Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Can you have a neutral interest rate when bank regulations are not neutral?

That theoretical interest rate that neither pushes nor restrains the economy from its natural rhythm of growth, is called the neutral interest rate, and is of course the subject of much interest by central bankers.

But what these bankers never discuss, who knows why, is what happens to this neutral interest rate, if bank regulations are not neutral.

Current risk weighted capital requirements for banks which allow banks to earn higher risk adjusted returns on equity with what is perceived, decreed or concocted as safe, than with what is perceived as risky, are clearly not neutral.

They push bank credit to the “safe” areas and away from the “risky” and that distortion must have a real cost for the economy.

Just for a starter, since the risk-weight assigned to the sovereign is 0%, all those “risky” SMEs and entrepreneurs who will not get credit or need to pay more for it, only because of these regulations that are biased against them, are paying a regulatory tax that is directly subsidizing lower interest rates for the government.

As I have argued many times before… we do not have real risk-free rates, we have subsidized risk-free interest rates.