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All Of Europe's A Stage...

 March 10, 2012 11:44 AM

Bloomberg had a good summary of Mario Draghi's comments from the ECB press conference on March 8, 2012 in an article entitled Draghi Lays Groundwork for ECB Stimulus Exit as Inflation Takes Spotlight (emphasis added):
Declaring that the environment "has improved enormously" and there are "many signs of returning confidence in the euro," Draghi yesterday turned the spotlight on "upside risks" to inflation, which is now forecast to remain above the ECB's 2 percent limit this year. That suggests policy makers don't plan to cut rates further or add to their 1 trillion euros ($1.32 trillion) of long-term loans to banks, economists said.... 
The Frankfurt-based ECB must "go back to normal, classical central bank policy," he said.

Draghi's message to the politicians was, "We've done our part, it's time for you to do yours" as he hinted that not only would there be no further LTROs, but the next ECB step would be some form of tightening.

How much of that is to be believed?

The Theatre in Europe
I wrote about how Draghi revealed the Grand Plan in a WSJ interview, which consisted of:
  • "Good" government austerity, in the form of lower taxes and less spending; and
  • Structural reform, in the form of the elimination of the European social model.
For the that Grand Plan to work, you need a compliant central bank to print money so that the system doesn't seize up. So how much of what Draghi said is bluster and how much is real?

I interpret what Draghi said as being totally consistent with the message of: We will print more money if necessary, but on the condition that the politicians move forward with the Grand Plan's reforms. Otherwise, be prepared for tightening.

It seems to me that even the Germans are on board with the Grand Plan. Despite the German cultural aversion to money printing, notice that there wasn't a single complaint from either the Bundesbank or any of the German hardliners about LTRO, which has been documented to enormously expand the ECB balance sheet? Instead, we got a letter from Weidmann of the Bundesbank complaining about a technical point with LTRO, i.e. the quality of collateral.

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