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Policy Contribution

Should we care about central bank profits?

The authors investigate the ECB’s profit-making activity of the last 20 years, assessing how this was achieved and the reasons why we should care more broadly about central banks generating profits.

By: , and Date: August 30, 2018 Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance

Central banks are not profit-maximising institutions; their objectives are rather of macroeconomic nature. The European Central Bank’s overriding objective is price stability. Nevertheless, there are three good reasons to conclude that it is preferable for central banks to achieve profits rather than to record losses.

First, taxpayers endow central banks with large amounts of resources and one should be worried if this amount of resources did not produce any income. In a way, the efficient use by the central bank of the financial resources with which it is endowed is as relevant as the efficient use of the human resources at its disposal.

Second, financial strength could affect the ability of monetary authorities to fulfil their mandates. In particular there is the fear that a central bank incurring systematic losses and ending up with negative capital would find it difficult to effectively pursue its macroeconomic objective.

Third, profitable operations might be an indication that central banks are implementing the right policies: to achieve profits the central bank must purchase assets when they are undervalued and sell when they are overvalued, thus stabilising their prices.

Overall, the Eurosystem has so far respected the principle of it being better to realise profits than losses. The accounts of the ECB, indeed of the entire Eurosystem, show that it generates a fairly stable profit flow. Monetary operations, ie refinancing operations, and securities purchases contribute substantially to these profits.

This conclusion is confirmed by measuring the financial results of past purchases of foreign exchange and more recent purchases of securities from a mark-to-market perspective, instead of an accounting perspective. In the specific case of the Public Sector Purchase Programme (PSPP) this was because the coupons on the securities more than offset the capital losses: overall the Eurosystem has bought securities under the PSPP programme at prices higher than current ones.

The considerations that might justify purchase operations, like the PSPP or other similar interventions, are very complex and require careful judgement. Once their macroeconomic desirability is established, however, the ECB has the necessary financial strength to implement them safely.

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External Publication

How Can the European Parliament Better Oversee the European Central Bank?

This paper, written at the request of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, assesses how the European Parliament holds the European Central Bank accountable. The same exercise is done for the Bank of Japan, in order to identify possible lessons for the ECB and the European Parliament.

By: Grégory Claeys and Marta Domínguez-Jiménez Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, Global Economics & Governance Date: September 23, 2020
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Policy Contribution

Is the COVID-19 crisis an opportunity to boost the euro as a global currency?

The euro never challenged the US dollar, and its international status declined with the euro crisis. Faced with a US administration willing to use its hegemonic currency to extend its domestic policies beyond its borders, Europe is reflecting on how to promote it currency on the global stage to ensure its autonomy. But promoting a more prominent role for the euro is difficult and involves far-reaching changes to the fabric of the monetary union.

By: Grégory Claeys and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, Global Economics & Governance Date: June 5, 2020
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Opinion

The Independence of the Central Bank at Risk

The ruling of the German Federal Constitutional Court (GFCC) of May 5 on the ECB’s monetary policy affects not only the relation of Germany to the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) but also the constitutional foundations of monetary policy.

By: Peter Bofinger, Martin Hellwig, Michael Hüther, Monika Schnitzer, Moritz Schularick and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: June 2, 2020
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Policy Contribution

COVID-19’s reality shock for external-funding dependent emerging economies

COVID-19 is by far the biggest challenge policymakers in emerging economies have had to deal with in recent history. Beyond the potentially large negative impact on these countries’ fiscal accounts, and the related solvency issues, worsening conditions for these countries’ external funding are a major challenge.

By: Alicia García-Herrero and Elina Ribakova Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation, Global Economics & Governance Date: May 28, 2020
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Policy Contribution

European Parliament

The European Central Bank in the COVID-19 crisis: whatever it takes, within its mandate

To keep the euro-area economy afloat, the European Central Bank has put in place a large number of measures since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. This response has triggered fears of a future increase in inflation. However, the ECB's new measures and the resulting increase in the size of its balance sheet, even if it were to be permanent, should not restrict its ability to achieve its price-stability mandate, within its legal obligations.

By: Grégory Claeys Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, European Parliament, Testimonies Date: May 20, 2020
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Opinion

The message in the ruling

The German Constitutional Court's ruling on the ECB's asset purchase programme is open to much criticism but it can hardly be blamed for raising an important question.

By: Jean Pisani-Ferry Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: May 12, 2020
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Podcast

Podcast

An analysis of the German Constitutional Court's ruling on the ECB QE programme

The German Constitutional called today on the ECB to justify its bond-buying program. What does today's ruling of the German Constitutional Court mean for the ECB's QE program? Could such a decision open a precedent when it comes to contesting EU law? Today, Giuseppe Porcaro and Guntram Wolff are joined by Franz Mayer, chair of Public Law at the University of Belefield, to analyse the German Constitutional Court's ruling.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: May 5, 2020
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Past Event

Past Event

The Sound of Economics Live: An analysis of the German Constitutional Court ruling on the ECB QE programme

What does today's ruling of the German Constitutional Court mean for the ECB's Quantitative Easing programmme

Speakers: Franz Mayer, Giuseppe Porcaro and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: May 5, 2020
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Opinion

Monetisation: do not panic

The extraordinary operations that are under way in most countries in response to the COVID-19 shock have raised fears that large-scale monetisation will result in a major inflation episode. This column argues that so far, there is no evidence that central banks have given up, or are preparing to give up, on their price stability mandate. While there are obviously some reasons to worry, central banks are doing the right thing and the authors see no reason to panic.

By: Olivier Blanchard and Jean Pisani-Ferry Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Date: April 14, 2020
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Past Event

Past Event

The Sound of Economics Live: The macroeconomic policy response to the COVID-19 crisis

Which macroeconomic policy response is the best option to deal with the crisis currently unfolding and will ensure that the recovery will be as quick as possible?

Speakers: Grégory Claeys, Giuseppe Porcaro, Lucrezia Reichlin and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: March 31, 2020
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Past Event

Past Event

CANCELLED: How adequate is the European toolbox to deal with financial stability risks in a low rate environment?

Bruegel is delighted to welcome the governor of the Central Bank of Ireland, Gabriel Makhlouf. He will deliver a keynote address about how adequate the European toolbox is to tackle financial stability risks in a low rate environment. Following his speech, a panel of experts will further discuss the topic.

Speakers: Gabriel Makhlouf, Guntram B. Wolff and Agnès Bénassy-Quéré Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, Finance & Financial Regulation Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: March 31, 2020
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External Publication

Facing the lower bound: what will the ECB do in the next recession?

In responding to the global financial crisis, the ECB has pushed its monetary policy into unchartered territories . Today, it appears increasingly constrained by persistently low interest rates. This paper seeks to understand this challenge and assess whether its toolkit would allow the ECB to weather a European recession.

By: Aliénor Cameron, Grégory Claeys and Maria Demertzis Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: March 27, 2020
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