Montagu Norman: The View from St Clere

Barry Eichengreen

Last May, the Bank organised an economic history workshop at the St Clere Estate, home of former governor Montagu Norman. In this guest post, one of the speakers, Barry Eichengreen from the University of California Berkeley, looks back at Montagu Norman’s time as governor.

Montagu Norman’s aura is palpable at St. Clere. It is said that Norman spent many of his weekends and holidays at his estate in Kent, overseeing improvements and admiring the vistas. His legacy is, if anything, even more prominent at the Bank of England. Norman supervised the design of the present Bank building. His portrait, along with those of the other members of his Court, was displayed on the first-floor landing in the Bank’s main atrium; he is only a handful of governors so honored. The Bank’s recent St. Clere workshop thus provided an opportunity to ponder some of the enduring themes and legacies of Norman’s quarter-century as governor.

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Could knowledge about Central banks impact households’ expectations?

Emma Rockall

Should central banks care if people understand them? Whereas once Alan Greenspan famously declared: “If I seem unduly clear to you, you must have misunderstood what I said”, central bankers now dedicate considerable time and thought to transparency and communications. While transparency initiatives have value in their own right in improving accountability, results from the Bank’s Inflation Attitudes Survey suggest that they could have potentially far-reaching effects on the economy through their impact on households’ expectations. If they improve households’ knowledge of central banks, they may produce inflation expectations that are more stable and closer to the inflation target in the medium term – that is, ‘better-anchored’ expectations.

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Opposing change? The price impact of removing the penny

Marilena Angeli and Jack Meaning

Would removing the 1p and 2p coins from circulation cause inflation? Or deflation? Or neither? Our analysis, and the overwhelming weight of literature and experience, suggests it would have no significant impact on prices because price rounding would be applied at the total bill level, not on individual items and it would only affect cash transactions, which make up a low proportion of spending by value. Even if individual prices were rounded on all payments, analysis of UK price data suggests no economically significant impact on inflation.

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Tight labour markets and self-service beer: is the productivity slowdown about to reverse?

Will Holman and Tim Pike

Firms are increasingly investing in automation, substituting capital for labour, as workers become more scarce and costly. We are seeing multiple examples, from automation in food processing to increasingly-common self-service tills. This push for productivity growth is one of the key themes from our meetings with businesses in the past year, which we think suggests a reversal of a decade-long trend.

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Would a Central Bank Digital Currency disrupt monetary policy?

Ben Dyson and Jack Meaning

A “Central Bank Digital Currency” (CBDC) may sound like it’s from the future, but it’s something that many central banks are researching today, including those in Sweden, Canada, Denmark, China, and the European Central Bank and Bank of International Settlements (BIS). In a new working paper, we set aside questions about the technological, regulatory and legal aspects of central bank digital currency, and instead explore the underlying economics. Could the existence of a CBDC make it easier or harder for central banks to guide the economy through monetary policy? And could the existence of CBDC make the monetary transmission mechanism (MTM) faster or slower, stronger or weaker?

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What can regional data tell us about the UK Phillips Curve?

Alex Tuckett

The Phillips Curve (PC) is an old concept in economics, but it is a durable one. The simple idea behind the PC is that the lower the rate of unemployment, the faster wages will grow. If the PC has changed over time, that can have important implications for monetary policymakers. Analysis of regional UK data suggests that the PC has shifted down over time, but has not necessarily become flatter. Higher levels of educational attainment are likely to have contributed to this shift.

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What did the CBPS do to corporate bond yields?

Calebe de Roure, Ben Morley and Lena Boneva

In August 2016 the MPC announced a package of easing measures, including the Corporate Bond Purchase Scheme (CBPS). In a recent staff working paper, we explore the announcement impact of the CBPS, using the so called “difference in differences” (or “DID”) approach. Overall – to deliver the punchline to eager readers – this analytical technique suggests that the announcement caused spreads on CBPS eligible bonds to tighten by 13bps, compared with comparable euro or dollar denominated bonds (Charts 1b, 2). Continue reading “What did the CBPS do to corporate bond yields?”

How does monetary policy affect the distribution of income and wealth?

Philip Bunn, Alice Pugh and Chris Yeates

Following the onset of the financial crisis, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) cut interest rates to historically low levels and launched a programme of quantitative easing (QE) to support the UK economy. How did this exceptional period of monetary policy affect different households in the UK? Did it increase or decrease inequality?  Although existing differences in income and wealth means that the impact in cash terms varied substantially between households, in a recent staff working paper we find that monetary policy had very little impact on relative measures of inequality. Compared to what would have otherwise happened, younger households are estimated to have benefited most from higher income in cash terms, while older households gained more from higher wealth.

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Monetary policy spillovers in the first age of financial globalisation: ripple or a riptide?

Georgina Green

In the first age of financial globalisation, from around 1880 to 1913, many countries tied their currencies to the mast of gold. The Bank of England’s unparalleled influence over this period is depicted by the Lady of the Bank, seated on the globe with a shower of gold coins to one side, which is carved into the Bank’s pediment. There was an old saying in the City that the Bank’s rate could draw gold from the moon. But could it?

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Can central bankers become Superforecasters?

Aakash Mankodi and Tim Pike

Tetlock and Gardner’s acclaimed work on Superforecasting provides a compelling case for seeing forecasting as a skill that can be improved, and one that is related to the behavioural traits of the forecaster. These so-called Superforecasters have in recent years been pitted against experts ranging from U.S intelligence analysts to participants in the World Economic Forum, and have performed on par or better by accurately predicting the outcomes of a broad range of questions. Sounds like music to a central banker’s ears? In this post, we examine the traits of these individuals, compare them with economic forecasting and draw some related lessons. We conclude that considering the principles and applications of Superforecasting can enhance the work of central bank forecasting.

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