Ohlsson: Inflation statistics difficult to interpret during the economic crisis
“Who could have imagined that spring 2020 would turn out like this?” These comments are made by Deputy Governor Henry Ohlsson in a speech today published on the Riksbank’s website. The economic crisis has entailed several challenges for the Riksbank: financial markets functioning poorly, inflation statistics that are difficult to interpret and difficulties making forecasts.
Date: 17/06/2020 13:00
Speaker: Deputy Governor Henry Ohlsson
Place: The Riksbank
To support the financial markets, the Riksbank has during the spring taken a number of decisions on measures that have facilitated the supply of credit and held market rates down. For instance, the Riksbank has purchased government bonds, mortgage bonds and municipal bonds, as well as commercial paper, and enabled the banks to borrow money for onward lending to companies, as well as borrowing US dollars to be able to lend them to banks needing foreign currency.
The second challenge for the Riksbank during the spring has been that inflation statistics have been unusually difficult to interpret. For one thing, prices have been lacking for certain goods and services, as these have not been consumed, and for another thing the actual consumption by Swedes during the pandemic does not correspond to the weights in the consumer price index. Quite simply, the Swedish people have bought more toilet paper and fewer trips abroad than the weights in the consumer price index imply.
Finally, in these unusual times it has been difficult to make monetary policy forecasts. During economic crises, history and the relationships we can see there do not help us to predict the future. This is why the Riksbank did not present any forecast in its April Monetary Policy Report but instead presented two possible scenarios for developments.
Monetary policy has always been very much here and now, according to Henry Ohlsson. He concludes his speech by saying, “When we can once again interpret inflation statistics and when we can once again use history to say something about the future, monetary policy can also become more forward-looking than it has been in recent months.”