well.

“Monetary” analysis based on looking at interest rates would never had uncovered this. However, a traditional monetarist analysis of money and the monetary transmission mechanism, combined with Market Monetarist insights about the importance of expectations, can fully explain why we are now seeing a fairly sharp pick-up in UK growth. Now we just need policy makers to understand this.

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Acknowledgements:

I think some acknowledgements are in place here as this blog post has been inspired by the work of a number of other monetarist and monetarists oriented economists and commentators. First of all Britmouse needs thanking for pointing me to the excellent work on the “raid” on UK households’ saving by Sky TV’s economics editor Ed Conway, who himself was inspired by Henderson Economics’ chief economist Simon Ward, who has done excellent work on the dishoarding of money in the UK. My friend professor Anthony Evans also helped altert me to what is going on in UK Divisia Money growth. Anthony himself publishes a similar data series called MA.

Second of course, a thanks to Duncan Brown for his great econometric work on the causality of Divisia Money and NGDP growth in the UK.

And finally, thanks to the godfather of Divisia Money Bill Barnett who nearly single-handledly has pushed the agenda for Divisia Money as an alternative to simple-sum monetary aggregates for decades. In recent years, he has been helped by Josh Hendrickson and Mike Belongia who has done very interesting empirical work on Divisia Money.

For a very recent blog post on Divisia Money, see this excellent piece by JP Koning.

And while you are at it, you might as well buy Bill Barnett’s excellent book “Getting It Wrong” about “how faulty monetary statistics undermine the Fed, the financial system and the economy”.

 

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Money and DSGE models – a few good papers

In this very good recent interview with the always extremely insightful David Laidler on Russ Robert’s Econtalk David rightly highlights the problem that money disappeared from macroeconomics during the 1990s with the development of DSGE models.

I share David’s worry that many macroeconomists – particular central bank economists – use models where there is no money. However, over the last couple of years some economists have tried to bring money into DSGE models. This research deserves a lot more attention.

I have complied a small sample of papers on money in DSGE models:

Monetary Transmission in the New Keynesian Framework: Is the Interest Rate Enough?

- Josh Hendrickson

The baseline New Keynesian model consists of a dynamic IS equation, a Phillips curve, and an interest rate rule that describes monetary policy. In recent years, this framework has become standard for monetary policy and monetary business cycle analysis. One charac- teristic of this model, and extensions thereof, is that the path of the short term interest rate fully captures the monetary transmission mechanism. This proposition is contrary to both theory and evidence presented by monetarists and advocates of the credit channel. As a result of these differences, this paper presents a model that includes agency costs, a richer specification of money demand, and nests the baseline New Keynesian model as a special case to evaluate the dynamics implied by each assumption. The results show that the New Keynesian model does a poor job of replicating empirical properties observed in the data. On the other hand, the model employed in this paper that includes elements from both the credit channel and monetarist literature is able to perform quite well. These results suggest that the representation of the monetary transmission process in the New Keynesian model is incomplete.

Money’s Role in the Monetary Business Cycle

- Peter Ireland

A small, structural model of the monetary business cycle implies that real money balances enter into a correctly-specified, forward-looking IS curve if and only if they enter into a correctly-specified, forward-looking Phillips curve. The model also implies that empirical measures of real balances must be adjusted for shifts in money demand to accurately isolate and quantify the dynamic effects of money on output and inflation. Maximum likelihood estimates of the model’s parameters take both these considerations into account, but still suggest that money plays a minimal role in the monetary business cycle.

The role of money and monetary policy in crisis periods: the Euro area case
– Jonathan Benchimol and Andre Fourcans

In this paper, we test two models of the Eurozone, with a special emphasis on the role of money and monetary policy during crises. The role of separability between money and consumption is investigated further and we analyse the Euro area economy during three different crises: 1992, 2001 and 2007. We find that money has a rather significant role to play in explaining output variations during crises whereas, at the same time, the role of monetary policy on output decreases significantly. Moreover, we find that a model with non-separability between consumption and money has better forecasting performance than a baseline separable model over crisis periods.

Risk Aversion in the Euro area

- Jonathan Benchimol

We propose a New Keynesian Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium (DSGE) model where a risk aversion shock enters a separable utility function. We analyze five periods, each one lasting twenty years, to follow over time the dynamics of several parameters (such as the risk aversion parameter), the Taylor rule coefficients and the role of this risk aversion shock on output and real money balances in the Eurozone. Our analysis suggests that risk aversion was a more important component of output and real money balance dynamics between 2006 and 2011 than it had been between 1971 and 2006, at least in the short run.

This is a of course a very incomplete list of papers, but overall there are still very few papers on money in DSGE models. I hope I with this post can inspire others to look into this interesting topic and hopefully one day even central bankers will come to the conclusion that we need to bring money back into the game.

If you are interested in DSGE models in general there is a sub-group in the Global Monetary Policy Network at Linkedin on the topic. Join GMPN here and the DSGE sub-group here.

‘Money Mischief’ – a major inspiration for ‘monetary thinkers’

I am in the process of surveying a number of “monetary thinkers” about their favourite books on monetary matters. I hope to do a number of posts on the survey results.

I had initially planned only to do one post on the survey, but I can see that there is material for a lot more. So I will likely do a number of posts on the topic in the near future. It is vacation time for the Christensen family – so I am a bit focused on reading books.

Among the monetary thinkers in the survey are George Selgin, David Laidler, Kurt Schuler, Josh Hendrickson, Marcus Nunes, Tobias Straumann, Steve Ambler and Douglas Irwin and many more and more will follow.

Milton Friedman’s “Money Mischief” is short, fun and informative

One of my own absolute favourite books on money is Milton Friedman’s “Money Mischief” from 1992. It is a collection of Friedman articles. Most of the articles are about episodes from monetary history. The book is extremely well-written and generally a very easy read.

Money Mischief is being mentioned as an major inspiration by a number of  the monetary thinkers in my survey. Josh Hendrickson calls Money Mischief “a great overview of money for non-economists and economists alike” and Douglas Irwin calls the book “just fun”. Both Josh and Doug have contributed to my survey and in later posts I will return to some of their other book recommendations.

Money Mischief to a large extent is a inspiration for this blog as I always thought that I wanted to write a blog about different monetary episodes in the spirit of Money Mischief to illustrate my views on monetary issues and I had in fact originally thought naming my blog Money Mischief.

Take for example Chapter 9 in Money Mischief“Chile and Israel: Identical Policies, Opposite Outcomes”. In this Chapter Friedman describes how fixed exchange rate policies was a major success in Israel, but a failure in Chile. In the chapter Friedman once again spells out his general opposition to fixed exchanges, but he also acknowledges that fixed exchange rate regimes might work well for certain countries. Friedman mentions Hong Kong’s currency board as an example of a fairly successful fixed exchange rate regime.

In the chapter he also makes a comment that have been a major inspiration to my own thinking about monetary matters. This is the statement (page 241):

“Never underestimate the role of luck in the fate of individuals and nations”.

I have written numerous blog posts inspired by this comment. See for example:

Never underestimate the importance of luck
The luck of the ‘Scandies’
National stereotyping is not an explanation for boom-bust – it is mostly about luck

And this is exactly what my survey of monetary thinkers is about – books that have inspired them and books that they think should be read by students of economics and money.

The survey has also inspired Kurt Schuler to reproduce his extensive reading list on monetary economics. You can see Kurt’s amazing reading list here.

In the near future I will share more survey results.

This is a picture of my own copy of Money Mischief – did you get a copy yet?

Money Mischief

Chuck Norris just pushed S&P500 above 1400

Today S&P500 closed above 1400 for the first time since June 2008. Hence, the US stock market is now well above the levels when Lehman Brothers collapsed in October 2008. So in terms of the US stock market at least the crisis is over. Obviously that can hardly be said for the labour market situation in the US and most European stock markets are still well below the levels of 2008.

So what have happened? Well, I think it is pretty clear that monetary policy has become more easy. Stock prices are up, commodity prices are rising and recently US long-term bond yields have also started to increase. As David Glasner notices in a recent post – the correlation between US stock prices and bond yields is now positive. This is how it used to be during the Great Moderation and is actually an indication that central banks are regaining some credibility.

By credibility I mean that market participants now are beginning to expect that central banks will actually again provide some nominal stability. This have not been directly been articulated. But remember during the Great Moderation the Federal Reserve never directly articulated that it de facto was following a NGDP level target, but as Josh Hendrickson has shown that is exactly what it actually did – and market participants knew that (even though most market participants might not have understood the bigger picture). As a commenter on my blog recently argued (central banks’) credibility is earned with long and variable lags (thank you Steve!). Said in another way one thing is nominal targets and other thing is to demonstrate that you actually are willing to do everything to achieve this target and thereby make the target credible.

Since December 8 when the ECB de facto introduced significant quantitative easing via it’s so-called 3-year LTRO market sentiment has changed. Rightly or wrongly market participants seem to think that the ECB has changed it’s reaction function. While the fear in November-December was that the ECB would not react to the sharp deflationary tendencies in the euro zone it is now clear that the ECB is in fact willing to ease monetary policy. I have earlier shown that the 3y LTRO significantly has reduced the the likelihood of a euro blow up. This has sharply reduced the demand for save haven currencies – particularly for the US dollars, but also the yen and the Swiss franc. Lower dollar demand is of course the same as a (passive) easing of US monetary conditions. You can say that the ECB has eased US monetary policy! This is the opposite of what happened in the Autumn of 2010 when the Fed’s QE2 effectively eased European monetary conditions.

Furthermore, we have actually had a change in a nominal target as the Bank of Japan less than a month ago upped it’s inflation target from 0% to 1% – thereby effectively telling the markets that the bank will step up monetary easing. The result has been clear – just have a look at the slide in the yen over the last month. Did the Bank of Japan announce a massive new QE programme? No it just called in Chuck Norris! This is of course the Chuck Norris effect in play – you don’t have to print money to see monetary policy if you are a credible central bank with a credible target.

So both the ECB and the BoJ has demonstrated that they want to move monetary policy in a more accommodative direction and the financial markets have reacted. The markets seem to think that the major global central banks indeed want to avoid a deflationary collapse and recreate nominal stability. We still don’t know if the markets are right, but I tend to think they are. Yes, neither the Fed nor the ECB have provide a clear definition of their nominal targets, but the Bank of Japan has clearly moved closer.

Effective the signal from the major global central banks is yes, we know monetary policy is potent and we want to use monetary policy to increase NGDP. This is at least how market participants are reading the signals – stock prices are up, so are commodity prices and most important inflation expectations and bond yields are increasing. This is basically the same as saying that money demand in the US, Europe and Japan is declining. Lower money demand equals higher money velocity and remember (if you had forgot) MV=PY. So with unchanged money supply (M) higher V has to lead to higher NGDP (PY). This is the Chuck Norris effect – the central banks don’t need to increase the money base/supply if they can convince market participants that they want an higher NGDP – the markets are doing all the lifting. Furthermore, it should be noted that the much feared global currency war is also helping ease global monetary conditions.

This obviously is very good news for the global economy and if the central banks do not panic once inflation and growth start to inch up and reverse the (passive) easing of monetary policy then it is my guess we could be in for a rather sharp recovery in global growth in the coming quarters. But hey, my blog is not about forecasting markets or the global economy – I do that in my day-job – but what we are seeing in the markets these days to me is a pretty clear indication of how powerful the Chuck Norris effect can be.  If central banks just could realise that and announced much more clear nominal targets then this crisis could be over very fast…

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PS For the record this is not investment advise and should not be seen as such, but rather as an attempt to illustrate how the monetary transmission mechanism works through expectations and credibility.

PPS a similar story…this time from my day-job.

Josh Hendrickson shows that the Fed targeted NGDP growth

I have previously quoted Alan Greenspan for saying the following at a FOMC meeting in 1992:

“Let me put it to you this way. If you ask whether we are confirming our view to contain the success that we’ve had to date on inflation, the answer is “yes.” I think that policy is implicit among the members of this Committee, and the specific instruments that we may be using or not using are really a quite secondary question. As I read it, there is no debate within this Committee to abandon our view that a non-inflationary environment is best for this country over the longer term. Everything else, once we’ve said that, becomes technical questions. I would say in that context that on the basis of the studies, we have seen that to drive nominal GDP, let’s assume at 4-1/2 percent, in our old philosophy we would have said that [requires] a 4-1/2 percent growth in M2. In today’s analysis, we would say it’s significantly less than that. I’m basically arguing that we are really in a sense using [unintelligible] a nominal GDP goal of which the money supply relationships are technical mechanisms to achieve that. And I don’t see any change in our view…and we will know they are convinced (about “price stability”) when we see the 30-year Treasury at 5-1/2 percent.

Now Josh Hendrickson has a new paper out – “An Overhaul of Federal Reserve Doctrine: Nominal Income and the Great Moderation” – that basically confirms that the Fed actually did what Greenspan said it would do – at least during the Great Moderation. Here is the abstract:

“The Great Moderation is often characterized by the decline in the variability of output and inflation from earlier periods. While a multitude of explanations for the Great Moderation exist, notable research has focused on the role of monetary policy. Specifically, early evidence suggested that this increased stability is the result of monetary policy that responded much more strongly to realized inflation. Recent evidence casts doubt on this change in monetary policy. An alternative hypothesis is that the change in monetary policy was the result of a change in doctrine; specifically the rejection of the view that inflation was largely a cost-push phenomenon. As a result, this alternative hypothesis suggests that the change in monetary policy beginning in 1979 is reflected in the Federal Reserve’s response to expectations of nominal income growth rather than realized inflation as previously argued. I provide evidence for this hypothesis by estimating the parameters of a monetary policy rule in which policy adjusts to forecasts of nominal GDP for the pre- and post-Volcker eras. Finally, I embed the rule in two dynamic stochastic general equilibrium models with gradual price adjustment to determine whether the overhaul of doctrine can explain the reduction in the volatility of inflation and the output gap.”

Josh has written and excellent paper and I recommend everybody to have a look at Josh’s paper – maybe if we are lucky Ben Bernanke might also read the paper. After all the paper will be published in Journal of Macroeconomics. Bernanke is on the editorial board of JoM.

PS Josh also has a comment on this on his blog.

Update: Scott Sumner also has a comment on Josh’s paper.

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