In the midst of the market turbulence of recent years, policy rates have reached the zero lower bound, with central banks aggressively deploying their balance sheet with an array of ‘unconventional’ monetary policies to ensure the transmission of monetary policy impulses in disrupted financial markets, ultimately to set the conditions for economic recovery. Since March 9th, the European Central Bank (ECB) has also joined the club of central banks deploying the most feared monetary policy tool in its armoury. Unsterilised outright asset purchases (so-called ‘quantitative easing’, or QE) aim to re-establish control over the transmission of monetary policy impulse via policy rates by improving conditions for unsecured interbank market activity. This paper examines three dimensions of quantitative easing: i) the rationale behind the ECB’s new monetary policy stance, ii) the operational challenges of QE and iii) preliminary evidence on the effects of QE on markets.
Diego Valiante is a Research Fellow and Head of the Financial Markets and Institutions Unit at CEPS.