Category Archives: Central Banks

Readout of the Meeting of the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets to Discuss Stablecoins

Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen convened the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets (PWG), joined by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, to discuss stablecoins. In the meeting, participants discussed the rapid growth of stablecoins, potential uses of stablecoins as a means of payment, and potential risks to end-users, the financial system, and national security. The Secretary underscored the need to act quickly to ensure there is an appropriate U.S. regulatory framework in place.

The group also heard a presentation from Treasury staff on the preparation of a report on stablecoins, which would discuss their potential benefits and risks, the current U.S. regulatory framework, and the development of recommendations for addressing any regulatory gaps. The PWG expects to issue recommendations in the coming months.

In attendance were:

  • Janet L. Yellen, Secretary of the Treasury
  • Jerome Powell, Chair, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
  • Gary Gensler, Chair, Securities and Exchange Commission
  • Rostin Behnam, Acting Chairman, Commodity Futures Trading Commission
  • Jelena McWilliams, Chairman, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
  • Michael J. Hsu, Acting Comptroller of the Currency
  • Randal Quarles, Vice Chair for Supervision, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
  • J. Nellie Liang, Under Secretary for Domestic Finance, U.S. Department of the Treasury

Eddie Yue: Opening remarks on regtech

Opening remarks by Mr Eddie Yue, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, at the HKMA’s “Unlocking the Power of Regtech” event, 30 June 2021.

Introduction

  1. Good morning, good afternoon and good evening everyone. A very warm welcome to all the participants of today’s event, “Unlocking the Power of Regtech”.
  2. Just a few years ago, a virtual conference like this would have been a near impossibility. I am sure you would also remember the days of expensive international travel, but today, advances in technology have transformed our ability to communicate and share with others in every part of the world. Similarly, technology has also fundamentally revolutionised the way banking business is undertaken.

HKMA’s banking technology goals

  1. One of the HKMA’s key policy goals is to encourage the application of innovative technology in the banking industry. Our recently announced “Hong Kong Fintech 2025” strategy, which goes far beyond our Smart Banking Initiatives which were announced a few years back, is an ambitious plan for getting Hong Kong’s banking sector to embrace and adopt new technology and rise to a high level of sophistication.
  2. And within that Fintech journey that we are promoting, Regtech constitutes an integral and important driver within our strategy. On that, we have developed a vision that by 2025, Hong Kong will become a leading hub for developing Regtech solutions and cultivating Regtech talents. My colleague Arthur first presented this vision at the Hong Kong Fintech Week last November. On that occasion, we also announced a series of activities to be launched these two years in pursuit of the vision. And today’s event is one of the many activities that we have planned for this year, 2021.
  3. In practical terms, how should we go about bringing our Regtech vision into reality? We do recognise that we are starting from a position in which many banking practitioners remain quite unclear about the concept of Regtech. They may be uncertain about what values Regtech might bring, or exactly how they should leverage on Regtech in order to bring about measurable benefits. Here, we see four essential actions that are needed to transform bank attitudes and practices towards Regtech.

Four actions towards Regtech 2025

  1. The first action is that we at the HKMA must understand the Regtech landscape evolution in Hong Kong. It’s no good launching initiatives that are out of touch with what’s actually happening on the ground. We need to be able to map our progress towards Regtech 2025, and understand where our banks and other ecosystem partners are at in that journey.
  2. Our White Paper on Regtech published in November last year provided a very good starting point, supplemented by the Regtech Adoption Index that we have just launched recently. These have shown that most banks here are already using at least some form of Regtech in their operations, most commonly in preventing and detecting financial crimes. But they are using Regtech much less in their risk management and regulatory compliance activities, despite the many advantages that doing so could bring for them.
  3. More generally, banks currently have little engagement with the wider Regtech ecosystem. We found that only 16% of banks are currently taking part in associations and industry groups and only 33% of banks are partnering with Regtech firms. So this is an area that definitely needs more work.
  4. Our second action is to raise Regtech awareness among banks – in particular their awareness of the benefitsapplications and solutions associated with Regtech.
  5. Our Regtech Adoption Index told us that a massive 86% of banks consider one of the top public sector activities in this space should be to enhance the engagement between the banking sector and the Regtech ecosystem.
  6. And this is where today’s virtual event comes in! It brings together banks, regulators, Regtech providers, industry associations, and representatives from other parts of the Regtech ecosystem. We see this as a perfect opportunity for banks to learn more about the potential benefits of Regtech for their own operations and also for their customers.
  7. As part of the efforts to raise awareness, the HKMA has also been publishing a series of Regtech Watch newsletters since November 2019. This series of articles outlines the benefits of Regtech through providing high-level sample use cases for areas like Cyber Risk, Credit Risk, AML/CFT, and also Conduct Management.
  8. Building on the Regtech Watch, we are launching a new series called “Regtech Adoption Practice Guides”. This provides more practical implementation guidance when you use Regtech. We also plan to create a centralised Regtech knowledge hub as a platform for sharing Regtech information and content. We do hope that all these initiatives taken together will allow banks to become much more familiar with Regtech and also help them manage the Regtech adoption process.
  9. The third action we are taking is to encourage new Regtech solutions. It’s one thing to help banks become willing and ready to embrace Regtech. But they will only do this if there are fit-for-purpose Regtech solutions to enhance the way that they manage their businesses. This requires commitment from Regtech companies and financial institutions, and also support from the regulators and Government.
  10. One way to encourage new solutions and innovation is through offering incentives and organising competitions to resolve real-life pain points. In March this year the HKMA launched the Global Regtech Challenge. This competition motivated 86 global and local Regtech firms to come up with possible Regtech solutions for four specific pain points faced by banks in Hong Kong in the areas of Governance, Risk and Compliance; Conduct and Customer Protection; Customer Data Privacy; and also Stress Testing. Later today we will announce the winners from this Challenge, and the audience will hear more about how the innovative solutions can benefit banks in Hong Kong.
  11. Working alongside us is the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau. This January, the Bureau launched a Fintech Proof-of-Concept Subsidy Scheme. This scheme provides financial incentives to banks to transform their processes through the use of innovative Regtech solutions. Regtech firms will also benefit as they will have more opportunities to showcase and validate their solutions and gain experience in the Hong Kong market.
  12. In addition to offering incentives and opportunities for developing innovative use cases, I would also like to highlight several key infrastructure developments that will make launching Regtech solutions easier.
  13. One example of these is that the HKMA is developing the CDI, the Commercial Data Interchange, that will allow SMEs to grant financial institutions access to their data at different commercial establishments, of course with their consent. These will include e-commerce platforms and utilities companies. With more alternative data available to financial institutions, SMEs will stand a better chance of obtaining bank financing and also other customised services that will be made possible by the use of advanced data analytics.
  14. I should also mention the HKMA’s collaboration with the Government on the “iAM Smart” platform, which is a one-stop personalised digital services platform available free of charge for everyone in Hong Kong. Financial institutions can now leverage iAM Smart to provide customers with Regtech services such as remote onboarding and log-in authentication. The HKMA is now exploring a corporate version of iAM Smart, which will offer another important infrastructure to support Regtech development.
  15. Finally, the fourth action that the HKMA will pursue is to expand the Regtech ecosystem, including in particular the nurturing of talents.
  16. We are working on a Regtech skills framework to incorporate Regtech skillsets into a package that banks can adopt in ensuring that their staff are properly equipped for the Regtech journey. We will also translate this into an Enhanced Competency Framework module to encourage current and aspiring practitioners to get qualified and recognised for this area of work. This will hopefully generate momentum among banks in upskilling their banking practitioners to prepare for the Regtech evolution ahead.
  17. In addition, we will continue to look for ways to enhance interaction within the ecosystem. The HKMA will organise events like today’s conference to bring together partners in the ecosystem and to foster co-operation. We will also work closely with financial institutions and the tech community, whether they are in Hong Kong or elsewhere, to ensure that new Regtech initiative is widely publicised and actively participated.

Summary

  1. So there we have it – four actions to realise the Regtech 2025 vision: Understand the Regtech landscape; raise the Regtech awareness; encourage Regtech solutions; and expand the Regtech ecosystem.
  2. Everyone here has a part to play in this. I warmly invite you to reflect on what you can offer, and what is on offer for you. I trust that everyone here today will make good use of our networking lounge and virtual booths to connect and exchange ideas and insights. And I believe that the future of Regtech in Hong Kong is very bright, and there are opportunities for everyone.
  3. Thank you for joining us on our Regtech journey. Before I finish, let me take this opportunity to express my heartfelt thanks to so many distinguished speakers who have taken time out of their respective busy schedule to contribute towards the discussion sessions today. I should of course also thank everyone of you participating in this event from around the world. I’m confident that the event will deliver rich rewards for all of us. Thank you very much.

Denis Beau: What will shape the future of crypto-assets

Opening address by Mr Denis Beau, First Deputy Governor of the Bank of France, at the Banque de France webinar, 15 June 2021.

Crypto-assets is a stimulating topic for a Central Banker and one that cannot leave him indifferent!

It should be remembered that, historically, crypto-assets have been designed to be issued in a decentralised manner, with the ambition to replace legal currencies: the very denial of the Central Banker’s functions.

Clearly, the initial objective was not achieved. So far, crypto-assets have proven to be much less efficient than our traditional currencies, for different reasons, starting with price volatility, transaction costs and delays, which make them difficult to use as a means of payment, not to mention the risks they expose their users and service providers.

However, we cannot ignore the potential for innovation of crypto-assets and their underlying technology, the technique of distributed ledgers or blockchain. Already in 2017, with the Madre project, the Banque de France was one of the first central banks in the world to use this blockchain technology for an interbank use case. At the rate of innovation, it is a long history, but since then we have been closely monitoring the development of this vibrant blockchain and crypto-assets ecosystem, the opportunities it creates and the risks it carries.

To open this webinar, I would like to share with you some thoughts on this ambivalence of crypto-assets from the point of view of a central banker and a supervisor:

First, the challenges and opportunities of crypto-assets development.

Second, what we are doing at the Banque de France to address these challenges.

1. Challenges and opportunities

The world of the blockchain and crypto-assets is still an immature ecosystem: it is difficult to predict in which direction and in which scale it will develop, but the emergence of many use cases related to decentralised finance, the creativity of the ecosystem, point to many opportunities. In particular, one can imagine that the innovations being developed will improve our payment systems, especially for cross-border transactions, or also securities issuance and settlement mechanisms…

The main challenge is therefore to ensure that the emergence of crypto-assets and, more generally, decentralised finance contribute to the effectiveness and security of our financial system.

Because this nascent ecosystem is also a source of many risks. The international work of public authorities highlighted these issues from the risk of money laundering to the risk of the consumer or investor.

I would like to highlight one of them: the risk related to the network effect. This risk was mentioned when some Bigtechs considered creating supra-national “currencies”: by offering to an extremely large customer base, these projects raised questions about monetary sovereignty of the states, as well as serious questions about the functioning of competition. Users may de facto be captured by an ecosystem and have no choice of their payment service, or at least be influenced by Bigtechs to use their services at the expense of competitors. But the opposite risk exists: payment system fragmentation, which can lead to a deterioration in the service to users.

Central banks have a long experience with these issues, especially in the field of payments. In this respect, the balance of cooperation and competition between industry players, in other words “co-opetition”, has proven to be historically valuable. One of the challenges now is to maintain these “co-opetition” relationships over time, ensuring that they can include all players and coordinate effectively the payment systems (and ecosystems) – traditional or innovative.

2. The Banque de France’s action

To help meet these challenges, at the Banque de France, we develop our actions along two lines:

(i) The first one is to support and implement regulatory frameworks and supervisory practices that promote both innovation and the stability of our financial system

Most of the current regulatory framework was designed before the technological “breaks” that we now face. It therefore seems logical to adapt it to these technological changes and to the challenges and risks associated with them. The same applies, of course, to our supervisory framework and methods.

In terms of regulating crypto-assets, France pioneered the establishment of a legal framework in 2019, with two objectives:

  • Creating legal certainty and trust to promote the development of a healthy and innovative ecosystem;
  • Preserving innovation by being careful not to curtail further development opportunities and risk depriving the economy of beneficial innovations.

With these two objectives in mind, we also support the European project for Markets in Crypto-Assets (MiCA), which will, in particular, provide a first harmonised EU-wide regulatory framework for stablecoins.

(ii) be involved as a player in financial sector developments

However, adapting the regulatory framework is not sufficient. At the Banque de France, we believe it is necessary for us to also be a factor in the evolution of the financial sector by pursuing two objectives at this stage: to facilitate and experiment.

Under the first objective, one of our aim is, for example, to foster the emergence of European projects capable of strengthening Europe’s payments system, building on the major integration projects we have seen in the past. Pursuing this objective also leads us to set up a forum, the Fintech Forum, which brings together players from our national financial ecosystem, to identify needs for regulatory developments related to innovation.

As part of the experiment, at the Banque de France we are currently conducting a programme on a digital central bank currency for the settlement of interbank transactions. We want to assess to what extent and under what conditions it could improve the efficiency and security of settlement of financial assets transactions, while preserving the fundamental role of central bank money in the smooth and safe execution of these transactions.

The Banque de France also takes an active part in the work conducted by the Eurosystem under the aegis of the ECB in relation to a digital retail euro. The challenge is to assess whether and how a digital central bank euro is needed. As we do when analysing market developments, our analysis encompasses all the potential impacts of such innovation. We need to ensure that we do not compromise more general public objectives such as monetary and financial stability, organise coexistence with other forms of public money and commercial banks, and promote innovation and efficiency in the financial system.

Naturally, our experiment is not limited to questions of digital central bank money. As part of our observation on the development of crypto-assets, we plan to participate in market experiments to help define the role of supervisors in this ecosystem.

I’ll stop there to give way to the two round tables of this webinar.

The two themes chosen are: “Crypto-assets, risks and regulation” and “Crypto-assets, what will become a standard?”. They seem to me to be two very complementary ways of addressing the issues that I have highlighted. I am sure that the cross-section of American and European views will add to the debate.

Riksbank: Brighter outlook, but the risks to financial stability are still elevated

With the help of extensive support measures, the Swedish financial system has coped relatively well during the pandemic and a financial crisis has been avoided. Credit supply has been maintained and important funding markets are now working satisfactorily. However, the risks to financial stability are still elevated. It is important for economic policy to continue to support the economic recovery, while also taking longer-term vulnerabilities into account.

Extensive support measures have prevented a financial crisis

The coronavirus pandemic is continuing to restrict economic developments. However, extensive support measures have helped to mitigate the economic consequences, and enabled the financial system to cope relatively well through the pandemic.

Over the winter and spring, further major fiscal policy stimulus packages have been launched and central banks have continued with large-scale asset purchases and extensive lending programmes. At the same time, vaccinations are under way and the outlook is brighter than when the Riksbank’s previous Financial Stability Report was published in November 2020.

Uncertain future and the risk of setbacks

The risks to financial stability are still elevated. Although the global economy has shown itself to be more resilient lately, we still do not know how the pandemic will develop and what effects it may have. Companies and households have been affected with varying severity during the pandemic. With time, the negative effects have become significantly more concentrated to parts of the service sector. Bankruptcies risk increasing in the period ahead, both in Sweden and abroad, particularly if the support measures are phased out quickly. Banks would then also risk major loan losses.

Sharply rising asset prices in several countries during the pandemic, together with increasing indebtedness, are also part of the risk outlook. In Sweden, for example, housing prices have risen sharply, which has probably to do with the unusual economic effects of the pandemic. The ability and willingness of many households to spend money on housing has increased during the pandemic. In addition, the increase in unemployment can be seen primarily among temporary workers, who normally have a weak position on the housing market.

There are vulnerabilities in the financial system that were already there prior to the pandemic. In the euro area, these are mainly a matter of weak banks and public finances, while in Sweden they mainly concern high household indebtedness and high levels of exposure among the major banks to residential and commercial properties. A crisis in the property market could threaten the stability of the Swedish financial system.

Economic policy needs to cooperate to support the recovery and counteract financial imbalances

The economic recovery requires monetary policy and fiscal policy to remain expansionary. At the same time, economic policy also needs to take longer-term vulnerabilities into account. The most appropriate way of combating these is via targeted structural measures, well-designed financial regulation and macroprudential policy. The Riksbank’s measures are having a broad impact on the economy and are therefore not particularly appropriate for counteracting financial imbalances within individual sectors in the prevailing economic situation.

The risks of high household indebtedness and the rapid upturn in prices in the housing market make it important for Finansinspektionen (FI) to allow the temporary exemption from the amortisation requirements to expire in August as planned. If the economic recovery continues as expected, it is also desirable that FI announces that the value of the countercyclical capital buffer will be increased, not least as increases are implemented with a time-lag of twelve months.

It is also important to work on a broad front to rectify identified weaknesses and further strengthen the resilience of the financial system. This is a question of, among other things, managing global challenges such as cyber risks and climate change. It is also a question of achieving a better-functioning Swedish market for corporate bonds and limiting the risks inherent in funds with corporate bond holdings.

RBNZ: Monetary Support Continued

The Monetary Policy Committee agreed to maintain the current stimulatory level of monetary settings in order to meet its consumer price inflation and employment objectives. The Committee will keep the Official Cash Rate (OCR) at 0.25 percent, and the Large Scale Asset Purchase and Funding for Lending programmes unchanged.

The global economic outlook has continued to improve, with ongoing fiscal and monetary stimulus underpinning the recovery. New Zealand’s commodity export prices have benefited from this rise in global demand. However, divergences in economic activity, both within and between countries, remain significant. The sustainability of the global economic recovery remains dependent on the containment of COVID-19.

The near-term economic data will continue to be highly variable. While economic growth in New Zealand slowed over the summer months following an earlier strong rebound, construction activity remains robust. The aggregate level of employment has also proved resilient, while fiscal spending continues to support domestic economic activity.

However, tourism-related business activity continues to be affected by the absence of international visitors, with the recent opening of Trans-Tasman travel expected to only partially offset revenue losses. The extent of the dampening effect of the Government’s new housing policies on house price growth and hence economic activity will also take time to be observed.

Overall, our medium-term outlook for growth remains similar to the scenario presented in the February Statement. Confidence in the outlook is rising as the more extreme negative health scenarios wane given the vaccination progress globally. We remain cautious however, given ongoing virus-related restrictions in activity, the sectoral unevenness of economic recovery, and the weak level of business investment.

A range of international and domestic factors are currently resulting in rising costs for businesses and consumers. These factors include disruptions to global raw material supplies, higher oil prices, and pressure on shipping arrangements. These price pressures are likely to be temporary and are expected to abate over the course of the year.

The Committee noted that medium-term inflation and employment would likely remain below its Remit targets in the absence of prolonged monetary stimulus. The Committee also noted that while the low interest rate environment has supported house prices, other factors such as recent tax changes, the growing supply of housing, and lending restrictions, are providing offsetting pressures.

The Committee agreed to maintain its current stimulatory monetary settings until it is confident that consumer price inflation will be sustained near the 2 percent per annum target midpoint, and that employment is at its maximum sustainable level. Meeting these requirements will necessitate considerable time and patience.

Summary Record of Meeting

The Monetary Policy Committee discussed economic developments since the February Statement, and their implications on the outlook for inflation and employment. The Committee noted the ongoing improvement in global economic activity and the associated rise in long-term wholesale interest rates. Fiscal and monetary stimulus are continuing to underpin the global recovery. However, the varied pace of national vaccination programmes, and the re-introduction of COVID-19 containment measures in some countries, means that the growth outlook remains uncertain, and uneven within and across countries.

Economic activity in New Zealand has returned to close to its pre-COVID-19 level. The increase in economic activity has been supported by ongoing favourable domestic health outcomes. This has led to a catch up in consumer spending, supported by substantial monetary and fiscal stimulus.  Improving global demand and higher prices for New Zealand’s goods exports are also contributing to economic activity.

The Committee discussed the key factors underpinning the economic recovery and agreed that the outlook was unfolding broadly as outlined in the February Statement. The improvement in global and domestic economic indicators, such as New Zealand’s terms of trade, have provided members more confidence in this outlook. However, the Committee agreed on the need for caution as domestic activity remains uneven across sectors of the economy.

The Committee noted areas of the economy where business activity levels remained low. The sectors most exposed to international tourism remain weak, despite the recent re-opening of travel with Australia. Business investment also remains below its pre-COVID-19 level, although recent indicators of investment intentions suggest signs of recovery.

The Committee noted that the level of employment has remained resilient. Reports of specific skill and seasonal worker shortages have the potential to put upward pressure on some wage costs. The economy is experiencing pockets of both labour shortages and employment slack, consistent with the economic disruption caused by COVID-19.

The Committee agreed that, in aggregate, the current level of employment remains below their estimates of the maximum sustainable level but expect it to converge to that level over time. They also expect to see wage growth lift as firms compete for labour, in particular given the current low levels of immigration.

The Committee noted that underlying CPI inflation currently remains slightly below their target midpoint of 2 percent per annum. A range of domestic and international factors are expected to lift headline inflation above 2 percent for a period. Members noted these factors are expected to be temporary and include higher international transport costs, disruptions to global raw material supplies and resulting higher prices for many commodities, and administrative charges.

The Committee discussed the risk that these one-off upward price pressures may promote a rise in more general inflation and inflation expectations. However, the Committee agreed that these risks to medium-term inflation were mitigated by ongoing global spare capacity and well-anchored inflation expectations.

The Committee assessed the effect of its monetary policy decisions on the Government’s objective to support more sustainable house prices, as required by its Remit. It was noted that the current level of house prices result from a range of factors including low global and domestic interest rates, housing supply shortages, land use regulations, and strong investor demand.

However, the Committee acknowledged that some of the factors supporting house price growth have eased. In particular they noted the current high rate of housing construction, historically low population growth, increased loan-to-value ratio restrictions, and the Government’s recent changes to housing tax and supply policies. These factors place downward pressure on the longer-run level of sustainable house prices and are consistent with a period of significantly lower house price growth.

The Committee noted risks remain to economic growth both on the upside and downside. However, they expressed greater confidence in their outlook for the economy given the reduced risk of extreme downside shocks to the economy from COVID-19.

The Committee noted that on current projections the OCR eventually increases over the medium term, but agreed that this is conditional on the economic outlook evolving broadly as anticipated. In line with their least regrets framework, members reinforced their preference to maintain the current level of monetary stimulus until they were confident that the inflation and employment objectives would be met. They agreed this would require considerable time and patience.

The Committee discussed the effectiveness of monetary policy settings since the February Statement. The Committee noted staff advice that the LSAP programme has provided substantial monetary policy stimulus to date.

Staff noted that reduced government bond issuance was placing less upward pressure on New Zealand government bond yields. This also provided less scope for LSAP purchases with the limits outlined in the letter of indemnity, specified as a percentage of government bonds outstanding. Based on current Treasury projections for the issuance of New Zealand government bonds, the Committee acknowledged that the LSAP programme could not reach the $100bn limit by June 2022.  Members affirmed that this dollar figure was a limit, not a target.

Members endorsed staff continuing to adjust weekly bond purchases as appropriate, in particular taking into account market functioning. The Committee agreed that weekly changes in the LSAP purchases do not represent a change in monetary policy stance, and that any desired change in stance would be made via the usual Monetary Policy Committee communication channel.

The Committee agreed that the OCR is the preferred tool to respond to future economic developments in either direction.

The Committee agreed to maintain its current stimulatory monetary settings until it is confident that consumer price inflation will be sustained near the 2 percent per annum target midpoint, and that employment is at its maximum sustainable level. The Committee agreed it will take time before these conditions are met.

On Wednesday 26 May, the Committee reached a consensus to:

  • hold the OCR at 0.25 percent;
  • maintain the existing LSAP programme; and
  • maintain the existing Funding for Lending Programme (FLP) conditions.

Attendees:
Reserve Bank staff: Adrian Orr, Geoff Bascand, Christian Hawkesby, Yuong Ha
External: Bob Buckle, Peter Harris, Caroline Saunders
Observer: Bryan Chapple
Secretary: Sandeep Parekh

Governor Lael Brainard: Private Money and Central Bank Money as Payments Go Digital: an Update on CBDCs

Technology is driving dramatic change in the U.S. payments system, which is a vital infrastructure that touches everyone.1 The pandemic accelerated the migration to contactless transactions and highlighted the importance of access to safe, timely, and low-cost payments for all. With technology platforms introducing digital private money into the U.S. payments system, and foreign authorities exploring the potential for central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) in cross-border payments, the Federal Reserve is stepping up its research and public engagement on CBDCs. As Chair Powell discussed last week, an important early step on public engagement is a plan to publish a discussion paper this summer to lay out the Federal Reserve Board’s current thinking on digital payments, with a particular focus on the benefits and risks associated with CBDC in the U.S. context.2

Sharpening the Focus on CBDCs

Four developments—the growing role of digital private money, the migration to digital payments, plans for the use of foreign CBDCs in cross-border payments, and concerns about financial exclusion—are sharpening the focus on CBDCs.

First, some technology platforms are developing stablecoins for use in payments networks.3 A stablecoin is a type of digital asset whose value is tied in some way to traditional stores of value, such as government-issued, or fiat, currencies or gold. Stablecoins vary widely in the assets they are linked to, the ability of users to redeem the stablecoin claims for the reference assets, whether they allow unhosted wallets, and the extent to which a central issuer is liable for making good on redemption rights. Unlike central bank fiat currencies, stablecoins do not have legal tender status. Depending on underlying arrangements, some may expose consumers and businesses to risk. If widely adopted, stablecoins could serve as the basis of an alternative payments system oriented around new private forms of money. Given the network externalities associated with achieving scale in payments, there is a risk that the widespread use of private monies for consumer payments could fragment parts of the U.S. payment system in ways that impose burdens and raise costs for households and businesses. A predominance of private monies may introduce consumer protection and financial stability risks because of their potential volatility and the risk of run-like behavior. Indeed, the period in the nineteenth century when there was active competition among issuers of private paper banknotes in the United States is now notorious for inefficiency, fraud, and instability in the payments system.4 It led to the need for a uniform form of money backed by the national government.

Second, the pandemic accelerated the migration to digital payments. Even before the pandemic, some countries, like Sweden, were seeing a pronounced migration from cash to digital payments.5 To the extent that digital payments crowd out the use of cash, this raises questions about how to ensure that consumers retain access to a form of safe central bank money. In the United States, the pandemic led to an acceleration of the migration to digital payments as well as increased demand for cash. While the use of cash spiked at certain times, there was a pronounced shift by consumers and businesses to contactless transactions facilitated by electronic payments.6 The Federal Reserve remains committed to ensuring that the public has access to safe, reliable, and secure means of payment, including cash. As part of this commitment, we must explore—and try to anticipate—the extent to which households’ and businesses’ needs and preferences may migrate further to digital payments over time.

Third, some foreign countries have chosen to develop and, in some cases, deploy their own CBDC. Although each country will decide whether to issue a CBDC based on its unique domestic conditions, the issuance of a CBDC in one jurisdiction, along with its prominent use in cross-border payments, could have significant effects across the globe. Given the potential for CBDCs to gain prominence in cross-border payments and the reserve currency role of the dollar, it is vital for the United States to be at the table in the development of cross-border standards.

Finally, the pandemic underscored the importance of access to timely, safe, efficient, and affordable payments for all Americans and the high cost associated with being unbanked and underbanked. While the large majority of pandemic relief payments moved quickly via direct deposits to bank accounts, it took weeks to distribute relief payments in the form of prepaid debit cards and checks to households who did not have up-to-date bank account information with the Internal Revenue Service. The challenges of getting relief payments to these households highlighted the benefits of delivering payments more quickly, cheaply, and seamlessly through digital means.

Policy Considerations
In any assessment of a CBDC, it is important to be clear about what benefits a CBDC would offer over and above current and emerging payments options, what costs and risks a CBDC might entail, and how it might affect broader policy objectives. I will briefly discuss several of the most prominent considerations.

Preserve general access to safe central bank money
Central bank money is important for payment systems because it represents a safe settlement asset, allowing users to exchange central bank liabilities without concern about liquidity and credit risk. Consumers and businesses don’t generally consider whether the money they are using is a liability of the central bank, as with cash, or of a commercial bank, as with bank deposits. This is largely because the two are seamlessly interchangeable for most purposes owing to the provision of federal deposit insurance and banking supervision, which provide protection for consumers and businesses alike. It is not obvious that new forms of private money that reference fiat currency, like stablecoins, can carry the same level of protection as bank deposits or fiat currency. Although various federal and state laws establish protections for users, nonbank issuers of private money are not regulated to the same extent as banks, the value stored in these systems is not insured directly by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and consumers may be at risk that the issuer will not be able to honor its liabilities. New forms of private money may introduce counterparty risk into the payments system in new ways that could lead to consumer protection threats or, at large scale, broader financial stability risks.

In contrast, a digital dollar would be a new type of central bank money issued in digital form for use by the general public. By introducing safe central bank money that is accessible to households and businesses in digital payments systems, a CBDC would reduce counterparty risk and the associated consumer protection and financial stability risks.

Improve efficiency
One expected benefit is that a CBDC would reduce or even eliminate operational and financial inefficiencies, or other frictions, in payments, clearing, and settlement. Today, the speed by which consumers and businesses can access the funds following a payment can vary significantly, up to a few days when relying on certain instruments, such as a check, to a few seconds in a real-time payments system. Advances in technology, including the use of distributed ledgers and smart contracts, may have the potential to fundamentally change the way in which payment activities are conducted and the roles of financial intermediaries and infrastructures. The introduction of a CBDC may provide an important foundation for beneficial innovation and competition in retail payments in the United States.

Most immediately, we are taking a critical step to build a strong foundation with the introduction of the FedNowSM Service, a new instant payments infrastructure that is scheduled to go into production in two years. The FedNow Service will enable banks of every size and in every community across America to provide safe and efficient instant payment services around the clock, every day of the year. Through the banks using the service, consumers and businesses will be able to send and receive payments conveniently, such as on a mobile device, and recipients will have full access to funds immediately.

Promote competition and diversity and lower transactions costs
Today, the costs of certain retail payments transactions are high and not always transparent to end users.7 Competition among a diversity of payment providers and payment types has the potential to increase the choices available to businesses and consumers, reduce transactions costs, and foster innovation in end-user services, although it could also contribute to fragmentation of the current payments system. By providing access to a digital form of safe central bank money, a CBDC could provide an important foundation on which private-sector competition could flourish.

Reduce cross-border frictions
Cross-border payments, such as remittances, represent one of the most compelling use cases for digital currencies. The intermediation chains for cross-border payments are notoriously long, complex, costly, and opaque. Digitalization, along with a reduction in the number of intermediaries, holds considerable promise to reduce the cost, opacity, and time required for cross-border payments. While the introduction of CBDCs may be part of the solution, international collaboration on standard setting and protections against illicit activity will be required in order to achieve material improvements in cost, timeliness, and transparency.8

We are collaborating with international colleagues through the Bank for International Settlements, Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructures, and the G7 to ensure the U.S. stays abreast of developments related to CBDC abroad. We are engaging in several international efforts to improve the transparency, timeliness, and cost-effectiveness of cross-border payments. It will be important to be engaged at the outset on the development of any international standards that may apply to CBDCs, given the dollar’s important role as a reserve currency.

Complement currency and bank deposits
A guiding principle for any payments innovation is that it should improve upon the existing payments system. Consumers have access to reliable money in the forms of private bank accounts and central bank issued currency, which form the underpinnings of the current retail payments system. The design of any CBDC should complement and not replace currency and bank accounts.

Preserve financial stability and monetary policy transmission
The introduction of a CBDC has the potential to have wide-reaching effects, and there are open questions about how CBDC could affect financial stability and monetary policy transmission. Some research indicates that the introduction of a CBDC might raise the risk of a flight out of deposits at weak banks in favor of CBDC holdings at moments of financial stress.9 Other research indicates that the increase in competition could result in more attractive terms on transactions accounts and an overall increase in banking system deposits.10 Banks play a critical role in credit intermediation and monetary policy transmission, as well as in payments. Thus, the design of any CBDC would need to include safeguards to protect against disintermediation of banks and to preserve monetary policy transmission more broadly. While it is critical to consider the ways in which a CBDC could introduce risks relative to the current payments system, it may increase resilience relative to a payments system where private money is prominent.

Protect privacy and safeguard financial integrity
The design of any CBDC would need to both safeguard the privacy of households’ payments transactions and prevent and trace illicit activity to maintain the integrity of the financial system, which will require the digital verification of identities. There are a variety of approaches to safeguarding the privacy of payments transactions while also identifying and preventing illicit activity and verifying digital identities. Addressing these critical objectives will require working across government agencies to assign roles and responsibilities for preventing illicit transactions and clearly establishing how consumer financial data would be protected.

Increase financial inclusion
Today 5.4 percent of American households lack access to bank accounts and the associated payment options they offer, and a further 18.7 percent were underbanked as of 2017.11 The lack of access to bank accounts imposes high burdens on these households, whose financial resilience is often fragile. At the height of the pandemic, the challenges associated with getting relief payments to hard-to-reach households highlighted that it is important for all households to have transactions accounts. The Federal Reserve’s proposals for strengthening the Community Reinvestment Act emphasize the value of banks providing cost-free, low-balance accounts and other banking services targeted to underbanked and unbanked communities.12 And a core goal of FedNow is to provide ubiquitous access to an instant payments system via depository institutions.

CBDC may be one part of a broader solution to the challenge of achieving ubiquitous account access.13 Depending on the design, CBDC may have the ability to lower transaction costs and increase access to digital payments. In emergencies, CBDC may offer a mechanism for the swift and direct transfer of funds, providing rapid relief to those most in need. A broader solution to financial inclusion would also need to address any perceived barriers to maintaining a transaction account, along with the need to maintain up-to-date records on active accounts to reach a large segment of the population.14

To explore these broader issues, the Federal Reserve is undertaking research on financial inclusion. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta is launching a public–private sector collaboration as a Special Committee on Payments Inclusion to ensure that cash-based and vulnerable populations can safely access and benefit from digital payments.15 This work is complemented by a new Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland initiative to explore the prospects for CBDC to increase financial inclusion. The initiative will identify CBDC design features and delivery approaches focused on expanding access to individuals who do not currently use traditional financial services.

Technology Considerations
Multidisciplinary teams at the Federal Reserve are investigating the technological and policy issues associated with digital innovations in payments, clearing, and settlement, including the benefits and risks associated with a potential U.S. CBDC. For example, the TechLab group at the Federal Reserve Board is performing hands-on research and experimentation on potential future states of money, payments, and digital currencies. A second group, the Digital Innovations Policy program, is considering a broad range of policy issues associated with the rise of digital payments, including the potential benefits and risks associated with CBDC.

To deepen our research on the technological design of a CBDC, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston is partnering with Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Digital Currency Initiative on Project Hamilton to build and test a hypothetical digital currency platform using leading edge technology design options.16 This work aims to research the feasibility of the core processing of a CBDC, while remaining agnostic about a range of policy decisions. MIT and the Boston Fed plan to release a white paper next quarter that will document the ability to meet goals on throughput of geographically dispersed transactions with core processing and create an open source license for the code. Subsequent work will explore how addressing additional requirements, including resiliency, privacy, and anti-money-laundering features, will impact core processing performance and design.

Banking Activities
Research and experimentation are also occurring at supervised banking institutions to explore new technology to enhance their own operations and in response to demands from their clients for services such as custody of digital assets. While distributed ledger technology may have the potential to improve efficiencies, increase competition, and lower costs, digital assets pose heightened risks such as those related to Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money laundering, cybersecurity, price volatility, privacy, and consumer compliance. The Federal Reserve is actively monitoring developments in this area, engaging with the industry and other regulators, and working to identify any regulatory, supervisory, and oversight framework gaps. Given that decisions at one banking agency can have implications for the other agencies, it is important that regulators work together to develop common approaches to ensure that banks are appropriately identifying, monitoring, and managing risks associated with digital assets.

Public Engagement
In light of the growing role of digital private money in the broader migration to digital payments, the potential use of foreign CBDCs in cross-border payments, and the importance of financial inclusion, the Federal Reserve is stepping up its research and public engagement on a digital version of the U.S. dollar. Members of Congress and executive agencies are similarly exploring this important issue. As noted above, to help inform these efforts, the Federal Reserve plans to issue a discussion paper to solicit public comment on a range of questions related to payments, financial inclusion, data privacy, and information security, with regard to a CBDC in the U.S. context.17 The Federal Reserve remains committed to ensuring a safe, inclusive, efficient, and innovative payments system that works for all Americans.


1. I am grateful to Alexandra Fernandez, Sonja Danburg, David Mills, and David Pope of the Federal Reserve Board for their assistance in preparing this text. These are my own views and do not necessarily reflect those of the Federal Reserve Board or the Federal Open Market Committee. Return to text

2. See Jerome Powell, “Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell Outlines the Federal Reserve’s Response to Technological Advances Driving Rapid Change in the Global Payments Landscape,” Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System news release, May 20, 2021. Return to text

3. See Lael Brainard, “The Digitalization of Payments and Currency: Some Issues for Consideration,” remarks at the Symposium on the Future of Payments, Stanford University, California, February 5, 2021. Return to text

4. See, for instance, Joshua R. Greenberg, Bank Notes and Shinplasters: The Rage for Paper Money in the Early Republic (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2020). Return to text

5. Codruta Boar and Róbert Szemere, “Payments go (even more) digital” (Basel: Bank for International Settlements, January 2021). Return to text

6. Kelsey Coyle, Laura Kim, and Shaun O’Brien, Consumer Payments and the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Second Supplement to the 2020 Findings from the Diary of Consumer Payment Choice (San Francisco: Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, February 2021). Return to text

7. Marie-Hélène Felt, Fumiko Hayashi, Joanna Stavins, and Angelika Welte, Distributional Effects of Payment Card Pricing and Merchant Cost Pass-through in the United States and Canada (PDF), Federal Reserve Bank of Boston Research Department Working Papers No. 20-13 (Boston: FRB Boston, 2020). Return to text

8. See Bank for International Settlements, Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructures, Enhancing cross-border payments: building blocks of a global roadmap Stage 2 report to the G20 (PDF) (Basel: BIS, July 2020); and Financial Stability Board, Enhancing Cross-border Payments: Stage 3 Roadmap (PDF) (Washington: FSB, October 13, 2020). Return to text

9. Christian Pfister, Monetary Policy and Digital Currencies: Much Ado about Nothing? (PDF) Banque de France Working Paper 642 (Paris: Banque de France, 2017). Return to text

10. John Barrdear and Michael Kumhof, The Macroeconomics of Central Bank Issued Digital Currencies, Bank of England Working Paper No. 605 (London: BOE, July 18, 2016), https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2811208. Return to text

11. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, How America Banks: Household Use of Banking and Financial Services (Washington: FDIC, October 19, 2020); and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, FDIC National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households (Washington: FDIC, 2017). Return to text

12. See, for instance the Bank On National Account Standards, https://2wvkof1mfraz2etgea1p8kiy-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Bank-On-National-Account-Standards-2021-2022.pdf. Return to text

13. See Jesse Leigh Maniff, Inclusion by Design: Crafting a Central Bank Digital Currency to Reach All Americans, (PDF) Payments System Research Briefing, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City (Kansas City: FRB Kansas, December 2, 2020); and John Crawford, Lev Menand, and Morgan Ricks, “FedAccounts: Digital Dollars,” (PDF) George Washington Law Review, Vol. 89, p. 113, January 28, 2021. Return to text

14. For more information, see the Federal Reserve Community Reinvestment Act Proposed Rulemaking at https://www.federalreserve.gov/consumerscommunities/community-reinvestment-act-proposed-rulemaking.htmReturn to text

15. Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, “New Committee to Advance Safe, Efficient, Inclusive Payments,” news release, May 12, 2021. Return to text

16. See Eric Rosengren, “Central Bank Perspectives on Central Bank Digital Currencies,” remarks at the panel discussion of the Program on International Financial Systems, Harvard Law School, May 12, 2021, ; Jim S. Cunha, “Boston Fed’s Digital Dollar Research Project Honors 2 Hamiltons, Alexander and Margaret,” Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, February 25, 2021; and Lael Brainard, “An Update on Digital Currencies,” remarks at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco Innovation Office Hours, August 13, 2020. Return to text

17. See Jerome Powell, “Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell Outlines the Federal Reserve’s Response to Technological Advances Driving Rapid Change in the Global Payments Landscape,” Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System news release, May 20, 2021.

Governor Christopher J. Waller: The Economic Outlook and Monetary Policy

At The Global Interdependence Center’s 39th Annual Monetary and Trade Conference, The LeBow College of Business, Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (via webcast)

Thank you, Kathleen, and thank you, George and the Global Interdependence Center, for the invitation to speak to you this afternoon. I am with you to talk about my outlook for the U.S. economy and the implications for monetary policy.1 In the last week we have received employment and inflation reports that have garnered a lot of attention. Incorporating this information into my outlook, I have two messages today. The first is that, despite an unexpectedly weak jobs report, the U.S. economy is hitting the gas and continuing to make a very strong recovery from the severe COVID-19 recession. Let’s remember, and this applies to latest inflation data too, that a month does not make a trend—the trend for the economy is excellent. My second message is that, despite the unexpectedly high CPI inflation report yesterday, the factors putting upward pressure on inflation are temporary, and an accommodative monetary policy continues to have an important role to play in supporting the recovery.

The pandemic and resulting public health response led to the sharpest drop in employment and output the United States has likely ever experienced—22 million jobs lost in eight weeks and an annualized decline of 30 percent in real gross domestic output for the second quarter of 2020. These numbers are simply staggering, and they left us in a deep, deep hole. Not so long ago, it seemed like the economic damage from COVID-19 might be with us for a long time, and that a full recovery could take many years. But thanks to the rapid development of vaccines and aggressive fiscal and monetary policy, the economy is recovering much faster than anyone expected six months ago.

I said a few weeks ago that the economy was ready to rip, and in many respects, that is exactly what it is doing. The initial estimate of first quarter real gross domestic product (GDP) growth came in at a 6.4 percent annual rate, surpassing the level of output in the first quarter of 2020, before the full force of COVID-19 hit the economy. Second-quarter growth is likely to be as much as 8 percent, and the prospects are good that GDP will be close to trend output by the end of 2021. New home sales continue to be strong. We are seeing robust household spending on durable goods despite supply bottlenecks that I will discuss in a moment. Surveys of purchasing managers point to continued solid growth in both manufacturing and business services.

So, what about that jobs report? That thud you heard last Friday was the jaw of every forecaster hitting the floor. It was a big surprise for me and most people, but it probably should not have been, because it fits with what we have been hearing from businesses about labor supply shortages. GDP is back to its pre-pandemic level, but we have recovered only 14 million of the 22 million jobs lost last spring.

To fully understand how the labor market is performing, I like to refer to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s labor market distribution spider chart.2 The chart plots data for 15 different labor market indicators in an easy-to-read manner. Using this chart, you can compare all these indicators for February 2020, April 2020, and March 2021. Looking at these months allows one to compare the very healthy labor market of February 2020 with the depths of the pandemic decline in April 2020 and see both how well we have rebounded since then and how much farther we still have to go.

The takeaway from that chart is that the labor market has recovered on many dimensions, such as hiring plans, job openings, quits rates, and firms unable to fill job openings. But on other dimensions, the labor market is far from recovering to its pre-pandemic level. Employment, as I said, is still below where it was in February 2020, by 8 million jobs. The unemployment rate is still 2.5 percentage points higher than it was in February 2020, and we know that it is even worse for some groups—nearly 10 percent for Black workers and nearly 8 percent for Hispanics. The employment-to-population ratio continues to be depressed from February 2020. The upshot is that several measures of labor market conditions have fully recovered, but other measures indicate that the overall labor market has a long way to go to get back to full strength. In short, some of the labor market’s cylinders are firing away, and some are still sputtering, so monetary accommodation continues to be warranted.

This chart, like the disappointing jobs report for April, shines a light on a current puzzle characterizing the U.S. labor market—a lot of job openings, but high unemployment rates and a low labor force participation rate. We hear repeatedly from our business contacts about firms boosting wages yet still being unable to attract workers.3 While clearly this is a real problem for some firms at the moment, I believe this mismatch is temporary.

I think of the current problem as follows. When the pandemic hit, both labor demand and labor supply fell dramatically. The combination of widespread vaccines and fiscal and monetary stimulus caused consumer demand to recover sharply. This situation, in turn, caused labor demand to rebound quickly, particularly in goods-producing industries. However, due to factors like continued fears of the virus, the enhanced unemployment insurance, child-care issues, and early retirements, labor supply has not rebounded in the same fashion, which led to a situation with excess demand for labor and upward pressure on wages.4 And that is exactly what we saw in the April jobs report. Average hourly earnings rose 20 cents in April for private-sector nonsupervisory workers, to $25.45.

But it is likely the labor supply shortage will be temporary. As vaccinations continue to climb, fears of reentering the labor force should decline. By September, most schools and daycare facilities are expected to fully reopen, resolving recent child-care issues for many families. Finally, the enhanced unemployment benefits passed in response to the pandemic expire in September, and research has shown repeatedly that the job-finding rate spikes as unemployment benefits run out.5 Thus, while labor demand is currently outrunning labor supply, supply should catch up soon.

Now let me turn to the other leg of the Fed’s dual mandate, price stability. That second thud you heard yesterday was forecasters’ bodies following their jaws to the floor after the CPI report was released. It was a surprise, but a look at its causes doesn’t alter my fundamental outlook, which is that the main pressures on inflation are temporary.

First, let me address concerns that strong growth threatens to unleash an undesired escalation in inflation. In August 2020, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) adopted a new policy framework that includes flexible average inflation targeting and a policy stance based on economic outcomes as opposed to economic forecasts.

Flexible average inflation targeting means we aim to have inflation overshoot our 2 percent longer-run goal if inflation had been running persistently below target. Given that we missed our inflation target on the low side consistently for the past eight years or so, the FOMC has said that it will aim to moderately overshoot its inflation target for some period but then have it return to target. Our willingness to aim for above-target inflation also means we will not overreact to temporary overshoots of inflation—we need to see inflation overshoot our target for some time before we will react.

An outcomes-based policy stance means that we must see inflation before we adjust policy—we will not adjust based on forecasts of unacceptably high inflation as we did in the past. Call this the “Doubting Thomas” approach to monetary policy—we will believe it when we see it.

We asked to see it, and lo and behold, we are now starting to see inflation exceeding our inflation target. But the critical question is: for how long? Although inflation is starting to exceed our 2 percent target, in my view, this development is largely due to a set of transitory factors that are occurring all at once. I can think of at least six.

First, there is what we economists call “base effects,” which is the simple arithmetic of what happens when the very low inflation readings of the first half of 2020 fall out of our 12-month measure of inflation. That adjustment will be over in a few months. A second temporary factor is higher energy prices, which have rebounded this year as the economy strengthens but are expected to level off later this year. Retail gasoline prices have jumped in some areas due to the disruption of the Colonial Pipeline, but the effect on inflation should be temporary also.

A third factor is the significant fiscal stimulus to date. Stimulus checks put money in people’s pockets, and when they spend it, there will be upward pressure on prices. But when the checks are gone, the upward pressure on prices will ease.

A fourth factor is a reversal of the very high savings that households have built up over the past year. As households draw down these savings, demand for goods and services will increase, which again will put upward pressure on prices. But, just like stimulus checks, once the excess savings is gone, it is gone, and any price pressures from this factor will ease.

A fifth factor is supply bottlenecks that manufacturers and importers are currently experiencing; supply chain constraints are boosting prices, particularly for goods—less so for services. One strength of a capitalist system is that markets adjust. If demand and prices rise for a product, supply will follow, and bottlenecks will dissipate. So once again, price pressures induced by bottlenecks should reverse as supply chains catch up and orders get filled.

Finally, the excess demand for labor I described earlier is likely to continue to push wages up in the next couple of months. How much of this increase gets passed through to prices is unknown, but some of it will. However, as I argued earlier, once labor supply catches up, this wage pressure should ease.

I expect that all of these factors will cause inflation to overshoot our 2 percent longer-run goal in 2021. But they will not lead to sustained, high rates of inflation. Financial markets seem to think the same—5-year breakeven inflation expectations are around 2.5 percent, and 5-year, 5-year-forward measures are around 2 percent, when adjusted for the difference between CPI (consumer price index) and PCE (personal consumption expenditures) inflation rates.6 Hence, markets do not believe the current factors pushing up inflation will last for long.

While I fully expect the price pressure associated with these factors to ease and for some of the large increases in prices to reverse, it may take a while to do so. Shortages give producers pricing power that they will be reluctant to let go of right away. Wage increases for new workers may cause firms to raise wages for existing workers in order to keep them. Consequently, there may be knock-on effects from the current wage increases. The pandemic has also caused firms to restructure their supply chains, and, as a result, bottlenecks may last longer than currently anticipated as these supply chains are rebuilt. There are also asymmetric price effects from cost shocks—prices go up very quickly but often tend to come down more slowly, as consumers slowly learn that the bottlenecks have gone away.

For these reasons, I expect that inflation will exceed 2 percent this year and next year. After that, it should return to target. And in my view, this fluctuation is okay—our new framework is designed to tolerate a moderate overshoot of inflation for some time as long as longer-term inflation expectations remain well-anchored at 2 percent.

Before I turn to the implications of all this for monetary policy, a word about the housing market. As I said earlier, housing is a bright spot in the economy that is encouraging investment and lifting household wealth, which is all good, but with memories of recent history in mind, the fast growth in housing prices in most areas of the United States does bear close watching. Housing is becoming less affordable, and that price increase has the biggest effect on low-income individuals and families who have struggled the most since last spring and who are always the most vulnerable to rising rents and home prices. Prices for lumber and other inputs for housing are skyrocketing, and while that occurrence is not having a significant effect on inflation, it is limiting the supply of new homes and helping feed the house price boom. Fortunately, the banking system is strong and resilient—going through multiple Fed stress tests and a tough, real-life stress test this past year. Nevertheless, I am watching this sector closely for signs of stress and will continue to do so.

So, in summary, the economy is ripping, it is going gangbusters—pick your favorite metaphor. But we need to remember that it is coming out of a deep hole, and we are just getting back to where we were pre-pandemic. Labor market indicators are more mixed with 8 million workers still without jobs. But many of the problems holding back labor supply will dissipate over time, and we should return to the robust labor market we had in February 2020. Inflation is currently being driven above our 2 percent inflation target but is expected to return to target in subsequent years as transitory inflation shocks fade.

Highly accommodative monetary policy, in conjunction with unprecedented fiscal support, has supported a rapid recovery from a uniquely sharp, pandemic-caused recession. The improving economy is helping repair the significant economic damage suffered by individuals, families, and businesses, but there is still a way to go before we fully recover.

In light of that fact, I expect the FOMC to maintain an accommodative policy for some time. We have said our policy actions are outcome based, which means we need to see more data confirming the economy has made substantial further progress before we adjust our policy stance, because sometimes the data does not conform to expectations, as we saw last Friday. The May and June jobs report may reveal that April was an outlier, but we need to see that first before we start thinking about adjusting our policy stance. We also need to see if the unusually high price pressures we saw in the April CPI report will persist in the months ahead. The takeaway is that we need to see several more months of data before we get a clear picture of whether we have made substantial progress towards our dual mandate goals. Now is the time we need to be patient, steely-eyed central bankers, and not be head-faked by temporary data surprises.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you, and I would be happy to respond to your questions.

Riksbank: Minutes of the Monetary Policy Meeting held on 26 April

The recovery is well underway, but it will take time before inflation is more permanently close to the target of 2 per cent. Continued expansionary monetary policy is therefore needed to support the economy and inflation. At the monetary policy meeting on 26 April, the Executive Board of the Riksbank decided to hold the repo rate unchanged at zero percent and it is expected to remain at this level in the years to come. The Riksbank is also continuing to purchase assets within the envelope of SEK 700 billion and to offer liquidity within all the programmes launched in 2020.

The recovery is continuing in the global economy despite an increase in the spread of infection. Rapid and powerful fiscal and monetary policy measures abroad and in Sweden have mitigated the economic downturn and prevented a financial crisis. The economic outlook is somewhat brighter now that at the monetary policy meeting in February. But at the same time, the board members noted that the crisis has resulted in a divergence across countries, sectors and various groups in the labour market. Parts of the service sectors are still weighed down by the restrictions. The ongoing vaccinations are an important condition for slowing down the spread of infection, easing the restrictions and enabling production in contact-intensive service sectors to pick up again.

The board members pointed out that there will be substantial volatility in inflation during the coming year, as a result of the pandemic and volatile energy prices. In this context, the importance of longer-term inflation expectations remaining stable at 2 per cent was also pointed out.

The recovery in the Swedish economy is well underway, but cost pressures are expected to rise relatively slowly and, as in the February forecast, it will take time before inflation is more permanently close to the target of 2 per cent. It is the assessment of the Executive Board that continued expansionary monetary policy will be needed over the coming years to support the economy and bring inflation close to the target more permanently. The members were therefore in agreement on leaving the repo rate unchanged at zero per cent and on the distribution of asset purchases during the third quarter of 2021. Several stressed the importance of, as announced, utilising the entire envelope for asset purchases of SEK 700 billion in 2021 and after that keeping the holdings more or less unchanged over next year. This is to avoid the risk of an unwanted tightening of financial conditions.

The members also discussed how monetary policy may be adapted if economic developments turn out differently to the main scenario. Several noted that if the recovery is stronger than expected and inflation overshoots the target, this does not need to be a reason to make monetary policy less expansionary. If monetary policy needs to be made more expansionary, a few members pointed out that a rate cut is fully possible.

At the meeting, some members highlighted the risks associated with developments in the housing market and underlined how important it is that Sweden gets to grips with existing structural problems in the housing market.

Bank of England statement on Central Bank Digital Currency

The Bank of England and HM Treasury have today announced the joint creation of a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) Taskforce to coordinate the exploration of a potential UK CBDC.

The Bank of England and HM Treasury have today announced the joint creation of a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) Taskforce to coordinate the exploration of a potential UK CBDC. A CBDC would be a new form of digital money issued by the Bank of England and for use by households and businesses. It would exist alongside cash and bank deposits, rather than replacing them.

The Government and the Bank of England have not yet made a decision on whether to introduce a CBDC in the UK, and will engage widely with stakeholders on the benefits, risks and practicalities of doing so.

The Taskforce aims to ensure a strategic approach is adopted between the UK authorities as they explore CBDC, in line with their statutory objectives, and to promote close coordination between them. The Taskforce will:

  • Coordinate exploration of the objectives, use cases, opportunities and risks of a potential UK CBDC.
  • Guide evaluation of the design features a CBDC must display to achieve our goals.
  • Support a rigorous, coherent and comprehensive assessment of the overall case for a UK CBDC.
  • Monitor international CBDC developments to ensure the UK remains at the forefront of global innovation.

The Taskforce will be co-chaired by Deputy Governor for Financial Stability at the Bank of England, Jon Cunliffe, and HM Treasury’s Director General of Financial Services, Katharine Braddick. As appropriate other UK authorities will be involved in the Taskforce.

The Bank of England has also today announced the creation of the following:

  • CBDC Engagement Forum to engage senior stakeholders and gather strategic input on all non-technology aspects of CBDC. The Forum will have an important role in helping the Bank and HM Treasury understand the practical challenges of designing, implementing and operating a CBDC. It will consider issues such as – but not limited to – ‘use cases’ for CBDC, functional needs of CBDC users, roles of public and private sectors in a CBDC system, financial & digital inclusion considerations, and data & privacy implications. Members will be drawn from financial institutions, civil society groups, merchants, business users and consumers.
  • CBDC Technology Forum to engage stakeholders and gather input on all technology aspects of CBDC from a diverse cross-section of expertise and perspectives. The Forum will have an important role in helping the Bank to understand the technological challenges of designing, implementing and operating a CBDC. Members will be invited by the Bank and drawn from a range of financial institutions, academia, fintechs, infrastructure providers and technology firms.

The Bank of England has also announced it will establish a CBDC Unit. This new division of the Bank of England will lead its internal exploration around CBDC. It will also lead the Bank’s external engagement on CBDC, including with other UK and international authorities. The Deputy Governor for Financial Stability, Jon Cunliffe, will oversee the work of the CBDC Unit.

Turkey Bans Cryptocurrencies for Payments

Turkey’s central bank (CBRT) in a surprising move, banned the use of all cryptocurrencies and digital assets to payments for services and goods, citing possible damage and significant transaction risks.

CBRT said that digital assets based on distributed ledger technology (DLT) could not be used, directly or indirectly, as an instrument of payment in any business in Turkey.

Turkey’s Central Bank said that the cryptocurrencies prohibition had been introduced because digital assets are not regulated or supervised, their prices are very volatile, electronic wallets can be stolen and might be used in illegal transactions. Turkish watchdog has long pointed to cryptocurrencies use in illegal activities as a reason to be cautious on any exposure in the crypto industry.

Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies penetration in Turkey is very high. Turkish investors turn to digital assets such as Bitcoin and Ethereum and run away from the troubled Turkish lira (TRY) as they are looking for a hedge against the rising inflation in the country.

Bitcoin is under heavy selling pressure after the news and as of writing, BTCUSD is 4.43% lower at $60490 while Ethereum (ETHUSD) is 5.31% lower at $2370.

Meanwhile the USDTRY is trading 0.53% higher at 8.062 close to monthly lows for the pair.