Thursday, December 04, 2008
Now's not the time to be timid if you're a central banker or an elected official. Day after day they watch a once vibrant world economy sink deeper into an abyss caused by a massive credit contraction following the collapse of multiple asset bubbles.
Central banks all around the world were busy today slashing interest rates with abandon:
- Bank of England -------------- cut 100 basis points to 2.0 percent
- European Central Bank -- cut 75 basis points to 2.5 percent
- Sweden's Riksbank ---------- cut 175 basis points to 2.0 percent
- Bank of New Zealand ------- cut 150 basis points to 5.0 percent
- Bank of Indonesia ------------ cut 25 basis points to 9.25 percent
Tumbling home prices and a rapidly weakening economy have created a near state of panic in the U.K. that makes the situation in the U.S. somehow look tame by comparison. Short term rates have fallen by 300 basis points in less than two months and they now sit at their lowest level since 1951.
On the continent, the fifteen countries that use the euro got their biggest interest rate cut in the common currency's 10-year history as the central bank attempts to mop up after collapsing housing bubbles in Spain and Ireland while also dealing with major economic slowdowns in Germany and Italy. The French just announced a $33 billion stimulus package.
Herding cats has never been more difficult.
The Swedish central bank couldn't wait for their regularly scheduled mid-December meeting and hastily made their biggest rate cut in 16 years in an attempt to combat a recession that officially began two months ago. The government also announced a $4 billion stimulus plan.
In New Zealand, rates were slashed by a record 1.5 percentage points and Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard indicated there are more, smaller cuts to come. The kiwis entered a recession back in the first quarter of the year and short-term rates have been slashed from 8.25 percent over the summer to just 5.0 percent.
In Indonesia, both interest rates and inflation (~12%) are still quite high and the central bank has received some criticism for making its first rate cut in over a year. They were no doubt influenced by the full-point rate cut in Thailand a few days ago.
The day is still young - there may be more rate cuts to come.