There has been a lot of ludicrous recommendations recently to combat deflation by making deposit rates negative. I did not think any central bank would be dumb enough to try it. I thought wrong.
Today, Riksbank, Sweeden's central bank cut the deposit rate to -0.25% effectively charging savers interest on deposited money.
DATE 2/07/2009Sweden Attempts To Boost Lending
The weak development of the economy requires a somewhat more expansionary monetary policy. The Executive Board of the Riksbank has therefore decided to cut the repo rate by 0.25 of a percentage point to 0.25 per cent.
Deep economic downturn
Economic activity abroad is very weak and this hits Sweden hard. Exports have fallen substantially and the situation on the labour market is continuing to deteriorate rapidly. The information received in recent months points to the economic downturn in 2009 being somewhat deeper than the Riksbank forecast in April.
The decision on the repo rate will apply with effect from Wednesday, 8 July. The deposit rate is at the same time cut to -0.25 per cent and the lending rate to 0.75 per cent.
Please consider Sweden cuts rates to new low, offers banks loans.
Sweden's Riksbank cut interest rates to a fresh record low on Thursday and offered banks 100 billion crowns ($13.2 billion) to boost lending as it strives to reverse the country's worst recession since the 1940s.Punishing Savers
The central bank lowered its key interest rate by 25 basis points to 0.25 percent in a surprise move, putting official rates at their lowest since records began in 1907, and said it expected rates to remain at that level until late 2010.
"It's a double whammy, or even a triple whammy," said Roger Josefsson at Danske Markets.
"The deposit rates are actually negative now. In some sense they are creating a money machine for banks. You can lend all you want, but don't put that back into the central bank."
Sweden was plunged into recession late last year as the global financial crisis pulled the plug on market demand, leaving firms such as world number two truck firm Volvo scrambling to cut costs and shed jobs.
The central bank forecast the economy will contract 5.4 percent this year and return to tepid growth of 1.4 percent next year.
Broadening its arsenal of policy measures, the Riksbank said it would offer banks loans at a fixed rate as was done recently by the European Central Bank, although it offered unlimited amounts.
The Riksbank will offer 100 billion crowns of fixed interest loans with a maturity of 12 months. It said supplementary measures would ensure monetary policy had the intended effect.
"This should contribute to lower funding costs for the banks and lower interest rates for companies and households," it said.
Deputy Central Bank Governor Barbro Wickman-Parak told a news conference that offering loans at fixed rates to the banks was judged more suitable than purchasing government or mortgage-backed bonds, at least for now.
"Sweden has a very bank-based system," she said.
"Company borrowing, in contrast to the United States, is carried out through the banks and in light of that it is reasonable for us to look first to moving through the banking system when we want to ease credits."
The ECB ended up pouring 442 billion euros ($622 billion) of funds into money markets in its first such operation with a term as long as one year, pushing some bank-to-bank borrowing costs to new record lows.
The global economy is in a mess because of the lack of savings not because of an excess of it. People spent money they did not have, pushing asset prices to ridiculous levels. Banks, in belief that asset prices would keep rising exponentially, increased leverage. Now consumers everywhere are retrenching in the wake of the collapse, a much needed phenomenon.
In light of the above, punishing savers with negative deposit rates is the height of stupidity.
It would be fitting if there was an immediate run on deposits. And if that happens what will Sweden do? Halt deposits? Sweden risks (and deserves) a currency collapse and bank runs for this insane effort. Look for capital flight in Sweden.
We should all be rooting for the demise of Sweden lest Bernanke or some other Central Bank clowns try the same thing. The risk is that Sweden does not immediately suffer for this stupidity and that Bernanke tries to do the same thing.
One thing is certain. This is eventually going to blow sky high. Let's hope it does before Bernanke gets the same brilliant idea.
By the way, in case you missed it, here is Bernanke's Deflation Preventing Scorecard.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock
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