Central banks (CBs) have long issued paper currency. The development of Bitcoin and other private digital currencies has provided them with the technological means to issue their own digital currency. But should they?
Addressing this question is part of the Bank’s Research Agenda. In this post I sketch out how a CB digital currency – call it CBcoin – might affect the monetary and banking systems – setting aside other important and complex systemic implications that range from prudential regulation and financial stability to technology, operational and financial conduct.
I argue that taken to its most extreme conclusion, CBcoin issuance could have far-reaching consequences for commercial and central banking – divorcing payments from private bank deposits and even putting an end to banks’ ability to create money. By redefining the architecture of payment systems, CBcoin could thus challenge fractional reserve banking and reshape the conduct of monetary policy.
Do exchange rate regimes matter for the formation of countries’ external imbalances? Economists have thought so for over sixty years, and policymakers have made countless recommendations based on that presumption. But this had not been tested empirically until very recently, so it remained an opinion rather than a fact. In this post I show that having a flexible exchange rate regime leads to the correction of external imbalances in developing countries, offering some empirical support to a widely held belief. In contrast, this does not seem to be the case for advanced economies.
David Elliott and Menno Middeldorp.
Sterling could be falling out of favour when companies choose which currency to borrow when issuing bonds. Annual gross sterling issuance has almost halved since 2012, and sterling’s share of global issuance in 2015 was the lowest on record. According to those active in the sterling corporate bond market, some of the reasons for this decline are structural. These include changes in the investor base, annuities reform, and competition from the euro corporate bond market. These changes to the demand for sterling corporate bonds imply higher costs of bond issuance. Firms with limited access to foreign currency bond markets, such as small UK-focussed firms, or those with a lower credit rating, may face higher borrowing costs as a result.
Despite the fact that the US dollar and the euro are the most traded currencies in terms of shares of average daily turnover (2013, BIS), my analysis suggests that foreign exchange rate (FX) market trends are usually driven by other currencies. Most notably, ‘commodity’ currencies (such as the Australian dollar and Mexican peso) and ‘carry-trade’ currencies (such as the Swiss franc and Japanese yen) tend to be the main drivers. In contrast, sterling typically does not often drive currency movements – FX strategists often consider that it is rare for sterling to be ‘the story’ amongst the speculative community in the FX market. But this is not always the case. This blog post zooms in on a selection of sub-periods to show when particular currencies, including sterling, became ‘focal’.
Fernando Eguren-Martin and Karen Mayhew.
Many would say that when domestic interest rates rise (relative to abroad) the domestic currency will appreciate. But is it right to think like this? In this blog we use exchange rate theory to inform this discussion and to assess the importance of relative interest rates in accounting for past exchange rate moves. We find that relative interest rates typically move in the same direction as exchange rates but most of the time they account for a small share of exchange rate variation. However, academics might question our use of such a theory as its failure to forecast exchange rates is well documented. We show that this is somewhat unfair, as even if the framework is not very useful in terms of forecasting it is still a useful tool for decomposing past moves in exchange rates.
Gino Cenedese, Richard Payne, Lucio Sarno and Giorgio Valente.
Various theories suggest that exchange rate fluctuations and stock returns are linked. We find little evidence of a relation between the two. Thus, a simple trading strategy that invests in countries with the highest expected equity returns and shorts those with the lowest generates substantial risk-adjusted returns. This strategy is akin to a carry trade strategy executed using stocks rather than money market instruments, but is uncorrelated with the conventional carry trade strategy. The returns can only be partly explained as compensation for risk.
David Bholat, Jonathan Grant and Ryland Thomas.
The economist John Kenneth Galbraith once quipped that the answers economists give to the question “what is money?” are usually incoherent. So in this blog we turn to law for some answers. Debate about the nature of money has been renewed by recent financial crises and the rise of digital currencies (Ali et al 2014; Desan 2014; Ryan-Collins et al 2014; Martin 2013). This was the focus of a panel session at the Bank’s recent annual conference on Monetary and Financial Law, which brought together lawyers and economists to develop interdisciplinary perspectives on topics such as money. It prompted us to think more deeply about how law does and does not constitute ‘it.’