There was a period not so long ago when it looked as though the world’s central banks were on course to normalize. We were nearing a significant milestone on the long road back from 2008, when, in response to the implosion of the global financial system, central banks around the world had adopted a suite of unconventional policy measures. They had dropped interest rates to zero. Under the sign of quantitative easing, they purchased mountains of bonds.
Janet Yellen, then-chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve, ended its quantitative easing program in October 2014. By that point, America’s central bank had piled up $4.5 trillion in assets. Since then, the balance sheet has been run down, and interest rates have nudged up. The European Central Bank (ECB) didn’t get into the quantitative easing game until March 2015, but it ended its purchases in December 2018. Meanwhile, the Bank of Japan never eased up. But it was the exception that proved the rule.
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