Monetary Easing: Who’s Next?

Just over a week ago, our buddies over at the Bank of England decided to slap the markets with another round of quantitative easing. Now, the question is who will be the next to turn on the monetary easing button?

Here’s a look at three other central banks and their prospects for further monetary policy easing over the next few months.

The European Central Bank

A couple of hours after the BOE made its market moving announcement, the European Central Bank took centerstage with all eyes on Jean-Claude Trichet, who was making his final statement as ECB president. However, to the dismay of some market players, Trichet didn’t end his tenure at the ECB with a bang.

Despite lower growth forecasts and rising inflation, the ECB decided to keep interest rates steady at 1.50%.

The ECB did however, reintroduce new 12-month and 13-month loans that will become available to European banks by the end of October and December respectively. In addition, the ECB will also be buying 40 billion EUR worth of covered bonds. These measures were introduced to help spruce up liquidity in the markets.

In my opinion, I think that the ECB delayed any rate cuts to help give incoming ECB President Mario Draghi a clean slate when he steps into office next month. Word through the grapevine though is that some members have already voted for rate cuts, so there is the possibility that Draghi will be pressured into announcing a rate hike next month.

The Reserve Bank of Australia

After being one of the first central banks to begin raising rates, the Reserve Bank of Australia has been in pause mode and have kept rates at 4.75% for nearly a year now. In fact, it’s starting to look like the RBA is about to reverse course. At the latest interest rate statement, RBA Governor Glenn Stevens mentioned that while China was continuing to expand, global markets were still “very unsettled” and that growth prospects were dimmer.

He also added that with inflation taking less of a toll on the economy, that there could be room for the RBA to act to help support demand if it is needed.

That sounds pretty dovish to me!

Seeing as how the RBA has been quick to act in the past, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them move swiftly should we see more weakness in the economy.

For now, I’d keep a close eye out for inflation, as this could be the make-or-break indicator that tips the central bank in one direction or the other.

The Bank of Canada

For the first half of this year, the boys from the Great White North were pretty quiet, keeping rates at 1.00% as everything seemed to be chugging along quite nicely for the Canadian economy. In fact, some were saying that the Bank of Canada may even raise rates by the end of the year.

Boy, how things can change in a jiffy eh?

Second quarter GDP figures were disappointing, as the economy actually contracted by 0.4%. Meanwhile, the Ivey PMI has been on a downtrend for the past 5 months, while retails sales have been mixed. There are those who are also concerned about the ongoing European debt crisis and its impact on the global recovery.

In my opinion however, I think the biggest factor will be the direction of the U.S. economy. Remember, Uncle Sam is Canada’s biggest trading partner, so wherever the U.S. goes, Canada will most likely follow suit.

With recent economic data indicating that the U.S. isn’t doing as bad some had though, we may see the BOC continue to take a very cautious approach. While the BOC actually has some room to raise rates given that core inflation remains subdued at 1.9%, I am still highly doubtful that we’ll see a rate cut this year.

In fact, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that we may only see one should the Fed acknowledge that the U.S. needs another round of quantitative easing. The injection of QE3 would signal major weakness in the U.S. economy, which wouldn’t bode well for Canada. Then, and only then, do I think BOC Governor Mark Carney will act and cut rates.

So which of these central banks will be the first to bite the bullet and ease monetary policy?