Exit, pursued by bear

IT IS more than two weeks since the Federal Reserve raised interest rates for the first time in over nine years, and the world has not (yet) ended. But it is too soon to celebrate. Several central banks have tried to lift rates in recent years after long spells near zero, only to be forced to reverse course and cut them again (see chart). The outcome of America’s rate rise, whatever it may be, will help economists understand why zero exerts such a powerful gravitational pull.

Recessions strike when too many people wish to save and too few to spend. Central banks try to escape the doldrums by slashing interest rates, encouraging people to loosen their grip on their money. It is hard to lower rates much below zero, however, since people and businesses would begin to swap bank deposits for cash or other assets. So during a really nasty shock, economists agree, rates cannot go low enough to revive demand.

There is significant disagreement, however, on why economies become stuck in this quagmire for long periods. There are three main explanations. The Fed maintains that the problem stems from central-bank paralysis, either...

via The Economist: Finance and economics Business Feeds

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