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Central Banks – signal vs. direction

Market Pulse_Week Notes | Insights & Trends

Monetary policy will be at center stage in the next two weeks, with the ECB, Bank of Japan, and central banks in Canada, Turkey, South Africa, Singapore, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka all in action this week, and the Fed, BOE and BCB in the week after next.

In the context of central banking, the distinction between "signaling" and "taking a certain direction" is crucial.


Signaling refers to the communication strategy used by central banks to indicate their future policy intentions. It's a way of managing market expectations without immediate action. For example, a central bank might signal an intent to raise interest rates in the future. This signal alone can influence financial markets, as investors adjust their strategies based on these expectations. Signaling is a powerful tool because it can cause changes in economic behavior even before any actual policy change occurs.

Taking a Certain Direction, on the other hand, involves the implementation of concrete monetary policy actions. This could be actually raising or lowering interest rates, engaging in quantitative easing, or other monetary tools. When a central bank takes a certain direction, it directly impacts the economy. For instance, a rate hike tends to cool down inflation but might slow economic growth, while a rate cut could stimulate growth but risks increasing inflation.


This time around I’m very interested in SIGNALS from the ECB (Thu 25) and BoJ (Mon 22). The consensus expects the ECB to maintain its current interest rates without indicating any upcoming rate cuts​​. There are mixed views regarding inflation and economic growth. On one hand, there is caution against cutting rates too soon, which might threaten progress against inflation. ECB President Christine Lagarde has emphasized the need to keep rates high until inflation is clearly back to the target of 2%​​. On the other hand, some analysis suggests that with headline and core inflation measurements indicating stability, the ECB might be running policy too tight and should consider cutting interest rates​​.

The Bank of Japan (BOJ) made it clear that it is committed to maintaining its yield-curve control and negative interest rates for the foreseeable future. Governor Kazuo Ueda continues to emphasize the difficulty in outlining exit plans given the high degree of uncertainty surrounding the inflation outlook, suggesting that the BOJ does not consider its 2% inflation target to be securely within reach yet. The BOJ's short-term rate remains at -0.1%, and the target for the 10-year JGB yield is set at 0%, with an upper bound of 1.0%​​.

Central banks around the world are navigating a complex post-COVID economic environment, weighing the risks of inflation against the need to support economic recovery and growth. The signals and decisions made in these upcoming meetings will be crucial in setting the tone for economic conditions in 2024.


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