Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Central Banks, the ECB, and Bernanke


AEP: The ECB's governors might usefully study Systematic Monetary Policy and the Effects of Oil Price Shocks, a seminal work in 1997 by a Professor Ben Bernanke of Princeton. The reason why such shocks often lead to slumps is because policymakers make a hash of it. "The majority of the impact of an oil price shock on the real economy is attributable to the central bank's response, not the inflationary pressures engendered by the shock," wrote Bernanke.

One more reason to fear the US Dollar, even more than the Euro perhaps. For all those who fear / feared deflation, rest at ease. Bernanke was never going to let you down, and statements such as this one attributed to him offer near certainty as to Bernanke's future actions, at least until official measures of price inflation are overwhelmingly significant (high single-digits, low double-digits maybe?).

Monetary inflation is ignored. Price inflation is usually measured via some form of CPI, and this is very likely understated and certainly manipulated. As long as the understated CPI remains benign, Bernanke will keep his foot on the accelerator. And when inflation rears its ugly head via higher commodity prices, Bernanke will ignore these signals as "shocks" as opposed to plateaus. He said so, all the way back in 1997.

However, even Bernanke will have some concern about his legacy, and he will not want to go down as the first (I believe) central banker of a modern Western economy to destroy a currency absent being on the losing end of a devastating war. But he is flying blind (as every central planner must), and he will be too late (as every politician must be), and he has already warned us that he will ignore the signs that would otherwise be significant.

Eventually, deflation may show up in prices of assets that most benefit from artificial credit expansion...maybe. Beyond this, don't worry. Bernanke is on the job.

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