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The low interest rate environment: Causes, effects and a way out

Jürgen Matthes

No 10/2014, IW policy papers from Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft (IW) / German Economic Institute

Abstract: The very expansive and unconventional monetary policy of the ECB reduced the tensions of the Euro debt crisis at the price of persistently very low interest rates. While the ECB was right to act at the peak of the crisis, the risks of the low-interest rate environment become increasingly obvious. Private savings suffer from very low yields, which is particularly detrimental for long-term retirement savings. Moreover, financial stability risks could arise, as ultra-low interest rates can cause a search for yield among investors. Banks and life insurance companies are exposed to reduced interest profits respectively lower yields. While life insurance companies can cope with a shorter period of low interest rates, a longer period, however, poses challenges, as contracts with guaranteed interest rates have to be served. Therefore, it is a positive sign that the economic conditions for an interest rate turnaround have improved significantly since 2012 and are expected to improve further. Economic activity is clearly on an upward trend which is expected to continue despite current uncertainties. Significant structural reforms have been implemented in most stressed Euro countries which will most likely increase growth potentials soon (as already appears to be the case in Spain). Due to a stronger economy fears of deflation should only be a temporary phenomenon. Stress indicators and fundamentals in the banking sector have also improved on the back of (late but eventually decisive) policy measures and will continue to do so in the course of the ECB's pending stress test. Public and private indebtedness should be manageable in an environment where a sustainable moderate economic growth and more normal inflation are present. These are the conditions which characterize the baseline scenario assumed here. (...)

Keywords: Europäische Zentralbank; Geldpolitik; Inflation (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cba, nep-mac and nep-mon
Date: 2014
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