Playing the marketplace;
Quantitative easing (QE) is an unconventional monetary policy used by central banks to stimulate the national economy when conventional monetary policy has become ineffective. A central bank buys financial assets to inject a pre-determined quantity of money into the economy. This is distinguished from the more usual policy of buying or selling government bonds to keep market interest rates at a specified target value. A central bank implements quantitative easing by purchasing financial assets from banks and other private sector businesses with new electronically created money. This action increases the excess reserves of the banks, and also raises the prices of the financial assets bought, which lowers their yield.
Expansionary monetary policy typically involves the central bank buying short-term government bonds in order to lower short-term market interest rates (using a combination of standing lending facilities and open market operations). However, when short-term interest rates are either at, or close to, zero, normal monetary policy can no longer lower interest rates. Quantitative easing may then be used by the monetary authorities to further stimulate the economy by purchasing assets of longer maturity than only short-term government bonds, and thereby lowering longer-term interest rates further out on the yield curve.
Quantitative easing can be used to help ensure inflation does not fall below target. Risks include the policy being more effective than intended in acting against deflation – leading to higher inflation, or of not being effective enough – if banks do not lend out the additional reserves.