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The dangerous politics of central banks

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THE sudden burst of stockmarket volatility last week follows a period of relative calm, as noted in the last post. Much of that calmness must be down to central banks and their willingness to interfere in the markets to suppress long bond yields as well as short rates. The low level of the Vix reflected the confidence of investors that the authorities were in charge. And thus the rebound of the Vix reflects a fear that things are getting out of control again. The struggles of the Chinese authorities to manage their currency, stockmarket and financial sector are well-known. But investors clearly feared that the Federal Reserve was underestimating the extent of the global slowdown or the impact of a rate rise; hence the strong recovery in equities at the end of the week when a September rate increase seemed less likely.

The role of central banks is so important now that, inevitably, they are being dragged into political controversy, albeit for different reasons. In America, the "audit the Fed" is worried about the expansion of the central bank's balance sheet and wants to know from whom the Fed bought its massive security pile. In Europe, the ECB is demonised for being part of the hated Continue reading

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