The Reserve Bank of Australia ‘Answers’ Our Questions

Speaking of central bankers losing control, we promised to let you know how the Reserve Bank of Australia responded to the questions I sent them regarding their handling of monetary policy. Specifically, I wanted to know how they juggled their mandates of fostering economic growth and maintaining financial stability.

I didn’t expect much in the way of a response, or for them to acknowledge my concerns at all. And they didn’t disappoint. What I got was a bit of cut and pasting from past speeches…speeches full of words and faux meaning, but nothing much of substance. Central banking 101.

You may be interested in the Governor of the Reserve Bank’s December 2012 speech, Challenges for Central Banking.  This speech provides an insight into the Bank’s views on balancing its monetary policy objectives and financial stability. For example, in this speech the Governor said:

Broader financial stability considerations have to be given due weight in monetary policy decisions. This is becoming fairly widely accepted. The challenge for central banks, though, is to incorporate into our frameworks all we have learned from the recent experience about financial stability, but without throwing away all that is good about those frameworks. We learned a lot about the importance of price stability, and how to achieve it, through the 1970s, 80s and 90s. We learned too about the importance of institutional design. We shouldn’t discard those lessons in our desire to do more to assure financial stability. We shouldn’t make the error of ignoring older lessons in the desire to heed new ones.

Rather, we have to keep both sets of objectives in mind. We will have to accept the occasional need to make a judgement about short-term trade-offs, but that is the nature of policymaking. And in any event, over the long run price stability and financial stability surely cannot be in conflict. To the extent that they have not managed to coexist properly within the frameworks in use, that has been, in my judgement, in no small measure because the policy time horizon was too short, and perhaps also because people became too ambitious about fine-tuning.

A whole bunch of words there. Do you have any idea what’s he’s trying to say? But wait, more confusion ahead.

In the context of the current economic environment, the Governor’s March 2014 Opening Statement to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics provides a summary of the way in which the Bank acts to balance the objectives of growth, employment and financial stability. In this statement the Governor said of the Bank’s monetary policy:

On the whole, then, accommodative monetary policy is playing its part in supporting sustainable growth in demand, consistent with the inflation target.

Of course, the outlook contains many uncertainties, not least the ‘hand over’ from mining investment spending to sources of demand outside mining. In some important respects, the basis for such a handover is coming into place, as I have just described. The question then is: will the additional demand likely to be generated outside mining as a result of these trends be just the right amount to offset the large decline in mining investment spending, so keeping the economy near full employment?

No-one can answer that question with great confidence. Moreover, even if it were possible for forecasts to be much more accurate than experience could possibly lead us to hope, it could not be assumed that a shortfall in demand could necessarily be made good in short order by monetary policy. Monetary policy can have a powerful effect on the general environment, but it cannot hope to fine-tune the quarterly or even annual path of aggregate demand.

At the present time we judge monetary policy to be doing the things it can reasonably be expected to do in the circumstances we face. We have signalled the likelihood, if the economy evolves more or less as expected, of a period of stability in the cash rate. As well as the low level of interest rates generally, a sense of stability should be of some help for businesses and households as they form their plans.

In other words, no one really knows anything (that’s actually true; see my initial comments) but we’ll have a crack and lower interest rates anyway.

The upshot of all this is that central bankers are all academic morons fixated on models that don’t work. They (naturally) rely on the only tool in the box — interest rates — and because it works in the short term they turn to it again and again…not understanding it’s the very tool that causes long term structural problems, societal tension and inequality.

Is gold finally sniffing out these problems, and thinking they’ll get much worse in the years ahead?


Greg Canavan
for Markets and Money

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Greg Canavan is a Contributing Editor at Markets & Money and Head of Research at Port Phillip Publishing. He advocates a counter-intuitive investment philosophy based on the old adage that ‘ignorance is bliss’. Greg says that investing in the ‘Information Age’ means you now have all the information you need. But is it really useful? Much of it is noise, and serves to confuse rather than inform investors. And, through the process of confirmation bias, you tend to sift the information that you agree with. As a result, you reinforce your biases. This gives you the impression that you know what is going on. But really, you don’t know. No one does. The world is far too complex to understand. When you accept this, your newfound ignorance becomes a formidable investment weapon. That’s because you’re not a slave to your emotions and biases. Greg puts this philosophy into action as the Editor of Crisis & Opportunity. He sees opportunities in crises. To find the opportunities, he uses a process called the ‘Fusion Method’, which combines charting analysis with more conventional valuation analysis. Charting is important because it contains no opinions or emotions. Combine that with traditional stock analysis, and you have a robust stock selection strategy. With Greg’s help, you can implement a long-term wealth-building strategy into your financial planning, be better prepared for the financial challenges ahead, and stop making the same mistakes that most private investors do every time they buy a stock. To find out more about Greg’s investing style and his financial worldview, take out a free subscription to Markets & Money here. And to discover more about Greg’s ‘ignorance is bliss’ investment strategy and the Fusion Method of investing, take out a 30-day trial to his value investing service Crisis & Opportunity here. Official websites and financial e-letters Greg writes for:

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