Jackson Hole summit 2015: What is it, why is it important and who will be there?

Jessica Morris
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Jackson Hole, Wyoming provides the picturesque backdrop for officials to discuss economic policy (Source: Getty)

The annual central bankers' knees up in Jackson Hole, a mountain getaway in Wyoming, kicked off today.

The "Davos" for central bankers features a heady mix of hiking trails and debates over monetary policy issues. This year central bankers, finance ministers, academics and financial market participants will chew over why inflation is so low, whether this is dangerous and what they can do about it.

It's timely, given countries across the world have been struck by the creeping spread of persistently low inflation. But then the symposium has a rich history of bringing the best brains in economics together to talk about big issues. In 1990 it focused on emerging market economies, with central banks from Eastern Europe and the USSR taking part in the discussion for the first time.

This year Bank of England governor Mark Carney will be speak at 5.30pm UK time on Saturday. Meanwhile, another widely watched guest will be Fed vice-chair Stanley Fischer. But the importance of this year's event has been somewhat marred by the non-attendance of Fed chair Janet Yellen, as well as European Central Bank boss Mario Draghi.

Market mavens have also said anyone hoping for a hint about when the Fed will hike rates are likely to be left disappointed. Recently there's been mounting speculation the central bank could move to raise interest rates as early as September.

"The Fed seems to be getting uncomfortable with Jackson Hole being used to announce policies that move markets so much. The central bank would rather it returned to being a drier, academic conference where central bankers and economists can pontificate in peace," Luke Bartholomew, a global macro investment manager at Aberdeen Asset Management, wrote in City A.M. today.

"The Fed is trying to avoid telegraphing the timing of the first hike too explicitly. It does not want to tie itself down to any particular date because it needs to be able to adjust to new data which comes in."

But this year's summit does take place against an increasingly dark international economic backdrop. The deteriorating outlook for China’s economy forced its central bank to cut rates to calm markets yesterday. This followed days of sell-offs in US, European, UK and emerging market assets.

As such, there should be plenty of bears lurking in the woods of Jackson Hole this year.

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