Monetary policy challenges ahead

26 June 2011

Turning to monetary policy, the challenges are intensifying even as central banks extend the already prolonged period of accommodation. The persistence of very low interest rates in major advanced economies delays the necessary balance sheet adjustments of households and financial institutions. And it is magnifying the risk that the distortions that arose ahead of the crisis will return. If we are to build a stable future, our attempts to cushion the blow from the last crisis must not sow the seeds of the next one.

Overall, inflation risks have been driven up by the combination of dwindling economic slack and increases in the prices of food, energy and other commodities. The spread of inflation dangers from major emerging market economies to the advanced economies bolsters the conclusion that policy rates should rise globally. At the same time, some countries must weigh the need to tighten with vulnerabilities linked to still-distorted balance sheets and lingering financial sector fragility. But once central banks start lifting rates, they may need to do so more quickly than in past tightening episodes.

With the end of unconventional policy actions in sight, central banks face the risks associated with the resulting large size and complexity of their own balance sheets. Failure to manage those risks could weaken their hard-won credibility in delivering low inflation, as could a late move to tighten policy through conventional channels.