For the past 25 years, Canada’s monetary policy framework has been working well. Headline inflation averaged 1.9 percent, 1994–2015, and long-term inflation expectations have been very well anchored to the 2 percent target (Chart 1).
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Global interest rates will eventually move higher. We do not know precisely when, how fast, or how far, but we do know the direction. After a long period of very low interest rates following the global financial crisis, some central banks (mainly, the U.S. Federal Reserve and the Bank of England) are planning to “normalize”—that is, to gradually tighten their easy monetary policies as their economies improve. And when U.S. and U.K benchmark interest rates go up, interest rates tend to go up elsewhere, too.
So should we worry if and when global financial conditions tighten?
The 2014 IMF Spillover Report prepared by IMF staff looks into this important issue—what to watch out for and who to watch out for as interest rates begin to normalize. The answer depends on two sets of factors. First, what is going on in the originating source countries in terms of the underlying drivers behind higher yields—for example, whether or not stronger growth, say in the U.S. and U.K., is the main force behind higher interest rates. Second, what is going on in the receiving countries—that is, how vulnerable they might be to higher borrowing costs. Both these factors matter for spillovers as highlighted in the report.
The effects of a persistently weak economy and high long-term unemployment can reverberate through a country’s economy long into the future—commonly referred to by economists as hysteresis. Our analysis shows that the large and sustained output gap, the difference between what an economy could produce and what it is producing, raises the danger that a downturn reduces the economy’s productive capacity and permanently depresses potential GDP.