07/07/2016: Learning New Words

A wise man once said “You should learn something new each day.”

Bankers used to read financial newspapers every morning to learn about the current events and how they would shape the economy. Today, Bankers spend a lot of time reading online about the economy. Now economic news streams across the internet in real time and financial news channels broadcast global events and financial markets 24/7. You see, BG (before Google) lots of folks had jobs that provided historical research to investors and banks that was not available to everyone. Now, information is abundant on the internet. These days titles are created for economic trends and periods like “The Great Recession” and definitions are available in moments on Wikipedia (which is another relatively new word). I recently heard a well-known economist discuss “Brexit” (British withdrawal from the European Union) for the first time two months ago and now it is used by nearly every financial news channel in the world.

Bankers also use a lot of acronyms (abbreviations formed from initial letters of other words and pronounced as a word e.g. NASA). Recently, we learned a new acronym that you will be hearing on a regular basis. The new word is “ZIRP” or “zero interest rate policy”, this is a microeconomic concept describing conditions with a very low nominal interest rate such as those in contemporary Japan, the United States and many other countries.

Currently, ZIRP is defined in the U.S. as the time period from 2008 until present. Since I learned about ZIRP, I am now trying to learn more about NIRP (negative interest rate policy). Unfortunately, ZIRP has morphed into NIRP in Japan and parts of Europe. Long gone are the days when ZIRP and NIRP were merely hypothetical discussions. In general, the NIRP strategies are being put in place globally by Central Banks as monetary policy tools to battle falling inflation, rising currencies and economic weakness. Recently, our stock market has embraced the ZIRP and even NIRP. This concept is so new that it has not been tested or explained.

Now, the big question is, will the U.S. experience NIRP? This is a major discussion among many well-known economists. I hope the Wikipedia definition for NIRP does not include the United States in the future. Our hope is that productivity in the U.S. will lead the world in an economic recovery cycle that will soon be defined by “Wikipedia”, or possibly have a new acronym of its own. Fortunately, each day we are learning something new. But, does this make us any wiser?