Where's that meaningless rhetoric from central banks when you need it?

08/26/2013 7:48 pm EST


Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor, JubakPicks.com

At this past weekend’s Jackson Hole central bank gabfest, it looked like global central bankers were aiming for “a Draghi” in order to defuse the current emerging market currency crisis at a cost of nothing more expensive than words.

A harsh response from the U.S. Federal Reserve, however, killed that hope, leaving national central banks with the hard and expensive work of defending their currencies by spending foreign exchange reserves and raising interest rates.

Last summer European Central Bank president Marie Draghi promised to do “whatever it takes” to defend the euro. So convincing did bond markets find that promise that Draghi and the European Central Bank never had to actually do anything. Interest rates in Italy and Spain fell just on his words.

This past weekend began with Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda asserting that his bank’s asset buying would help sustain global growth even as the Federal Reserve considers tapering off its purchases of Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities. Bank of England Deputy Governor Charlie Bean seemed on the same page when he said that his bank’s pledge to keep rates on hold until unemployment reaches 7% should also boost market confidence. Mexico’s Agustin Carstens called on the Fed to spell out their intentions better in the interest of safeguarding global growth.

For a moment, it looked like the conference could produce one of those confidence-building promises to support emerging and global markets

And then the Fed pushed back. “You have to remember that we are a legal creature of Congress and that we only have a mandate to concern ourselves with the interest of the United States,” Atlanta Fed president Dennis Lockhart told Bloomberg. James Bullard, president of the St. Louis Fed, said in an interview, “We’re not going to make policy based on emerging-market volatility alone.”  “Other countries simply have to take that as a reality and adjust to us if that’s something important for their economies,” Lockhart continued.

And the rhetoric from the Fed got even harsher. “They were complaining about us easing too much,” Bullard said. “Now when we start to talk about taper they’re complaining about too tight of a policy. They have an independent monetary policy and they have to use that to manage” their own economies

That’s a long way from “whatever it takes.”


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