Last year we saw the beginning of the normalization of interest rates and monetary policy, as central banks responded to accelerating inflation. Show host Gene Tunny talks about the current tightening cycle and when it might end with his colleague Arturo Espinoza. Among other things, Gene and Arturo discuss what history tells us about typical interest rates and returns on capital, referencing UK bank rate since 1694, interest rates on UK government consols, and returns on land written about by Jane Austen and Honoré de Balzac. They also consider whether we might see 17-18 percent interest rates again in Australia, rates which were last seen in 1989-90.
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What’s covered in EP173
- What’s been happening with interest rates? [3:00]
- What is monetary policy normalization? [6:00]
- How many more interest rate increases will be needed? [11:11]
- Will we have a recession this year? [19:12]
- Is there a risk that we could get back to the crazily high interest rates seen in 1989-90 in Australia? [24:00]
- What is the equilibrium rate of interest? What is the real interest rate? [26:54]
- The main takeaway from this episode: monetary policy is still in a tightening cycle because inflation is too high [38:43]
Links relevant to the conversation
Data released since the episode was recorded
Australian retail trade fell 3.9% in December, suggesting interest rate increases are starting to bite, meaning the RBA faces an even more difficult challenge in deciding how many more interest rate increases to make:
CBC article “U.S. inflation and consumer spending eased in December, new numbers show”:
Nine News story “Inflation in Australia rises to higher-than-expected 7.8 per cent”:
US: 2%; see https://research.stlouisfed.org/publications/economic-synopses/2022/09/02/inflation-part-3-what-is-the-feds-current-goal-has-the-fed-met-its-inflation-mandate
Australia: 2-3%; see https://www.rba.gov.au/inflation/inflation-target.html
UK: 2%; see https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/monetary-policy
Bank of Finland article on monetary policy normalisation:
Chatham Financial article on US tightening cycles:
Jo Masters, Barrenjoey Chief Economist on how “Everything must go right for Australia to dodge a recession”
Chart on historical UK bank rate:
Chart on central bank policy interest rates since 1960:
Chart on inflation in the US, UK and Australia:
Wikipedia article on the Fisher equation:
Wikipedia article on UK consols:
Guardian article on “UK bonds that financed first world war to be redeemed 100 years later”:
What Jane Austen can tell us about historical rates of return:
Transcript: Normalization of interest rates & monetary policy – EP173
N.B. This is a lightly edited version of a transcript originally created using the AI application otter.ai. It may not be 100 percent accurate, but should be pretty close. If you’d like to quote from it, please check the quoted segment in the recording.
Gene Tunny 00:00
Welcome to the Economics Explored podcast, a frank and fearless exploration of important economic issues. I’m your host Gene Tunny. I’m a professional economist and former Australian Treasury official. The aim of this show is to help you better understand the big economic issues affecting all our lives. We do this by considering the theory evidence and by hearing a wide range of views. I’m delighted that you can join me for this episode, please check out the show notes for relevant information. Now on to the show. Hello, thanks for tuning into the show. This episode I talk about the normalisation of interest rates and monetary policy with my colleague Arturo Espinoza. Please note, the episode was recorded on the 11th of January 2023. Now, obviously, we weren’t able to cover any new economic data released after that date. So I’ve added some info into the show notes about important developments since then. One of the most important bits of data was the December US inflation rate. It came in at 6.5% yearly down from 7.1% in November. This figure was interpreted by economists as supporting the view that the US Fed will slow the pace of interest rate hikes in 2023. No longer increasing the federal funds rate in increments of half a percentage point or three quarters of a percentage point. Interest rates still need to increase because inflation is still too high and well above the 2% target. On the first of February, the Fed will probably increase its federal funds rate target by a quarter percentage point from the 4.25 to 4.5% range to the 4.5 to 4.75% range. If it doesn’t do this, I’ll release a short bonus episode looking at what’s going on. Economists expect there’ll be at least another interest rate rise in 2023. Beyond the quarter percentage point increase on the first of February, a view supported by the stronger than expected fourth quarter 2022 GDP figure that came out on the 26th of January. Unlike in the states in Australia, our latest inflation figures surprised on the upside coming in at 7.8% over 2022. I must say I was stunned yesterday when I noticed a 560 gram jar of Vegemite now cost $9 at Woolworths. The Reserve Bank of Australia really has no choice but to continue with its interest rate increases until it sees inflation falling or the economy crashing. As I noted my conversation with Arturo so much depends on how rapidly the economy slows down over 2023. Okay, let’s get into the episode. Please stick around to the end because I have additional thoughts after my conversation with Arturo. Okay, this is episode 173 on the normalisation of monetary policy. So, I’m joined by Arturo, my colleague at Adapt Economics. Arturo, good to have you with me today.
Arturo Espinoza Bocangel 02:58
Hi Gene, it’s my pleasure to be here.
Gene Tunny 03:01
Excellent. Arturo. So I thought for our first episode of the year, it would be good to talk about interest rates. So one of the big developments last year was the, you know, the increases in the interest rates by central banks, their policy interest rates. So the cash rate here in Australia, the federal funds rate, we had some rather unexpected increases in interest rates, all unexpected by many people in response to the high inflation rates that we’ve been experiencing. And so this did catch quite a few people by surprise, and our RBA governor here in Australia, Philip Lowe, as late as I think November 2021, he was saying that, he thought they’d probably be able to keep their cash rate at 0.1% until 2024. So that was his central case scenario, as he was calling it. But it turns out that inflation was ended up being higher than the Reserve Bank expected. And you know, perhaps they should have seen it coming because you would seen inflation accelerating in 2021 in the US and the UK. And so maybe the central bank should have seen it coming, but they didn’t. And we ended up going from a 0.1% cash rate. And now it’s at 3.1%. And that was over a period of from May 2022 to December 2022. And they had the last cash rate increase. So the same three percentage points over seven months or so. So just an extraordinary rate of increase. And similarly in the US, we had high rate of increase. And what we’re seeing is that interest rates are responding to the high inflation. And one thing I thought it’d be good to talk about is, well, where do we think these interest rates are going? Is there any guidance historically, or is there any guidance from theory regarding what’s a normal level of interest rates? So that’s one question we could ask. And how I came to think about this is that I saw increasingly these references to normalisation, so normalisation of monetary policy, normalisation of interest rates, and, and it got me thinking, Okay, well, what’s normal? So I thought that’d be good to explore. Do you have any thoughts on that, Arturo? Does that sound like a reasonable thing to talk about?
Arturo Espinoza Bocangel 05:51
Yeah exactly, that is gonna be an interesting topic, to know, what will be the normal interest rate?
Gene Tunny 05:59
Yes, well, this is a bit of a spoiler, but I think the key message will be that there really isn’t any normal interest rate that we can say that the interest rates are adjusting to that’s one of the challenges it’s it just depends on a whole range of factors, variables that we’ll talk about in this conversation. So to begin with a lot I’d read this article I found from the Bank of Finland, this was back in October and I thought this was really quite a neat way of talking about this normalisation. So they talk about the articles called what is monetary policy normalisation. And so they’re written in monetary policy normalisation, key interest rates or policy rates are once again becoming key instruments of monetary policy. At the same time, the central bank is gradually withdrawing from asset purchases and other unconventional measures. Monetary policy normalisation may also involve adjustments to forward guidance, normalisation leads to a tightening of financial conditions, helping the central bank reduce the inflationary pressures in the economy. Okay. So what they’re talking about there is that during the pandemic, when all of those policy interest rates were effectively cut to zero, our cash rate here in Australia got cut to 0.1%. Right, so it’s effectively zero. That’s what economists call the zero lower bound. So there’s nowhere else for the that policy rate to go, then what central banks what the Australian Central Bank did for the first time. So this has been done previously by the US, and the ECB and Bank of Japan, in response to the financial crisis back in the late 2000s. But we hadn’t done this yet. We did the quantitative easing, what they call quantitative easing, which is printing money. well printing money electronically, and then using that to buy bonds or other financial assets to drive down yields to drive down borrowing costs, with the idea of stimulating the economy that way. So that’s unconventional monetary policy. So what the Bank of Finland saying is that part of this normalisation story is yes, increasing that policy rate getting it away from that zero, lower bound, and moving away from the unconventional monetary policy. Yeah, that’s essentially what they’re saying in that passage there. Okay. And then they go on to talk about where are interest rates going to settle in the future. And this is where this is where they’re essentially saying that will no one, no one really knows, it’s very difficult to forecast that. They’re saying that the normalisation of monetary policy does not mean that the central bank is attempting to restore its balance sheet and interest rates to a past levels such as that preceding the 2008 global financial crisis. Okay, so what they’re saying is don’t necessarily look to what interest rates have been in the past, rather than the aim of monetary policy normalisation is that the inflation rate should accord with the price stability objective. In the absence of further economic shocks, interest rates should in the longer term settle at a level where economic resources are in full use and inflation is at its target, ie at the equilibrium real interest rate, also known as the natural rate of interest. However, the level of the equilibrium real interest rate is affected by a number of factors unrelated to monetary policy. Okay, so, gee, there’s a lot going on that passage there that I’ve just read. The way I interpret this is that essentially, we’ve got to get to an interest rate. So what the central bank is trying to do, its increasing interest rates to get inflation under control. And after it gets inflation under control, the interest rate is going to settle at a rate whereby it’s consistent with keeping inflation in the target band. So in Australia, that’s two to 3%. On average, other countries have similar target rates for inflation and that sort of 2%.
Arturo Espinoza Bocangel 10:28
Between two and 3%. Yeah,
Gene Tunny 10:31
yeah, yeah. So just, I’ll just put some links in the show notes, clarifying that what they are for all other economies. So we’ll end up with an interest rate where it’s consistent with that. And it’s also consistent with a reasonable level of economic activity. So a stable, well, a sustainable rate of economic growth. And I mean, you could call it full employment, but I’d probably say unemployment at what you’d say is the natural rate of unemployment rather than full employment, which is, I think, a difficult concept to actually to define in practice. So, I mean, what would that be? I mean, it’s hard to know, because it depends on how the economy will first we’ve got to find out how the economy responds to the current interest rate increases, and just how far the central bank has to increase the rates from here. So I think there’s generally agree that well, there’s quite a bit of agreement among commentators among the market economists, that interest rates will have to increase a bit more from where they are now. Because we’ve still got inflation in Australia over 7% Us 7% over 7%, we’ve still got these high rates of inflation or higher rates than we’ve experienced for a long time. We’ve pushed the policy interest rates up to 3.1% in Australia, 4.25 to 4.5%. In the US, I think, is the current target band for the federal funds rate. There seems to be a view that there’s still scope for them to push those up further. So in Australia, we could have another maybe two up to two cash rate increases. That seems to be you know, that’s a possibility depends on what your outlook is for the state of the economy. Some people are thinking that might be too much given that, you know, these interest rate increases are really starting to bite already is having a big impact on house prices. We’re seeing that already. So house prices are really coming off. If I look at the ASX this thing called the ASX 30 Day interbank cash rate futures implied yield curve. So this is based on market pricing for financial market products. So this is this What is it 30 Day interbank cash rate future. So, essentially you can bet on what the cash rate is going to be in the future. And from this, it’s showing that the markets essentially expecting that the cash rate will peak at a bit over 3.8% later this year, and then it starts coming off from a peak around I think that’s October, and then it’s slightly falling. And then by June 2024, it’s down around 3.6%. So the market here in Australia is expecting two to three additional increases in the cash rate it appears of around 25 basis points or a quarter of a percentage point. So the markets expecting two to three more increases. I think other economists would be but there’s debate about just how many and the current state of the economy and how the economy will react to that. That’s one of the great unknowns, how will households react to these higher interest rates. And that’s one of the unknowns too in other countries in the States. It looks like there’s probably there will probably be another, at least one more increase in the federal funds rate in the States. There was a report in the Financial Times yesterday regarding some comments from one of the Federal Reserve officials, Mary Daly think she’s from San Francisco fed and the FT reported that Mary Daly became the latest Federal Reserve official to raise the prospect of the US central bank slowing the pace of its interest rate increases to a quarter point rise next month, even as policymakers backed the benchmark rates surpassing 5% Okay, so if you, I think in the Federal Reserve in their publication when they publish their decisions, they have these charts, which show what the Federal Open Markets Committee members, what they forecasting for future federal funds rate, which is a really interesting way to do it. And it gives you some insight and into how the members are thinking and where federal funds rate could be going. It’s really quite a clever thing to do and possibly something the Australian reserve bank could think about doing. And I don’t know whether this is an issue that they’re considering in their manage their review of the reserve bank that’s going on at the moment, I might have to look into that. But it looks like yep, so. So members are the people who are responsible for monetary policy, and the states are expecting a couple more increases in that federal funds rate. So they expect it’ll end up getting beyond 5%. They’re currently targeting 4.25 to 4.5%. But what this is saying is based on recent data in the States, which suggests that the economy might be losing some of the some steam, its inflation may not be as much of a problem as previously, based on that. They’re saying, well, the Federal Reserve can slow down the rate of interest rate increases. So that’s what’s going on there. Okay, so the general expectation that we’d have is that there will still be a few more interest rate increases this year in the US and the in Australia, maybe two, maybe three? I don’t know, it’s so difficult. Everything depends on how the economy reacts. New data. It’s just very difficult to forecast. But one thing I think we can say is that there will be additional interest rate increases. Do you have any thoughts on that? Arturo?
Arturo Espinoza Bocangel 17:01
I have a question about, at what point those heights interest rates will cause a slowdown in the economy. What do you think about that? We will face a slowdown or not?
Gene Tunny 17:21
Yeah, yeah, I think that’s starting to occur. All in Australia, I think households are really starting to feel those interest rate increases and, and more households will this year, because we’re seeing mortgages that were taken out. So the home purchases, they borrowed at fixed rates, and that was for a fixed term, a couple of years, or whatever it was. And then after that, these fixed rates reset to another level. And so that’s going to happen increasingly over this year, we’re going to see more people who borrowed at a fixed rate, they will end up facing a higher interest rate. So those rates that they’re paying reset at a higher level based on current rates, and the current variable rate based on that, and they will therefore have, they will have to pay more to service their mortgage. So there are various estimates of what it means it depends on the type of loan you’ve got, it depends on the amount you’ve got outstanding on your home loan, but for many households, the interest rate rises, we’ve seen it could mean an extra thing is $1,000 a month or something that they have to pay in mortgage
Arturo Espinoza Bocangel 18:43
and depending on what loan.
Gene Tunny 18:46
Yeah, it depends on a whole range of things. It depends on what was the deal you got originally and how much you borrowed, how much is outstanding still in, in what you owe and the principal that you are? So look, it’s going to depend, but there’s no doubt that it will be a substantial hit to the budgets of many households. And we should start seeing consumption spending slow. But look, I mean, the last year the Australian economy performed, I think extraordinarily well. And unemployment got down to under three and a half percent, which is just incredible. Yeah, but I think definitely will go we shouldn’t see, nothing’s definite in economics in macro economics. Yeah. Things could judge. You just don’t know what’s around the corner sometimes. But look, I mean, my guess would be that we will start to see the economy slow this year. Will we have a recession? Well, I hope not. I think I’ve seen some forecasts from some of the bank economists might have been Jo Masters, or I’ll have to dig it up. But basically, they, they’ll say, oh, look, we think it’s more likely than not we won’t have a recession. But the probability of a recession is, I don’t know is 30% or something or 40%. I don’t know, I have to look that up. But I know that there are some people saying, Look, yes, it is possible that there could be a recession here, and also in the States. In fact, there were some people last year saying, Oh, the US had already had a risk that it was in recession last year, because they were two negative quarters of GDP. But it turns out that that was a bit of a statistical anomaly or just a freak result, and really didn’t signal that an economy then in recession. So yeah, look, it’s possible, we could see some recessions. But I mean, as always, I mean, I think, given the complexity of the economy, and all of the moving parts and all of the shocks that could occur, it’s just so hard to actually forecast that sort of thing. I mean, I remember when I was in Treasury, and right up until 2008, we were saying, and most macro economic forecasters, were saying, Oh, we’re in this new era of the Great Moderation, and we didn’t have to worry about the business cycle anymore. And then, I mean, then we have the financial crisis, and it’s the worst, worst crisis since the Great Depression. So things can change the I’m always reluctant to to provide any, any forecasts. Okay. So yeah, those are my thoughts. I mean, what do you think, Arturo, do you have any thoughts on it?
Arturo Espinoza Bocangel 21:42
Well, I think that we are under a period of higher certainty than other times after the global financial crisis. Of course, there are a lot of Australians that are suffering with these higher tax rates. Mortgages, as you have mentioned, I think we need to be cautious about this period.
Gene Tunny 22:07
Yeah, exactly. I found that that article by that mentions, recession forecasts by Jo masters, she’s with think it’s a bank or some sort of investment being Baron Joey, is it. So masters thinks Australia will avoid a recession, but it will be a very close call. So this is an article in the financial review January 3, this year, so we’re recording this on the 11th of January, everything must go right for Australia to dodge a recession. Okay. So she’s one of the people who is concerned that because of these higher interest rates, then yeah, it’s going to have a significant impact on consumption, then she’s saying that offsetting that is the fact that we’re getting all of these international students coming back into Australia. So that’s one thing that’s going to add to demand. Okay. I’ll put a link in the show notes to this article by that mentions, Jo masters, predictions. Okay. So that’s, that’s where to from here. Okay, we’ll take a short break here for a word from our sponsor.
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Gene Tunny 24:00
Now back to the show. One thing that is concerned some people is wondering, Well, is there a risk that we could get back to some of the crazily high interest rates that have been seen in past periods? So in Australia, for example, we had interest rates at 17 to 18%. At one time, back in the late 80s, early 90s, we had really high interest rates, but that was also at a point in time. When we had inflation of around 8% We had money supply growth of 20% plus. So we had a big boom in the late 80s. This was the age of the entrepreneurs a lot of lending a lot of property, lots of speculation, and I would say that it’s probably unlikely I can’t see interest rates getting back to anywhere near that sort of crazy heights. Given that the macro economic conditions are different today, there was much more entrenched inflation, people expected high inflation. I think if you look one year ahead, some market economists are expecting inflation of over 4% or something like that. But it’s not as if every year we’re expecting inflation of 8% or something like that. So monetary policy doesn’t have to be as restrictive to get inflation under control to to get all of the money creation, all the credit creation that’s leading to the growth in the money supply, it doesn’t need to be as aggressive to get that under control. So my expectation is that we don’t have to, we wouldn’t see that, again, just because inflation is not at those Well, it’s not entrenched at those rates. So we’ve got high inflation at the moment at 7%. If it turns out that the RBA can’t get inflation down, then they will have to increase, keep increasing the cash rate. But I would expect they wouldn’t have to increase it anywhere near some of those really high interest rates that they have in the past, because it seems like your households are already they’re going to start suffering even with the interest rate increases that we’ve seen. So if they increase the interest rates a bit more, say another half a percent, then the hope is that that will start you know slowing the economy taking the heat out of the economy enough that we can get inflation under control. So yeah, we won’t get back to those, those crazy interest rates that have been seen in the past, just because the nature of the economy is different. We haven’t had sustained inflation over such a long period as we had back then over several years. And then having that inflation, getting expected having these entrenched inflation expectations which the central banks have to then act aggressively against. I’ll put some links to some charts on on inflation and interest rates and what we’ve seen in the past, and just so people can see if you’re in the audience, you’re interested, you can have a look at what what these things have been in the past. They what strikes me is when I look at, well, interest rates, which is what we’re talking about today, you look at interest rates historically, and they’ve been all over the place. This is why when we’re talking about normalisation when we’re talking about normalisation to some, what do they call it some equilibrium rate of interest where we’ve got the economy balanced, we’ve got inflation at Target, we’ve got the economy going along smoothly. We don’t know there’s no one interest rate over history, that’s it’s not going to be the same interest rate, it’s going to depend on the macro economic circumstances at the time. There was an estimate that the Reserve Bank put out of what the equilibrium real interest rate is. And the central estimate they came up with, I think it averaged at 1%. Now, that’s a real interest rate. And then if we think about what would the nominal interest rate be, this is something I may not have defined yet, Arturo. But we’ve got to think about, one of the reasons you end up with a 17% or 18% interest rate is because inflation is expected to be about 8% or something, or whatever it is. So the interest rate at least has to compensate for the inflation that’s expected. And then you’ve got the real component of the interest rate, the so called real interest rate. And the inflation gets added to that to get the nominal interest rate. So when this is one of the tricky things with interest rates, it needs to be appreciated. There’s a there’s a nominal interest rate and all of these, these rates that we’ve been talking about the policy, the cash rate, the RBA cash rate, or the federal funds rate, that’s a nominal interest rate. That’s not the real interest rate that has been paid. Because one thing that inflation does, it erodes the real value of debts. So if you’re only earning, I mean, you’d be earning more than the cash rate, if you’ve invested if you’ve bought a you know, an asset of some kind of financial asset. But let’s just say you, the cash rates 3.1% at the moment, the inflation rate 7.1%. Now, you could argue or looking backwards, this is an ex post view of things. So after the fact, if you’re only earning 3.1% per year on your asset and inflation was 7.1% then you’ve gone backwards 4% hit right. Yeah. Now that’s an ex post calculation another way, well, what ends up happening is that the market is going to adjust these interest rates will adjust to incorporate expectations of future inflation. And so, therefore, the interest rate that you see at a point in time, should equal whatever people demand on the market determined real rate of interest, plus the expected rate of inflation, which I think is that’s the Fisher equation, I think, isn’t it? There’s a relationship between inflation and interest rates. That’s called the Fisher equation after Irving Fisher, that I’ll put it in the show notes. Yes. Okay. So that’s a that’s a bit of technical detail. I’ll put some links on all of that. Yeah. And what I find extraordinary is that just over recorded history, there are all these different types of interest rates that we’ve observed. And I always go back to this great passage from John Maynard Keynes, one of the great economists, obviously. And Keynes, in chapter 15 of the general theory, incentives to liquidity wrote that it might be more accurate, perhaps to say that the rate of interest is a highly conventional rather than a highly psychological phenomenon, for its actual value is largely governed by the prevailing view as to what its value is expected to be. Okay, I think that’s quite clever and observation. And, yeah, what he’s getting out there is that it ends up being conventional, in a way, it depends on what it’s expected to be. And I think that’s quite interesting, because for a long time, well, after the financial crisis, there was this expectation of low interest rates, and that was supported by the central bank’s pumping a lot of money into the economy. But now, I mean, who knows, I mean, the expectation could be of higher interest rates. So we’ll have to wait and see where things settle, and what expectations and being and what people, people think as an acceptable interest rate. Historically, we’ve seen interest rates and the ones I’m quoting, they’re going to be nominal interest rates of around three to 4%. On government bonds. And so this can be considered a risk free rate, this could be considered as similar to the the cash rate, although a bit higher due to the fact that there’s a yield curve that if you borrow for, for a longer period, you generally have to pay a higher interest rate. But if we look at what we see in the data, or what we’ve observed in history, these UK consoles, which are perpetual bonds, whereby the government, the UK government borrowed, say, I don’t know let’s say they borrow 100 pounds, and then you get this console, this note that says, The UK government will pay you three to 4% of that. So three pounds or four pounds every year, in perpetuity, on that, that console of 100 pounds. I don’t know if that was the actual denomination, but this is just to explain it. So these were perpetual bonds that the government never repaid. It just paid an interest rate each year. And historically, that was three to 4%, depending on when they issued the console, and what they thought was necessary to attract the people to buy the console to lend money to the UK Government, it turns out I think was about seven or eight years ago, the UK actually bought back the final consoles that are on issue. So there were these consoles that were that have been on issue for decades or centuries, that were still owned by nothing to various investors in England in the UK that the HM Treasury bought back finally, so I’ll put a link in the show notes there. So if we look at the historical evidence, we see consoles, they were yielding three to 4%. And if we look at the history of what’s called bank rate in the UK, which is the last day, that overnight interest rate, the policy rate, that the Bank of England influences historically, it’s ranged from, if we look at, from when the Bank of England was set up, so in 1694, it was looks like it was 6% or so I’ll put a link in the show notes to the actual data, and then it dropped down to what’s that nearly 3%, around 3%. Then for a long period from 1720 to 1820 it was about it was 5%. And then it fluctuates a bit more, I’ve got a chart that I’ve pulled off macro bond that I think that’s a great chart, I’ll put a link in the show notes. And then in the 19th century, it fluctuates quite a bit. And at times, it gets up to 10%. This must be related to the UK trying to maintain the gold value of sterling. So this is related. I think this is related to the gold standard, and having to maintain that and adjusting bank rate to do that. But I think what’s fascinating about that is for a very long time, so for about 100 years, it had the interest rate it at 5%. And that’s their policy rate. Okay, so we’ve been talking about interest rates, and these are interest rates related to financial securities. And other bit of evidence that is, that is interesting is the evidence, or the data points that you’ll see in novels by Jane Austen or Balzac? So Jane Austen, obviously, right Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, etc. Balzac wrote old man glorioso, his French writer, this is something Thomas Piketty pointed out in his book on capital in the 21st century that if you read these novels, you’ll see that it was generally understood that the rate of return on land was about four to 5%. That’s a rate of return on an investment that’s different from the interest rate. But it gives you an idea of what was people were expecting to earn from investments in assets, and there’s some risk associated with land, or owning anything. So it’s not going to be a risk free interest rate. But I think it gives you gives you some idea of what rates of return were so right rate of return on land, historically, 4 to 5%. And it was taken for granted, that land yields 5% is what picket is writing. So the value is equal to roughly 20 years of annual rent. So I think that’s, that’s a really interesting data point. So what we’re getting is that, but another thing to consider is that that’s probably in a time when, historically there wasn’t a lot of inflation. I mean, there was during war time. But generally, until we had this, we adopted fiat currency in the 20th century, inflation wasn’t usually a problem, although you could have episodes of inflation, if there was a crisis of some kind. But I think you could probably interpret that as those is real rates, real rates of return almost. What we could conclude is that, yeah, I mean, interest rates are normalising historically, we’ve seen a range of interest rates, rates of three to 4%, four, or 5%. For risk free rates. That’s something you might expect, where current interest rates and up, it’s difficult to say it’s going to depend on the state of the economy, or how the economy reacts to those rate rises. I mean, this is something we’ll we’ll keep tracking we’ll keep following this year, and provide some more commentary, some more analysis on the future. Arturo, anything else you think we should cover?
Arturo Espinoza Bocangel 38:33
I think you have to cover most of the important things. So that was a good conclusion for this episode of the books.
Gene Tunny 38:43
Okay. Very good. Okay. All right. Thanks so much for your time.
Arturo Espinoza Bocangel 38:47
Thank you for having me.
Gene Tunny 38:50
Okay, have you found that informative and enjoyable. In my view, the main takeaway is that monetary policy is still in what’s called a tightening cycle. Interest rates will have to increase some more because inflation is still too high. It’s hard to know when the tightening will stop. The US experience suggests tightening cycles last a bit under two years on average, according to an informative note from Chatham financial, which I’ll link to in the show notes. The US Fed started tightening in March last year, and the Reserve Bank of Australia started last May, suggesting we could still have many months to go. Of course, this tightening cycle doesn’t necessarily have to conform to the average. Much depends on how the economy responds. In Australia, we’re hopeful we won’t need many more interest rate increases to sufficiently slow demand and get inflation under control. Even though the cash rate hasn’t been pushed up to a very high level in historical terms, the rate increases that we’ve seen could still be effective because of the heavy load of household debt that people have incurred to buy high priced properties. How much will the economy slow down? Will it just be a slowdown a reduction in the GDP growth rate or a contraction in which GDP falls? And we have negative growth for a couple of quarters at least that is a recession. Recessions in both Australia and the US are definitely possible. Indeed, recessions often occur after central banks tighten monetary policy. The 2009, New York Fed paper noted 11 and 14 monetary tightening cycles since 1955, were followed by increases in unemployment. That is, it’s very difficult for central banks to bring about a so-called soft landing. That was me speaking rather than the Fed. I’d note that some economists are even speculating that because economies will slow down substantially, we’ll start seeing interest rate cuts toward the end of 2023. Honestly, I don’t know whether we’ll have soft landings or recessions, a lot depends on psychology, and just how entrenched expectations of high inflation have become, the more entrenched they are, the more interest rates have to keep on increasing. We need to wait and see just how effective the interest rate increases we’ve seen already have been and will be. Obviously, this is one of the big economic issues of the year. And I’ll continue to keep a close eye on it. And I’ll come back to you in a future episode this year. Thanks for listening. Alright, thanks for listening to this episode of Economics Explored. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please get in touch. I’d love to hear from you. You can send me an email via email@example.com Or a voicemail via SpeakPipe. You can find the link in the show notes. If you’ve enjoyed the show, I’d be grateful if you could tell anyone you think would be interested about it. Word of mouth is one of the main ways that people learn about the show. Finally, if your podcasting app lets you, then please write a review and leave a rating. Thanks for listening. I hope you can join me again next week.
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