The Germans, with Teutonic precision, call them “Punishment Interest.” Negative interest rates are spreading from the ECB’s negative deposit rate across the bond market and to some savings accounts in the Eurozone. The idea is to enrich existing bond holders and flog savers until their mood improves. Stock prices are allowed to get crushed by reality.
Negative interest rates destroy one of the most essential mechanisms in an economy: the pricing of risk. Investors end up taking huge risks with no reward. Many of them will get cleaned out down the road.
In Switzerland, punishment interest already causes “perverse unpredictable effects,” as mortgage rates have started to soar. It’s wreaking havoc in Denmark and Sweden. Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz let the idea float that he’d unleash punishment interest to destroy the Canadian dollar. The Bank of Japan announced Friday morning – timed for maximum market effect – that it too would inflict negative interest rates on its subjects.
In the US, Ben Bernanke has been out there preaching to the choir about them. Over-indebted corporate America, except for the banks, would love this absurdity; it would allow them to actually make money off their mountain of debt.
“Potentially anything – including negative interest rates – would be on the table,” Fed Chair Janet Yellen told a House of Representatives committee in early November.
Fed Vice Chair Stanley Fischer has been publicly obsessing about them for a while. Monday, during the Q&A after his speech at the Council on Foreign Relations, he said that negative interest rates are “working more than I can say I expected in 2012.”
It seems to be just talk. But negative interest rates are already baked into the official scenario for 2016.
…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…