When No Means Maybe

Sometimes, just sometimes, being a journalist is hard. War correspondants, political columnists pressured to ‘firm-up’ an elusive source‘, BBC reporters, the list of those who could rightly complain is probably endless. But amongst the most challanging of the many missions which may occasion their way into the in-tray must, undoubtedly, be that of interpreting the intentionally elusive language of the central banker. Yesterday was there was a good case in point. ECB President Trichet actually said:

?I am not telling you anything that could be interpreted as preparing a rate cut,?

Now buried deep within the lexicon of obscurantism which governs central bank policy interpretation must be one which reads: when they say ‘a’ they mean ‘b’, since today we find this: Trichet signals ECB could cut rates

So, just to help you out, I’ll explain how this particular journalist probably reached this particular reading: by a process called backward reading. The FT’s Ralph Atkins must be convinced, just as I am, that the ECB will be forced (by both political pressure and by economic realities) to cut rates later in the year. So reading backwards, Trichet, who must himself be aware that the arguments for a rate cut may become compelling, was, of course, preparing the ground. What he couldn’t do yesterday, not under any circumstances,was give any indication whatsoever that he was ceding to the impact of the recent votes. Strange world, that of the banker, and that of the journalist come to think of it.