02 June 2009

German Chancellor Strenuously Objects to Central Bank Monetization

This is important in its own right, but even moreso because it suggests that some rumours that have been going around the trading desks over the past two weeks might be true.

We will keep you informed as things progress.

Financial Times
Merkel mauls central banks

By Bertrand Benoit in Berlin and Ralph Atkins in Frankfurt
June 2 2009 17:25

Unconventional monetary policies being pursued by the world’s main central banks could aggravate rather than ease the economic crisis, Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, suggested on Tuesday.

Her surprisingly strong attack on the US Federal Reserve, the Bank of England and the European Central Bank was remarkable coming from a leader who had so far scrupulously adhered to her country’s tradition of never commenting on monetary policy.

What other central banks have been doing must be reversed. I am very sceptical about the extent of the Fed’s actions and the way the Bank of England has carved its own little line in Europe,” she told a conference in Berlin.

“Even the European Central Bank has somewhat bowed to international pressure with its purchase of covered bonds.”

She added: “We must return to independent and sensible monetary policies, otherwise we will be back to where we are now in 10 years’ time.”

Ms Merkel’s decision to ignore one of the cardinal rules of German politics – an unwritten ban on commenting on monetary policy out of respect for central bank independence – suggested Berlin is far more concerned about the ECB’s approach than has so far been apparent.

Meanwhile, Berlin is anxious that central banks will struggle to re-absorb the vast amount of liquidity they are pouring into the markets and fears the long-term inflationary potential of hyper-loose monetary policies.

The ECB’s efforts have been focused on pumping unlimited liquidity into the eurozone banking system for increasingly long periods. But last month, it followed the US Federal Reserve and Bank of England in announcing an an asset purchase programme to help a return to more normal market conditions.

The ECB announced it had agreed in principle to buy €60bn in “covered bonds”, which are issued by banks and backed by public-sector loans or mortgages. The purchases were only agreed after extensive discussions within the 22-strong ECB governing council. According to one version of May’s meeting, the council had discussed a €125bn asset purchase programme that would also have included other private sector assets, but only the purchase of covered bonds was agreed....