Why the IMF thing works for the euro

Editor’s note: At this point, the IMF musings are speculative – maybe even an attempt to float a trial balloon to gauge the response. This plan would be difficult politically, especially in the US. And any deal for Italy would also have to involve Spain too.

By Warren Mosler

As a matter of chance, the euro’s lucky stars fall in line with the latest IMF musings.

Perhaps most important,
the ECB lending to the IMF,
which then lends to euro member nations,
doesn’t count as ‘printing money’ in the Teutonic monetary bible.

To recap:

When the ECB buys bonds,
it credits member bank accounts on the ECB’s spreadsheet.
Those accounts count as ‘money’ while the bonds did not count as ‘money’
So this is said to be ‘printing money’

The ECB then offers different euro accounts,
also data on the same ECB spreadsheet,
that pay interest with relatively short maturities.
This is called ’sterilization’ because those deposits don’t count as ‘money’

However, when the ECB buys SDR from the IMF loans to the IMF,
and it credits the IMF account at the ECB with euro,
that doesn’t count as ‘printing money.’

Nor does the IMF lending those euro to the likes of Italy count as ‘printing money’

And, while a bit of a stretch,
the IMF was, after all, set up to address balance of payments issues.
And while overall the euro zone doesn’t have a balance of payments issue of any consequence,
it’s not wrong to say the euro nations in question
do have balance of payments issues.
So here’s one place in the world of floating exchange rates between nations
where IMF involvement can be said to actually fit its original mandate.

Furthermore, if there’s one force that can be trusted to impose austerity,
it’s the IMF, of course.

Also interesting is that the IMF takes the credit risk for the loans it makes,
while the ECB takes IMF credit risk on its balance sheet.
This means the rest of world is assuming the risk for the loans to the national governments.

Lastly, while it triggers a massive relief rally,
it’s just Bigfoot kicking the can way down the road,
as the austerity continues to weaken the euro economy,
now to the point of driving up deficits as GDP growth goes negative.

So bringing in the IMF helps Germany preserve it’s ‘max austerity’ image,
kicks the solvency issue down the road,
and all without the ECB ‘printing money’!

So now let’s see if it actually happens.

Merry Christmas!

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