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From the Finance and Economics Discussion Paper Series
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    Simon Gilchrist, Raphael Schoenle, Jae W. Sim, and Egon Zakrajsek | We analyze the economic consequences of forming a monetary union among countries with varying degrees of financial distortions, which interact with the firms' pricing decisions because of customer-market considerations. In response to a financial shock, firms in financially weak countries (the periphery) maintain cashflows by raising markups--in both domestic and export markets--while firms in financially strong countries (the core) reduce markups, undercutting their financially constrained competitors to gain market share. When the two regions are experiencing different shocks, common monetary policy results in a substantially higher macroeconomic volatility in the periphery, compared with a flexible exchange rate regime; this translates into a welfare loss for the union as a whole, with the loss borne entirely by the periphery. By helping firms from the core internalize the pecuniary externality engendered by the interaction of financial frictions and customer markets, a unilateral fiscal devaluation by the periphery can improve the union's overall welfare. Technical Appendix (PDF)

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    Manuel P. Gonzalez-Astudillo and Daniel Baquero | This paper proposes a model to nowcast the annual growth rate of real GDP for Ecuador. The specification combines monthly information of 28 macroeconomic variables with quarterly information of real GDP in a mixed-frequency approach. Additionally, our setup includes a time-varying mean coefficient on the annual growth rate of real GDP to allow the model to incorporate prolonged periods of low growth, such as those experienced during secular stagnation episodes. The model produces reasonably good nowcasts of real GDP growth in pseudo out-of-sample exercises and is marginally more precise than a simple ARMA model.

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    Leah Brooks, Nicolas Gendron-Carrier, and Gisela Rua | We investigate how containerization impacts local economic activity. Containerization is premised on a simple insight: packaging goods for waterborne trade into a standardized container makes them dramatically cheaper to move. We use a novel costshifter instrument--port depth pre-containerization--to contend with the non-random adoption of containerization by ports. Container ships sit much deeper in the water than their predecessors, making initially deep ports cheaper to containerize. Consistent with New Economic Geography models, we find that counties near container ports grow an additional 70 percent from 1950 to 2010. Gains predominate in counties with initially low population density and manufacturing.

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    Garth Baughman and Steven Rabinovich | In a monetary economy, we show that price dispersion arises as an equilibrium outcome without the need for costly simultaneous search or any heterogeneity in preferences, production costs, or search technologies. A distribution of money holdings among buyers makes sellers indifferent across a set of posted prices, leading to a non-degenerate price distribution. This price distribution, in turn, makes buyers indifferent across a range of money balances, rationalizing the non-degenerate distribution of money holdings. We completely characterize the distribution of posted prices and money holdings in any equilibrium. Equilibria with price dispersion admit higher maximum prices than observed in any single-price equilibrium. Also, price dispersion reduces welfare by creating mismatch between posted prices and money balances. Inflation exacerbates this welfare loss by shifting the distribution towards higher prices.

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    Cecilia Caglio, R. Matt Darst, and Eric Parolin | We construct a novel U.S. data set that matches bank holding company credit default swap (CDS) positions to detailed U.S. credit registry data containing both loan and corporate bond holdings to study the effects of banks' CDS use on corporate credit quality. Banks may use CDS to mitigate agency frictions and not renegotiate loans with solvent but illiquid borrowers resulting in poorer measures of credit risk. Alternatively, banks may lay off the credit risk of high quality borrowers through the CDS market to comply with risk-based capital requirements, which does not impact corporate credit risk. We find new evidence that corporate default probabilities and downgrade likelihoods, if anything, are slightly lower when banks purchase CDS against their borrowers. The results are consistent with banks using CDS to efficiently lay off credit risk rather than inefficiently liquidate firms.

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    Isabel Cairo and Jae W. Sim | We construct a general equilibrium model in which income inequality results in insufficient aggregate demand, deflation pressure, and excessive credit growth by allocating income to agents featuring low marginal propensity to consume, and if excessive, can lead to an endogenous financial crisis. This economy generates distributions for equilibrium prices and quantities that are highly skewed to the downside due to financial crises and the liquidity trap. Consequently, symmetric monetary policy rules designed to minimize fluctuations around fixed means become inefficient. A simultaneous reduction in inflation volatility and mean unemployment rate is feasible when an asymmetric policy rule is adopted.

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    Taisuke Nakata, Ryota Ogaki, Sebastian Schmidt, and Paul Yoo | We examine the implications of less powerful forward guidance for optimal policy using a sticky-price model with an effective lower bound (ELB) on nominal interest rates as well as a discounted Euler equation and Phillips curve. When the private-sector agents discount future economic conditions more in making their decisions today, an announced cut in future interest rates becomes less effective in stimulating current economic activity. While the implication of such discounting for optimal policy depends on its degree, we find that, under a wide range of plausible degrees of discounting, it is optimal for the central bank to compensate for the reduced effect of a future rate cut by keeping the policy rate at the ELB for longer.

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    Taisuke Nakata, Sebastian Schmidt, and Paul Yoo | The zero lower bound (ZLB) constraint on interest rates makes speed limit policies (SLPs)--policies aimed at stabilizing the output growth--less effective. Away from the ZLB, the history dependence induced by a concern for output growth stabilization improves the inflation-output tradeoff for a discretionary central bank. However, in the aftermath of a deep recession with a binding ZLB, a central bank with an objective for output growth stabilization aims to engineer a more gradual increase in output than under the standard discretionary policy. The anticipation of a more restrained recovery exacerbates the declines in inflation and output when the lower bound is binding.

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    James Hebden and David Lopez-Salido | Bernanke's strategies for integrating forward guidance into conventional instrument rules anticipate that effective lower bound (ELB) episodes may become part a regular occurrence and that monetary policy should recognize this likelihood (Bernanke (2017a); Bernanke (2017b)). Bernanke's first proposal is a form of flexible temporary price level targeting (TPLT), in which a lower-for-longer policy path is prescribed through a "shadow rate". This shadow rate accounts for cumulative shortfalls in inflation and output relative to exogenous trends, and the policy rate is kept at the ELB until the joint shortfall is made up. Bernanke's second proposal adds only the cumulative inflation shortfall since the beginning of an ELB episode directly to an otherwise standard Taylor rule. This cumulative shortfall in inflation from the 2 percent objective can be restated in terms of deviations of the price level from a price level target that increases at 2 percent annually. We evaluate the performance of these strategies, which we call Bernanke's TPLT rules, using a small version of the FRB/US model. We then optimize these rules, computing efficient policy frontiers that trace out the best (minimum) obtainable combinations of output and inflation volatility given the effective lower bound constraint on the policy rate. The results suggest that Bernanke's rules give better macroeconomic outcomes than most of the other rules considered in the literature (including Taylor (1993) and Taylor (1999)) by stabilizing inflation and unemployment during severe recessions. Under these TPLT strategies, when the policy rate is made more responsive to shortfalls in inflation, the the likelihood of below-target inflation occurring alongside high unemployment rates decreases. However, the probability of an overheated economy, with temporarily above-target inflation and low unemployment rate, increases.

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    Friederike Niepmann and Viktors Stebunovs | We investigate systematic changes in banks' projected credit losses between the 2014 and 2016 EBA stress tests, employing methodology from Philippon et al. (2017). We find that projected credit losses were smoothed across the tests through systematic model adjustments. Those banks whose losses would have increased the most from 2014 to 2016 due to changes in the supervisory scenarios--keeping the models constant and controlling for changes in the riskiness of underlying portfolios--saw the largest decrease in losses due to model changes. Model changes were more pronounced for banks that rely more on the Internal Ratings-Based approach, and they explain the cross-section of market responses to the release of the 2016 results. Stock prices and CDS spreads increased more for banks with larger reductions in projected credit losses due to model changes, as investors apparently did not interpret lower loan losses as reflecting mainly a decrease in credit risk but, instead, as a sign of lower capital requirements going forward.

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    Steven D. Baker, Burton Hollifield, and Emilio Osambela | In a market-based democracy, we model different constituencies that disagree regarding the likelihood of economic disasters. Costly public policy initiatives to reduce or eliminate disasters are assessed relative to private alternatives presented by financial markets. Demand for such public policies falls as much as 40% with disagreement, and crowding out by private insurance drives most of the reduction. As support for disaster-reducing policy jumps in periods of disasters, costly policies may be adopted only after disasters occur. In some scenarios constituencies may even demand policies oriented to increase disaster risk if these policies introduce speculative opportunities.

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    Bastian von Beschwitz, Donald B. Keim, and Massimo Massa | Exploiting a unique identification strategy based on inaccurate news analytics, we document a causal effect of news analytics on the market irrespective of the informational content of the news. We show that news analytics speed up the stock price and trading volume response to articles, but reduce liquidity. Inaccurate news analytics lead to small price distortions that are corrected quickly. The market impact of news analytics is greatest for press releases, which are timelier and easier to interpret algorithmically. Furthermore, we provide evidence that high frequency traders rely on the information from news analytics for directional trading on company-specific news. Appendix (PDF)

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    Rohan Williamson and Jie Yang | The paper examines whether financially constrained firms are able to use acquisitions to ease their constraints. The results show that acquisitions do ease financing constraints for constrained acquirers. Relative to unconstrained acquires, financially constrained firms are more likely to use undervalued equity to fund acquisitions and to target unconstrained and more liquid firms. Using a propensity score matched sample in a difference-in-difference framework, the results show that constrained acquirers become less constrained post-acquisition and relative to matched non-acquiring firms. This improvement is more pronounced for diversifying acquisitions and constrained firms that acquire rather than issue equity and retain the proceeds. Following acquisition, constrained acquirers raise more debt and increase investments, consistent with experiencing reductions in financing constraints relative to matched non-acquirers. These improvements are not seen for unconstrained acquirers. Finally, the familiar diversification discount is non- existent for financially constrained acquirers.

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    Ufuk Akcgit, Sina T. Ates, and Giammario Impullitti | How do import tariffs and R&D subsidies help domestic firms compete globally? How do these policies affect aggregate growth and economic welfare? To answer these questions, we build a dynamic general equilibrium growth model where firm innovation endogenously determines the dynamics of technology, market leadership, and trade flows, in a world with two large open economies at different stages of development. Firms' R&D decisions are driven by (i) the defensive innovation motive, (ii) the expansionary innovation motive, and (iii) technology spillovers. The theoretical investigation illustrates that, statically, globalization (defined as reduced trade barriers) has ambiguous effects on welfare, while, dynamically, intensified globalization boosts domestic innovation through induced international competition. Accounting for transitional dynamics, we use our model for policy evaluation and compute optimal policies over different time horizons. The model suggests that the introduction of the Research and Experimentation Tax Credit in 1981 proves to be an effective policy response to foreign competition, generating substantial welfare gains in the long run. A counterfactual exercise shows that increasing tariffs as an alternative policy response improves domestic welfare only when the policymaker cares about the very short run, and only when introduced unilaterally. Tariffs generate large welfare losses in the medium and long run, or when there is retaliation by the foreign economy. Protectionist measures generate large dynamic losses by distorting the impact of openness on innovation incentives and productivity growth. Finally, our model predicts that a more globalized world entails less government intervention, thanks to innovation-stimulating effects of intensified international competition.

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    Michael T. Kiley | Research has suggested that a rapid pace of nonfinancial borrowing reliably precedes financial crises, placing the pace of debt growth at the center of frameworks for the deployment of macroprudential policies. I reconsider the role of asset-prices and current account deficits as leading indicators of financial crises. Run-ups in equity and house prices and a widening of the current account deficit have substantially larger (and more statistically-significant) effects than debt growth on the probability of a financial crisis in standard crisis-prediction models. The analysis highlights the value of graphs of predicted crisis probabilities in an assessment of predictors.

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    Sarah S. Baker, David López-Salido, and Edward Nelson | We argue that Schularick and Taylor's (2012) comparison of credit growth and monetary growth as financial-crisis predictors does not necessarily provide a valid basis for achieving one of their stated intentions: evaluating the relative merits of the "money view" and "credit view" as accounts of macroeconomic outcomes. Our own analysis of the postwar evidence suggests that money outperforms credit in predicting economic downturns in the 14 countries in Schularick and Taylor's dataset. This contrasts with Schularick and Taylor's (2012) highly negative verdict on the money view. In accounting for the difference in findings, we first explain that Schularick and Taylor's characterization of the money view is defective, both because their criterion for its validity (that rapid monetary growth predicts financial crises) is misplaced, and because they incorrectly take the money view's proponents as relying on the notion that monetary aggregates are a good proxy for credit a ggregates. In fact, the money view of Friedman and Schwartz does not predict an automatic relationship between rapid monetary growth and (financial or economic) downturns, nor does it rest on money being a good proxy for credit. We further show that Schularick and Taylor's data on money have systematic faults. For our reexamination of the evidence, we have constructed new, and more reliable, annual data on money for the countries studied by Schularick and Taylor.

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    David M. Arseneau and Brendan Epstein | This paper presents a model in which mismatch employment arises in a constrained efficient equilibrium. In the decentralized economy, however, mismatch gives rise to a congestion externality whereby heterogeneous job seekers fail to internalize how their individual actions affect the labor market outcomes of competitors in a common unemployment pool. We provide an analytic characterization of this distortion, assess the distributional nature of the associated welfare effects, and relate it to the relative productivity of low- and high-skilled workers competing for similar jobs.

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    John Ammer, Stijn Claessens, Alexandra Tabova, and Caleb Wroblewski | We analyze how interest rates affect cross-border portfolio investments. Data on U.S. bond holdings by foreign investors from 31 countries for the period 2003 - 2016 and a large variety in movements in interest rates in these countries provide for a unique way to analyze shifts in investment behavior in response to interest rates. We find that low(er) interest rates, now prevailing in many advanced countries, lead to greater investment in general into the United States, with the effects generally driven by investment in (higher yielding) corporate bonds, rather than in Treasury bonds. In addition to affecting overall investments, lower interest rates at home are associated with a greater weight on corporate bonds, consistent with search-for-yield. The results are economically important and robust to controlling for a number of country-specific macroeconomic and financial conditions as well as to sample restrictions and choices of interest rate. Our findings have important policy implications in that they suggest that low interest rates can lead to shifts in the volume and composition of overseas investments.

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    Daniel A. Dias, Carlos Robalo Marques, and Christine Richmond | Recent empirical studies document that the level of resource misallocation in the service sector is significantly higher than in the manufacturing sector. We quantify the importance of this difference and study its sources. Conservative estimates for Portugal (2008) show that closing this gap, by reducing misallocation in the service sector to manufacturing levels, would boost aggregate gross output by around 12 percent and aggregate value added by around 31 percent. Differences in the effect and size of productivity shocks explain most of the gap in misallocation between manufacturing and services, while the remainder is explained by differences in firm productivity and age distribution. We interpret these results as stemming mainly from higher output-price rigidity, higher labor adjustment costs, and higher informality in the service sector.

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    Andrew C. Chang | What is the policy uncertainty surrounding expiring taxes? How uncertain are the approvals of routine extensions of temporary tax policies? To answer these questions, I use event studies to measure cumulative abnormal returns (CARs) for firms that claimed the U.S. research and development (R&D) tax credit from 1996-2015. In 1996, the U.S. R&D tax credit was statutorily temporary but was routinely extended ten times until 2015, when it was made permanent. I take the event dates as both when these ten extensions of the R&D tax credit were introduced into committee and when significant CARs on these dates, which suggests that the market anticipated these extensions to become law. My results support the fact that a routine extension of a temporary tax policy is not a generator of policy uncertainty and, therefore, that a routine extension of temporary tax policy is not a fiscal shock.