- 2018年02月02日13:29 来源：互联网
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German macroprudential reforms——Beware Teutonic caution
The Bundesbank should not exert its new clout toozealously
THE European Central Bank (ECB) decided a year ago to hold this week’s monetary-policymeeting in Barcelona, but the timing turned out to be perfect. Spain is in the crosshairs of themarkets, not least because of budgetary overruns by regional governments such as Catalonia’s.And the contrasting economic fortunes of beaten-up Spain, where the jobless rate has reached24%, and resilient Germany, where it is below 6%, exemplify the difficulty of finding the rightmonetary policy in a currency union of 17 members.
The ECB’s meeting on May 3rd (after The Economist went to press) was not expected tochange its monetary stance. Behind the scenes, however, there are acute tensions within its23-strong governing council, made up of six board members and the heads of the 17 nationalcentral banks. In particular Jens Weidmann, the president of the powerful GermanBundesbank, opposed the decision to cut interest rates to 1% in December, and frets aboutthe adequacy of the collateral against which the ECB has lent so much money to banks inrecent months.
Among other things Germany’s top central banker wants to avoid a home replay of the creditand property boom whose excesses have been so harmful in Spain. Loose monetary policymakes him nervous about the possibility of a property bubble in Germany. After a long periodwhen house prices fell and then stagnated, they have picked up in the past couple of years(see chart). Homebuilding orders are up by a fifth on a year ago.
Such anxiety looks premature: house-price rises represent a thawing in the propertypermafrost rather than a market on fire. But if Mr Weidmann is minded to take pre-emptiveaction, he will soon have the means to do so. At present the Bundesbank can preach aboutrisks to financial stability but it cannot impose counter-measures such as setting highercapital requirements for banks or putting constraints on specific types of lending such asmortgages. The authority for implementing these steps lies with BaFin, Germany’s banksupervisor (which is assisted on the ground by Bundesbank staff).
This will change under new proposals to set up a joint committee, which will haverepresentatives from the finance ministry and BaFin, but which will give the Bundesbank theleading role and enable it to push through binding directives. The legislation won’t come intoforce until next year, but since it is designed to strengthen his hand, Mr Weidmann wouldprobably be able to get his own way before then.
The reform is part of a general move to add “macroprudential” instruments to the toolkit ofcentral banks, allowing them to choke off credit excesses while monetary policy is set for theeconomy as a whole. If anything, Germany is treading less far down this path than some othercountries—in Britain, for example, the Bank of England will call the shots through a powerfulnew Financial Policy Committee, which has already started work. Such powers should beparticularly useful in the euro area, providing countries with a national lever to pull if their banksare getting too festive (though Spain’s pre-crisis policy of “dynamic provisioning”, designed toget local banks to set aside more provisions in the good times, cautions against investing toomuch hope in macroprudential tools).
But in the current climate there is also the danger that such regulations may be used in biggereconomies to grab back power from the ECB. By reducing credit availability national centralbanks can contravene the euro zone’s wider monetary stance. Speaking in New York in lateApril Mr Weidmann said that if monetary policy becomes too expansionary for his homecountry, “Germany has to deal with this using other, national instruments.” If Mr Weidmanndoes use his new powers overzealously that could dash one of the few remaining hopes for thehard-hit peripheral economies: a strong recovery in the euro area, led by Germany.