European Central Bank, acting quickly, Cuts Rates 10 Basis Points. They are trying, and succeeding, in depreciating the Euro against the VERY strong Dollar, hurting U.S. exports.... And the Fed sits, and sits, and sits. They get paid to borrow money, while we are paying interest!
However, negative interest rates have not been shown to stimulate the economies that have tried them, and they would wreak havoc on the U.S. economy, for reasons unique to the U.S. dollar. The ECB has not gone to negative interest rates to gain an export advantage. It is to keep the European Union from falling apart, something that could happen if the United Kingdom does indeed pull out and Italy follows suit, as it has threatened to do. If what Trump wants is cheap borrowing rates for the U.S. federal government, there is a safer and easier way to get them.
The Real Reason the ECB Has Gone to Negative Interest Rates
Why the ECB has gone negative was nailed by Wolf Richter in a Sept. 18 article on WolfStreet.com. After noting that negative interest rates have not proved to be beneficial for any economy in which they are currently in operation and have had seriously destructive side effects for the people and the banks, he said:
"However, negative interest rates as follow-up and addition to massive QE were effective in keeping the Eurozone glued together because they allowed countries to stay afloat that cannot, but would need to, print their own money to stay afloat. They did so by making funding plentiful and nearly free, or free, or more than free.
"This includes Italian government debt, which has a negative yield through three-year maturities. ... The ECB's latest rate cut, minuscule and controversial as it was, was designed to help out Italy further so it wouldn't have to abandon the euro and break out of the Eurozone.
"The U.S. doesn't need negative interest rates to stay glued together. It can print its own money."
EU member governments have lost the sovereign power to issue their own money or borrow money issued by their own central banks. The EU experiment was a failed monetarist attempt to maintain a fixed money supply, as if the euro were a commodity in limited supply like gold. The central banks of member countries do not have the power to bail out their governments or their failing local banks as the Fed did for U.S. banks with massive quantitative easing after the 2008 financial crisis. Before the Eurozone debt crisis of 2011-12, even the European Central Bank was forbidden to buy sovereign debt.
The rules changed after Greece and other southern European countries got into serious trouble, sending bond yields (nominal interest rates) through the roof. But default or debt restructuring was not considered an option; and in 2016, new EU rules required a "bail in" before a government could bail out its failing banks. When a bank ran into trouble, existing stakeholders -- including shareholders, junior creditors and sometimes even senior creditors and depositors with deposits in excess of the guaranteed amount of €100,000 -- were required to take a loss before public funds could be used. Also included in Italy were subordinated bonds that were owned not just by well-off families and other banks but by small savers who in many cases were fraudulently mis-sold the bonds as being risk-free (basically as good as deposits). The Italian government got a taste of the potential backlash when it forced losses onto the bondholders of four small banks. One victim made headlines when he hung himself and left a note blaming his bank, which had taken his entire €100,000 savings.
Meanwhile, the bail-in scheme that was supposed to shift bank losses from governments to bank creditors and depositors served instead to scare off depositors and investors, making shaky banks even shakier. Worse, heightened capital requirements made it practically impossible for Italian banks to raise capital. Rather than flirt with another bail-in disaster, Italy was ready either to flaunt EU rules or leave the Union.
The ECB finally got on the quantitative easing bandwagon and started buying government debt along with other financial assets. By buying debt at negative interest, it is not only relieving EU governments of their interest burden, but it is also slowly extinguishing the debt itself.
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