Central bank policies cause of 'social unrest'

Central bank policies cause of 'social unrest'

Quantitative easing (QE) implemented by global central banks in the decade since the financial crisis has not helped economic growth and is responsible for the social unrest seen in many parts of the world, according to a fund manager at BNY Mellon.

Populist right-wing politics and protectionist policies have gained a foothold across many countries in Europe in the years since the 2008 financial crisis not witnessed to the same extent for decades. The United States has also seen a political lurch to the right.

Paul Flood, who runs multi-asset funds at the global investment firm, said QE had failed to ease the sovereign debt burden on populations, as had been intended, and has instead put more pressure on people's incomes.

“I think the point of quantitative easing was to cause inflation, inflation that would help economic growth and help to inflate away all of the debt, but all that has been inflated is asset prices," he said. 

"That makes it more difficult for investors to get the income they want, and impacts on society - a lot of the social problems we have seen in recent years are the result of quantitative easing.”

Quantitative easing is when a central bank creates new money electronically to make large purchases of assets, usually government bonds, from pension funds, high-street banks and non-financial firms.

The aim is higher prices, lower borrowing costs, more corporate investment, greater consumer spending, and with it all, higher inflation.

The Bank of England's QE programme has put around £500bn of new money into the UK's financial system.

But both the Bank and and the "bank for central banks" the Bank of International Settlements, have said quantitative easing increases inequality.

Mr Flood said he thinks bond markets will suffer in the long term as a result of QE.

His Multi Asset Income fund has around 15 per cent invested in bonds. The sector to which his fund belongs allows him to have up to 35 per cent in bonds, but he has decided to refrain from increasing his allocation.

Looking at the United States, which has also had an extensive policy of QE, Mr Flood said debt levels have not come down, while the recent tax cut announced by Donald Trump is “unfunded” and will mean a need for more borrowing by the US government to pay for it.

He said the extra government borrowing will mean an increase of supply of bonds onto the market, as the Federal Reserve issues Treasury bonds to pay for the tax cuts.

At the same time the regulatory issues that have forced many banks and pension funds to buy bonds will recede, meaning far fewer buyers for an increasing supply of bonds, and that means, according to Mr Flood, that the price of bonds will fall in future, making them a bad investment right now.

He has been buying alternative assets instead, such as Greencoat Wind, a fund that invests in renewable energy products and gets 60 per cent of its revenue from the government.