Bank of Canada hints at quantitative easing moves

Sat Mar 14, 2009 4:16pm EDT
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By Matt Falloon

HORSHAM, England (Reuters) - The Bank of Canada hinted on Saturday it could soon start printing money to create growth after a global pledge by central banks to take extreme action as economic conditions deteriorate.

G20 central bankers, meeting with finance ministers ahead of the London summit on April 2, signed up to a statement to keep interest rates low for as long as it took to get the economy back on its feet and engage in quantitative easing if needed.

The Bank of Canada has already said it will soon outline a framework for quantitative and credit easing, giving it the means to conduct similar actions to the Bank of England and Swiss National Bank.

"It's important to do that in a comprehensive, holistic fashion so that people can see the range of tools that the bank continues to have," Carney told reporters after the meeting of old and emerging economic powers in southern England.

"In putting out a framework, it does not necessarily follow that we would immediately implement that action. Those are discussions we take as a governing council at the appropriate time, given the economic outlook." But Carney said many of the downside risks to the economy the central bank had already identified were materializing, hinting that a downgrade to the Bank of Canada's growth forecasts could be just around the corner. The BoC updates its forecasts next month, with the estimates it made in January -- especially for 3.8 percent growth in 2010 -- looking increasingly optimistic.

"I would draw your attention to the commitment of central banks to maintain expansionary policies," he said. "Rates will remain low for longer. In Canada our overnight or target rate can be expected to remain at its current level of 50 basis points or lower until there are clear signs that the output gap is beginning to close."

Officials at the meeting underlined the significance of the joint central bank pledge, signaling that even traditionally conservative central banks had indicated they were prepared to take the leap into quantitative easing as they run out of room to cut interest rates. "Many countries have already reduced policy to the bone," Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega.

Newspaper reports have suggested the U.S. Federal Reserve has been impressed by the impact of the BoE's action on British government bond yields - and that was before the BoE started buying up gilts in a 75 billion pound scheme.

(Additional reporting by Axel Bugge; editing by Keith Weir)

<p>Bank of Canada Govenor Mark Carney speaks at a news conference following the G20 Finance Ministers meeting at a hotel, near Horsham, in southern England March 14, 2009. REUTERS/Kevin Coombs</p>