By Mike Dolan
LONDON, Oct 2 (Reuters) – Central banks may not be out of ammunition just yet but parts of their strategic policy rethinks related to inequality and fairness raise questions about the extent they should use it.
Ever since the last financial crisis 12 years ago, investors have fretted about a moment when central banks – having floored borrowing rates to zero or below and ballooned their balance sheets – would simply run out of ways to support increasingly indebted economies and panic-prone markets.
The massive monetary response to this year’s pandemic shock to date showed there’s plenty still in the armoury. Policymakers insist they have more firepower if needed and both the Federal Reserve and European Central Bank are now loosening long-term inflation or employment goals as additional policy guidance.
But with borrowing rates already so low, and with a reluctance to go deeply negative for fear of undermining banking systems, ever-more purchases of government bonds and other assets is the only practical tool left to meet the rising list of increasingly more vague goals in any fresh downturn.
While that’s still useful to cap interest bills on exploding government debt or to support credit markets, it also risks exaggerating wealth inequality – something economists partly blame for putting central banks in this cul-de-sac to start off with.
The emphasis last month in the Fed’s strategic policy review on monitoring inequality in its pursuit of an enhanced full employment goal is getting more attention as a result.
Bastien Drut, strategist at Amundi-owned CPR Asset Management, argues that working to reduce inequality aims to give the Fed more policy room over time by helping re-establish better relationships between employment, wages and inflation.
“One of the problems posed by rising inequalities is that it contributes to the fall