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Bank of Canada sees no dominant monetary policy option in review, senior deputy governor

OTTAWA (Reuters) - No obvious front-runner has emerged among monetary policy alternatives as the Bank of Canada reviews its options ahead of next year’s inflation target renewal, the Bank’s senior deputy governor said Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: Bank of Canada Senior Deputy Governor Carolyn Wilkins attends a news conference at the Bank of Canada in Ottawa, Canada, July 15, 2020. Adrian Wyld/Pool via REUTERS

At the same time, the coronavirus pandemic has crystallized that central banks are “likely to run out of conventional firepower” to address economic downturns in a low-interest-rate world, Carolyn Wilkins said in opening remarks at a central bank workshop.

The bank has tried to keep Canada’s annual inflation rate at 2% since the early 1990s, a goal that it reviews jointly with the federal government every five years. In the lead up to next year’s renewal, the bank is reviewing four alternate frameworks, along with the option of raising the current inflation target.

“We’ve identified some of the strengths and weaknesses of the different frameworks. But at this point, no single framework dominates on all margins,” Wilkins said.

The Bank of Canada is considering how well the mandates achieve economic stability, along with criteria such as how they impact the distribution of income and wealth, and their robustness in good and bad economic times, Wilkins said.

Central banks around the world are mulling their monetary policy frameworks as inflation has faltered, global debt-to-GDP has surged, and low benchmark interest rates leave central bankers with little ammunition to fight recessions.

The Bank of Canada slashed its policy rate three times in March to 0.25%, its effective lower bound, and has said rates will stay low for at least two years.

Despite the challenges, Wilkins noted that inflation targeting has served the bank well through the pandemic.

“The fact we have a clear and simple framework is golden,” she said.

Her remarks follow a speech Tuesday by Deputy Governor Lawrence Schembri, who said the economic shock of the pandemic will test public confidence in the bank’s inflation target.

Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem will speak via videoconference on Thursday at the annual Jackson Hole, Wyoming meeting of central bankers.

The Canadian dollar hit a two-day high of 1.3146 to the greenback, or 76.07 U.S. cents, buoyed by strong oil prices.

Reporting by Julie Gordon and Kelsey Johnson in Ottawa; Additional reporting by Saqib Ahmed in New York; Editing by Will Dunham and Alistair Bell

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