Interest rates eventually should fall back to levels seen before the outbreak of COVID-19, with advanced economies again within sight of the “zero lower bound” and developing countries seeing rates in steady decline, the International Monetary Fund said in a new analysis of whether the “natural” rate of interest was changed by the pandemic.
Though rates are high now as major central banks battle inflation, “when inflation is brought back under control, advanced economies’ central banks are likely to ease monetary policy and bring real interest rates back toward pre-pandemic levels,” IMF analysts said in research released as part of the latest World Economic Outlook.
The so-called “natural” rates of interest, an anchor for monetary policy that neither stimulates nor discourages economic activity, “will remain low in advanced economies or decline further in emerging markets,” the IMF concluded.
If accurate, that means less fiscal pressure as government will be able to borrow more cheaply. But is also means central banks, particularly in developed countries, may again have to rely on bond buying and other strategies once some future downturn prompts them to cut policy interest rates to zero.
Some economists have argued the pandemic shifted the natural rate of interest higher, reversing forces like globalization that helped keep borrowing costs low and also driving up government debts to historic levels.
The IMF said it is possible things have changed, and noted that the impact of developments like the transition to a less carbon-intensive economy remain to be seen.
But the fund said its analysis suggests that current high rates “are likely to be temporary.”
Once rates normalize at prior low levels, a deep enough recession may force central banks “to resort to the same strategies they employed in the decade before the pandemic, such as balance sheet policy and forward guidance.”
Source : REUTERS