(3/23/2015) We are at the 30th anniversary of the 1985 Plaza Accord. It was the most dramatic intervention in the foreign exchange market since Nixon originally floated the US currency. At the end of February 1985 the dollar reached dizzying heights, which remain a record to this day. Then it began a long depreciation, encouraged by a shift in policy under the new Treasury Secretary, James Baker, and pushed down by G-5 foreign exchange intervention. People remember only the September 1985 meeting at the Plaza Hotel in New York City that ratified the policy shift; so celebrations of the 30th anniversary will wait until this coming fall.
The ECB should further ease monetary policy. Inflation at 0.8% across the eurozone is below the target of “close to 2%.” Unemployment in most countries is still high and their economies weak. Under current conditions it is hard for the periphery countries to bring their costs the rest of the way back down to internationally competitive levels as they need to do. If inflation is below 1% euro-wide, then the periphery countries have to suffer painful deflation.
Now that Janet Yellen is to be Chair of the US Federal Reserve Board, attention has turned to the candidate to succeed her as Vice Chair. Stanley Fischer would be the perfect choice. He has an ideal combination of all the desirable qualities, unique in the literal sense that nobody else has them. During his academic career, Fischer was one of the most accomplished scholars of monetary economics. Subsequently he served as Chief Economist of the World Bank, number two at the International Monetary Fund, and most recently Governor of the central bank of Israel. He was a star performer in each of these positions. I thought in 2000 he should have been made Managing Director of the IMF.