环球UG(www.ugbet.us):BoJ should stop meddling in financial markets

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Worrying issue: A file picture showing people offering prayer near the site where Abe was fatally shot in Nara. Although Kuroda contends that the yen’s problem is a strong dollar, this simply isn’t true. The trade-weighted currency has fallen sharply over the past couple of years. — AP

WHATEVER else killed George Washington, the draining of more than a third of his blood in less than half a day would probably have done him in anyway.

Well into the 19th century, bloodletting, as it was called, was the favoured treatment of doctors for pretty much everything for two reasons: First, it was based on a generally accepted (though woefully wrong) idea of how the human body worked. And second, no one really tracked treatments’ success or failure rates.

The reason for this historical medical stroll is that current central bankers, for all their impressive-looking equations and studies, have more in common with those long-ago doctors than they would like to think. When bloodletting didn’t work, the remedy was often more bloodletting.

To the modern central banker, the answer to just about everything that has gone wrong in the past couple of decades was looser monetary policy, by which they meant ever lower short and long-term rates. But their theories, it turns out, have often rested upon shaky foundations and, in some cases, the evidence strongly suggests that rather than stimulating economic growth and inflation, their activities have done exactly the opposite.

Nowhere is this more true than in Japan, despite the reassuringly avuncular certitude of Haruhiko Kuroda, the governor of the Bank of Japan (BoJ).

The BoJ stood pat again this week, though this was not a surprise: It hasn’t changed policy for years.

Kuroda got his job in 2013 as the archer of Shinzo Abe’s third arrow: ultra-loose monetary policy.

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Not wanting to send short rates too negative, the BoJ started buying Japanese government bonds in 2013 and formalised this in 2016 with a policy of yield-curve control whereby it wouldn’t let 10-year yields rise above a set level, currently about 0.25%.

It now owns more than half of all publicly issued government bonds.

Under Kuroda, the BoJ also started buying stocks.

It now owns about US$430bil (RM1.9 trillion) of Japanese equities. Its balance sheet is now the equivalent of 135% of gross domestic product.

No other top central bank has a balance sheet remotely this size compared with its economy.

Though I suspect that Abe’s assassination will have, if anything, increased the BoJ’s desire not to waver, there is no evidence that this frenetic activity has had the desired effect of stimulating activity and inflation.

The recent pick-up in Japanese inflation has been imported entirely.

Domestically, the evidence suggests that the BoJ’s activities are making matters worse, not better.

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