Category Archives: NEWS

14th OPEC and non-OPEC Ministerial Meeting

The 14th Meeting of OPEC and non-OPEC Ministers took place via video conference on Thursday March 4, 2021, under the Chairmanship of HRH Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Energy, and Co-Chair HE Alexander Novak, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation.

The Meeting welcomed the appointment of HE Mohammed Al-Fares, Minister of Petroleum of Kuwait and the return of HE Mohamed Arkab, Energy Minister of Algeria.

The Meeting emphasized the ongoing positive contributions of the Declaration of Cooperation (DoC) in supporting a rebalancing of the global oil market in line with the historic decisions taken at the 10th (Extraordinary) OPEC and non-OPEC Ministerial Meeting on 12 April 2020 to adjust downwards overall crude oil production and subsequent decisions.

The Ministers noted, with gratitude, the significant voluntary extra supply reduction made by Saudi Arabia, which took effect on 1 February for two months, which supported the stability of the market.

The Ministers also commended Saudi Arabia for the extension of the additional voluntary adjustments of 1 mb/d for the month of April 2021, exemplifying its leadership, and demonstrating its flexible and pre-emptive approach.

The Ministers approved a continuation of the production levels of March for the month of April, with the exception of Russia and Kazakhstan, which will be allowed to increase production by 130 and 20 thousand barrels per day respectively, due to continued seasonal consumption patterns.

The Meeting reviewed the monthly report prepared by the Joint Technical Committee (JTC), including the crude oil production data for the month of February.

It welcomed the positive performance of participating countries. Overall conformity with the original decision was 103 per cent, reinforcing the trend of aggregate high compliance by participating countries.

The Meeting noted that since the April 2020 meeting, OPEC and non-OPEC countries had withheld 2.3bn barrels of oil by end of January 2021, accelerating the oil market rebalancing.

The Meeting Extended special thanks to Nigeria for achieving full conformity in January 2021, and compensating its entire overproduced volumes.

The ministers thanked HE Timipre Sylva, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources of Nigeria, for his shuttle diplomacy as Special Envoy of the JMMC to Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and South Sudan to discuss matters pertaining to conformity levels with the voluntary production adjustments and compensation of over-produced volumes.

In this regards the Ministers agreed to the request by several countries, which have not yet completed their compensation, for an extension of the compensation period until end of July 2021.

It urged all participants to achieve full conformity and make up for pervious compensation shortfalls, to reach the objective of market rebalancing and avoid undue delay in the process.

The Meeting observed that in December, stocks in OECD countries had fallen for the fifth consecutive month.

The Meeting recognized the recent improvement in the market sentiment by the acceptance and the rollout of vaccine programs and additional stimulus packages in key economies, but cautioned all participating countries to remain vigilant and flexible given the uncertain market conditions, and to remain on the course which had been voluntarily decided and which had hitherto reaped rewards.

The Ministers thanked the JTC and the OPEC Secretariat for their contributions to the meeting. The next meetings of the JMMC and OPEC and non-OPEC Ministers are scheduled for 31 March and 1 April 2021, respectively.

Managing the risks of remote working in financial institutions

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and The Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) jointly issued today a paper on managing new risks that could emerge from extensive remote working arrangements adopted by financial institutions (FIs) amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

2      The paper “Risk Management and Operational Resilience in a Remote Working Environment” highlights that, in view of the protracted remote working arrangements and the likely adoption of hybrid working [1] arrangements in future, it is important that FIs remain vigilant towards remote working risks and take pre-emptive steps to mitigate them. The Paper seeks to –

• raise awareness of key remote working risks in the financial sector;
• share good practices adopted by FIs to mitigate key remote working risks; and
• encourage all FIs to adopt good practices on managing remote working risks.

3     The Paper looks at possible risks to FIs in the areas of operations, technology and information security, fraud and staff misconduct, and legal and regulatory risks. It also examines the impact on people and culture that may be brought about by remote working. Drawing from the experiences of ABS member banks, the Paper suggests key risk management actions needed to address these areas of concern. The risks and risk mitigation measures set out in the Paper are also applicable to non-bank FIs.

4     MAS encourages FIs to benchmark their remote working controls against the examples in the Paper. FIs should also continually review and enhance their risk management practices to address evolving risks. This Paper is part of the ongoing collaboration between MAS and ABS’ Return to Onsite Operations Taskforce (ROOT), to coordinate responses to the crisis and prepare for a post COVID-19 new normal.

5     Mr Ong Chong Tee, Deputy Managing Director (Financial Supervision), MAS, said, “Financial institutions in Singapore have swiftly adapted to remote working and split-team arrangements in response to COVID-19. The operational resilience of our financial institutions during this period reflects the soundness of their business continuity management plans. It also underscores the importance of regular tests through internal drills and industry-wide exercises jointly organised by the MAS and the financial industry. Investments in the digitalisation of work processes and services over the past five years have also enabled our financial institutions to continue to provide a high level of support to meet the needs of individuals and businesses, during the pandemic. MAS will continue to work closely with ABS and other industry associations to enhance operational resilience and maintain high service standards.”

6     Mr Samuel Tsien, Chairman of ABS, said, “Over the years, banks have invested consistently and significantly in risk management and technology. The investments have enabled the industry to quickly and effectively respond to the COVID-19 outbreak and ensure that banking services are not disrupted during the crisis. Where their roles permitted, banks have made arrangements to facilitate their employees to work from home in a safe and secured environment and allowed the continued provision of services that our customers needed. This outcome is not only due to individual banks’ efforts. It was also a collective one. ABS and ROOT, working together with MAS, coordinated the financial sector’s response to the crisis. The good practices are now captured in this Paper. It will serve as a valuable reference guide to all banks as remote and flexible work arrangements continue to be adopted as the pandemic evolves. The Paper is also a good guide to banks when dealing with other types of crises”.

  1. [1] A hybrid working arrangement is one where staff work in the office for part of the time, and remotely for other times.

Statement by Philip Lowe, Governor: Monetary Policy Decision

At its meeting today, the Board decided to maintain the current policy settings, including the targets of 10 basis points for the cash rate and the yield on the 3-year Australian Government bond, as well as the parameters of the Term Funding Facility and the government bond purchase program.

The outlook for the global economy has improved over recent months due to the ongoing rollout of vaccines. While the path ahead is likely to remain bumpy and uneven, there are better prospects for a sustained recovery than there were a few months ago. Global trade has picked up and commodity prices have increased over recent months. Even so, the recovery remains dependent on the health situation and on significant fiscal and monetary support. Inflation remains low and below central bank targets.

The positive news on vaccines together with the prospect of further significant fiscal stimulus in the United States has seen longer-term bond yields increase considerably over the past month. This increase partly reflects a lift in expected inflation over the medium term to rates that are closer to central banks’ targets. Reflecting these global developments, there have been similar movements in Australian bond markets. Changes in bond yields globally have been associated with volatility in some other asset prices, including foreign exchange rates. The Australian dollar remains in the upper end of the range of recent years.

In Australia, the economic recovery is well under way and has been stronger than was earlier expected. There has been strong growth in employment and a welcome decline in the unemployment rate to 6.4 per cent. Retail spending has been strong and most of the households and businesses that had deferred loan repayments have now recommenced repayments. The recovery is expected to continue, with the central scenario being for GDP to grow by 3½ per cent over both 2021 and 2022. GDP is expected to return to its end-2019 level by the middle of this year.

Wage and price pressures are subdued and are expected to remain so for some years. The economy is still operating with considerable spare capacity and the unemployment rate remains higher than it has been for some years. Further progress in reducing spare capacity is expected, but it will be some time before the labour market is tight enough to generate wage increases that are consistent with achieving the inflation target. In the central scenario, the unemployment rate will still be around 6 per cent at the end of this year and 5½ per cent at the end of 2022. In underlying terms, inflation is expected to be 1¼ per cent over 2021 and 1½ per cent over 2022. CPI inflation is expected to rise temporarily because of the reversal of some COVID-19-related price reductions.

The current monetary policy settings are continuing to help the economy by keeping financing costs very low, contributing to a lower exchange rate than otherwise, and supporting the supply of credit and household and business balance sheets. Together, monetary and fiscal policy are supporting the recovery in aggregate demand and the pick-up in employment.

Lending rates for most borrowers are at record lows and housing prices across Australia have increased recently. Housing credit growth to owner-occupiers has picked up, but investor and business credit growth remain weak. Lending standards remain sound and it is important that they remain so in an environment of rising housing prices and low interest rates.

The Bank remains committed to the 3-year yield target and recently purchased bonds to support the target and will continue to do so as necessary. Also, bond purchases under the bond purchase program were brought forward this week to assist with the smooth functioning of the market. The Bank is prepared to make further adjustments to its purchases in response to market conditions. To date, a cumulative $74 billion of government bonds issued by the Australian Government and the states and territories have been purchased under the initial $100 billion program. A further $100 billion will be purchased following the completion of the initial program and the Bank is prepared to do more if that is necessary. Authorised deposit-taking institutions have drawn $91 billion under the Term Funding Facility and have access to a further $94 billion. Since the start of 2020, the RBA’s balance sheet has increased by around $175 billion.

The Board remains committed to maintaining highly supportive monetary conditions until its goals are achieved. The Board will not increase the cash rate until actual inflation is sustainably within the 2 to 3 per cent target range. For this to occur, wages growth will have to be materially higher than it is currently. This will require significant gains in employment and a return to a tight labour market. The Board does not expect these conditions to be met until 2024 at the earliest.

Bordier & Cie SCmA to offer cryptocurrencies to their customers* via Sygnum’s all-in-one B2B banking platform

Bordier & Cie SCmA, a leading Swiss private bank founded in 1844, has expanded its offering to include cryptocurrencies by incorporating Sygnum’s B2B banking platform. This partnership enables Bordier’s clients* to invest today in the digital asset economy with complete trust, and lays the foundation for a broader offering of regulated digital asset products and services, including sophisticated trading strategies with options, and the ability to invest in previously hard-to-access asset classes via tokenization.

  • Bordier clients can now securely buy, hold and trade cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash and Tezos, and gain diversified exposure via Sygnum’s suite of digital asset management products.
  • Total market capitalisation of cryptocurrencies increased almost four-fold in 2020, making it the best-performing asset class and a powerful tool for portfolio diversification – thus also increasing client-demand.
  • In under 60 days, Bordier & Cie was able to fully integrate Sygnum’s B2B banking platform and offer seamless access to digital assets to their own clients.

Driven by increasing client demand, Bordier has expanded its private banking services to include digital assets through a partnership with Sygnum Bank, leveraging the latter’s B2B banking platform. Sygnum’s all-in-one digital asset solution is seamlessly integrated with Bordier’s existing infrastructure. At this stage, clients* of Bordier can now buy, hold, and trade cryptocurrencies on an execution only basis. They can trade Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash and Tezos, with the highest level of security and compliance provided by a Swiss regulated bank. The offering will be extended as clients become more at ease with the simplicity of the new service.

Investment diversification via cryptocurrencies has gained significant momentum

Cryptocurrencies have gained significant momentum in the past year, with total market capitalisation increasing almost fourfold to reach USD 1 trillion – making it the best-performing asset class in 2020. In a portfolio context, cryptocurrencies’ high-growth and low-correlation to traditional assets makes them a powerful tool to enhance diversification and achieve superior risk-adjusted returns. Bitcoin, in particular, which many see as the new “digital gold” due to its ability to hedge against inflationary pressure, has seen strong institutional adoption as an alternative investment.

Evrard Bordier, Bordier & Cie’s SCmA Managing Partner, says “We have seen increasing demand from our clients to diversify into alternative asset classes such as digital assets. By partnering with Sygnum Bank, we are providing our clients* with a one-stop, integrated solution while empowering them to invest in this new, high growth asset class with complete trust.”

Sygnum’s all-in-one, the integrated solution delivered quickly

Sygnum’s B2B banking platform is an integrated digital asset solution encompassing not only the technical infrastructure but also compliance as a service, research, and sales education as well as access to a broad range of digital asset products. With seamless integration and a modular set-up, Bordier was able to design, customise and implement their own secure digital asset offering with a short time to market of less than 60 days.

In this partnership, Sygnum provided the digital asset specialist expertise and an all-in-one, market-ready B2B banking platform which includes the safekeeping of private keys, selection of and connectivity to liquidity providers, digital asset AML, and transaction monitoring. Bordier & Cie will continue to manage its client* relationships, and clients* will be able to access Sygnum’s suite of digital asset management products. This new integration is aimed at simplifying the transactional process for clients, providing them with the option to invest in the asset class at their own convenience, and eliminating the need for multiple channels.

“Bordier continues its 177-year tradition of safeguarding clients’ wealth for future generations by offering the ‘next generation’ of assets to its clients*. Bordier’s timeless values and Sygnum Bank’s vision for Future Finance is a powerful combination in the changing financial landscape,” adds Mathias Imbach, Sygnum Bank’s Group CEO.

* “execution only” clients

SEC Suspends Trading in Multiple Issuers Based on Social Media and Trading Activity

As part of its continuing effort to respond to potential attempts to exploit investors during the recent market volatility, the Securities and Exchange Commission today suspended trading in the securities of 15 companies because of questionable trading and social media activity.

Today’s action follows the recent suspensions of the securities of numerous other issuers, many of which may also have been targets of apparent social media attempts to artificially inflate their stock price. The SEC continues to review market and trading data to identify other securities where the public interest and the protection of investors require trading suspensions.

“The SEC’s recent suspensions of trading in nearly two dozen securities – including 15 today – are one facet of our ongoing efforts to police the market and protect investors,” said Melissa Hodgman, Acting Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “We proactively monitor for suspicious trading activity tied to stock promotions on social media, and act quickly to stop that trading when appropriate to safeguard the public interest. We also remind investors to exercise caution and do their diligence before investing generally, including in companies promoted on social media.”

Today’s order states that trading is being suspended because of questions about recent increased activity and volatility in the trading of these issuers, as well as the influence of certain social media accounts on that trading activity. The order also states that none of the issuers has filed any information with the SEC or OTC Markets, where the companies’ securities are quoted, for over a year. As a result, the SEC suspended trading in the securities of: Bebida Beverage Co. (BBDA); Blue Sphere Corporation (BLSP); Ehouse Global Inc. (EHOS); Eventure Interactive Inc. (EVTI); Eyes on the Go Inc. (AXCG); Green Energy Enterprises Inc. (GYOG); Helix Wind Corp. (HLXW); International Power Group Ltd. (IPWG); Marani Brands Inc. (MRIB); MediaTechnics Corp. (MEDT); Net Talk.com Inc. (NTLK); Patten Energy Solutions Group Inc. (PTTN); PTA Holdings Inc. (PTAH); Universal Apparel & Textile Company (DKGR); and Wisdom Homes of America Inc. (WOFA).

The SEC also recently issued orders temporarily suspending trading in: Bangi Inc. (BNGI)Sylios Corp. (UNGS)Marathon Group Corp. (PDPR)Affinity Beverage Group Inc. (ABVG)All Grade Mining Inc. (HYII); and SpectraScience Inc. (SCIE). Each of these orders stated that the suspensions were due at least in part to questions about whether social media accounts have been attempting to artificially increase the companies’ share price.

Under the federal securities laws, the SEC can suspend trading in a stock for 10 days and generally prohibit a broker-dealer from soliciting investors to buy or sell the stock again until certain reporting requirements are met.

The SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy recently alerted investors to the significant risks of making investment decisions based on social media.

Central banks of China and United Arab Emirates join digital currency project for cross-border payments

  • The Digital Currency Institute of the People’s Bank of China and the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates join the Multiple CBDC (m-CBDC) Bridge, a cross-border payments project.
  • The m-CBDC Bridge is a co-creation initiative run in partnership with the BIS Innovation Hub, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and the Bank of Thailand.
  • The project aims to develop a proof-of-concept prototype to facilitate real-time cross-border foreign exchange payments on distributed ledger technology.

The Digital Currency Institute (DCI) of the People’s Bank of China (PBC) and the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates (CBUAE) have joined a central bank digital currency project for cross-border foreign currency payments.

The m-CBDC Bridge initiative is run in partnership with the BIS Innovation Hub (BISIH), the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) and the Bank of Thailand (BoT). It will further explore the capabilities of distributed ledger technologies (DLT) by developing a proof-of-concept (PoC) prototype to support real-time cross-border foreign exchange payment-versus-payment transactions in multiple jurisdictions, operating 24/7. It will analyse business use cases in a cross-border context with both domestic and foreign currencies.

The m-CBDC Bridge project will foster a conducive environment for more central banks in Asia as well as other regions to jointly study the potential of DLT in enhancing the financial infrastructure for cross-border payments.

The aim of the project, which was initiated by the HKMA and the BoT under the name Inthanon-LionRock and renamed upon the accession of the BIS Innovation Hub Centre in Hong Kong SAR, the DCI of the PBC and the CBUAE, is to propose solutions and concepts to alleviate the current pain points in making cross-border fund transfers. These include inefficiencies, high cost and complex regulatory compliance.

The participating central banks will take into account the results of the PoC work to evaluate the feasibility of the m-CBDC Bridge project for cross-border fund transfers, international trade settlement and capital market transactions in their own jurisdictions.


About the BIS Innovation Hub 

The BIS Innovation Hub (BISIH) was established in 2019 to identify and develop in-depth insights into critical trends in financial technology of relevance to central banks, to explore the development of public goods to enhance the functioning of the global financial system, and to serve as a focal point for a network of central bank experts on innovation. It complements the already well established cooperation within the BIS-hosted committees. At present, there are Hub centres in Switzerland, Singapore and Hong Kong SAR. In the coming months, new centres will open in Toronto, London, Frankfurt/Paris and Stockholm. The BIS has also formed a strategic partnership with the Federal Reserve System in New York.

RBNZ: Prolonged Monetary Stimulus Necessary

The Monetary Policy Committee agreed to maintain the current stimulatory level of monetary settings in order to meet its consumer price inflation and employment remit. The Committee will keep the Official Cash Rate (OCR) at 0.25 percent, and the Large Scale Asset Purchase (LSAP) Programme of up to $100 billion and the Funding for Lending Programme (FLP) operation unchanged.

Global economic activity has increased since the November Monetary Policy Statement. However, this lift in activity has been uneven both between and within countries.

The initiation of global COVID-19 vaccination programmes is positive for future health and economic activity. The Committee agreed, however, that there remains a significant period before widespread immunity is achieved. In the meantime, economic uncertainty will remain heightened as international border restrictions continue.

Economic activity in New Zealand picked up over recent months, in line with the easing of health-related social restrictions. Households and businesses also benefitted from significant fiscal and monetary policy support, bolstering their cash-flow and spending. International prices for New Zealand’s exports also supported export incomes, although the New Zealand dollar exchange rate has offset some of this support.

Some temporary factors were currently supporting consumer price inflation and employment. These one-off factors include higher oil prices, supply disruptions due to trade constraints, the recent suite of supportive fiscal stimulus, and a spending catch-up following the easing of social restrictions.

The economic outlook ahead remains highly uncertain, determined in large part by any future health-related social restrictions. This ongoing uncertainty is expected to constrain business investment and household spending growth. The Committee agreed that inflation and employment would likely remain below its remit targets over the medium term in the absence of prolonged monetary stimulus.

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

The Committee agreed that it remains prepared to provide additional monetary stimulus if necessary and noted that the operational work to enable the OCR to be taken negative if required is now completed.


Summary Record of Meeting

The Committee reviewed recent international and domestic economic developments, and their implications for the outlook for inflation and employment. Members noted the lift in domestic economic activity, as evident across a range of indicators including inflation, employment, household spending, GDP, and asset prices.

The Committee discussed the key factors supporting the pickup in economic activity. Household and business balance sheets have fared considerably better than was anticipated at the start of the pandemic. This is in part due to the responses of monetary and fiscal policy, but also due to a number of other factors, in particular the containment of COVID-19 that has enabled ongoing domestic economic activity. People who arrived in New Zealand during the early stages of the pandemic and subsequently stayed on, are contributing to both housing and broader demand pressures. New Zealand’s commodity export prices and volumes have also remained robust despite the global economic slowdown.

The Committee agreed that several of the factors supporting economic activity are likely to prove temporary. Fiscal policy will continue to support the economy, but its impulse is unlikely to be as strong as last year. In addition, economic uncertainty persists due to the sustained closure of international borders and the manifestation of new strains of the virus. These factors continue to weigh on business confidence and investment intentions.

Several members noted the projected increase in headline inflation can also in part be explained by one-off factors, particularly oil price increases. The Committee agreed that the interaction between the headline, core, and wage inflation, and inflation expectations, will be important in determining the sustainability of inflation pressures in the medium-term.

The Committee noted the labour market has proved more resilient than anticipated at the outset of the pandemic, although unemployment has risen. The Wage Subsidy scheme played an important role in helping businesses maintain employment. However, labour market conditions remain uneven across sectors and regions. Those sectors most reliant on tourism-related business activities continue to lag behind on job opportunities, with this likely to persist as long as international borders remain closed. Some members noted that labour effort is being reallocated to other activities and saw the potential for construction activity to remain strong. The Committee expects to see an ongoing gradual recovery in employment towards its maximum sustainable level.

The Committee noted that although the recovery in economic activity was uneven across countries, the performance of some of New Zealand’s main trading partners, in particular China, has been more resilient than expected. The stronger performance of economies geared more towards global goods demand, which has provided continued support to New Zealand’s commodity exports. However, the gains from higher export commodity prices have been somewhat offset by the stronger New Zealand dollar.

The Committee noted that the spread of more virulent strains of COVID-19 presents an ongoing risk to global economic activity. However, the development of effective COVID-19 vaccines has improved the medium-term economic outlook, helping to reduce uncertainty and boost confidence. Members noted the global economic recovery remains dependent on health outcomes and the success of the COVID-19 vaccine programmes.

The Committee noted that global financial asset prices have been inflated by both fiscal and monetary policy stimulus, and the expectations of the success of the vaccine programmes. Members also noted that long-term sovereign bond yields had increased, in part reflecting greater expected growth and inflation.

The Committee noted that domestic financial conditions remain highly stimulatory, that is, promoting spending and investing. Since the November Statement, international and domestic long-term interest rates have risen, driven by an improved growth and inflation outlook.

However, domestic borrowing rates faced by households and businesses have declined marginally. Members agreed that domestic borrowing costs would need to remain low to achieve the Committee’s objectives.

The Committee discussed the effectiveness of monetary policy settings in delivering the necessary monetary stimulus. The level of Official Cash Rate (OCR) and forward guidance had helped anchor short-term interest rates. The Funding for Lending (FLP) programme had helped keep downward pressure on retail interest rates. The Committee noted that the Large Scale Asset Purchase (LSAP) programme had continued to apply a downward influence on long-term interest rates and provide bond market liquidity.

Members noted the FLP will continue to lower bank funding costs, even if international wholesale borrowing costs rise. The Committee noted that the decline in bank funding costs provides banks with scope to further reduce interest rates for household and businesses. The Committee agreed it expects to see the full pass-through of lower funding costs to borrowing rates, and it will closely monitor progress.

The Committee discussed how monetary policy settings were affecting financial stability. Members noted that monetary policy actions had supported financial stability as they have improved the cashflow positions of households and businesses. The Committee noted that the recent changes to the Bank’s Loan-to-Value Ratio (LVR) requirements occurred to ensure that financial system soundness is maintained.

Overall, the Committee agreed that the risks to the economic outlook are balanced, in large part due to the anticipated prolonged period of monetary stimulus. The Committee reflected on the international experience of central banks following the Global Financial Crisis. The Committee agreed that it was important to be confident about the sustainability of an economic recovery before reducing monetary stimulus. Some members also reflected on the extended period of below-target inflation in many countries, including New Zealand, prior to the pandemic.

The Committee agreed that, in line with its least regrets framework, it would not change the stance of monetary policy until it had confidence that it is sustainably achieving the consumer price inflation and employment objectives. The Committee expects that gaining this confidence will take considerable time and patience. While doing so, the Committee agreed to look through any temporary factors driving prices as required by the Remit, and noted that there will be periods during which inflation will be above the 2 percent target midpoint.

The Committee discussed the range and settings of its monetary policy tools. Members noted that the banking system is operationally ready for negative interest rates. The Committee assessed a negative OCR and the LSAP programme against its Principles for Alternative Monetary Policy. The Committee agreed that it was prepared to lower the OCR to provide additional stimulus if required.

The Committee discussed the LSAP programme and noted that many factors influence domestic long-term bond yields, including expectations for monetary policy, global bond yields, and the economic outlook. The Committee noted staff advice that reduced government bond issuance was placing less upward pressure on New Zealand government bond yields, and that domestic bond markets had continued to function well. Members noted that staff had adjusted purchase volumes since the November Statement, in light of these conditions.

The Committee agreed to continue with the LSAP programme with purchases of up to $100 billion by June 2022. The Committee also endorsed staff continuing to adjust weekly bond purchases as appropriate, taking into account market functioning. The Committee agreed that weekly changes in the LSAP do not represent a change in monetary policy stance.

The Committee agreed that current monetary policy settings were appropriate to achieve its inflation and employment remit. The Committee agreed it would maintain monetary stimulus until it is confident that consumer price inflation will be sustained around the 2 percent target midpoint and employment is at or above its maximum sustainable level. The Committee expects a prolonged period of time to pass before these conditions are met.

On Wednesday 24 February, the Committee reached a consensus to:

  • hold the OCR at 0.25 percent;
  • maintain the existing LSAP programme of a maximum of $100 billion by June 2022; and
  • maintain the existing 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: Nicholas Mulligan

Jerome H. Powell: Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress

Chairman Brown, Ranking Member Toomey, and other members of the Committee, I am pleased to present the Federal Reserve’s semiannual Monetary Policy Report.

At the Federal Reserve, we are strongly committed to achieving the monetary policy goals that Congress has given us: maximum employment and price stability. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have taken forceful actions to provide support and stability, to ensure that the recovery will be as strong as possible, and to limit lasting damage to households, businesses, and communities. Today I will review the current economic situation before turning to monetary policy.

Current Economic Situation and Outlook
The path of the economy continues to depend significantly on the course of the virus and the measures undertaken to control its spread. The resurgence in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in recent months is causing great hardship for millions of Americans and is weighing on economic activity and job creation. Following a sharp rebound in economic activity last summer, momentum slowed substantially, with the weakness concentrated in the sectors most adversely affected by the resurgence of the virus. In recent weeks, the number of new cases and hospitalizations has been falling, and ongoing vaccinations offer hope for a return to more normal conditions later this year. However, the economic recovery remains uneven and far from complete, and the path ahead is highly uncertain.

Household spending on services remains low, especially in sectors that typically require people to gather closely, including leisure and hospitality. In contrast, household spending on goods picked up encouragingly in January after moderating late last year. The housing sector has more than fully recovered from the downturn, while business investment and manufacturing production have also picked up. The overall recovery in economic activity since last spring is due in part to unprecedented fiscal and monetary actions, which have provided essential support to many households, businesses, and communities.

As with overall economic activity, the pace of improvement in the labor market has slowed. Over the three months ending in January, employment rose at an average monthly rate of only 29,000. Continued progress in many industries has been tempered by significant losses in industries such as leisure and hospitality, where the resurgence in the virus and increased social distancing have weighed further on activity. The unemployment rate remained elevated at 6.3 percent in January, and participation in the labor market is notably below pre-pandemic levels. Although there has been much progress in the labor market since the spring, millions of Americans remain out of work. As discussed in the February Monetary Policy Report, the economic downturn has not fallen equally on all Americans, and those least able to shoulder the burden have been the hardest hit. In particular, the high level of joblessness has been especially severe for lower-wage workers and for African Americans, Hispanics, and other minority groups. The economic dislocation has upended many lives and created great uncertainty about the future.

The pandemic has also left a significant imprint on inflation. Following large declines in the spring, consumer prices partially rebounded over the rest of last year. However, for some of the sectors that have been most adversely affected by the pandemic, prices remain particularly soft. Overall, on a 12-month basis, inflation remains below our 2 percent longer-run objective.

While we should not underestimate the challenges we currently face, developments point to an improved outlook for later this year. In particular, ongoing progress in vaccinations should help speed the return to normal activities. In the meantime, we should continue to follow the advice of health experts to observe social-distancing measures and wear masks.

Monetary Policy

I will now turn to monetary policy. In the second half of last year, the Federal Open Market Committee completed our first-ever public review of our monetary policy strategy, tools, and communication practices. We undertook this review because the U.S. economy has changed in ways that matter for monetary policy. The review’s purpose was to identify improvements to our policy framework that could enhance our ability to achieve our maximum-employment and price-stability objectives. The review involved extensive outreach to a broad range of people and groups through a series of Fed Listens events.

As described in the February Monetary Policy Report, in August, the Committee unanimously adopted its revised Statement on Longer-Run Goals and Monetary Policy Strategy. Our revised statement shares many features with its predecessor. For example, we have not changed our 2 percent longer-run inflation goal. However, we did make some key changes. Regarding our employment goal, we emphasize that maximum employment is a broad and inclusive goal. This change reflects our appreciation for the benefits of a strong labor market, particularly for low- and moderate-income communities. In addition, we state that our policy decisions will be informed by our “assessments of shortfalls of employment from its maximum level” rather than by “deviations from its maximum level.”1 This change means that we will not tighten monetary policy solely in response to a strong labor market. Regarding our price-stability goal, we state that we will seek to achieve inflation that averages 2 percent over time. This means that, following periods when inflation has been running below 2 percent, appropriate monetary policy will likely aim to achieve inflation moderately above 2 percent for some time. With this change, we aim to keep longer-term inflation expectations well anchored at our 2 percent goal. Well-anchored inflation expectations enhance our ability to meet both our employment and inflation goals, particularly in the current low interest rate environment in which our main policy tool is likely to be more frequently constrained by the lower bound.

We have implemented our new framework by forcefully deploying our policy tools. As noted in our January policy statement, we expect that it will be appropriate to maintain the current accommodative target range of the federal funds rate until labor market conditions have reached levels consistent with the Committee’s assessments of maximum employment and inflation has risen to 2 percent and is on track to moderately exceed 2 percent for some time. In addition, we will continue to increase our holdings of Treasury securities and agency mortgage-backed securities at least at their current pace until substantial further progress has been made toward our goals. These purchases, and the associated increase in the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet, have materially eased financial conditions and are providing substantial support to the economy. The economy is a long way from our employment and inflation goals, and it is likely to take some time for substantial further progress to be achieved. We will continue to clearly communicate our assessment of progress toward our goals well in advance of any change in the pace of purchases.

Since the onset of the pandemic, the Federal Reserve has been taking actions to support more directly the flow of credit in the economy, deploying our emergency lending powers to an unprecedented extent, enabled in large part by financial backing and support from Congress and the Treasury. Although the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) facilities are no longer open to new activity, our other facilities remain in place.

We understand that our actions affect households, businesses, and communities across the country. Everything we do is in service to our public mission. We are committed to using our full range of tools to support the economy and to help ensure that the recovery from this difficult period will be as robust as possible.

Toronto Stock Exchange Lists World’s First Bitcoin ETF

TSX welcomes Purpose Investments Inc. and celebrates with a virtual market close tomorrow

Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) announced the world’s first bitcoin exchange traded fund (ETF), Purpose Bitcoin ETF, began trading under the symbols TSX: BTCC.B (Canadian dollar denominated ETF non-currency hedged units) and TSX: BTCC.U (U.S. dollar denominated ETF non-currency hedged units).

Purpose Bitcoin ETF is the first direct custody bitcoin ETF in the world. It’s designed to provide investors with exposure to the leading cryptocurrency by investing directly in physically settled bitcoin.

To celebrate this milestone, Som Seif, Founder & CEO, Purpose Investments, and the Purpose Investments team will virtually close the market tomorrow, February 19, 2021.

“On behalf of Toronto Stock Exchange, I’d like to congratulate Purpose Investments, a true industry pioneer, on this huge achievement,” said Loui Anastasopoulos, President, Capital Formation and Enterprise Marketing Officer, TMX Group. “The launch of trading in the world’s first publicly-listed bitcoin ETF establishes another important milestone for Canada’s markets as we strive to innovate to serve the evolving needs of clients across our marketplace. As the ETF industry and the broader investment landscape continues to expand and new sectors like blockchain and cryptocurrency and others emerge, we would like to acknowledge the dedicated efforts of stakeholders across our world-leading ecosystem, including regulators, for working to ensure Canada remains a leading marketplace for companies to access growth capital and for investors to participate in that growth.”

“We are so happy to be able to offer this innovation to investors, making the process of owning Bitcoin easier than ever, thanks in part to our friends at the Toronto Stock Exchange. We believe Bitcoin, as the first and largest asset in the emerging cryptocurrency ecosystem, is poised to continue its growth trajectory and adoption as an alternative asset, further cementing the investment opportunity it presents,” said Mr. Seif. “Driving forward to be the leader in cryptocurrency investing is a testament to Purpose’s goal of providing investors with alternative investment solutions that are not based off of traditional benchmarks.”

As the ETF has grown into a leading global investment vehicle, the Canadian ETF market has remained at the forefront of the industry. At year-end 2020, there were 794 ETFs listed that held almost $250 billion in AUM.

For more information, including a full list of ETFs listed on TSX, visit tmx.com.

For Market Closes: Media may pick up a feed from the TOC (television operations centre) for all market close ceremonies. The feed is named TSX Transmit 1 (HD-SDI) and is produced at the TMX Market Centre and sent live to the TOC. To pick up the feed via the Dejero network, please contact avservices@tmx.com. The client feature video will begin playing on the TMX media wall at approximately 3:59 p.m. ET and the markets will close with the sound of a siren at 4:00 p.m. ET.