Central Banks Remind Us Of The Post-Crisis Script: ‘Whatever It Takes’

January 24, 5:00 pm EST

With two big central bank meetings behind us this week, and the Fed on deck for next week, let’s remind ourselves of where the global central banks stand, more than 10 years after the crisis.

There’s one thing we know, following the events of the past decade:  The global central banks will do “whatever it takes” to preserve stability and manufacture economic growth.  As long as global economies remain interconnected (which they are), this is the script they (global central banks, in coordination) will follow.  They crossed the line long ago.  There’s no turning back.

So, with all of the continual talk in past years about another big shock or “shoe to drop,” people have failed to acknowledge the key difference between the depths of the financial crisis and now.  Back then, we didn’t know how policymakers would respond.  That’s a lot of uncertainty.  Now we know.  They will change the rules when they need to.  That removes a lot of uncertainty.

With this in mind, remember on January 4th, in response to an ugly December for the stock market, the Fed marched out Bernanke, Yellen and Powell to walk back on the tightening cycle.  For a world that was expecting four rote rate hikes this year, that was an official response – effectively easing, intermeeting.

Next up, the Bank of Japan.  They met this week.  With the ECB now done with QE, the BOJ is now the lone global economic shock absorber.  Not only have they been executing on their massive QQE plan since 2013, in 2016 they crafted a plan that gave them greenlight to do unlimited QE as long as their 10-year government bond yield drifted above the zero line.  So, as global yields pull Japanese yields higher, the BOJ responds by buying bonds in unlimited amounts to push it all back down.  That has been the anchor on global interest rates. And given that they see inflation continuing to run well below their target of 2%, through 2020, the BOJ will be printing for the foreseeable future (remaining that anchor on global interest rates).

What about Europe? A few months ago, some thought the ECB might be following the Fed footsteps — with a first post-QE rate hike by the middle of this year.  Today, Draghi put that to bed, saying risks are now to the downside, and that the market has it right pricing in a rate hike for next year – assuming all goes well.  But Draghi also wants us to know that the ECB stands ready to act if the economy falters (i.e. they can/will go the other way).

So, for perspective on where the global economy stands, we still have central banks pulling the levers to keep it all together.  That’s why Trump’s big and bold fiscal stimulus and structural reform was/is absolutely necessary.  And that’s why the rest of the world will likely have to follow the U.S., with fiscal stimulus, if we are to ultimately and sustainably put the crisis period behind us.

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