Thursday, March 05, 2009

UK: BoE Cuts Rate to 0.5%, Begins Quantitative Easing

by Calculated Risk on 3/05/2009 01:31:00 PM

From The Times: Bank to 'print' £75bn of new money as it cuts rate

The Bank of England ... confirmed it is beginning a strategy of so-called “quantitative easing”.
The MPC ordered another half-point cut in base rate from an existing 1 per cent that was already the lowest in the Bank’s 314-year history to a new all-time low of 0.5 per cent.
The MPC’s decision to press on rapidly with QE, signalled a fortnight ago in minutes of its last meeting, means that it will now begin buying from commercial banks a range of corporate bonds (businesses’ IOUs) and Treasury gilt-edged stock or “gilts” (Government IOUs).
With quantitative easing, the Fed (or the BoE in this case) prints money to buy treasuries (gilts) or other assets. The goal is to expand the monetary base.

But as Krugman noted last year, the results might be disappointing: The humbling of the Fed (wonkish).
[T]he Bank of Japan tried that, under the name “quantitative easing;” basically, the money just piled up in bank vaults. To see why, think of it this way: once T-bills have a near-zero interest rate, cash becomes a competitive store of value, even if it doesn’t have any other advantages. As a result, monetary base and T-bills — the two sides of the Fed’s balance sheet — become perfect substitutes. In that case, if the Fed expands its balance sheet, it’s basically taking away with one hand what it’s giving with the other: more monetary base is out there, but less short-term debt, and since these things are perfect substitutes, there’s no market impact. That’s why the liquidity trap makes conventional monetary policy impotent.
Note: Krugman's comments apply when the T-bill (or other assets) have a near-zero rate. So it depends on what assets the BoE buys.