Major central banks—specifically the Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank (ECB), and the Bank of Japan (BOJ)—are once again looking at monetary easing to combat slowing global growth. But according to UBS, that might not be such a great idea.
Reason: Further monetary stimulus could create another asset bubble, whose bursting would wreak havoc on the world economy. Think of the dot-com bust in 2001 and the housing crisis in 2008, which almost took down the global financial system.
“I’d be very, very careful about growing further the balance sheet of central banks,’’ said Sergio Ermotti, chief executive of Swiss banking giant UBS, in a Bloomberg TV interview. “We are at a risk of creating an asset bubble.”
Looking back at 2001 and 2008, Ermotti said, “Asset prices went up but it’s not really correlated with investor sentiment, which is in my point of view, of course, a very dangerous development.”
At the moment, the US stock market is up some 19%, led by tech titans like Apple and Amazon. Many have worried that stocks are getting too frothy.
In the US, the Fed had until this year been embarking on a regimen of boosting the benchmark federal funds rate by a quarter percentage point at a time, after years at near zero. It halted that operation, and also curtailed its plan to let the $4 trillion-plus worth of bonds it had bought shrink as the issues matured.
Now, the Fed is widely expected to slice a quarter-point off the Fed funds rate at its meeting later this month. There has been no word about resuming the bond buying, known as quantitative easing.
In Europe, ECB President Mario Draghi indicated last month that he was ready to add stimulus if the economic outlook doesn’t brighten. An announcement on that could come as early as this week.
Economists in surveys expect the ECB to lower its deposit rate to 0.5% in September, from 0.6% now. They also anticipate the central bank will restart its asset purchasing program in January. (Draghi leaves office in October). It previously spent $2.9 trillion to buy mainly bonds.
In Japan, BOJ Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda has signaled he might lower rates even more, combined with asset purchases, to spur the nation’s efforts to reach a 2% inflation target.
Meanwhile, central banks of Australia, Indonesia, and the Philippines also have hinted they might reduce rates.