Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer said negative interest rates seem to be working in other countries, while reinforcing that they aren’t on the table in the U.S.
While the Fed isn’t “planning to do anything in that direction,” the central banks using them “basically think they’re quite successful,” Fischer said Tuesday on Bloomberg Television with Tom Keene in Washington. He reiterated that Fed rate increases will be data dependent without giving a specific timeline.
Fischer’s comments on negative rates come days after Chair Janet Yellen left the subject out of a speech on the future U.S. monetary policy toolkit, suggesting that they’re not an option that’s up for discussion at the Fed. Fischer is a former Bank of Israel governor and a prominent figure in international economics, so his remarks constitute an important acceptance that the unconventional and often controversial policy might be working in other jurisdictions.
“We’re in a world where they seem to work,” Fischer said, noting that while negative rates are “difficult to deal with” for savers, they typically “go along with quite decent equity prices.”
Fischer’s assessment compares with the views of Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, who earlier this month rejected the idea of negative rates as an effective option. “What we’ve seen in other countries is, to be honest, they’ve got this a bit wrong,” Carney said in a radio interview in early August.
Swiss National Bank President Thomas Jordan has said that negative rates are “absolutely necessary” in his country.
The European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan are relying on stimulus packages that include a negative deposit rate to fuel inflation and revive the economy. ECB President Mario Draghi and BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda have both argued that they have the scope to cut rates further below zero if needed, even as the debate about risks and side effects of the policy gains momentum.
Fischer said that the decisions foreign central banks are making also affect the U.S.