Today the ECB has finally arrived as a truly “European” Central Bank. It has acted against political opposition to deliver what is by most measures an ambitious programme of quantitative easing. The programme exceeded the predictions of most market participants and analysts, and it lies at the edge of our optimistic predictions.
In short, Mario Draghi has finally delivered on his “Whatever it Takes” pledge. But suffice to say that this QE will not, by itself, be sufficient to deliver on the ECB’s own target. The ECB has finally, if belatedly, done its part. Now its time for the Eurozone to relax the fiscal constraint.
The programme is as open ended in terms of delivering on the ECB’s core target of inflation “close to but under 2%”, as it was politically possible for the ECB to be and promises action all the way into September 2016.
The ECB will announce broad outlines of a programme of Quantitative Easing today. The programme itself will focus on the ECB buying large quantities of financial assets, mostly Eurozone sovereign bonds, with freshly created money. The actual purchases will start in March and more details of the programme are likely to follow over the next few weeks.
What is the objective of this programme?
The stated objective of the programme is to increase Eurozone inflation from the dismally low level of 0.6% (in 2014) towards the ECB target of “close to but below 2%”. In December, inflation in the Eurozone actually turned negative at - 0.3% and longer-term market expectations of inflation have also been falling for several months now.
The ECB hopes that the QE will also have a direct impact on increasing investment and consumption in the Eurozone and thus help give a boost to growth. The combination of higher real growth as well as higher inflation, the ECB hopes, will also help improve the sustainability of debt in the troubled countries in the Eurozone.
The Eurozone is stuck in a dumbbell trap where economies are socially, economically & politically diverging clustering on either side of a dumbbell. The longer this divergence continues, the more likely that the European construction, the bar that holds them together may collapse under the weight of contrasting and conflicting needs & perspectives.
The spreads between Spanish and Italian bonds and German bonds are once again on their way up. Even as the borrowing costs for Spain and Italy come dangerously close to Euro area records, the German government is able to fund itself at all-time record low interest rates with significantly negative yields.