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Wednesday, October 08, 2008 9:43 AM

Global Coordinated Rate Cuts Won't Solve Economic Crisis

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This morning the Fed, ECB, Bank of England, Bank of Canada, and Sweden's Riksbank all cut rates by 50 basis points. Japan is on the sidelines cheering.

US Futures that were down as much 4% are now in the green. Short term perhaps the market was due for a bounce, perhaps not as the day is young, but longer term one cannot cure a solvency issue with rate cuts.

Let's take a look at some of the Central Bank statements. I have additional thoughts following the Central Bank statements.

Joint Statement

Throughout the current financial crisis, central banks have engaged in continuous close consultation and have cooperated in unprecedented joint actions such as the provision of liquidity to reduce strains in financial markets.

Inflationary pressures have started to moderate in a number of countries, partly reflecting a marked decline in energy and other commodity prices. Inflation expectations are diminishing and remain anchored to price stability. The recent intensification of the financial crisis has augmented the downside risks to growth and thus has diminished further the upside risks to price stability.

Some easing of global monetary conditions is therefore warranted. Accordingly, the Bank of Canada, the Bank of England, the European Central Bank, the Federal Reserve, Sveriges Riksbank, and the Swiss National Bank are today announcing reductions in policy interest rates. The Bank of Japan expresses its strong support of these policy actions.
Fed Statement
The Federal Open Market Committee has decided to lower its target for the federal funds rate 50 basis points to 1-1/2 percent. The Committee took this action in light of evidence pointing to a weakening of economic activity and a reduction in inflationary pressures.

Incoming economic data suggest that the pace of economic activity has slowed markedly in recent months. Moreover, the intensification of financial market turmoil is likely to exert additional restraint on spending, partly by further reducing the ability of households and businesses to obtain credit. Inflation has been high, but the Committee believes that the decline in energy and other commodity prices and the weaker prospects for economic activity have reduced the upside risks to inflation.

The Committee will monitor economic and financial developments carefully and will act as needed to promote sustainable economic growth and price stability.
Bank of Canada Statement
The intensification of the global financial crisis is having a marked impact on all countries. In recent weeks conditions in global financial markets have deteriorated sharply, the U.S. economy has weakened further, and commodity prices have fallen abruptly.

As a result of these developments, credit conditions in Canada have tightened significantly, despite the relative health of our financial institutions. Weaker growth in the United States and other important trading partners will increase the drag on the Canadian economy coming from net exports. The deterioration of our terms of trade will act to moderate the growth of domestic demand. While the recent depreciation of the Canadian dollar will help cushion the effects of the weaker global outlook on the domestic economy, it will not completely offset them.

Below-potential growth in aggregate demand through 2009, combined with a lower profile for commodity prices, will significantly ease inflation pressures in Canada. Inflation expectations remain well anchored.

In view of these developments, the Bank of Canada decided to join other major central banks and lower its target for the overnight rate by 50 basis points today. This action will provide timely and significant support to the Canadian economy. The Bank will continue to monitor carefully economic and financial developments, along with the evolution of risks, in judging whether any further action might be required to achieve its 2 per cent inflation target over the medium term.
Bank of England Statement
In the United Kingdom, CPI inflation rose to 4.7% in August, reflecting increases in food and energy prices. Inflation is likely to rise further to above 5% in the next month or two, in large part as the full effects of already announced increases in the price of domestic energy are felt. But inflation should then drop back, as the contribution from retail energy prices wanes and the margin of spare capacity in the economy increases. Pay growth has so far remained subdued and commodity price pressures have eased, with oil prices down substantially from their mid-summer peak.

Conditions in international credit and money markets have deteriorated very markedly. Many markets are closed. In the United Kingdom, the supply of credit to households and businesses is clearly tightening further as banks seek to adjust their balance sheets. The Committee noted that cuts in official interest rates could not be expected to resolve the current problems in financial markets and that a significant increase in the capital of the banking sector would be required. The Committee therefore welcomed this morning’s announcement of a Government programme to recapitalise the major UK banks.

Data released over the past month indicate that the outlook for economic activity in the United Kingdom has deteriorated substantially, reflecting a sharp monetary contraction. Output growth slowed to a halt in the second quarter, business surveys point to further weakening during the second half of this year, and the labour market has softened. Consumer spending growth has slowed, in part as a result of the squeeze on real incomes, while business and dwellings investment have declined. Equity prices have fallen, and the further tightening in credit conditions will also weigh on domestic demand growth. The depreciation in sterling over the past year should support net exports, but the prospects for demand growth in the UK’s main export markets have worsened. The weakness in output growth at home will open up a growing margin of spare capacity that will over time bear down on inflation.

The Committee remains focussed on setting Bank Rate in order to meet the 2% inflation target. In doing so it continues to balance two risks. On the downside, there is a risk that a sharp slowdown in the economy, associated with weak real income growth and the tightening in the supply of credit, pulls inflation materially below the target. On the upside, there is a risk that above-target inflation this year and next raises inflation expectations so that inflation persists above the target for a sustained period. During the past month, the balance of those risks to inflation in the medium term has shifted decisively to the downside. In the light of that outlook, the Committee judged at its October meeting that an immediate reduction in Bank Rate of 0.5 percentage points to 4.5% was necessary to meet the 2% target for CPI inflation in the medium term.
Swiss National Bank Statement
The Swiss National Bank (SNB) has decided to ease conditions in the money market by 50 basis points in a bid to bring down the Swiss franc three-month Libor from its most recent level of 3% to 2.5%. To this end, the SNB is lowering the target range to 2–3%.

The global financial crisis has intensified and is having a considerable impact on the international economy. The slowdown in economic activity in the US and Europe is more severe than what the SNB had forecast at its last monetary policy assessment of 18 September 2008.

The Swiss economy is also affected by these developments. Economic growth for 2009 will be weaker than expected at the last assessment. In view of the improved inflation outlook, as a result of the economic downturn and the low oil prices, the SNB is now able to loosen its monetary policy reins.

The Swiss National Bank will continue to provide the Swiss franc money market with liquidity in a generous and flexible manner. It will keep a close watch on developments in the financial markets, so as to assess their impact on economic activity and the inflation outlook and be able to react swiftly, if necessary.
Sweeden's Riksbank Statement
The Executive Board of the Riksbank has today decided to cut the repo rate by 0.50 percentage points to 4.25 per cent. The global financial crisis threatens to reinforce the current slowdown in economic growth with diminished inflationary pressures as a result. Several central banks are today announcing reductions in policy rates in a coordinated action to dampen the consequences of the ongoing financial crisis.

Weaker economic growth in Sweden

The Executive Board of the Riksbank makes the assessment that economic growth in Sweden is slowing down and that inflationary pressures are diminishing as an effect of the financial crisis. This has led to higher interest rates for companies and households, lower capital wealth and increased uncertainty. The Riksbank’s forecast for both inflation and GDP will therefore be revised down.

The labour market is also showing clearer signs of weakening. The downturn in economic activity and lower oil and other commodity prices indicate that inflationary pressures will be lower in the future.

Although developments in Sweden to some extent differ from those in other countries, a cut in the repo rate is warranted here. The fact that the cut is a joint action together with other central banks increases confidence and the likelihood that it will have positive effects. Closer analyses and forecasts of developments in Sweden will be presented after the Executive Board’s next monetary policy meeting, which will take place on 22 October.
ECB Statement
The Governing Council of the ECB, by means of teleconferencing, has taken the following monetary policy decisions:

The minimum bid rate on the main refinancing operations of the Eurosystem will be reduced by 50 basis points to 3.75 %, with effect from the main refinancing operation to be settled on 15 October 2008.

The interest rate on the marginal lending facility will be reduced by 50 basis points to 4.75 %, with immediate effect.

The interest rate on the deposit facility will be reduced by 50 basis points to 2.75 %, with immediate effect.

In the euro area, upside inflationary risks have recently decreased further. It remains imperative to avoid broad-based second-round effects in price and wage-setting. Keeping inflation expectations firmly anchored in line with our objective and securing price stability in the medium term will support sustainable growth and employment and contribute to financial stability.
Bank of Japan Statement
The Bank of Japan welcomes the policy decisions made by six central banks and
hopes that these actions will contribute to securing the stability of both the
financial systems and economies of these countries.

In Japan, policy interest rates are very low and the monetary conditions remain
accommodative. On top of that, the Bank has engaged itself in decisive actions
of liquidity supply, ranging from the uninterrupted provision of ample yen liquidity
in the market to the introduction of US dollar liquidity operations. Against this
background, Japan’s financial market has been stable in comparison with those in
other industrialized countries.

It is of utmost importance for every central bank to maintain stability of financial
markets amidst the ongoing financial turmoil. The Bank of Japan will continue to
do its best to secure the stability of financial markets through money market
operations while staying in close cooperation with other central banks. From this
perspective, Governor of the Bank of Japan has instructed its staff to swiftly
examine possible ways to further enhance the effectiveness of monetary
operations, including those pertaining to BOJ reserve system.
Global Recession Headed Our Way

The world is heading for a global recession and a sure bet is that it will be blamed on a subprime crisis in the US. The reality is the greatest liquidity experiment in history is now crashing to earth.

The root cause of this crisis is fractional reserve lending, and micromanagement of interest rates by the Fed in particular and Central Banks in general. The Fed started the party by slashing interest rates to 1%, but Central Banks everywhere drank the same punch to varying degrees.

The Greenspan Fed lowering interest rates to 1% fueled the initial boom, but like an addict on heroin, the same dose a second time will not have the same effect. The Fed, the ECB, etc. could have slashed rates to 0% today and it would not have mattered one bit.

The reason is simple: There is no reason for banks to go on a lending spree with consumers tossing in the towel, unemployment rising, and rampant overcapacity everywhere one looks with the exception of the energy sector.

Consumers are tapped out, not just in the US, but in nearly every country on the planet. We had our party, and a fine party it was. However, the party is over and the bill is now past due. The price is a global recession. That price must be paid no matter what Central Banks do.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
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