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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: Macroeconomic policy

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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Blog Post

European governance

Including home-ownership costs in the inflation indicator is not just a technical issue

The European Central Bank is right to propose inclusion of owner-occupied housing services in the inflation indicator. But the ECB’s preferred method would involve an asset price in the consumer inflation indicator.

By: Zsolt Darvas and Catarina Martins Topic: European governance, Macroeconomic policy Date: November 18, 2021
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Blog Post

Fiscal arithmetic and risk of sovereign insolvency

The record-high debt levels in advanced economies increase the risk of sovereign insolvency. Governments should start fiscal consolidation soon in an environment of low nominal and real interest rates and post-COVID growth.

By: Marek Dabrowski Topic: Global economy and trade, Macroeconomic policy Date: November 18, 2021
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Parliamentary Testimony

European governanceEuropean Parliament

The New Euro Area Inflation Indicator and Target: The Right Reset?

Testimony to the Monetary Dialogue Preparatory Meeting of the European Parliament's Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON).

By: Zsolt Darvas Topic: European governance, European Parliament, Macroeconomic policy Date: November 9, 2021
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External Publication

European governanceEuropean Parliament

The new euro area inflation indicator and target: the right reset?

In-depth analysis on the European Central Bank's revised inflation target prepared for the European Parliament's Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON).

By: Zsolt Darvas and Catarina Martins Topic: European governance, European Parliament, Macroeconomic policy Date: November 4, 2021
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Past Event

Past Event

European monetary policy: lessons from the past two decades

This event will feature the presentation of “Monetary Policy in Times of Crisis – A Tale of Two Decades of the European Central Bank."

Speakers: Petra Geraats, Wolfgang Lemke, Francesco Papadia and Massimo Rostagno Topic: Macroeconomic policy Date: November 4, 2021
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Blog Post

European governance

Is the risk of stagflation real?

Most economic forecasts predict a return, in the medium-term, to pre-pandemic growth and inflation. Nevertheless, the European Central Bank and fiscal authorities need to be vigilant for signs of the contrary.

By: Monika Grzegorczyk, Francesco Papadia and Pauline Weil Topic: European governance, Macroeconomic policy Date: November 2, 2021
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Opinion

European governance

Is the ECB right to take on climate change?

The real issue here is not that the ECB takes a very sizeable risk by pursuing climate objectives but rather, that it cannot afford not to. And by doing so, it helps establish just how urgent climate change is.

By: Maria Demertzis Topic: European governance, Green economy, Macroeconomic policy Date: November 2, 2021
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Blog Post

European governance

Germany’s post-pandemic current account surplus

The pandemic has increased the net lending position of the German corporate sector. By incentivising private investment, policymakers could trigger a virtuous cycle of increasing wages, decreasing corporate net lending, which would eventually lead to a reduction of the economy-wide current account surplus.

By: Lionel Guetta-Jeanrenaud and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European governance, Macroeconomic policy Date: October 21, 2021
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External Publication

European Parliament

Tailoring prudential policy to bank size: the application of proportionality in the US and euro area

In-depth analysis prepared for the European Parliament's Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON).

By: Alexander Lehmann and Nicolas Véron Topic: Banking and capital markets, European Parliament, Macroeconomic policy Date: October 14, 2021
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Blog Post

How have the European Central Bank’s negative rates been passed on?

Negative rate cuts are not that different from ‘standard’ rate cuts. Like them, they reduce banks’ margins, but this effect does not appear to be amplified below 0%.

By: Grégory Claeys and Lionel Guetta-Jeanrenaud Topic: Macroeconomic policy Date: July 7, 2021
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Opinion

What to expect from the ECB’s monetary policy strategy review?

Emphasis will be placed on greening monetary policy and clarifying the ECB's price stability objective, but is this enough?

By: Maria Demertzis Topic: Macroeconomic policy Date: June 23, 2021
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Blog Post

Inflation!? Germany, the euro area and the European Central Bank

There is concern in Germany about rising prices, but expectations and wage data show no sign of excess pressures; German inflation should exceed 2% to support euro-area rebalancing but is unlikely to do so on sustained basis.

By: Guntram B. Wolff Topic: Macroeconomic policy Date: June 9, 2021
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