Economie européenne

9 novembre 2011

De l’inefficacité des interventions de la BCE sur les marchés obligataires

Une analyse assez percutante de l’inefficacité des interventions de la BCE sur le marché des dettes souveraines …

European summits in ivory towers
Paul De Grauwe © voxEU.org – 26 October 2011

[…]

Imagine an army going to war. It has overwhelming firepower. The generals, however, announce that they actually hate the whole thing and that they will limit the shooting as much as possible. Some of the generals are so upset by the prospect of going to war that they resign from the army. The remaining generals then tell the enemy that the shooting will only be temporary, and that the army will go home as soon as possible. What is the likely outcome of this war? You guessed it. Utter defeat by the enemy.

The ECB has been behaving like the generals. When it announced its programme of government bond buying it made it known to the financial markets (the enemy) that it thoroughly dislikes it and that it will discontinue it as soon as possible. Some members of the Governing Council of the ECB resigned in disgust at the prospect of having to buy bad bonds. Like the army, the ECB has overwhelming (in fact unlimited) firepower but it made it clear that it is not prepared to use the full strength of its money-creating capacity. What is the likely outcome of such a programme? You guessed it. Defeat by the financial markets.

[…]

Why has the ECB not been willing to use this obvious and cheaper strategy?

Part of the answer has to do with the objections that have been raised against the idea that the central bank should be a lender of last resort in the government bond markets of a monetary union. Some are serious (moral hazard); others are phony (inflation risk). I discussed these in De Grauwe (2011) (see also Wyplosz 2011). My impression, however, is that these objections hide another more fundamental reason. The people sitting around the table in Frankfurt continue to believe that financial stability is not part of their core business, and, to use the words of Trichet, that there is only one needle on the Frankfurt compass and that is inflation. As long as this view prevails the ECB will be reluctant to do the obvious.

The result of this failure of the ECB to be a lender of last resort has been that a surrogate institution, the EFSF/ESM, had to be created that everybody knows will be ineffective. It has insufficient firepower and has an unworkable governance structure where each country keeps its veto power. In times of crisis it will be paralysed. As markets know this, its credibility will be weak.

[…]

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