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Distrust in the ECB – product of failed crisis prevention or of inappropriate cure?

Albinowski, Maciej and Ciżkowicz, Piotr and Rzońca, Andrzej (2013): Distrust in the ECB – product of failed crisis prevention or of inappropriate cure?

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Abstract

We contribute to the new, albeit fast-growing empirical literature on the determinants of trust in central banks. Like in most other studies we use panel data models based on the Eurobarometer survey on trust in the European Central Bank. Firstly, we confirm the main conclusion from previous studies that the trust in the ECB has suffered from the crisis’ outburst. Moreover, households perceive the ECB’s responsibility for the occurrence of the crisis to go beyond the responsibility of other institutions. This finding casts some doubt on the central bank’s ability to manage expectations in a country having been hit by a severe negative demand shock, while this ability is precondition of the central banks’ power to boost aggregate demand when its interest rates are at the zero lower bound. Secondly (and most importantly), in addition to previous studies, we examine the links between the trust in the ECB and its policy. Our main result is that when households have pessimistic expectations, aggressive cuts in interest rates have an adverse effect on their trust in central bank. This result is in accordance with the ‘lack-of-confidence shock’ hypothesis developed by Schmitt-Grohé and Uribe (2012) and go against the ‘fundamental shock’ hypothesis which would imply positive effects of aggressive cuts for trust in the ECB. These findings are robust to changes in the estimation method, the definition of the lack of confidence shock, control variables and countries under consideration. We also show that it cannot be easily rejected as spurious

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