Category Archives: CENTRAL BANKS

Unravelling the mystery behind Rs 3-lakh crore deposits in 15 days

Business Standard

As we go in Post-Demonitized India, Conspirasy theories are bound to follow. But some raise the issue, which warrant further investigation.

Ishan Bakshi & Nitin Sethi has filed this report in BS. The 3-lakh crore deposit in a fortnight is unprecedented and so is withdrawl of 1.2 lakh crore in the following fortnight.

Why old notes could find takers in bullion market


With demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, bullion dealers expect demand to go up for a few days and cash business of jewellers may increase.


Jewellers could show backdated cash sales. Veteran bullion dealers say that those who have cash in hand on their books could also buy such notes at a discount and deposit it in banks later on.


Sudheesh Nambiath, lead analyst — precious metals demand, GFMS, Thomson Reuters said, “The move will potentially create a surge in demand for for next few days while the backdated bills would be made to show the transactions as genuine.”


Another bullion dealer said jewellers and diamond traders usually show bills while depositing cash generated by sales every week. In cases where very high value deals happen in cash, they split bills in smaller amounts or cite stolen numbers in those bills.


“Prime Minister played the Morarjee Desai card,” said a veteran bullion dealer. “In January 1978, all high-denomination banknotes (Rs 1,000, Rs 5,000, and Rs 10,000) were demonetised or withdrawn from the circulation to curb unaccounted money. In those days, traders who were having cash on hand on their books had accepted high value notes even after they were withdrawn because they had facility to deposit them in the banks. In bullion market such notes were sold for 30 per cent discount and those who bought were having arrangements to deposit them in banks, officially showing cash business. But those who could not exchange notes or sell them at discount were forced to use them as tissue papers,” he said.


In 1978, then government had issued an ordinance demonetising high value currency notes to unearth black money. The idea of terrorism and currency wars was not common till then. Smuggling was at its peak. Later an Act called The High Denomination Bank Notes (Demonetisation) Act, 1978 was passed to give legal status to the withdrawn notes.


Veterans say that Rs 1,000 and Rs 10,000 banknotes, which were in circulation, were demonetised in January 1946, primarily to curb unaccounted money. Later, higher denomination banknotes of Rs 1,000, Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000 were reintroduced in 1954.

Dr Rajan’s last Mon Pol Statement-Tomm

with olympics going and India about to win test, there is hardly any space for wonks. But tommorow’s Mon Policy statement will make headlines, but maybe totally as the Dr Rajan’s last Monetary Policy statement. So whats the state of economy:

For Cut:

  1. The Central Banks round the world has done the heavy lifting, FED Fund rates are close to 25bps, as is the case with ECB. The CBs in Countries like Japan and Switzerland  have gone even to negative territory. So RBI better comply.
  2. IIP is languishing, IIP of Capital goods is infact negative for last seven months. Inspite of fiscical stimulas private investment is yet to pick up. Can interest rate entice the animal spirit.

Status Quo:

  1. June inflation number are perilously close the 6%, the outer bound. The hard earned credibility should not be languished.
  2. Good Moonsoon, will bring cheers to agriculture sector, and should revive rural consumption. But its better to wait for the actual results.
  3. FED has not raise the rate this cycle. The commentry which followed is hardly conclusive. No point in cutting the rate now, and then raise it to arrest the capital flow.

Essentially this blog feels that there is little room for cutting rate this cycle.




Retrofitting the Reserve Bank

Prof Pulapre Balakishenin, The Hindu,  has this very succient article regarding ” Should RBI be really focusing on “Inflation”. A very coherent article with strong argument.

By suggesting that inflation targeting be the sole objective of monetary policy in India, the government has also shut out of the reckoning an assault on India’s weak agricultural supply-side.

John Maynard Keynes was surely right to remark that the world is ruled by ideas and little else. But he may have been optimistic in believing that “soon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil.” Actually, vested interests can ensure that ideas prevail even when they are meant to serve some sectional interests at the cost of others. To those convinced of the infallibility of the principles governing the creation of wealth, it must come as a surprise that some of what is often considered knowledge in the context may be contested on perfectly reasonable grounds or, worse still to their likely horror, merely reflects the interests of certain parties to the transaction, so to speak. This is certainly true of the reigning view of the role of the central bank. Central banks are pivotal to the economic system and all countries have them. Our own Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is widely admired as arguably the last institution standing up to the machinations of the political class. It has certainly helped that every Indian to have headed it has represented the highest traditions of public service and personal integrity. Persons apart, however, a certain degree of morphing of the RBI has occurred of late, some of it deliberately intended and some of it perhaps in the form of collateral damage.

The scope of inflation targeting

The Finance Bill, 2016 has finally succeeded in making inflation targeting the sole objective of monetary policy. As monetary policy is the central bank’s prerogative, the move may be welcomed as signalling a newly minted and wholehearted commitment to inflation control which is now privileged over all other objectives. It, however, overlooks two possibilities that are surely of relevance in the context. First, whether the focus on inflation may imply a loss in certain other areas of the economy. And, second, whether inflation is fully within the its control anyway. Each of these considerations poses substantial questions.

The issue germane to the first is whether focussing on inflation can lead to preventing a rise in employment. In economies with unemployed resources, an increase in aggregate demand may be expected to lead to a rise in output and a rise in prices if there is a shortage of some inputs into production. In India the rise in prices is usually that of food, some items which have been perennially in short supply, the case of pulses and vegetables coming to mind immediately. Note that the increase in output may be expected to lead to an increase in employment as goods require labour for their production. Thus we have an increase in output, employment and prices. In a situation of ongoing inflation, we may even witness a rise in its rate. The question now is how to deal with the rise in prices. This can be done via one of two approaches.

Under so-called inflation targeting the central bank raises the rate of interest. When this is passed on by the commercial banks, it reduces the demand for credit, lowers investment and output growth. There is a concomitant reduction in the demand for labour and the offending material inputs whose price rise constituted the inflation. Inflation is now likely to reduce. But notice the accompanying reduction in output. Supporters of inflation targeting argue that the initial spurt in output would not have been sustainable anyway as in the ‘long run’ workers will withdraw labour when they find that inflation has eroded the real value of their wages. This claim is sustained by ruling out involuntary employment, defined as a situation where workers are ready to work at the given money wage but do not find jobs. In its essence, the policy of inflation targeting assumes that the economy is always at full employment, or the ‘natural rate’ in the modern economist’s vocabulary. In this account fully-employed workers offer more labour as inflation rises only because they mistake an increase in their money wage for a rise in its purchasing power — that is, they are unaware of the inflation. This suggests a certain credulousness among workers who, one would imagine, visit the bazaar on their way home from work in the evenings. It is only by insisting that inflation always and everywhere reflects employment having overshot its natural rate that the claim of no loss in welfare due to tight monetary policy can be sustained.

Importance of supply position

It should be clear by now that inflation targeting by the central bank can stem inflation due to supply shortages only by restricting demand. This entails welfare loss as employment is thereby reduced. So, how are we to deal with the inflation of the type described above, which I suggest is typical of India today? It can only be tackled via an expansion of the supply shortfall through either imports or increased production. We would then have tackled inflation at source — that is, directly, not indirectly, by restricting aggregate demand, as under a policy of inflation targeting. As a defence of the latter is offered the idea that the central bank can influence inflation expectations by signalling its intent to lower inflation in the future. But why should agents buy this when they know that the bank cannot influence the food supply, which is the source of inflation? Their expectation of inflation is likely to remain high if they do not perceive in the offing a radical change in the supply position.

By suggesting via the Finance Bill now that inflation targeting becomes the sole objective of monetary policy in India, the Government of India has not just oversimplified the problem of inflation control, it has also shut out of the reckoning an assault on India’s weak agricultural supply-side. The importance of a strong supply position in combatting inflation can be seen from the history of the U.S. and the U.K. in the last four decades. Following the oil price hikes of the 1970s, these economies went into overdrive in reducing their dependence on imported oil, the price of which could be manipulated by a cartel such as OPEC. This was achieved through a combination of supply and demand-side measures. The U.K. was lucky in striking oil in the North Sea while the U.S. developed an alternative to crude oil from shale. What is less well known is that there has also been a concerted conservation drive, something that we have not seriously attempted as India’s politicians are reluctant to propose any form of belt-tightening.

Far from being an open-and-shut case then, the adoption of inflation targeting as the sole objective of the RBI is contestable in ways that have been indicated here. It also ignores a serious lesson from the recent global financial crisis, which is that an inflation-targeting central bank can lose control of the financial system. This, after all, was what had happened in the U.S. that had enjoyed a “great moderation” of inflation even as banks were generating toxic assets with the capacity of dragging the system down. It is not sufficiently recognised that at least some part of the present problem of non-performing assets in India is related to poor lending by the nationalised banking sector at a time when inflation was considered to be under control. If a central bank is to have responsibility for financial stability, and this was the original task assigned to it, its focus cannot be exclusively on inflation. In India the Financial Stability and Development Council has taken the task of financial regulation outside the RBI. This is unwise, as the interest rate mechanism can prove to be a double-edged sword. While it may curb inflation when raised, it may at the same time threaten financial stability by tipping indebted entities into insolvency. There is no case for monetary policy and financial regulation to be under the same authority.

Factor in the vested interests

But what about the vested interests that I started out talking about? They are present as follows. Inflation lowers the real value of fixed-income securities referred to as ‘bonds’. Bond holders thus face ‘inflation risk’. As the total value of these securities rises in an economy, a vested interest in keeping inflation low emerges. Wall Street in the U.S. is the archetype here. Its interests are not that of the American worker — that is, it only cares about the real value of the financial wealth it manages. It is also powerful, reflected by the revolving door between Wall Street and the U.S. Treasury, the equivalent of our Ministry of Finance. However, not even this has succeeded in turning the Federal Reserve into an inflation-targeting central bank. Its mandate includes “promoting maximum employment”. The Indian establishment, on the other hand, has shown itself to be amenable to cognitive capture.

Why the money multiplier remains so low

George Selgin’s latest monetary policy primer was a very good explanation of the money multiplier in fractional reserve banking systems. He also suggested that a number of factors may be affecting the current surprisingly low level of the multiplier; a fact that prompted a number of endogenous money theorists to (wrongly) assert that the multiplier was ‘dead’.

In this post, I wish to elaborate on the reasons behind the low multiplier. And those reasons are, in my view, related to banking mechanics and regulatory dynamics.

Let’s first start with a little bit of history to put things in perspective. Some time ago, and following one of my blog posts on the topic, Levi Russel from the Farmer Hayek blog – who is much better than I am at manipulating FRED data – kindly sent me the following chart representing the M2 multiplier (‘MM’) since 1920:

RBI Policy Review

To me the rate should remain same.

  1. Inflation is inching up(5.39% in April, the latest figure). This push the real rate at 1.1% for 6.5%. This warrants wait.
  2. According to the latest number the growth(though people can have issue with calculations) is robust. At 7.9%, India is fastest growing major economy. So better watch out rather then risk heating up.
  3. Oil Prices are also inching up, from the lows of $30 it is going to $50. So the risk of upside is higher now.
  4. From the present reviews, the liquidity is already there. Lowering the rate should rather be delayed.
  5. The latest data from US is not very encouraging in terms of job. So there is a good chance that FOMC will not be very inspired to raise the rate on 16 June.
  6. Only MET dept news on above normal is   encouraging, apart from that this blog believe that status quo should be mentained.

Independence of ECB

The cult of independence of Central Banker is not new. Central Banker over the world have worked hard for this independence. Whether FED or RBI we do hear how govt is trying to control the chairman/governor. The independence and the prominence attached to the person holding the chair is so overblown, that recently a report stating Dr Rajan refusing to continue for second term, has set panic among the Forex trader.

But asking more specific question-Independence from whom.

Government !!!!!!!!!!!!!

Peculiar case is of European Central Bank (ECB). It is not Central Banker to specific country. Not it get public support like its American or Indian counterparts can get. Yanis Varoufakis, former finance minister of Greece, present his analysis in Project-Syndicate. His analysis is colored by the events, he presided over as finance minister of Greece, but he does drives the point home that ECB  is vulnerable to creditors( read Germany). and there is so much ECB can do.

Prof. Eichengreen, points out that possibly Euro can never take the place of Dollar, because it is a currency without state. and too many committee are to be consulted for any decision.



Illusion of negative rates

Robert Sidelsky – Project Syndicate

LONDON – As a biographer and aficionado of John Maynard Keynes, I am sometimes asked: “What would Keynes think about negative interest rates?”

It’s a good question, one that recalls a passage in Keynes’s General Theory in which he notes that if the government can’t think of anything more sensible to do to cure unemployment (say, building houses), burying bottles filled with bank notes and digging them up again would be better than nothing. He probably would have said the same about negative interest rates: a desperate measure by governments that can think of nothing else to do.

Negative interest rates are simply the latest fruitless effort since the 2008 global financial crisis to revive economies by monetary measures. When cutting interest rates to historically low levels failed to revive growth, central banks took to so-called quantitative easing: injecting liquidity into economies by buying long-term government and other bonds. It did some good, but mostly the sellers sat on the cash instead of spending or investing it.

Enter negative interest-rate policy. The central banks of Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Japan, and the eurozone have all indulged. The US Federal Reserve and the Bank of England are being tempted.

“Negative interest rate” is a phrase seemingly designed to confuse all but the experts. Instead of paying interest on commercial banks’ “excess” reserves held by the central bank, the central bank taxes these deposits. The idea is to impel the banks to reduce their unspent balances and increase their lending or investments. In the case of the European Central Bank, there is a technical reason: to increase the supply of high-class bonds for President Mario Draghi’songoing program of quantitative easing.

The policy is supposed to work by aligning the market rate of interest with the expected rate of profit, an idea derived from the Swedish economist Knut Wicksell. The problem is that whereas until now it had been believed that nominal interest rates cannot fall below zero, an investor’s expected rate of return on a new investment may easily fall to zero or lower when aggregate demand is depressed.

Negative interest rates are the latest attempt to overcome the mismatch of incentives for lenders and borrowers. Making it more costly for commercial banks to park their money with the central bank should lower the cost of commercial loans. The calculation is that it will make more sense for a commercial bank to put money into circulation, whether by making loans or buying government and other securities, than to pay the central bank for holding that money.

But, as the World Bank has pointed out, negative rates can have undesirable effects. They can erode bank profitability by narrowing interest-rate margins. They can also encourage banks to take excessive risks, leading to asset bubbles. Lower interest rates on deposits may cause large sections of the economy to become cash-based, while pension and insurance companies may struggle to meet long-term liabilities at a fixed nominal rate.

But, quite apart from these problems, the real case against negative interest rates is the folly of relying on monetary policy alone to rescue economies from depressed conditions. Keynes put it in a nutshell: “If we are tempted to assert that money is the drink which stimulates the system into activity, we must remind ourselves that there may be several slips between the cup and the drink.” His list of “slips” is well worth recalling:

“For whilst an increase in the quantity of money may be expected…to reduce the rate of interest, this will not happen if the liquidity-preferences of the public are increasing more than the quantity of money; and whilst a decline in the rate of interest may be expected…to increase the volume of investment, this will not happen if [profit expectations] are falling faster than the rate of interest; and whilst an increase in the volume of investment may be expected…to increase employment, this may not happen if the propensity to consume is falling off.”

Quite so. Economists are now busy devising new feats of monetary wizardry for when the latest policy fails: taxing cash holdings, or even abolishing cash altogether; or, at the other extreme, showering the population with “helicopter drops” of freshly printed money.

The truth, however, is that the only way to ensure that “new money” is put into circulation is to have the government spend it. The government would borrow the money directly from the central bank and use it to build houses, renew transport systems, invest in energy-saving technologies, and so forth.

Sadly, any such monetary financing of public deficits is for the moment taboo. It is contrary to European Union regulations – and is opposed by all who regard post-crash governments’ fiscal difficulties as an opportunity to shrink the role of the state.

But if it is at all true that we are entering a period of “secular stagnation” and growing joblessness, as Larry Summers and others have argued, a larger investment role for the state is inescapable. Events following the crash of 2008 clearly show that monetary policy on its own cannot achieve a level of economic activity close to its potential. The state must be involved.

Whether the capital spending appears on the books of the central government or on the balance sheet of an independent investment bank (as I would prefer) is secondary. Negative interest rates are simply a distraction from a deeper analysis of what went wrong – and what continues to go wrong.