BoJ sets inflation target while ECB holds steady

The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein and Neil Irwin of WonkBlog discuss central banking policy after the financial crisis and the opposing views about its role in the state of the economy. (The Washington Post)

The Bank of Japan’s new governor is beginning a major initiative to raise prices this week with the goal of encouraging immediate borrowing and spending. As the Associated Press reports:

The Bank of Japan’s action will also drive down the value of the yen. A cheaper currency will make Japanese goods — from Toyota cars to Sony TVs — less costly for Americans and other foreigners. And it will make U.S. and other exports more expensive in Japan. . .

Japan’s economy has been sputtering for two decades. Last year, weak consumer spending kept prices flat. The Bank of Japan hopes to increase inflation to 2 percent within about two years. Economists say Japanese consumers will start spending if they know prices are going rise.

The European Central Bank, meanwhile, is not taking new action for now, though it is considering its options, according to the Associated Press:

ECB President Mario Draghi said Thursday the bank was considering a range of actions to boost lending to companies and reinvigorate the ailing euro area economy, which has been in recession for a little over a year. . .

Draghi didn’t say what the ECB is considering to kick-start the economy of the 17 European Union countries that use the euro. Analysts say, however, the bank is mostly likely looking at ways to encourage lending to midsize companies so they can expand and hire.

The decisions of the world’s most powerful financial bureaucrats at central banks have been carefully watched during the financial crisis of the past several years. In his new book, The Post’s Neil Irwin describes how three central bankers worked to responded to a crash on the U.S. stock market:

What happened over three days and four nights in May 2010 is essential to understanding the economic predicament in which the world still finds itself. In that moment, the major Western central banks — and their leaders, Ben S. Bernanke of the U.S. Federal Reserve, Mervyn King of the Bank of England, and Trichet of the ECB — made a series of decisions that created the world economy we inhabit today, and likely far into the future.

King has since been replaced by Mark Carney, who came to the Bank of England from the Bank of Canada. Read a profile of Carney here. Meanwhile, Bernanke’s term ends in less than a year, and Irwin speculates at Wonkblog about who might replace him. One possibility is Stanley Fischer, who could take over the Federal Reserve from his post as governor at the Bank of Israel. Read a profile of Fischer here.

Max Ehrenfreund is a blogger on the Financial desk and writes for Know More and Wonkblog.
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