Thursday 19 April 2018

Central bankers will stay at the centre of things in 2016

Central banker Mark Carney Photo: Arthur Carron Photography
Central banker Mark Carney Photo: Arthur Carron Photography
Central banker Mario Draghi
Central banker Janet Yellen
Dan O'Brien

Dan O'Brien

The year ahead offers little prospect that central bankers will return to the much lower profile they had before the outbreak of the Great Recession. Mario Draghi of the ECB, Janet Yellen at the US Federal Reserve and Mark Carney of the Bank of England can all be expected to remain in the headlines in 2016, if for different reasons.

This year Draghi, one of the 10 most influential people in the affairs of this country and the other 18 which make up the eurozone, is very likely to continue his battle with the more hawkish members of the ECB's 25-person governing council.

They managed to veto a ramping-up of the bank's quantitative easing (QE) programme at the end of last year, arguing that the risks of deflation do not warrant more unorthodox measures. The debate is very likely to be on-going as long as the eurozone recovery remains modest and inflation is non-existent.

Draghi's counterpart in Britain, Mark Carney, will have it easier - but the Canadian won't expect plain sailing. He had indicated in the middle of last year that interest rates would have risen by now, but has since backtracked.

In large part, that is because inflation is nowhere close to the 2pc annual rate of increase that the Bank of England targets. But asset price inflation has been much higher and with most labour market indicators pointing to near full employment conditions, there is likely to be no shortage of voices calling for an end to zero rates.

That should keep sterling strong vis-a-vis the euro, something that will benefit Irish exporters.

In the US, the tightening cycle began last months with the first rate rise in almost a decade. The world will be watching how the US economy responds.

Should all go to plan, the case for earlier tightening in Britain will be strengthened, but given the state of the eurozone economy, it is all but assured that it will be well beyond the end of 2016 before interest rates in the single currency area start to rise. For those who are still heavily in debt and vulnerable to higher debt-servicing costs, you can rest assured that your day of reckoning won't come this year.

Sunday Indo Business

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