tools have failed or need to be supplemented. (QE or ‘asset purchasing’) is a tool used by central banks to invigorate an when ‘conventional’
The approach was first used in the UK in 2009.
Ordinarily a (such as the of England) will lower interest rates in order to encourage greater and spending.
However, if interest rates have been cut as low as possible and has not improved, then the may inject a ‘quantity’ of money directly into the wider to boost the and ‘ease’ the situation – i.e. ‘ ‘.
The does this by firstly creating a batch of ‘new money’, not by printing actual notes, but by simply crediting its own account electronically. It then uses this new money to buy assets, such as , from private sector businesses including high street banks, pension funds and insurance companies.
When the buys up assets, their price rises and the yield (return or interest) on those assets falls. The sellers of those assets are then likely to use their new money to buy other assets such as equities and , which depresses yields further. Reduced yields mean the cost of borrowing is reduced for businesses and individuals and as a consequence , spending and investment should all increase.
Also those banks which have increased funds in their account from the sale of assets should in theory be more inclined to provide loans, which again will lead to increased spending and investment.
When the recovers, the can then sell the assets it has bought and removes the cash it receives for those assets from the , so that in the long term no new money has been created.
The aim of QE is simple: by creating ‘new money’, the of England looks to boost spending and investment in the .
When the global took hold in late 2008, the of England lowered the Rate from 5% to 0.5% to support the UK’s economic recovery. However, such a ‘conventional’ tool proved ineffective in this unconventional period of economic downturn.
The lowering of the Rate did not encourage the opening and investment the of England hoped it would, and having lowered the base rate. to 0.5% there was no longer much room to lower it again. Furthermore, if lowering the base rate from 5% to 0.5% had made little difference, it was questioned as to what help lowering the bate rate further would provide.
By beginning a period of Quantitative Easing and asset purchasing, therefore, (through the process described above) the Bank of England could lower interest rates through another means.
This lowering of interest rates makes it cheaper for households and businesses to borrow money – encouraging spending and recovery.
History ofin the UK
was first used in the UK in 2009. The collapse of US banking giant Lehman Brothers in September 2008 precipitated a worldwide which by 2009 had developed into a serious global economic downturn. World GDP was forecast to fall to its lowest rate since World War II and in the UK GDP was down 2.4% in the first quarter of 2009.
The target of 2% further action was needed. The Committee announced in March 2009 that it would begin to inject money directly into the – the process known as . of England’s had already set the rate as low as possible at 0.5%, but decided that in order to meet the
The then Governor of the of England, Mervyn King, said, “It’s fair to say that in the ‘s 300 year history we have not seen measures of this kind enacted on this scale, but remember we haven’t either seen the scale of the problems to which we’ve had to respond.”
The then Chancellor, Alistair Darling, had authorised the in January of that year to set up an Asset Purchase Facility (APF) which would provide a framework for the Committee to use for purposes should that prove necessary. In February the Governor of the of England wrote to the Chancellor requesting authorisation to use the facility and in March authorisation was given.
Initially the announced that it would purchase £75 billion of assets using new money it had created. The Governor said it was “hard to judge” whether that would be enough, but that the situation would be monitored to see whether it was necessary “to do more or less”. In May 2009 the decided it would need to purchase another £50 billion of assets bringing the total figure to £125 billion. In August that total figure was increased to £175 billion and in November to £200 billion.
Most of the assets purchased have been UK securities (gilts), but the has also purchased small quantities of high-quality private sector assets in order to support the flow of corporate credit.
The MPC decides at its regular monthly meetings whether or not more assets need to be purchased and in February 2010 the Committee voted to maintain the stock of at £200 billion, but added that further purchases would be made if the outlook warranted them.
On 6 October 2011, the MPC increased the limit of the current purchase programme to £275 billion and on 9 February 2012 to £325 billion, with a further increase of £50 billion to a total of £375 billion on 5 July 2012.
On 9 November 2012, the announced that the had agreed with the of England to transfer to the Exchequer the excess cash held in the ‘s (QE) facility.
This move would align the cash management arrangements for the facility with normal practice and with the approach followed by other countries undertaking QE.
The stated that with the purchases of the APF having reached £375 billion in July 2012, the Facility had now accumulated a large cash balance; and as the scale and likely duration of the scheme had increased significantly since its inception, “it makes sense to normalise the cash management arrangements for the APF.”
post the Brexit referendum
In the aftermath of the EU referendum 2016, the buy , extending the (QE) programme to £435bn. of England cut interest rates for the first time in 7 years. It also pumped an additional £60bn in electronic cash into the to
and the Coronavirus pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic delivered the sharpest economic contraction on record, with the UK declining by 9% in 2020 alone.
The of England began another program in the hope of reducing the borrowing costs of households and businesses and stimulating the in the long run.
In November 2020, it was announced that the British . Following this additional programme, the of England’s purchasing of UK totalled £875 billion. of England would pump £150bn of Quantitative Easing into the
Quantitative easing itself also has implications for the cost of government borrowing, and the associated cost of financing the national debt. Through Quantitative Easing, the government has been buying its own bonds back again in the secondary market. This is sometimes also referred to as the Asset Purchase Facility, as the government creates new digital money to help stimulate the economy. In doing so, it also reduces the net interest rate cost of UK government debt.
Quantitative Easing around the world
Japan was the first country to employ , with its program beginning in 2001. Lasting five years, this programme failed to rid the world’s third largest of its persistent deflation. Japan restarted their QE program in 2013, this was worth $1.4tn (£923bn). This formed part of a set of policies known as Abenomics – named as such after Japan’s former PM: Shinzo Abe.
Like the UK, the US embarked on its first QE program in 2008 in the depths of the US slowly improved after the beginnings of the program, and US shares rose rapidly from 2008.. It was launched by then-Fed chairman Ben Bernanke – dubbed “Helicopter Ben” because of his supposed desire to drop money out of the sky. The
One of the main concerns about is that if too much new money is created, this can lead to hyperinflation, as was seen in the German Weimar Republic after World War 1 and latterly in Zimbabwe, where increasing numbers of banknotes were printed of ever higher denominations until they became virtually worthless.
In the past, the Governor of the of England has rejected the comparison, pointing out that the is not printing vast amounts of new notes and insisting that the amount of new money being electronically created is not big enough to generate “anything remotely like” that kind of situation.
Another concern is that will be ineffective if instead of using the new money to lend to small businesses and individuals, banks just sit on the cash in order to increase their capital reserves. But the of England disputes this, pointing out that operates through a variety of channels, only some of which actively involve commercial banks.
Others have criticized how benefits those households with assets and investments The of England themselves calculated that the value of shares and bonds had risen by 26% – or £600bn – as a result of .
‘Long before folks fretted the demise of ‘,’ I fretted its existence. It proved the reverse of its image, an anti stimulus, and we’ve done okay not because of it, but despite it’. – Kenneth Fisher, American author
‘There is a fundamental divide in British politics at the moment. Some people would withdraw the fiscal stimulus now at a time when the is still in difficulty, some people would stop today and that would imperil the recovery’ – Gordon Brown, 2009