At its most recent Federal Reserve FOMC meeting, Fed officials said they were comfortable keeping interest rates near zero for a while as the economy slowly grows and inflation rates stay nice and low.
Central banks around the world dropped rates to ultra low levels during the financial crisis in their efforts to stimulate growth.
For Gluskin Sheff’s David Rosenberg, this persistent low rate policy sends an ambiguous message.
When Business Insider asked Rosenberg for his “most important chart in the world,” he sent us this jarring image.
“I don’t know whether to feel good or uneasy about the fact that 90% of the industrialized world economy is now anchored by near-zero or negative short-term rates,” Rosenberg said. “At one level, this should be supportive of risk assets; at another level, it is a symbol of how fixed-income investors and central banks see the world ― deflation at a time of ultra-low rates is certainly not a confidence builder.”
Deflation is a scary monster. Falling prices encourage businesses and consumers to wait for even lower prices. But that in turn causes economic activity to seize up, which makes prices fall even further.