Yesterday I was interviewed for TRT World about the Greek economy and possible Grexit. Have a look here.
All posts for the month February, 2017
The economic suffering of the Greek people is horrendous and it has to stop – interview on TRT World
Posted by Lars Christensen on February 21, 2017
Greece is once again back on the agenda in the European financial markets and we are once again talking about Greek default and even about Grexit. There seems to be no end to the suffering of the Greek economy and the Greek population.
I must say that I have a lot of sympathy with the Greeks – they have terrible policy makers and no matter how many austerity measures are implemented there is no signs of any visible improvement either in public finances or in the overall economic performance.
Hence, the Greek economy has essentially been in decline for nearly nine years and there seems to be no signs of it changing.
To me there is no doubt what the main reason it – it is the monetary strangulation of the Greek economy due to the countries membership of the euro area.
I don’t like to see the euro area fall apart and I believe it can be avoided, but on the other hand I have a very hard time seeing Greece getting out of this crisis without either receiving a more or less complete debt write-off or leaving the euro area (or both).
ECB can’t do much more
Since 2008 there has been two dimensions to the monetary strangulation of the Greek economy.
First of all for much of the period since 2008 the ECB has kept overall euro zone monetary conditions far too tight to achieve its own 2% inflation target as illustrated by our – Markets & Money Advisory’s – composite indicator for monetary conditions in the euro zone, which shows that monetary conditions in the euro zone essentially were too tight from 2008 until early 2015 and only has been broadly neutral (indicator close to zero) over the past 20 months or so.
Second, the euro zone is not an optimal currency area and it is very clear that Greece today needs significantly easier monetary conditions than for example Germany, which might need tighter monetary conditions.
Looking at these to factors it is clear that the ECB indeed has moved in the right direction in the last two years and overall we believe that monetary conditions right now are about right for the euro zone as a whole. However, the problem is that monetary conditions still is far too tight for Greece.
As long as overall euro zone monetary conditions were too tight there was a good argument that the ECB should ease monetary policy to ensure that it would hit its 2% inflation target over the medium-term and that would help Greece. However, that is not really the case now. While there is no reason for the ECB to tighten monetary conditions it is today much harder to argue for new measures to ease euro zone monetary conditions.
That makes Greece’s problem even more acute and makes the argument for Greek euro exit even stronger.
The problem of course is that Greece is damned no matter what. If Greece stays in the euro area then the hardship continues for the Greek people and there is no reason to believe that more austerity fundamentally will improve public finances and while there have been some signs of growth beginning to pick over the past year any minor tightening of monetary policy from the ECB will likely send Greece directly back to recession.
On the other hand if Greece where to leave the euro area it is unlikely it would happen in an orderly fashion. Rather it is likely to happen in a chaotic fashion and lot of things could go badly wrongly – also for the rest of the euro zone. Just think about what speculation it would create regarding possible Italian or even French euro exit. And will euro exit also mean EU exit and what will be the geopolitical ramifications of this?
So it is not an easy choice. However, I continue to believe that it would be both in the interest of Greece and of the rest of euro area as a whole that Greece leaves the euro area.
The suffering will have to end. However, Greece should not be kicked out of the euro. Rather Greece should be helped out of the euro. Unfortunately there is little will within the EU or the ECB to make this happen and populists around Europe are eager to use this debacle to further sabotage European reforms.
See also my earlier posts on Greece her:
Posted by Lars Christensen on February 10, 2017
We will soon be launching our new monthly publication Global Monetary Conditions Monitor (GMCM), which will be available from our new ‘research shop’ when we soon launch Markets & Money Advisory’s new website.
GMCM will be covering 25-30 countries and overall we will differentiate between what we term the Global Monetary Superpowers (Fed, PBoC, ECB, Bank of Japan, Bank of England and SNB) and other central banks.
At the core of the publication will be a composite indicator for monetary conditions in each of the countries in the Monitor.
The indicator is constructed as an weighted average of four sub-indicators – broad money supply growth, nominal GDP growth, exchange rate developments and the key policy rate. Each of these four indicators are compared to what we call a policy-consistent growth rate or level for each indicator.
Russian money supply growth nearly on track
If we for example look at broad money supply (M2) growth for Russia (which has a monetary policy decision today) we find the policy consistent growth rate for M2 based on the equation of exchange.
We can write the equation of exchange in growth terms like this:
(1) m + v = p + y
Where m is broad money supply growth, v is the growth rate of money-velocity, p is inflation (GDP deflator) and y is real GDP growth.
We can now insert the inflation target for Russia (4%) as well as the trend growth in real GDP (y*) and the trend money-velocity growth (v*) and by re-arranging (1) we get a policy consistent growth rate for M2 (m-target):
(2) m-target = 4% + y* – v*
We find y* and v* by applying a so-called HP-filter to real GDP and money-velocity.
The graph below shows the historical development in M2 growth and the policy consistent growth rate for M2 (based on an assumption of an 4% inflation target).
It should of course be noted that historically the Russian inflation target has been higher than 4% and there Russian central bank has only in recent years introduced an implicit inflation target.
However, we can nonetheless compare the present actual M2 growth with and the policy consistent growth rate and construct what we call a M2 growth gap.
The M2 growth gap is a three-year weighted average of the difference between actual M2 growth and the policy consistent growth rate for M2. If the M2 growth gap is positive then M2 growth is too fast to ensure that the 4% inflation target will be hit in the medium-term (2-3 years).
We use the M2 growth gap as the one of the four sub-indicators in our composite indicator for monetary conditions.
The three other sub-indicators are also mostly “on track”
Similarly we calculate gaps and sub-indicators for nominal GDP growth, exchange rate growth and the level of the key policy rate.
Overall we use the same logic as when calculating the M2 growth gap when we are calculating the three other sub-indicators.
For example when we calculate the policy consistent growth rate for the exchange rate we find the rate of appreciate or depreciation of the nominal effective ruble rate, which will ensure 4% inflation in the medium-term given the underlying trend in the real effective exchange rate (reflecting for example productive and terms-of-trade trends) and given the trend in foreign prices.
Hence, we essentially in the same way as we used the equation of exchange to calculate the M2 growth gap we for the exchange rate use the Purchasing Power Parity (corrected for trends in the real effective exchange rate) to calculate the exchange rate growth gap and hence the sub-indicator for the ruble rate.
The graph below graph below shows exchange rate gap.
The graph shows that over the past 6-9 months the ruble has appreciated faster than the policy consistent appreciation (actually depreciation) rate and as a result we have seen a negative exchange rate gap develop indicating the development in the forex markets is contributing to a tightening of Russian monetary conditions.
In terms of the overall composite indicator for Russian monetary conditions the too fast board money growth is more or less offset by the too fast appreciation of the ruble, while nominal GDP and the key policy rate are close to policy consistent levels as shown below.
Russian monetary conditions nearly on track
Based on these four sub-indicators we construct our composite indictor for Russian monetary conditions as seen in the graph below.
We see that the indicator remains slightly above zero, which indicates that inflation risks still remains slightly on the upside compared to the Russian central bank’s (CBR) 4% inflation target for 2017. That said, overall monetary conditions in Russia should be considered broadly neutral and overall our indicator lead us to expect Russian inflation between 4% and 5% in the coming 1-3 years (disregarding possible supply side shocks).
As a consequence, it is not surprising that some analysts expect the CBR to cut its key policy interest rate later today or announce intervention in the FX market to curb the appreciation of the ruble.
We would think that would be slightly premature to ease monetary conditions as inflation risks still are slightly to the upside compared to the 4% inflation target, but a minor rate cut of 25 or 50bp should certainly not be seen as irresponsible particularly given the continued appreciation trend in the ruble. Furthermore, we should stress that the purpose of our monetary conditions indicator is not to forecast monetary policy decision, but rather to evaluate whether monetary policy is on track or to easy or tight given the central bank’s inflation target.
If you think that our composite indicator for monetary conditions could be of interest to you as a financial markets partipant or as a policy makers don’t hesitate to contact us regarding more information about how to subscribe to Global Monetary Condition Monitor (GMCM). A 12 month subscription for GMCM will be priced at EUR 2,000. For more information please email LC@mamoadvisory.com or LR@mamoadvisory.com.
Posted by Lars Christensen on February 3, 2017