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Can Central Banks Go Broke?

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  • Buiter, Willem H.

Abstract

Central banks can go broke and have done so, although mainly in developing countries. The conventional balance sheet of the central bank is uninformative about the financial resources it has at its disposal and about its ability to act as an effective lender of last resort and market marker of last resort. As long as central banks don’t have significant foreign exchange-denominated liabilities or index-linked liabilities, it will always be possible for the central bank to ensure its solvency though monetary issuance (seigniorage). However, the scale of the recourse to seigniorage required to safeguard central bank solvency may undermine price stability. In addition, there are limits to the amount of real resources the central bank can appropriate by increasing the issuance of nominal base money. For both these reasons, it may be desirable for the Treasury to recapitalise the central bank should the central bank suffer a major capital loss as a result of its lender of last resort and market maker of last resort activities. The fiscal authorities of the Euro Area should as a matter of urgency agree on a formula for dividing the fiscal burden of recapitalising the European Central Bank/Eurosystem, should the need arise.

Suggested Citation

  • Buiter, Willem H., 2008. "Can Central Banks Go Broke?," CEPR Discussion Papers 6827, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:6827
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Willem H. Buiter, 2005. "New Developments in Monetary Economics: Two ghosts, Two Eccentricities, a Fallacy, a Mirage and a Mythos," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(502), pages 1-31, March.
    2. Padoa-Schioppa, Tommaso, 1999. "EMU and Banking Supervision," International Finance, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 2(2), pages 295-308, July.
    3. Buiter, Willem H., 2007. "Seigniorage," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), vol. 1, pages 1-49.
    4. Charles Goodhart, 1999. "Recent Developments in Central Banking: Some Special Features of the Monetary Policy Committee and of the European System of Central Banks," FMG Special Papers sp118, Financial Markets Group.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Blogs review: QE and central bank solvency (continued)
      by ? in Bruegel blog on 2015-01-26 14:57:40
    2. Central Bank Balance Sheets: Past, Present and Future
      by bankunderground in Bank Underground on 2017-07-03 13:00:12
    3. Braucht eine Zentralbank Eigenkapital?
      by Acemaxx-Analytics in Acemaxx-Analytics on 2017-07-06 11:14:00

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:jbfina:v:83:y:2017:i:c:p:232-248 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. De Grauwe, Paul & Ji,Yuemei, 2012. "What Germany should fear most is its own fear: An analysis of Target2 and current account imbalances," CEPS Papers 7280, Centre for European Policy Studies.
    3. Bartels, Bernhard & Eichengreen, Barry & Weder, Beatrice, 2016. "No Smoking Gun: Private Shareholders, Governance Rules and Central Bank Financial Behavior," CEPR Discussion Papers 11625, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    4. Bholat, David & Darbyshire, Robin, 2016. "Accounting in central banks," Bank of England working papers 604, Bank of England.
    5. Georg ERBER, 2010. "The Problem Of Money Illusion In Economics," Journal of Applied Economic Sciences, Spiru Haret University, Faculty of Financial Management and Accounting Craiova, vol. 5(3(13)/Fal), pages 196-216.
    6. Stephen Quinn & William Roberds, 2016. "Death of a Reserve Currency," International Journal of Central Banking, International Journal of Central Banking, vol. 12(4), pages 63-103, December.
    7. Ansgar Belke, 2010. "How Much Fiscal Backing Must the ECB Have? – The Euro Area is not the Philippines," Ruhr Economic Papers 0184, Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Universität Dortmund, Universität Duisburg-Essen.
    8. Belke, Ansgar, 2010. "How Much Fiscal Backing Must the ECB Have? – The Euro Area is not the Philippines," Ruhr Economic Papers 184, RWI - Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-University Bochum, TU Dortmund University, University of Duisburg-Essen.
    9. Philipp Bagus & Markus H. Schiml, 2010. "A Cardiograph of the Dollar´s Quality: Qualitative Easing and the Federal Reserve Balance Sheet During the Subprime Crisis," Prague Economic Papers, University of Economics, Prague, vol. 2010(3), pages 195-217.
    10. Kooths, Stefan & van Roye, Björn, 2012. "Nationale Geldschöpfung im Euroraum: Mechanismen, Defekte, Therapie," Kiel Discussion Papers 508/509, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    11. Projektgruppe Gemeinschaftsdiagnose, 2011. "Gemeinschaftsdiagnose Herbst 2011: Europäische Schuldenkrise belastet deutsche Konjunktur," ifo Schnelldienst, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 64(20), pages 03-71, October.
    12. Julien Pinter, 2017. "Central bank financial strength and inflation: an empirical reassessment considering the key role of the fiscal support," Documents de travail du Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne 17055, Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris 1), Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne.
    13. Nyborg, Kjell G., 2017. "Central bank collateral frameworks," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 76(C), pages 198-214.
    14. Koulischer, François & Struyven, Daan, 2014. "Central bank liquidity provision and collateral quality," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 113-130.
    15. Kenneth N. Kuttner, 2010. "The Fed's response to the financial crisis: Pages from the BOJ playbook, or a whole new ball game?," Public Policy Review, Policy Research Institute, Ministry of Finance Japan, vol. 6(3), pages 407-430, March.
    16. Körner, Finn Marten & Ehnts, Dirk H., 2013. "Chinese monetary policy – from theory to practice," MPRA Paper 44264, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    17. repec:zbw:rwirep:0184 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. Markus C. Kerber, 2015. "Haftungsrechtliche Folgen eines griechischen Staatskonkurses," ifo Schnelldienst, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 68(13), pages 19-21, July.
    19. Belke, Ansgar & Gros, Daniel, 2016. "Negative Rates and Seigniorage: Turning the central bank business model upside down? The special case of the ECB," CEPS Papers 11753, Centre for European Policy Studies.
    20. repec:bla:reviec:v:25:y:2017:i:5:p:990-998 is not listed on IDEAS
    21. Buiter, Willem, 2014. "Central Banks: Powerful, Political and Unaccountable?," MPRA Paper 59477, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    22. Jakob Korbinian Eberl, 2016. "The Collateral Framework of the Eurosystem and Its Fiscal Implications," ifo Beiträge zur Wirtschaftsforschung, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, number 69, April.
    23. repec:cii:cepiei:2010-4ta is not listed on IDEAS
    24. repec:wsi:jicepx:v:04:y:2013:i:02:n:s1793993313500105 is not listed on IDEAS
    25. Christiaan Pattipeilohy, 2016. "A comparative analysis of developments in central bank balance sheet composition," DNB Working Papers 510, Netherlands Central Bank, Research Department.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    central bank insolvency; lender of last resort; market maker of last resort; recapitalising central banks;

    JEL classification:

    • E31 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Price Level; Inflation; Deflation
    • E41 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Demand for Money
    • E44 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Financial Markets and the Macroeconomy
    • E52 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Monetary Policy
    • E58 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Central Banks and Their Policies
    • E63 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Comparative or Joint Analysis of Fiscal and Monetary Policy; Stabilization; Treasury Policy
    • F31 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - Foreign Exchange
    • F41 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - Open Economy Macroeconomics

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