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Antonio Moreno, Professor of Economics at the University of Navarra School

Rates at 0.25%: it was about time

Fri, 08 Nov 2013 09:31:00 +0000 Published in Hoy de Extremadura, Ideal de Granada, Ideal de Jaén, La Rioja, La Verdad de Cartagena, Las Provincias and Sur and Diario de Navarra.

The European Central Bank (ECB) is located in Frankfurt. This fact is not accidental, but essential to understand the monetary policy that the ECB has implemented so far. Germany rules Europe and the interest rates we have had so far - too low until the crisis and too high during the crisis - have reflected its monetary needs. Rates fell yesterday to 0.25%, their lowest historical level, a level already reached in the United States 5 years ago and in England 4 and a half years ago. It is true that the monetary policy of the area euro is more complicated than that of the reservation Federal or the Bank of England. Economic cycles are simply not synchronized among the different Eurozone countries and, faced with not infrequent dilemmas, the ECB has historically taken the middle road: Germany. Until yesterday, when the stars came together: weak - very weak - European recovery and widespread deflationary prospects.

In the face of so much truncated expectation in the past, this reduction has taken the markets by surprise, which may give an extra dose of effectiveness to the measure, as well as a gain in competitiveness -perhaps sought-, via the depreciation of the euro. But make no mistake: this is not a panacea. Neither is it possible to grow indefinitely by lowering the price of money, nor is this the whole story at all. We have already seen that rates have been low for quite some time on the area euro and yet the credit has not flowed from banks to companies and entrepreneurs, especially in our country. Moreover, the effects of an expansionary monetary policy in conjunction with misguided macro-prudential policies, such as excessively high capital requirements for recessionary times, can cancel each other out. It seems clear that the most hopeful monetary environment for European society as a whole is the right combination of monetary and macro-prudential policy. A combination that provides countries with the flexibility to be able to complement the unity of rates with the diversity of economic cycles by country. In such a scenario, banks should have no more excuses for not lending.