What did companies do with the money from the ECB?
Corporates used the attracted funds mostly to increase dividends, according to research by Karamfil Todorov.
Did QE ease financial conditions?
Yes. Karamfil Todorov found that the ECB’s Corporate Sector Purchase Programme (CSPP) “increased prices and liquidity of bonds eligible to be purchased substantially”1.
Can we trust central bank research on the effect of QE?
Central bank researchers face strong incentives to be positive on QE. Brian Fabo, Martina Jančoková, Elisabeth Kempf and Ľuboš Pástor found that “central bank papers report larger effects of QE on output and inﬂation. Central bankers are also more likely to report signiﬁcant effects of QE on output and to use more positive language in the abstract. Central bankers who report larger QE effects on output experience more favorable career outcomes.”
How can the European Central Bank (ECB) support a sustainable recovery? In a report for Positive Money Europe and Sustainable Finance Lab, Jens van ‘t Klooster and Rens van Tilburg propose that the ECB starts a Green TLTRO program.
Green TLTRO is a refinancing program for commercial banks. Banks can fund their green loans with longer term (several years) deposits from the European Central Bank (ECB). Green loans are bank loans that comply with the EU’s Green Taxonomy.
The figure below shows the balance sheet of a commercial bank with conventional (left) and green (right) TLTRO. Under TLTRO-III, the ECB funds 50% of a bank’s eligible assets. Under green TLTRO, the ECB funding is only available for green bank loans.
The interest rate on the Green TLTRO is determined by the volume of green bank loans. More green loans result in a lower interest rate on the funding from the ECB. With negative interest rates, banks have to pay back less to the ECB than they borrowed. This provides a strong incentive to banks to increase their lending to green projects, and to pass on the low rates to borrowers.
Is Green TLTRO a pie in the sky proposal? Only if you’re not keeping up with the times.
TLTROs are a well-established monetary policy tool. The ECB is currently doing TLTRO-III.
In a recent speech, ECB Executive Board Member Isabel Schnabel pointed out that climate change is a market failure. She said that collective action, including by the ECB, should correct this market failure and accelerate the transition towards a carbon-neutral economy.
Asked about the Green TLTRO report by MEP Bas Eickhout, ECB President Lagarde said that “climate change has to be part and parcel of our strategy review. Not because it is a secondary objective, but because of its impact on price stability, because of its significant impact on risk assessment and risk management. And the Green TLTRO, as you called it, is a matter that is of interest and that we will look at.”
What volume of green loans should the ECB target during the first 3 years? How low should the interest rate on Green TLTRO be? Should the eligible bank assets include loans to households for house purchases, a category that is currently exluded from TLTRO?
In a webinar on 12 October 2020, Jens van ‘t Klooster discusses the Green TLTRO proposal with Isabel Vansteenkiste (ECB) and Frederik Ducrozet (Pictet).
Update 2020/10/18: this is the video
Full disclosure: I have done consulting work for this report.
The German Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) made a decisionconcerning the ECB’s QE program1.
This article explains how the ECB can defend itself.
But I want to play devil’s advocate, and defend the German judges.
Despite buying thousands of billions of euros worth of bonds, the ECB has undershot its inflation target for years. The Court has a point that buying vast amounts of sovereign debt doesn’t seem proportional to this disappointing outcome.
Second, the Court could prohibit the Bundesbank from participating in QE. But buying German bonds was not needed for monetary policy anyway! It was a political decision to buy bonds proportional to the national capital key in the ECB.
Finally, the decision of the Court should force European politicians to fix this mess. Maybe the ECB should have a dual mandate like the Fed has, so inflation and employment carry the same weight in monetary policy decisions. Or they could change the structure of the Eurosystem. Do we still need 19 national central banks when we have the ECB? Sounds like a make-work scheme to me…
Italy is 135% of GDP. Spain and France are 100% of GDP, so three of the big Eurozone countries are not going to be able to do fiscal stimulus of 5, 7, 10% of GDP, which is basically what is going to be needed for this crisis. We’re going to need enormous amount of fiscal stimulus. Maybe Germany will do that. In the US, with this two trillion, they’re already at about 9% of GDP, and I expect that it will go up even more, for a number of reasons, but Italy cannot do anything close to that, or Spain cannot do anything close to that.
Every country should do whatever it takes to save its economy. Bail out businesses, pay unemployment benefits.
The expenditures can be funded by bonds. The ECB should keep the spreads low. That means buying whatever it takes.
Secondly, the ECB is once again neglecting its primary objective. Oil prices and unemployment point to low nominal aggregate demand. Without income support to households, it’s unclear how the ECB can achieve its inflation target.
This post was originally intended to be published elsewhere, but ultimately wasn’t. Note that this article is only about helicopter money. However, governments and central banks urgently need to do much more. The state should bail out all businesses. Businesses should hold on to their employees even if they cannot work so the economy can have a V-shaped recovery. The government should pay the workers. I also have other proposals for the ECB, see here and here.
I haven’t posted on the blog in a while, but I’m very active on Twitter.
Here’s my 3 point plan for the ECB:
(1) The ECB should issue bonds, which are risk free (the ECB cannot default on euro liabilities). It should buy every sovereign bond trading at a yield of 40 basis points or more above the yield on the ECB bonds.
(2) The ECB should set the interest rate on TLTROs at -5% until six months after the coronavirus public health crisis is over.
(3) The ECB should do helicopter money as soon as businesses are operational again, because the outlook for price stability is bleak.