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Finance and Economics Discussion Series

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Abstract: Counterparty credit risk (CCR), a key driver of the 2007-08 credit crisis, has become one of the main focuses of the major global and U.S. regulatory standards. Financial institutions invest large amounts of resources employing Monte Carlo simulation to measure and price their counterparty credit risk. We develop efficient Monte Carlo CCR estimation frameworks by focusing on the most widely used and regulatory-driven CCR measures: expected positive exposure (EPE), credit value adjustment (CVA), and effective expected positive exposure (EEPE). Our numerical examples illustrate that our proposed efficient Monte Carlo estimators outperform the existing crude estimators of these CCR measures substantially in terms of mean square error (MSE). We also demonstrate that the two widely used sampling methods, the so-called Path Dependent Simulation (PDS) and Direct Jump to Simulation date (DJS), are not equivalent in that they lead to Monte Carlo CCR estimators which are drastically different in terms of their MSE.

Keywords: Basel II, Basel III, OTC derivatives market, risk management, counterparty credit ris, credit value adjustment, efficient Monte Carlo simulation

Accessible materials (.zip)

Abstract: New bank formation in the U.S. has declined dramatically since the financial crisis, from well over 100 new banks per year to less than 1. Many have suggested that this is due to newly-instituted regulation, but the current weak economy and low interest rates (which both depress banking profits) could also have played a role. We estimate a model of bank entry decisions on data from 1976 to 2013 which indicates that at least 75% of the decline in new bank formation would have occurred without any regulatory change. The standalone effect of regulation is more difficult to quantify.

Keywords: Bank entry, financial regulation

Original paper: PDF | Accessible materials (.zip)

 feds  2014-112
December 2014

Modeling Money Market Spreads: What Do We Learn about Refinancing Risk? (PDF)

Vincent Brousseau, Kleopatra Nikolaou, and Huw Pill

Abstract: We quantify the effect of refinancing risk on euro area money market spreads, a major factor driving spreads during the financing crisis. With the advent of the crisis, market participants' perception of their ability to refinance over a given period of time changed radically. As a result, borrowers preferred to obtain funding for longer tenors and lenders were willing to provide funding for shorter tenors. This discrepancy resulted in a need to refinance more frequently in order to borrow over a given horizon, thus increasing refinancing risk. We measure refinancing risk by quantifying the sensitivity of the spread to the refinancing frequency. In order to do so we introduce a model to price EURIBOR-based money market spreads vis-à-vis the overnight index swap. We adopt a methodology akin to a factor model in which the parameters determining the spreads are the intensity of the crisis, its expected half-life, and the sensitivity of spreads to the refinancing frequency. Results suggest that refinancing risk affects the spread significantly across time, albeit in a largely varying manner. Central bank interventions have reduced the spreads as well as the effect of refinancing risk on them.

Keywords: Financial crisis, liquidity risk, money market spread, money markets, refinancing risk

Accessible materials (.zip)

Abstract: Following the financial crisis, total outstanding loans to businesses by commercial banks dropped off substantially. Large loans outstanding began to rebound by the third quarter of 2010 and essentially returned to their previous growth trajectory while small loans outstanding continued to decline. Furthermore, much of the drop in small business loans outstanding was evident at community banks. To address this perceived lack of supply of credit to small businesses, the Small Business Lending Fund (SBLF) was created as part of the 2010 Small Business Jobs Act. The fund was intended to provide community banks with low-cost funding that they could then lend to their small business customers. As of December 31, 2013, the U.S. Department of the Treasury reports that SBLF participants had increased their small business lending by $12.5 billion over their baseline numbers. The current paper uses Call Report data from community banks an d thrift institutions to look at the impact of receiving funds from SBLF on their small business lending. The analysis controls for economic and demographic conditions, market structure and competition. Simple regression estimates indicate that participants in the SBLF program increased their small business lending by about 10 percent more than their non-participating counterparts, in line with numbers reported by Treasury. However, estimates that control for the ongoing growth path in small business lending indicate no statistically significant impact of SBLF participation on small business lending.

Keywords: Community banks, government stimulus, small business lending

Accessible materials (.zip)

Abstract: During the 2007-2010 financial crisis, central banks accumulated a vast amount of experience in acting as lender of last resort. This paper reviews the various ways that central banks provided emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) during the crisis, and discusses issues for the design of ELA arising from that experience. In a number of ways, the emergency liquidity assistance since 2007 has largely adhered to Bagehot's dictums of lending freely against good collateral to solvent institutions at a penalty rate. But there were many exceptions to these rules. Those exceptions illuminate the situations where the lender of last resort role of central banks is most difficult. They also highlight key challenges in designing lender of last resort policies going forward.

Keywords: Banking crisis, central bank liquidity, lender of last resort

Accessible materials (.zip)

Abstract: This paper describes a dynamic factor model of 19 U.S. labor market indicators, covering the broad categories of unemployment and underemployment, employment, workweeks, wages, vacancies, hiring, layoffs, quits, and surveys of consumers' and businesses' perceptions. The resulting labor market conditions index (LMCI) is a useful tool for gauging the change in labor market conditions. In addition, the model provides a way to organize discussions of the signal value of different labor market indicators in situations when they might be sending diverse signals. The model takes the greatest signal from private payroll employment and the unemployment rate. Other influential indicators include the insured unemployment rate, consumers' perceptions of job availability, and help-wanted advertising. Through the lens of the LMCI, labor market conditions have improved at a moderate pace over the past several years, albeit with some notable variation along the way. In addition, from t he perspective of the model, the unemployment rate declined a bit faster over the past two years than was consistent with the other indicators.

Keywords: LMCI, U.S. labor market, dynamic factor model, employment, unemployment rate

Accessible materials (.zip)

 feds  2014-108
December 2014

In Search of a Risk-free Asset (PDF)

Vladimir Yankov

Abstract: To attract retail time deposits, over 7,000 FDIC insured U.S. commercial banks publicly post their yield offers. I document an economically sizable and highly pro-cyclical cross-sectional dispersion in these yield offers during the period 1997 - 2011. Banks adjusted their yields rigidly and asymmetrically with median duration of 7 weeks in response to increasing or constant Fed Funds rate target regimes and 3 weeks during regimes of decreasing Fed Fund rate target. I investigate to what extent information (search) costs on the part of the investors in this market can explain the observed pricing behavior. I build and estimate an asset pricing model with heterogeneous search cost investors. A large fraction of high information cost uninformed investors and the exit of low information cost informed investors rationalizes the observed price dispersion. I further qualitatively match the asymmetric yield rigidity within the framework of costly consumer search without the need to impose menu costs or other restrictions on the banks' repricing behavior.

Keywords: Consumer search, deposit rates, interest rate pass-through, price rigidity

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Abstract: The presence of the lagged shadow policy rate in the interest rate feedback rule reduces the government spending multiplier nontrivially when the policy rate is constrained at the zero lower bound (ZLB). In the economy with policy inertia, increased inflation and output due to higher government spending during a recession speed up the return of the policy rate to the steady state after the recession ends. This in turn dampens the expansionary effects of the government spending during the recession via expectations. In our baseline calibration, the output multiplier at the ZLB is 2.5 when the weight on the lagged shadow rate is zero, and 1.1 when the weight is 0.9.

Keywords: Fiscal policy, government spending multipliers, interest rate smoothing, liquidity trap, zero lower bound

Accessible materials (.zip)

 feds  2014-106
December 2014

Are Concerns About Leveraged ETFs Overblown? (PDF)

Ivan T. Ivanov and Stephen L. Lenkey

Abstract: Leveraged and inverse exchange-traded funds (ETFs) have been heavily criticized for exacerbating volatility in financial markets because it is thought that they mechanically rebalance their portfolios in the same direction as contemporaneous returns. We argue that these criticisms are likely exaggerated because they ignore the effects of capital flows on ETF rebalancing demand. Empirically, we find that capital flows substantially reduce the need for ETFs to rebalance when returns are large in magnitude and, therefore, mitigate the potential for these products to amplify volatility. We also show theoretically that flows can completely eliminate ETF rebalancing in the limit.

Keywords: Leveraged ETFs, volatility

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 feds  2014-105
December 2014

Conservatism and Liquidity Traps (PDF)

Taisuke Nakata and Sebastian Schmidt

Abstract: Appointing Rogoff's (1985) conservative central banker improves welfare if the economy is subject to large contractionary shocks and the policy rate occasionally falls to the zero lower bound (ZLB). In an economy with occasionally binding ZLB constraints, the anticipation of future ZLB episodes creates a trade-off between inflation and output stabilization. As a consequence, inflation systematically falls below target even when the policy rate is above zero. A conservative central banker mitigates this deflationary bias away from the ZLB, improving allocations both at and away from the ZLB through expectations.

Keywords: Discretion, inflation conservatism, inflation targeting, liquidity traps, zero lower bound

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 feds  2014-104
December 2014

Bitcoin: Technical Background and Data Analysis (PDF)

Anton Badev and Matthew Chen

Abstract: This paper provides the necessary technical background to understand basic Bitcoin operations and documents a set of empirical regularities related to Bitcoin usage. We present the micro-structure of the Bitcoin transaction process and highlight the use of cryptography for the purposes of transaction security and distributed maintenance of a ledger. Using publicly available transaction-level data, we examine patterns of general usage together with usage by Satoshi Dice, the largest online gambling service using Bitcoin as the method of payment. Our analysis suggests that less than 50 percent of all bitcoins in circulation are used in transactions. About half of these transactions involve less than U.S.$100 equivalent, and for the period for which we have data for Satoshi Dice, most of these small-value transactions were related to the online gambling service. Relatively less frequent large value transactions drive the average transaction value to levels above U.S.$40,00 0 equivalent value, and are not likely to involve payments for goods and services. Bitcoin exchange rates exhibit somewhat complicated dynamics. In the past 24 months, the USD-BTC exchange rate increased more than 50-fold. The daily variance of the USD-BTC exchange rate remained remarkably stable for this same period, once the variance calculations account for the changing exchange rate level. We also document that the exchange rates between bitcoin and other major currencies are not well aligned. We interpret this as lack of depth of the exchange markets and as costly exchange rather than as unexploited arbitrage opportunities. Finally, we examine the economic incentives for the participants in the distributed implementation of the Bitcoin scheme.

Keywords: Bitcoin, Payment systems, virtual currency

Accessible materials (.zip)

Abstract: Solutions to the equity premium puzzle should inform us about the cross-section of stock returns. An external habit model with heterogeneous firms reproduces numerous stylized facts about both the equity premium and the value premium. The equity premium is large, time-varying, and linked with consumption volatility. The cross-section of expected returns is log-linear in B/M, and the slope matches the data. The explanation for the value premium lies in the interaction between the cross-section of cash flows and the time-varying risk premium. Value firms are temporarily low productivity firms, which will eventually experience high cash flows. The present value of these temporally distant cash flows is sensitive to risk premium movements. The value premium is the reward for bearing this sensitivity. Empirical evidence verifies that value firms have higher cash-flow growth. The data also show that value stock returns are more sensitive to risk premium movements, as measured by consumption volatility shocks.

Keywords: Equity premium puzzle, value premium, production, time-varying consumption volatility

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Abstract: A number of researchers have recently argued that the growth of the shadow banking system in the years preceding the recent U.S. financial crisis was driven by rising demand for "money-like" claims--short-term, safe instruments (STSI)--from institutional investors and nonfinancial firms. These instruments carry a money premium that lowers their yields. While government securities are an important part of the supply of STSI, financial intermediaries also take advantage of this money premium when they issue certain types of low-risk, short-term debt, such as asset-backed commercial paper or repo. In this paper, we take the demand for STSI as given and consider the extent to which central banks can improve financial stability and manage maturity transformation by the private sector through their ability to affect the public supply of STSI. The first part of the paper provides new evidence that complements the existing literature on two key ingredients that are necessary for there to be a role for policy: the extent to which public short-term debt and private short-term debt might be substitutes, and the relationship between the money premium and the supply of STSI. The second part of the paper then builds on this evidence and discusses potential ways a central bank could use its balance sheet and monetary policy implementation framework to affect the quantity and mix of short-term liquid assets that will be available to financial market participants.

Keywords: Financial stability, safe assets, money-like instruments, central bank policies

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Abstract: Because policymakers may consider the state of the economy when setting taxes, endogeneity bias can arise in regression models that estimate relationships between economic variables and taxes. This paper quantifies the policy endogeneity bias and estimates the impact of R&D tax incentives on R&D expenditures at the U.S. state level. Identifying tax variation comes from changes in federal corporate tax laws that heterogeneously impact state-level R&D tax incentives due to the simultaneity of state and federal corporate taxes. With this exogenous variation, my preferred estimates indicate a 1 percent increase in R&D tax incentives leads to a 2.8-3.8 percent increase in R&D. Alternatively, estimates that ignore endogenously determined policies indicate that a 1 percent increase in R&D tax incentives leads to a 0.4-0.7 percent increase in R&D. These results are consistent with tax policies that are implemented before an economic downturn.

Keywords: Corporate tax, fiscal policy, R&D price elasticity, tax credits, policy endogeneity

Accessible materials (.zip)

 feds  2014-100
November 2014 (Revised June 2016)

Jumps in Bond Yields at Known Times (PDF)

Don H. Kim and Jonathan H. Wright

Abstract: We construct a no-arbitrage term structure model with jumps in the entire state vector at deterministic times but of random magnitudes. Jump risk premia are allowed for. We show that the model implies a closed-form representation of yields as a time-inhomogeneous affine function of the state vector. We apply the model to the term structure of US Treasury rates, estimated at the daily frequency, allowing for jumps on days of employment report announcements. Our model can match the empirical fact that the term structure of interest rate volatility has a hump-shaped pattern on employment report days (but not on other days). The model also produces patterns in bond risk premia that are consistent with the empirical finding that much of the time-variation in excess bond returns accrues at times of important macroeconomic data releases.

Keywords: Bond yields, jumps, news announcements, term structure

Original version: Full paper (PDF) | Accessible materials (.zip)

 feds  2014-99
November 2014

Limited Deposit Insurance Coverage and Bank Competition (PDF)

Oz Shy, Rune Stenbacka, and Vladimir Yankov

Abstract: Deposit insurance designs in many countries place a limit on the coverage of deposits in each bank. However, no limits are placed on the number of accounts held with different banks. Therefore, under limited deposit insurance, some consumers open accounts with different banks to achieve higher or full deposit insurance coverage. We compare three regimes of deposit insurance: No deposit insurance, unlimited deposit insurance, and limited deposit insurance. We show that limited deposit insurance weakens competition among banks and reduces total welfare relative to no or unlimited deposit insurance.

Keywords: Limited deposit insurance coverage, deposit rates, bank competition

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Abstract: This paper empirically identifies an important channel through which monetary policy affects consumer spending: homeowner balance sheets. A monetary loosening increases home values, thereby strengthening homeowner balance sheets and stimulating household spending due to a combination of collateral and wealth effects. The magnitude of these effects on a given household depends on local housing market characteristics such as local geography and regulation. Cities with the largest geographic and regulatory barriers to new construction see 3-4 percent responses in real house prices compared with unconstrained, elastic-supply cities where construction holds prices in check. Using non-public geocoded microdata from the Consumer Expenditures Survey, house price and consumption responses are compared across areas differing in local land availability and zoning laws to identify a marginal propensity to consume out of housing of 0.07. Homeowners with debt service ratios in the highest quartile have MPCs as high as 0.14 compared with negligible responses for those with low debt service ratios. This indicates a strong role for collateral effects, as opposed to pure wealth effects, in driving the relationship between home values and spending. I discuss the implications of these results for the aggregate effects and regional heterogeneity in responses to monetary shocks.

Keywords: Consumption, housing, wealth effects, collateral, home equity, monetary policy

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Abstract: In this paper, I propose an econometric technique to estimate a Markov-switching Taylor rule subject to the zero lower bound of interest rates. I show that incorporating a Tobit-like specification allows to obtain consistent estimators. More importantly, I show that linking the switching of the Taylor rule coefficients to the switching of the coefficients of an auxiliary uncensored Markov-switching regression improves the identification of an otherwise unidentifiable prevalent monetary regime. To illustrate the proposed estimation technique, I use U.S. quarterly data spanning 1960:1-2013:4. The chosen auxiliary Markov-switching regression is a fiscal policy rule where federal revenues react to debt and the output gap. Results show that there is evidence of policy co-movements with debt-stabilizing fiscal policy more likely accompanying active monetary policy, and vice versa.

Keywords: Markov-switching coefficients, zero lower bound, monetary-fiscal policy interactions

Accessible version (.zip)

 feds  2014-96
November 2014

It Pays to Set the Menu: Mutual Fund Investment Options in 401(k) plans (PDF)

Veronika K. Pool, Clemens Sialm, and Irina Stefanescu

Abstract: This paper investigates whether mutual fund families acting as service providers in 401(k) plans display favoritism toward their own funds. Using a hand-collected dataset on retirement investment options, we show that poorly-performing funds are less likely to be removed from and more likely to be added to a 401(k) menu if they are affiliated with the plan trustee. We find no evidence that plan participants undo this affiliation bias through their investment choices. Finally, the subsequent performance of poorly-performing affiliated funds indicates that these trustee decisions are not information driven.

Keywords: 401(k) pension plans, mutual funds, favoritism

Accessible materials (.zip) | Internet Appendix - Accessible materials (.zip)

 feds  2014-95
November 2014

Dealer Networks (PDF)

Dan Li and Norman Schurhoff

Abstract: Dealers in over-the-counter securities form networks to mitigate search frictions. The audit trail for municipal bonds shows the dealer network has a core-periphery structure. Central dealers are more efficient at matching buyers and sellers than peripheral dealers, which shortens intermediation chains and speeds up trading. Investors face a tradeoff between execution speed and cost. Central dealers provide immediacy by pre-arranging fewer trades and holding larger inventory. However, trading costs increase strongly with dealer centrality. Investors with strong liquidity need trade with central dealers and at times of market-wide illiquidity. Central dealers thus serve as liquidity providers of last resort.

Keywords: Municipal bonds, over-the-counter financial market, network analysis, trading cost, liquidity, immediacy, transparency

Accessible materials (.zip)

 feds  2014-94
November 2014

The Importance of Updating: Evidence from a Brazilian Nowcasting Model (PDF)

Daniela Bragoli, Luca Metelli, and Michele Modugno

Abstract: How often should we update predictions for economic activity? Gross domestic product is a quarterly variable disseminated usually a couple of months after the end of the quarter, but many other macroeconomic indicators are released with a higher frequency, and financial markets react very strongly to them. However, most of the professional forecasters, including the IMF, the OECD, and most central banks, tend to update their forecasts of economic activity only two to four times a year. The main exception is the Central Bank of Brazil which is responsible for collecting and publishing a daily survey on GDP and other variables. The aim of this article is to evaluate the forecasting performance of the Central Bank of Brazil Survey and to compare it with the mechanical forecasts based on state-of-the-art nowcasting techniques. Results indicate that institutional forecasts perform as well as model-based forecasts. The latter finding suggests that, on the one hand, judgmental forecasters do not have computational limitations and are able to incorporate very quickly new information in a way that is as efficient as a machine. On the other hand, it confirms what has been found in other studies, namely that a linear time invariant model does a good job and hence that eventual nonlinearities, time variations and soft information (such as weather conditions or government decisions) that could be incorporated by judgment, do not provide new important information.

Keywords: Nowcasting, Updating, Dynamic Factor Model

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 feds  2014-93
November 2014

Pricing decisions in an experimental dynamic stochastic general equilibrium economy (PDF)

Charles N. Noussair, Damjan Pfajfar, and Janos Zsiros

Abstract: We construct experimental economies, populated with human subjects, with a structure based on a nonlinear version of the New Keynesian Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium (DSGE) model. We analyze the behavior of firms' pricing decisions in four different experimental economies. We consider how well the experimental data conform to a number of accepted empirical stylized facts. Pricing patterns mostly conform to these patterns. Most price changes are positive, and inflation is strongly correlated with average magnitude, but not the frequency, of price changes. Prices are affected negatively by the productivity shock and positively by the output gap. Lagged real interest rate has a negative effect on prices, unless human subjects choose the interest rate, or firms sell perfect substitutes in the output market. There is inertia in price setting, firms integrate wage increases into their prices, and there is evidence of adaptive behavior in price-setting in our laboratory economy. The hazard function for price changes, however, is upward-sloping, in contrast to most empirical studies.

Keywords: Experimental economics, DSGE economy, pricing behavior, menu costs

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 feds  2014-92
November 2014

Financing Constraints and Unemployment: Evidence from the Great Recession (PDF)

Burcu Duygan-Bump, Alexey Levkov, and Judit Montoriol-Garriga

Abstract: Exploiting the differential financing needs across industrial sectors, this paper shows that financing constraints of small businesses in the United States are one of the drivers explaining the unemployment dynamics during the Great Recession. We show that workers in small firms are more likely to become unemployed during the 2007-09 financial crisis if they work in industries with high external financing needs. We find very similar results for the 1990-91 recession, but not for the 2001 recession, where only the former was associated with a reduction in loan supply. These findings further support the credit constraints hypothesis.

Keywords: Great Recession, firm size, financial dependence, unemployment

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Abstract: From 1999 to 2013, U.S. mortgage debt doubled and then contracted sharply. Our understanding of the factors driving this volatility in the stock of debt is hampered by a lack of data on mortgage flows. Using comprehensive, individual-level panel data on consumer liabilities, I estimate detailed mortgage inflows and outflows. During the boom, inflows from real estate investors tripled, far outpacing growth from other segments such as first-time homebuyers. During the bust, although defaults and deleveraging are popular explanations for the debt decline, a collapse in inflows has been the major driver. Inflow declines across counties have been associated not just with house price declines, but also with rising unemployment and higher minority population shares. Finally, inflow declines reflect, in part, a dramatic decline in first-time homebuying. First-time homebuying fell among both high and low credit score individuals, but much more precipitously for low score individuals. Further analysis suggests that the differential decline by credit score likely reflects markedly tightened credit supply.

Keywords: Mortgage debt, mortgage default, first-time homebuyer, credit supply

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Abstract: This paper uses the recent 2007-09 SCF panel to examine the influence of student loans on financial distress. Families with student loans in 2007 have higher levels of financial distress than families without such loans, and these families were more susceptible to transitions to financial distress during the early stages of the Great Recession. This correlation persists once we control for a host of other demographic, work-status, and household balance sheet measures. Families with an average level of student loans were 3.1 percentage points more likely to be 60 days late paying bills and 3 percentage points more likely to be denied credit. During this same time period, families with other types of consumer debt were no more or less likely to be financially distressed.

Education loans enable students to go to college and improve their employment and earnings prospects. On average, families with education loans in the 2007-09 SCF saw higher income growth between surveys. Further, the value of completing a degree is evident in the data: families without a degree but with education debt drive much of the correlations between financial distress and education loans.

Keywords: Student loans, financial distress

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Abstract: Using consumption data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey, I document persistent differences across demographic groups in the dispersion of household-specific rates of inflation. Using survey data on inflation expectations, I show that demographic groups with greater dispersion in experienced inflation also disagree more about future inflation. I argue that these results can be rationalized from the perspective of an imperfect information model in which idiosyncratic inflation experience serves as a signal about aggregate inflation. These empirical regularities pose a challenge to several other popular models of the expectations formation process of households.

Keywords: Inflation, expectations, inflation experience

Accessible materials (.zip)

 feds  2014-88
November 2014

Diffusion of Containerization (PDF)

Gisela Rua

Abstract: This paper uses a newly constructed, comprehensive dataset to investigate the diffusion of containerization. The data show that country adoption is exceptionally fast while firm usage increases more slowly. To guide my empirical investigation, I build a multi-country trade model with endogenous adoption of a new transportation technology that is consistent with these facts. I then test empirically the predictions of the model and find that: (1) usage of containerization increases with firms' fixed costs and the size and average income of the container network; and (2) adoption depends on expected future usage, adoption costs, and trade with the United States, the first and largest user of containerization.

Keywords: Globalization, transportation, trade, technology diffusion

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 feds  2014-87
November 2014

Macroeconomic Policy Games (PDF)

Martin Bodenstein, Luca Guerrieri, and Joe LaBriola

Abstract: Strategic interactions between policymakers arise whenever each policymaker has distinct objectives. Deviating from full cooperation can result in large welfare losses. To facilitate the study of strategic interactions, we develop a toolbox that characterizes the welfare-maximizing cooperative Ramsey policies under full commitment and open-loop Nash games. Two examples for the use of our toolbox offer some novel results. The first example revisits the case of monetary policy coordination in a two-country model to confirm that our approach replicates well-known results in the literature and extends these results by highlighting their sensitivity to the choice of policy instrument. For the second example, a central bank and a macroprudential regulator are assigned distinct objectives in a model with financial frictions. Lack of coordination leads to large welfare losses even if technology shocks are the only source of fluctuations.

Keywords: Optimal policy, strategic interaction, welfare analysis, monetary policy cooperation, marcroprudential regulation

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Abstract: Margin regulation raises two policy concerns. First, an alignment of margins to volatility can amplify procyclicality, leading to a build-up of excess leverage in good times and a forced deleverage in bad times. Second, competition among central counterparties (CCPs) can result in lower margin levels in order to attract more trading volume, which is referred to as a "race to the bottom." Motivated by these issues, we empirically analyze the determinants of margin changes by using a data set of various futures margins from Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) Group. We first find that CME Group raises margins quickly following volatility spikes but does not immediately lower margins following volatility declines, implying that margin-induced procyclicality is more of a concern in recessions than in expansions. In addition, we find some evidence that the margin difference between CME Group and its competitor, Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), is an important driver of margin changes after changes in other margin determinants are controlled for, implying that competition may be factored into margin setting.

Keywords: Margin; futures; volatility; central counterparties; procyclicality; race to the bottom; and Dodd-Frank Act

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Abstract: We develop a nonlinear dynamic general equilibrium model with a banking sector and use it to study the macroeconomic impact of introducing a minimum liquidity standard for banks on top of existing capital adequacy requirements. The model generates a distribution of bank sizes arising from differences in banks' ability to generate revenue from loans and from occasionally binding capital and liquidity constraints. Under our baseline calibration, imposing a liquidity requirement would lead to a steady-state decrease of about 3 percent in the amount of loans made, an increase in banks' holdings of securities of at least 6 percent, a fall in the interest rate on securities of a few basis points, and a decline in output of about 0.3 percent. Our results are sensitive to the supply of safe assets: the larger the supply of such securities, the smaller the macroeconomic impact of introducing a minimum liquidity standard for banks, all else being equal. Finally, we show that relaxing the liquidity requirement under a situation of financial stress dampens the response of output to aggregate shocks.

Keywords: Bank regulation, liquidity requirements, capital requirements, incomplete markets, idiosyncratic risk, macroprudential policy

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Abstract: I revisit the Great Inflation and the Great Moderation. I document an immoderation in corporate balance sheet variables so that the Great Moderation is best described as a period of divergent patterns in volatilities for real, nominal and financial variables. A model with time-varying financial frictions and financial shocks allowing for structural breaks in the size of shocks and the institutional framework is estimated. The paper shows that (i) while the Great Inflation was driven by bad luck, the Great Moderation is mostly due to better institutions; (ii) the slowdown in credit spreads is driven by an easier access to credit, while a higher exposure to financial risk determines the immoderation of balance sheet variables; and (iii) financial shocks arise as relevant drivers of U.S. business cycle uctuations.

Keywords: Great Inflation, Great Moderation, immoderation, financial frictions, financial shocks, structural breaks, Bayesian methods

Original version: Full paper (PDF) | Accessible materials (.zip)

Abstract: This paper develops a model of the financial system that provides a framework for analyzing monetary policy implementation in a world with multiple Federal Reserve liabilities and a superabundant supply of reserves. The analysis demonstrates that the Federal Reserve's suite of policy tools including interest on excess reserves (IOER), overnight and term reverse repurchase agreements, and term deposits should allow the Federal Reserve to raise the level of short-term interest rates at the appropriate time. The model also demonstrates that these tools could be used in different ways to achieve any given desired level of interest rates. The choices among alternative combinations of tools, of course, have implications for patterns of financial intermediation. Specifically, the quantity of Federal Reserve liabilities held outside of the banking system is shown to depend importantly on the spread between various policy rates.

Keywords: Policy normalization, preferred habitat, financial markets, Federal Reserve liabilities, interest on excess reserves (IOER), overnight and term reverse repurchase agreements (ON and term RRP), term deposits (TDF)

Accessible materials (.zip)

Abstract: Vehicle purchases fell by more than 20 percent during the 2007-09 recession, and auto loan originations fell by a third. We show that vehicle purchases typically account for an outsized share of the contraction in economic activity during a recession, in part because a concurrent tightening in auto lending conditions makes car purchases less affordable for many households. We explore the link between lending conditions and vehicle purchases with a novel gauge of credit supply conditions--household perceptions of vehicle financing conditions as measured on the Reuters/University of Michigan Survey of Consumers. In both a vector auto-regression estimated on aggregate data and a logit regression estimated on household-level data, this measure indicates that credit conditions are a significant influence on auto sales, as large as factors such as unemployment and income. Estimates from the household-level model show that the new car purchases of households that are more likely to depend on credit are particularly sensitive to assessments of financing conditions, and that households are a bit more likely to purchase vehicles when they expect interest rates to rise in the next year. The results contribute to the literature validating the usefulness of survey measures of household perceptions for forecasting macroeconomic activity.

Keywords: Auto loans, auto sales, credit constraints, Michigan Survey of Consumers

Accessible version (.zip)

Abstract: One of the most notable changes in the U.S. retail market over the past twenty years has been the rise of Big Box stores, retail chains characterized by physically large stores selling a wide range of consumer goods at discount prices. A growing literature has examined the impacts of Big Box stores on other retailers and consumers, but relatively little is known about how Big Box stores choose locations. Because Big Box stores offer highly standardized products and compete primarily on price, it is likely that they will seek to establish spatial monopolies, far from competitor stores. In this paper, I examine where new Big Box stores locate with respect to three types of existing establishments: own-firm stores, other retailers in the same product space (competitors), and retailers in other product spaces (complements). Results indicate that new Big Box stores tend to avoid existing own-firm stores and locate near complementary Big Box stores. However, there is little evidence that new Big Boxes avoid competitors. Firms in the same product space may not be perfect substitutes, or firms may prefer to share consumers in a desirable location rather than cede the entire market to competitor firms.

Keywords: Retail location, spatial competition, agglomeration, Big Box stores

Accessible version (.zip)

Abstract: This paper examines the relationship between a young adults' debt burden and the decision to co-reside with a parent. Using a quarterly panel of young adults' credit histories, and controlling for age, county, and quarter fixed effects, and local demographic characteristics, unemployment rates, and house prices, we estimate the relationship between current period debt and subsequent decisions to co-reside with a parent. Our results indicate that indebtedness--as measured by average loan balances, declining credit scores and delinquency on accounts--increases flows into parental co-residence. Moreover, after moving in, delinquency and low credit scores increase time spent in co-residence. We find that the changing debt portfolios of young adults over this period--characterized by rising student loan debt and small declines in credit card, auto and mortgage debt--can predict 30 percent of the observed increase in flows into co-residence, and 26 percent of the observed increase in time spent in co-residence.

Keywords: Consumer debt, household formation, delinquency, boomerang generation

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feds 2014-79
October 2014 (revised January 2016)

Reconstruction multipliers (PDF)

Francesco Porcelli and Riccardo Trezzi

Abstract: Following the 2009 L'Aquila earthquake, financing of reconstruction by the Italian central government resulted in a sharp and unanticipated discontinuity in grants across municipalities that were ex-ante very similar. Using the emergency financing law as an instrument, we identify the causal effect of municipal government spending on local activity, controlling for the negative supply shock from the earthquake. In our estimates, this "reconstruction multiplier" is around unity, and we show that the grants provided public insurance. Economic activity contracted in municipalities that did not receive the grants, while it expanded--or at least did not contract--in municipalities that did receive them. Our results suggest several policy implications with respect to the allocation mechanism of such grants.

Keywords: Natural disasters, fiscal multipliers, Mercalli scale

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Abstract: Although the lack of international portfolio diversification has long interested the financial economics literature, the role of financial intermediaries in the market for diversified portfolios has rarely been studied. In this paper, I introduce a microeconomic aspect of under-diversification by examining a new data on U.S.-based mutual fund families' global diversification. I document the fund families' investments in global equity markets and explore features of supply and demand in the mutual fund market to explain their limited global diversification. Demand estimation confirms that consumers are not only sensitive to the fund families' portfolio characteristics such as global diversification, but also to the non-portfolio characteristics such as fund family age and size. On the supply side, the model of fund families' global investment decisions uses a revealed preference approach and shows small cross-border investment frictions can justify the fund families' observed limited global diversification. Other factors such as destination country's investor protection level and fund family's investment experience significantly affect the degree of diversification as well.

Keywords: Diversification, mutual funds

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Abstract: The Durbin Amendment to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 alters the competitive structure of the debit card payment processing industry and caps debit card interchange fees for banks with over $10 billion in assets. Market participants predicted that debit card issuers would offset the reduction in debit interchange revenue by increases in customer account fees. Some participants also predicted that banks would cut costs in response to the law by reducing staff and shutting down branches. Using a difference-in-differences testing strategy, we show that debit interchange fee income fell for treated banks, leading to a fall in noninterest income. We also find that banks only partially offset this loss with deposit fees. We document that treated banks neither reduced costs nor strategically avoided the $10 billion threshold.

Keywords: Banks, debit cards, Dodd-Frank Act, Durbin Amendment, interchange fees, payments

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Abstract: This paper investigates the importance of status in household consumption and financial decisions using household data from the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) linked to neighborhood data in the American Community Survey (ACS). We find evidence that a household's income rank--its position in the income distribution relative to its close neighbors--is positively associated with its expenditures on high status cars, its level of indebtedness, as well as the riskiness of the household's portfolio. More aggregate county-level evidence based on a dataset of every new car sold in each county in the United States since 2002 also suggests that the signaling motive might be important. These results indicate that greater income heterogeneity might have large consequences for household consumption and portfolio decisions.

Keywords: Signaling, household finance

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Abstract: We study a dynamic stochastic general equilibrium model in which agents are concerned about model uncertainty regarding climate change. An externality from greenhouse gas emissions damages the economy's capital stock. We assume that the mapping from climate change to damages is subject to uncertainty, and we use robust control theory techniques to study efficiency and optimal policy. We obtain a sharp analytical solution for the implied environmental externality and characterize dynamic optimal taxation. A small increase in the concern about model uncertainty can cause a significant drop in optimal fossil fuel use. The optimal tax that restores the socially optimal allocation is Pigouvian. Under more general assumptions, we develop a recursive method and solve the model computationally. We find that the introduction of uncertainty matters qualitatively and quantitatively. We study optimal output growth in the presence and in the absence of concerns about uncertainty and find that these concerns can lead to substantially different conclusions.

Keywords: Climate change, optimal dynamic taxation, uncertainty, robust

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Abstract: This paper uses the 2007 and 2010 waves of the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) to investigate how monetary incentives affect the time and effort that interviewers expend during the survey field period, and how these incentives affect effort expended by the survey respondent. The results imply that a larger monetary incentive offer helps reduce contact attempts and time in the field while maintaining data quality and effort during the survey by the respondent. Our results are based on a quasi-experiment that varies which families receive an incentive offer letter. Supporting evidence is given through a comparison of field effort outcomes between 2010 and 2007 after the base incentive increased from $20 in 2007 to $50 in 2010.

Keywords: Incentives, data quality, contact attempts, record-of-call paradata

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Abstract: Because housing is durable, the housing supply is slow to adapt to declines in demand. This paper uses long-term vacancy--defined as nonseasonal housing units that have been vacant for an unusually long period of time--to quantify the extent of excess supply in the housing market. I find that long-term vacancy is less than 2 percent of all nonseasonal housing units and accounts for only one quarter of the aggregate increase in nonseasonal vacancy from 2001 to 2011. Thus, at the national level, excess supply is considerably less extensive than indicated by traditional measures of vacancy. However, the stock of long-term vacant housing is concentrated in a small number of neighborhoods that do have appreciably high long-term vacancy rates. Some of these neighborhoods have characteristics suggesting that excess supply is related to overbuilding during the housing boom, while others have characteristics that are symptomatic of persistently weak housing demand.

Keywords: Vacancy, excess housing supply

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Abstract: This paper uses the staggered changes of R&D tax credits across U.S. states and over time as a quasi-natural experiment to examine the impact of innovation on corporate liquidity. By generating plausibly independent variation in firms' incentive to invest in R&D, we are able to assess the empirical importance of specific theories of the link between innovation and corporate liquidity. Firms increase (decrease) their cash to asset ratios by about one and a half percentage point when their home state increases (cuts) R&D tax credits. These baseline difference-in-differences estimates hold up to a battery of validation, falsification, and robustness checks, which corroborate their internal and external validity. The treatment effect of R&D tax credits increases monotonically with several specific proxies for debt and equity financing frictions. Increases (cuts) in tax credits also lead to increases (decreases) in the ratios of cash to bank lines of credit and to book equity, and to decreases (increases) in bank debt, secured debt, and overall net indebtness, supporting debt and equity financing channels through which innovation impacts the demand for cash. We also find support for a product market competition channel, and assess repatriation and agency explanations. Overall, our analysis offers endogeneity-free evidence that innovation is a first-order driver of corporate liquidity management decisions.

Keywords: Determinants of corporate cash holdings, financial economics of innovation

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Abstract: This paper provides a closed-form solution for the price-dividend ratio in a standard asset pricing model with stochastic volatility. The solution is useful in allowing comparisons among numerical methods used to approximate the non-trivial closed-form.

Keywords: Endowment model, price-dividend ratio, closed-form solution

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feds 2014-70
September 2014

Tying loan interest rates to borrowers' CDS spreads (PDF)

Ivan T. Ivanov, Joao A. C. Santos, and Thu Vo

Abstract: We investigate how the introduction of market-based pricing, the practice of tying loan interest rates to credit default swaps, has affected borrowing costs. We find that CDS-based loans are associated with lower interest rates, both at origination and during the life of the loan. Our results also indicate that banks simplify the covenant structure of market-based pricing loans, suggesting that the decline in the cost of bank debt is explained, at least in part, by a reduction in monitoring costs. Market-based pricing, therefore, besides reducing the cost of bank debt, may also have adverse consequences resulting from the decline in bank monitoring.

Keywords: Market-based pricing, loan spreads, loan covenants, CDS spreads

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Abstract: Micro- and macro-level evidence indicates that fluctuations in idiosyncratic uncertainty have a large effect on investment; the impact of uncertainty on investment occurs primarily through changes in credit spreads; and innovations in credit spreads have a strong effect on investment, irrespective of the level of uncertainty. These findings raise a question regarding the economic significance of the traditional "wait-and-see" effect of uncertainty shocks and point to financial distortions as the main mechanism through which fluctuations in uncertainty affect macroeconomic outcomes. The relative importance of these two mechanisms is analyzed within a quantitative general equilibrium model, featuring heterogeneous firms that face time-varying idiosyncratic uncertainty, irreversibility, nonconvex capital adjustment costs, and financial frictions. The model successfully replicates the stylized facts concerning the macroeconomic implications of uncertainty and financial shocks. By influencing the effective supply of credit, both types of shocks exert a powerful effect on investment and generate countercyclical credit spreads and procyclical leverage, dynamics consistent with the data and counter to those implied by the technology-driven real business cycle models.

Keywords: Time-varying volatility, asset specificity, capital liquidity shocks, costly external finance, firm heterogeneity, general equilibrium

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feds 2014-68
September 2014

State Mandated Financial Education and the Credit Behavior of Young Adults (PDF)

Alexandra Brown, J. Michael Collins, Maximilian Schmeiser, and Carly Urban

Abstract: In the U.S., a number of states have mandated personal finance classes in public school curricula to address perceived deficiencies in financial decision-making competency. Despite the growth of financial and economic education provided in public schools, little is known about the effect of these programs on the credit behaviors of young adults. Using a panel of credit report data, we examine young adults in three states where personal financial education mandates were implemented in 2007: Georgia, Idaho, and Texas. We compare the credit scores and delinquency rates of young adults in each of these states pre- and post-implementation of the education to those of students in a synthetic control state and then bordering states without financial education. We find that young people who are in school after the implementation of a financial education requirement have higher relative credit scores and lower relative delinquency rates than those in control states.

Keywords: Financial literacy, financial education, credit score, delinquency

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feds 2014-67
September 2014

Financial Fire Sales: Evidence from Bank Failures (PDF)

Rodney Ramcharan and Raghuram Rajan

Abstract: Theory suggests the reduction in financing capacity after the failure of a financial intermediary can reduce the value of financial assets. Forced sales of the intermediary's assets could consume liquidity, depressing the liquidation value of the assets of healthy intermediaries and causing contagious runs. These financial fire sales can both cause, and exacerbate, real fire sales, the focus of previous studies. This paper investigates the relevance of financial fire sales using new datasets covering bank failures during the farm depression in the United States just before the Great Depression, as well as bank failures during the Great Depression. Using differences in regulation as a means of identification, we find that the reduction in local financing capacity as a result of bank failures reduces the recovery rates on failed assets of nearby banks, depresses local land prices, renders land markets illiquid, and is associated with subsequent distress in nearby banks. All this indicates a rationale for why bank failures are contagious.

Keywords: Bank failures, liquidity, fire sales

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feds 2014-66
Published: September 2014; Revised: January 2016

Default Risk and Private Student Loans: Implications for Higher Education Policies (PDF)

Felicia Ionescu and Nicole Simpson

Abstract: In recent years, the proportion of students facing a binding constraint on government student loans has grown. This has led to substantially increased use of private loans as a supplementary source of finance for households' higher education investment. A critical aspect of the private market for student loans is that loan terms must reflect students' risk of default. College investment will therefore differ from a world in which government student loans, whose terms are not sensitive to credit risk, are expanded to no longer bind. Moreover, beyond simply crowding out private lending, expansions of the government student loan program will feed back into default risk on private loans. The goal of this paper is to provide a quantitative assessment of the likely effects of the private market for student loans on college enrollment. We build a model of college investment that reflects uninsured idiosyncratic risk and a well-defined life-cycle that is consistent with observed borrowing and default behavior across family income and college preparedness. We find that higher government borrowing limits increase college investment but lead to more default in the private market for student loans, while tuition subsides increase college investment and reduce default rates in the private market. Consequently, higher limits on government student loans have small negative welfare effects, while tuition subsidies increase aggregate welfare.

Keywords: College investment, Default risk, Student loans

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Abstract: This paper presents estimates of the effect of emergency and extended unemployment benefits (EEB) on the unemployment rate and the labor force participation rate using a data set containing information on individuals likely eligible and ineligible for EEB back to the late 1970s. To identify these estimates, we examine how exit rates from unemployment change across different points of the distribution of unemployment duration when EEB is and is not available, controlling for changes in labor demand and demographic characteristics. We find that EEB increased the unemployment rate by about one-third percentage point in the most recent recession but did not affect the participation rate. In previous recessions, the effect of EEB on the unemployment rate was even smaller.

Keywords: Unemployment benefits extensions, unemployment rate, labor force participation rate

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feds 2014-64
September 2014

Labor Force Participation: Recent Developments and Future Prospects (PDF)

Stephanie Aaronson, Tomaz Cajner, Bruce Fallick, Felix Galbis-Reig, Christopher L. Smith, and William Wascher

Abstract: Since 2007, the labor force participation rate has fallen from about 66 percent to about 63 percent. The sources of this decline have been widely debated among academics and policymakers, with some arguing that the participation rate is depressed due to weak labor demand while others argue that the decline was inevitable due to structural forces such as the aging of the population. In this paper, we use a variety of approaches to assess reasons for the decline in participation. Although these approaches yield somewhat different estimates of the extent to which the recent decline in participation reflects cyclical weakness rather than structural factors, our overall assessment is that much - but not all - of the decline in the labor force participation rate since 2007 is structural in nature. As a result, while we see some of the current low level of the participation rate as indicative of labor market slack, we do not expect the participation rate to show a substantial increase from current levels as labor market conditions continue to improve.

Keywords: Labor force participation, retirement behavior, disability insurance, implications of an aging population, youth employment, labor market slack, labor market fluctuations and the business cycle

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feds 2014-63
September 2014

Financial Condition and Product Market Cooperation (PDF)

Matthew Gustafson, Ivan T. Ivanov, and John Ritter

Abstract: We provide evidence that existing studies relating financial condition to product market cooperation produce mixed results because of unique features of the industries examined. In particular, all evidence suggesting that poor financial condition decreases cooperation comes from the airline industry during periods of high idle capacity. Using a unique data set of aggregate airfare hikes and a more recent low-idle-capacity period, we find that poor financial condition is positively associated with product market cooperation. Although financially weak airlines appear to value the immediate cash flows of increased cooperation, only liquidity-constrained firms seem willing to incur the cost of cooperative attempts.

Keywords: Financial distress, product market cooperation,, liquidity

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Abstract: I decompose the cross-sectional variation of the credit spreads for corporate bonds into changing expected returns and changing expectation of credit losses with a model-free method. Using a log-linearized pricing identity and a vector autoregression applied to micro-level data from 1973 to 2011, I find that the expected credit loss component and the excess return component each explains about half of the variance of the credit spreads. Unlike the market-level findings in Gilchrist and Zakrajsek (2012), at the firm level, the expected credit loss is volatile and affects the firms' investment decision more than the expected excess returns.

Keywords: Credit risk, fixed income, variance decomposition, credit spread

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Abstract: Using a regression discontinuity design, we provide evidence that incentive conflicts between firms and their creditors have a large impact on employees. There are sharp and substantial employment cuts following loan covenant violations, when creditors exercise their ex post control rights. The negative impact of violations on employment is stronger for firms that face more severe agency and financing frictions and those whose employees have weaker bargaining power. Employment cuts following violations are much larger during industry and macroeconomic downturns, when employees have fewer alternative job opportunities and reduced bargaining power. Union elections that create new labor bargaining units lead to higher loan spreads, consistent with creditors requiring compensation for their reduced control rights when labor is stronger. Overall, these findings enrich our understanding of the consequences of the state contingent transfer of control rights by identifying a risk-shifting channel from creditors to employees. Our analysis establishes an endogeneity-free link between financing frictions and employment and offers direct evidence that binding financial covenants are an important amplification mechanism of economic downturns.

Keywords: Covenant violations, employment

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Abstract: In the special collateral repo market, forward agreements are security-specific, which may magnify demand and supply effects. We quantify the scarcity value of Treasury collateral by estimating the impact of security-specific demand and supply factors on the repo rates of all outstanding U.S. Treasury securities. We find an economically and statistically significant scarcity premium. This scarcity effect is quite persistent, passes through to Treasury market prices, and explains a significant portion of the flow-effects of LSAP programs, providing additional evidence for the scarcity channel of QE. Through the same mechanism, the Fed's reverse repo operations could alleviate potential shortages of high-quality collateral.

Keywords: Treasury bonds, repo contracts, supply-demand factors, liquidity, Large Scale Asset Purchase programs, Treasury auctions

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Abstract: Many theories of asset prices assume time-varying uncertainty in order to generate time-varying risk premia. This paper generates time-varying uncertainty endogenously, through precautionary saving dynamics. Precautionary motives prescribe that, in bad times, next period's consumption should be very sensitive to news. This time-varying sensitivity results in time-varying consumption volatility. Production makes this channel visible, and external habit preferences amplify it. An estimated model featuring this channel quantitatively accounts for excess return and dividend predictability regressions. It also matches the first two moments of excess equity returns, the risk-free rate, and the second moments of consumption, output, and investment.

Keywords: Time-varying risk premia, the equity premium puzzle, time-varying volatility, habit, precautionary savings

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Abstract: Using prices of both S&P 500 options and recently introduced VIX options, we study asset pricing implications of volatility risk. While pointing out the joint pricing kernel is not identified nonparametrically, we propose model-free estimates of marginal pricing kernels of the market return and volatility conditional on the VIX. We find that the pricing kernel of market return exhibits a decreasing pattern given either a high or low VIX level, whereas the unconditional estimates present a U-shape. Hence, stochastic volatility is the key state variable responsible for the U-shape puzzle documented in the literature. Finally, our estimates of the volatility pricing kernel feature a U-shape, implying that investors have high marginal utility in both high and low volatility states.

Keywords: Pricing kernel, volatility risk, VIX option, state-price density

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feds 2014-57
August 2014

Unspanned macroeconomic factors in the yield curve (PDF)

Laura Coroneo, Domenico Giannone, and Michele Modugno

Abstract: In this paper, we extract common factors from a cross-section of U.S. macro-variables and Treasury zero-coupon yields. We find that two macroeconomic factors have an important predictive content for government bond yields and excess returns. These factors are not spanned by the cross-section of yields and are well proxied by economic growth and real interest rates.

Keywords: Yield curve, government bonds, factor models, forecasting

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Abstract: The 2007-2009 recession is characterized by: a large drop in employment, an unprecedented decline in firm entry, and a slow recovery. Using confidential firm-level data, I show that financial constraints reduced employment growth in small relative to large firms by 4.8 to 10.5 percentage points. The effect of financial constraints is robust to controlling for aggregate demand and is particularly strong in small young firms. I show in a heterogeneous firms model with endogenous firm entry and financial constraints that a large financial shock results in a long-lasting recession caused by a "missing generation" of entrants.

Keywords: Employment, firm entry, financial crisis, small business, financial friction, slow recovery, start-ups

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Abstract: Following the financial crisis, total outstanding loans to businesses by commercial banks dropped off substantially. Large loans outstanding began to rebound by the third quarter of 2010 and essentially returned to their previous growth trajectory while small loans outstanding continued to decline. Anecdotal evidence suggests that firms used trade credit to smooth over cash flow problems. The current paper looks at recent trends in trade credit use by small businesses based on a recent poll done by the Credit Research Foundation. The results highlight the importance of business to business credit for small businesses. They show an increase in demand over the past year as well as a slowdown in payment that may signal a decline in the ability to pay.

Keywords: Small business, business to business spending, trade credit

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Abstract: Wrong way risk can be incorporated in Credit Value Adjustment (CVA) calculations in a reduced form model. Hull and White [2012] introduced a CVA model that captures wrong way risk by expressing the stochastic intensity of a counterparty's default time in terms of the financial institution's credit exposure to the counterparty. We consider a class of reduced form CVA models that includes the formulation of Hull and White and show that wrong way CVA need not exceed independent CVA. This result is based on some general properties of the model calibration scheme and a formula that we derive for intensity models of dependent CVA (wrong or right way). We support our result with a stylized analytical example as well as more realistic numerical examples based on the Hull and White model. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of our findings for Basel III CVA capital charges, which are predicated on the assumption that wrong way risk increases CVA.

Keywords: Credit value adjustment, stochastic intensity modeling, wrong way and right way risk, Basel III, counterparty credit risk

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feds 2014-53
August 2014

Limited Deposit Insurance Coverage and Bank Competition (PDF)

Oz Shy, Rune Stenbacka, and Vladimir Yankov

Abstract: Deposit insurance schemes in many countries place a limit on the coverage of deposits in each bank. However, no limits are placed on the number of accounts held with different banks. Therefore, under limited deposit insurance, some consumers open accounts with different banks to achieve higher or full deposit insurance coverage. We compare three regimes of deposit insurance: No deposit insurance, unlimited deposit insurance, and limited deposit insurance. We show that limited deposit insurance weakens competition among banks and reduces total welfare relative to no or unlimited deposit insurance.

Keywords: Limited deposit insurance coverage, deposit rates, bank competition

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feds 2014-52
August 2014

The Low Frequency Effects of Macroeconomic News on Government Bond Yields (PDF)

Carlo Altavilla, Domenico Giannone, and Michele Modugno

Abstract: This study analyzes the reaction of the U.S. Treasury bond market to innovations in macroeconomic fundamentals. We identify these innovations with macroeconomic news, defined as differences between the actual releases and their market expectations. We show that macroeconomic news explain about one-third of the low frequency (quarterly) fluctuations of long-term bond yields. When focusing on the high frequency (daily) movements this share decreases to one-tenth. This result is due to the fact that macro news have a persistent effect on the yield curve. Non-fundamental factors, instead, substantially influence the day-to-day movements of bond yields but their effects are shorter-living and mean-reverting.

Keywords: Macroeconomic announcements, treasury bond yields

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Abstract: Using data on developing economies, we estimate a flexible semiparametric panel data model that incorporates potentially nonlinear effects of inflation on economic growth. We find that inflation is associated with significantly lower growth only after it reaches about 12 percent, which is notably lower than the comparable estimate obtained from a threshold model. Our results also suggest that models with restrictive functional form assumptions tend to underestimate marginal effects of inflation on economic growth. We also document significant variation in the effect of inflation on growth across countries and over time.

Keywords: Inflation, economic growth, semiparametric panel data model, series estimation, bootstrap

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Abstract: Can the central bank credibly commit to keeping the nominal interest rate low for an extended period of time in the aftermath of a deep recession? By analyzing credible plans in a sticky-price economy with occasionally binding zero lower bound constraints, I find that the answer is yes if contractionary shocks hit the economy with sufficient frequency. In the best credible plan, if the central bank reneges on the promise of low policy rates, it will lose reputation and the private sector will not believe such promises in future recessions. When the shock hits the economy sufficiently frequently, the incentive to maintain reputation outweighs the short-run incentive to close consumption and inflation gaps, keeping the central bank on the originally announced path of low nominal interest rates.

Keywords: Credible policy, forward guidance, reputation, sustainable plan, time consistency, trigger strategy, zero lower bound

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Abstract: In the mid-2000s, federal bank regulatory agencies became alarmed by steadily increasing concentrations of commercial real estate (CRE) loans at many banks, particularly loans used to finance construction and land development (CLD). In January 2006, they issued guidance that required banks with specific high concentrations in those asset classes to tighten managerial controls. This paper shows that banks with concentrations in excess of the thresholds set in the guidance subsequently experienced slower growth in their CRE and CLD portfolios than can be explained by changes in the health of their balance sheets and economic conditions. Moreover, banks that were above the CRE thresholds also tended to have slower growth in C&I loans but faster growth in loans to households after the guidance was issued. The results highlight the potential for this type of macroprudential regulation to have a significant and broad influence on bank behavior.

Keywords: Credit channel, government regulation, bank lending, real estate

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feds 2014-48
July 2014

QE Auctions of Treasury Bonds (PDF)

Zhaogang Song and Haoxiang Zhu

Abstract: The Federal Reserve (Fed) uses a unique auction mechanism to purchase U.S. Treasury securities in implementing its quantitative easing (QE) policy. In this paper, we study the outcomes of QE auctions and participating dealers' bidding behaviors from November 2010 to September 2011, during which the Fed purchased $780 billion Treasury securities. Our data include the transaction prices and quantities of each traded bond in each auction, as well as dealers' identities. We find that: (1) In QE auctions the Fed tends to exclude bonds that are liquid and on special, but among included bonds, purchase volumes gravitate toward more liquid bonds; (2) The auction costs are low on average: the Fed pays around 0.7 cents per $100 par value above the secondary market ask price on auction dates; (3) The heterogeneity of Fed's costs across bonds relates to their liquidity and specialness, suggesting that dealers respond to both valuation and information uncertainties; (4) Dealers exhibit strong heterogeneity in their participation, trading volumes, and profits in QE auctions; (5) Auction bidding variables forecast bond returns only one day after the auction, suggesting that dealers have price-relevant information but the information decays quickly.

Keywords: Auction, quantitative easing, Federal Reserve, treasury bond, specialness

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Abstract: We describe how to adapt a first-order perturbation approach and apply it in a piecewise fashion to handle occasionally binding constraints in dynamic models. Our examples include a real business cycle model with a constraint on the level of investment and a New Keynesian model subject to the zero lower bound on nominal interest rates. We compare the piecewise linear perturbation solution with a high-quality numerical solution that can be taken to be virtually exact. The piecewise linear perturbation method can adequately capture key properties of the models we consider. A key advantage of this method is its applicability to models with a large number of state variables.

Keywords: Occasionally binding constraints, DSGE models, regime shifts, first-order perturbation

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feds 2014-46
June 2014

Flights to Safety (PDF)

Lieven Baele, Geert Bekaert, Koen Inghelbrecht, and Min Wei

Abstract: Using only daily data on bond and stock returns, we identify and characterize flight to safety (FTS) episodes for 23 countries. On average, FTS days comprise less than 3% of the sample, and bond returns exceed equity returns by 2.5 to 4%. The majority of FTS events are country-specific not global. FTS episodes coincide with increases in the VIX and the Ted spread, decreases in consumer sentiment indicators and appreciations of the Yen, Swiss franc, and US dollar. The financial, basic materials and industrial industries under-perform in FTS episodes, but the telecom industry outperforms. Money market instruments, corporate bonds, and commodity prices (with the exception of metals, including gold) face abnormal negative returns in FTS episodes. Hedge funds, especially those belonging to the "event-driven" styles, display negative FTS betas, after controlling for standard risk factors. Liquidity deteriorates on FTS days both in the bond and equity markets. Both economic growth and inflation decline right after and up to a year following a FTS spell.

Keywords: Flight-to-safety, flight-to-quality, stock-bond return correlation, liquidity, hedge funds

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feds 2014-45
Published: June 2014; Revised: February 2015

Relative Liquidity and Future Volatility (PDF)

Marcela Valenzuela, Ilknur Zer, Piotr Fryzlewicz, and Thorsten Rheinlander

Abstract: The main contribution of this paper is to identify the strong predictive power of the relative concentration of depth provision, rather than volume of orders, over volatility. To this end, we propose a new measure, relative liquidity (RLIQ), which extracts information from a limit order book distribution and captures the level of consensus on a security's trading price. Higher liquidity provision farther away from the best quotes, relative to the rest of the book, is associated with a disagreement on the current price and followed by high volatility. The relationship is robust to the inclusion of several alternative measures.

Keywords: Order-driven markets, limit order book distribution, volatility predictability, liquidity

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Abstract: The 1950s are often pointed to as a decade in which the Federal Reserve operated a particularly successful monetary policy. The present paper examines the evolution of Federal Reserve monetary policy from the mid-1930s through the 1950s in an effort to understand better the apparent success of policy in the 1950s. Whereas others have debated whether the Fed had a sophisticated understanding of how to implement policy, our focus is on how the constraints on the Fed changed over time. Roosevelt Administration gold policies and New Deal legislation limited the Fed's ability to conduct an independent monetary policy. The Fed was forced to cooperate with the Treasury in the 1930s, and fully ceded monetary policy to Treasury financing requirements during World War II. Nonetheless, the Fed retained a policy tool in the form of reserve requirements, and from the mid-1930s to 1951, changes in required reserve ratios were the primary means by which the Fed responded to expected inflation. The inability of the Fed to maintain a credible commitment to low interest rates in the face of increased government spending and rising inflation led to the Fed-Treasury Accord of March 1951. Following the Accord, the external pressures on the Fed diminished significantly, which enabled the Fed to focus primarily on macroeconomic objectives. We conclude that a successful outcome requires not only a good understanding of how to conduct policy, but also a conducive environment in which to operate.

Keywords: Federal Reserve, monetary policy, reserve requirements, Fed-Treasury Accord, inflation

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feds 2014-43
June 2014

Behavioral Economics and Macroeconomic Models (PDF)

John C. Driscoll and Steinar Holden

Abstract: Over the past 20 years, macroeconomists have incorporated more and more results from behavioral economics into their models. We argue that doing so has helped fixed deficiencies with standard approaches to modeling the economy--for example, the counterfactual absence of inertia in the standard New Keynesian model of economic fluctuations. We survey efforts to use behavioral economics to improve some of the underpinnings of the New Keynesian model--specifically, consumption, the formation of expectations and determination of wages and employment that underlie aggregate supply, and the possibility of multiple equilibria and asset price bubbles. We also discuss more broadly the advantages and disadvantages of using behavioral economics features in macroeconomic models.

Keywords: Behavioral macroeconomics, New Keynesian model

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feds 2014-42
Published: June 2014; Revised: February 2015

The Welfare Costs of Skill-Mismatch Employment (PDF)

David M. Arseneau and Brendan Epstein

Abstract: Skill-mismatch employment occurs when high-skilled individuals accept employment in jobs for which they are over-qualified. These employment relationships can be beneficial because they allow high-skilled individuals to more rapidly transition out of unemployment. They come at the cost, however, in the form of lower wage compensation. Moreover, an externality arises as high-skilled individuals do not take into account the effect that their search activity in the market for low-tech jobs has on low-skilled individuals. This paper presents a tractable general equilibrium model featuring mismatch employment and on-the-job search to articulate these tradeoffs. We derive a set of efficiency conditions that describe the labor market distortions associated with these two model features and illustrate how they alter the standard notion of the labor wedges inherent in general equilibrium search models. Finally, we calibrate the model to U.S. data and show that the distortions associated with mismatch employment are largely distributional and can be quantitatively large.

Keywords: Job-to-job transitions, labor market frictions, skill premium

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Abstract: Whether bank failures have adverse effects on local economies is an important question for which there is conflicting and relatively scarce evidence. In this study, I use county-level data to examine the effect of bank failures and resolutions on local economies. Using quasi-experimental techniques as well as cross-sectional variation in bank failures, I show that recent bank failures lead to lower income and compensation growth, higher poverty rates, and lower employment. Additionally, I find that the structure of bank resolution appears to be important. Resolutions that include loss-sharing agreements tend to be less deleterious to local economies, supporting the notion that the importance of bank failure to local economies stems from banking and credit relationships. Finally, I show that markets with more inter-bank competition are more strongly affected by bank failure.

Keywords: Bank failure, relationship lending, bank regulation, financial crisis

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Abstract: Using a new-Keynesian model with endogenous capital accumulation, I show that uncertainty about fiscal policy can cause large declines in consumption, investment, and output when the zero lower bound (ZLB) binds, but has modest effects when the monetary authority is not constrained by the ZLB. I study uncertainty about the level of government spending and uncertainty about tax rates on consumption, wages, capital income, and investment. In my model, uncertainty about government spending and the wage tax rate has particularly large effects. I show that the effects of fiscal policy uncertainty are largest when the nominal interest rate is on the cusp of the ZLB and also that delaying fiscal policy uncertainty diminishes its effects only if the resolution of uncertainty occurs after ZLB no longer binds.

Keywords: Fiscal policy, zero lower bound, uncertainty

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Abstract: This paper compares the effects of conventional monetary policy on real borrowing costs with those of the unconventional measures employed after the target federal funds rate hit the zero lower bound (ZLB). For the ZLB period, we identify two policy surprises: changes in the 2-year Treasury yield around policy announcements and changes in the 10-year Treasury yield that are orthogonal to those in the 2-year yield. The efficacy of unconventional policy in lowering real borrowing costs is comparable to that of conventional policy, in that it implies a complete pass-through of policy-induced movements in Treasury yields to comparable-maturity private yields.

Keywords: Unconventional monetary policy, LSAPs, forward guidance, term premia, corporate bond yields, mortgage interest rates

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Abstract: Standard dynamic stochastic general equilibrium (DSGE) models assume a Taylor rule and forecast an increase in interest rates immediately after the 2007-2009 economic recession given the predicted output and inflation, contradictory to the extended period of near-zero interest rate policy (ZIRP) conducted by the Federal Reserve. In this paper, I study two methods of modeling the ZIRP in DSGE models: the perfect foresight rational expectations model and the Markov regime-switching model, which I develop in this paper. In this regime-switching model, I assume that, in one regime, the policy follows a Taylor rule, while, in the other regime, it involves a zero interest rate. I also construct the optimal filter to estimate this regime-switching DSGE model with Bayesian methods. I fit those modified DSGE models to the U.S. data from the third quarter of 1987 to the third quarter of 2010, and then, starting from the fourth quarter of 2010, I simulate the U.S. economy forward with and without the ZIRP intervention. I compare the predicted paths of the macro variables, and I find that the ZIRP intervention has a significant effect. The estimated regime-switching model I develop implies a substantial stimulative effect (on average a 0.12% increase in output growth rate and a 0.9% increase in inflation accumulatively over 20 quarters if ZIRP is kept for 6 quarters). The actual path from the fourth quarter of 2010 onward is closer to the predicted path derived from the regime-switching model than that generated by the perfect foresight model. The perfect foresight model generates an explosive and spurious rise in inflation. Therefore, the regime-switching model I propose is more appropriate to assess the effectiveness of the ZIRP, which is effective in stimulating the economy.

Keywords: Regime switching, zero interest rate policy, unconventional monetary policy

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feds 2014-37
May 2014

Debt Deflation Effects of Monetary Policy (PDF)

Li Lin, Dimitrios P. Tsomocos, and Alexandros P. Vardoulakis

Abstract: This paper assesses the role that monetary policy plays in the decision to default using a General Equilibrium model with collateralized loans, trade in fiat money and production. Long-term nominal loans are backed by collateral, the value of which depends on monetary policy. The decision to default is endogenous and depends on the relative value of the collateral to face value of the loan. Default results in foreclosure, higher borrowing costs, inefficient investment and a decrease in total output. We show that pre-crisis contractionary monetary policy interacts with Fisherian debt-deflation dynamics and can increase the probability that a crisis occurs.

Keywords: Default, collateral, debt deflation

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feds 2014-36
May 2014

Hedge fund holdings and stock market efficiency (PDF)

Charles Cao, Bing Liang, Andrew W. Lo, and Lubomir Petrasek

Abstract: We examine the relation between changes in hedge fund stock holdings and measures of informational efficiency of equity prices derived from transactions data, and find that, on average, increased hedge fund ownership leads to significant improvements in the informational efficiency of equity prices. The contribution of hedge funds to price efficiency is greater than the contributions of other types of institutional investors, such as mutual funds or banks. However, stocks held by hedge funds experienced extreme declines in price efficiency during liquidity crises, most notably in the last quarter of 2008, and the declines were most severe in stocks held by hedge funds connected to Lehman Brothers and hedge funds using leverage.

Keywords: Hedge funds, institutional investors, market efficiency

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Abstract: We document a robust positive relationship between the belief dispersion about macroeconomic conditions among household investors and the stock market trading volume, using more than 30 years of household survey data and a novel approach to measuring belief dispersions. Notably, such a relationship prevails even after various series of professional analysts' belief dispersions are controlled for. Consistent with a causal effect, such a relationship is most pronounced for belief dispersion among individuals who are most likely to own stocks and for trading volume of stocks that are most visible to household investors. Finally, we present suggestive evidence that the dispersion of changes in belief is also positively associated with the stock trading volume. Our analysis implies that household investors, traditionally viewed as tending to trader randomly, likely possess and trade on information that is not available to professional investors.

Keywords: Belief dispersion, trading volume, household investors, surveys of consumers

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feds 2014-34
May 2014

Model Risk of Risk Models (PDF)

Jon Danielsson, Kevin James, Marcela Valenzuela, and Ilknur Zer

Abstract: This paper evaluates the model risk of models used for forecasting systemic and market risk. Model risk, which is the potential for different models to provide inconsistent outcomes, is shown to be increasing with and caused by market uncertainty. During calm periods, the underlying risk forecast models produce similar risk readings, hence, model risk is typically negligible. However, the disagreement between the various candidate models increases significantly during market distress, with a no obvious way to identify which method is the best. Finally, we discuss the main problems in risk forecasting for macro prudential purposes and propose an evaluation criteria for such models.

Keywords: Value-at-Risk, expected shortfall, systemic risk, financial stability, Basel III, CoVaR, MES

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Abstract: In today's markets where high frequency traders (HFTs) act as both liquidity providers and takers, I argue that information asymmetry induced by liquidity-taking HFTs' use of machine-readable information is important. This particular type of information asymmetry arises because some machines may access the information before other machines or because of randomness in relative speed. Applying a novel statistical approach to measure HFT activity through limit order book data and using a natural experiment of index inclusion, I show that liquidity-providing HFTs supply less liquidity to stocks that suffer more from this information asymmetry problem. Moreover, when markets are volatile, this information asymmetry problem becomes more severe, and HFTs supply less liquidity. I discuss implications for market-making activity in times of market stress and for HFT regulations.

Keywords: High frequency trading, liquidity, market microstructure, information asymmetry

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Abstract: This paper studies the link between rising income uncertainty and household fertility patterns in an Aiyagari-Bewley-Huggett framework augmented to include fertility decisions and infertility risk. Building on Becker and Tomes (1976), I model fertility decisions as sequential, irreversible choices over the number of children, accompanied by parental choices of time and money invested toward improving children's quality. The calibrated model is used to quantify the contribution of earnings uncertainty to the changes in the key fertility indicators between steady states. I show that realistic increases in uninsurable earnings risk lead to a postponement in births by young households, and are associated with a decline in the total number of births. The linkage between earnings risk and fertility patterns highlights the important role that labor market conditions can play in determining both short-term cyclical fluctuations in fertility (such as those in the recent U.S. data) and longer-term demographic trends (such as persistently depressed fertility rates in Southern Europe where youth unemployment rates are high and unemployment spell are very persistent).

Keywords: Fertility choice, life cycle, heterogenous agents, uninsurable idiosyncratic income risk

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Abstract: This paper examines how monetary policy affects the riskiness of the financial sector's aggregate balance sheet, a mechanism referred to as the risk channel of monetary policy. I study the risk channel in a DSGE model with nominal frictions and a banking sector that can issue both outside equity and debt, making banks' exposure to risk an endogenous choice, and dependent on the (monetary) policy environment. Banks' equilibrium portfolio choice is determined by solving the model around a risk-adjusted steady state. I find that banks reduce their reliance on debt finance and decrease leverage when monetary policy shocks are prevalent. A monetary policy reaction function that responds to movements in bank leverage or to movements in credit spreads can incentivize banks to increase their use of debt finance and increase leverage, ceteris paribus, increasing the riskiness of the financial sector for the real economy.

Keywords: Financial intermediation, portfolio choice, debt and equity, monetary policy, risk-adjusted steady state

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feds 2014-30
May 2014

Gates, Fees, and Preemptive Runs (PDF)

Marco Cipriani, Antoine Martin, Patrick E. McCabe, and Bruno M. Parigi

Abstract: We build a model of a financial intermediary, in the tradition of Diamond and Dybvig (1983), and show that allowing the intermediary to impose redemption fees or gates in a crisis--a form of suspension of convertibility--can lead to preemptive runs. In our model, a fraction of investors (depositors) can become informed about a shock to the return of the intermediary's assets. Later, the informed investors learn the realization of the shock and can choose their redemption behavior based on this information. We prove two results: First, there are situations in which informed investors would wait until the uncertainty is resolved before redeeming if redemption fees or gates cannot be imposed, but those same investors would redeem preemptively, if fees or gates are possible. Second, we show that for the intermediary, which maximizes expected utility of only its own investors, imposing gates or fees can be ex post optimal. These results have important policy implications for intermediaries that are vulnerable to runs, such as money market funds, because the preemptive runs that can be caused by the possibility of gates or fees may have damaging negative externalities.

Keywords: Banks, money market funds, runs, preemptive runs, gates, fees

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Abstract: The most common New-Keynesian model--with sticky-prices--has potentially implausible implications in a zero-lower bound environment. Fiscal and forward guidance multipliers can be implausibly large. Moreover, the sticky-price model implies that positive supply shocks, such as an increase in productivity, will lower production, and that increased price flexibility can exacerbate such a decline in output (as well as amplifying the effects of other shocks). These results are fragile and disappear under a plausible alternative to sticky prices--sticky information: Fiscal and monetary multipliers are smaller, positive supply shocks raise output, and greater price flexibility, in the sense of more frequent updating of information, moves the economy's response toward the neoclassical benchmark. These results suggest caution in drawing policy lessons from a single, sticky-price framework. Finally, we highlight how strategies akin to nominal-income targeting can enhance the ability of policymakers to affect demand in sticky-price and sticky-information models.

Keywords: Forward guidance, fiscal multiplier, sticky prices, sticky information

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Abstract: In the years following 2009, long-term unemployment has been very elevated while inflation has fallen only moderately, raising the question of whether the long-term unemployed exert less downward pressure on prices than the short-term unemployed, perhaps because such potential workers are disconnected from the labor market. However, empirical evidence is mixed. This analysis demonstrates that the typical approach, using national data, is incapable of discriminating the inflationary pressure exerted by short and long-term unemployment because the series are highly correlated, making inference difficult given the short-span of data used in Phillips-curve estimation. However, application of more data, through the use of regional variation, can discriminate the independent influences of short-and long-term unemployment on price inflation. We present a model illustrating these issues and apply the model to data for U.S. metropolitan regions. We find that that short- and long-term unemployment exert equal downward pressure on price inflation.

Keywords: Short-term unemployment, phillips curve

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Abstract: This paper studies measurement errors that subtract signal from true variables of interest, labeled lack of signal errors (LoSE). The effect on OLS regression of LoSE is opposite the conventional wisdom about classical measurement errors, with LoSE in the dependent variable, not the explanatory variables, causing attenuation bias under some conditions. The paper provides evidence of LoSE in US GDP growth during the period known as the Great Moderation (roughly the mid-1980s to the mid-2000s), illustrating attenuation bias in regressions of GDP growth on asset prices. These biases may have contributed to conventional macroeconomic analysis missing the severity of the adverse shocks hitting the economy in the Great Recession.

Keywords: Measurement error, attenuation bias

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Abstract: Community banks have long played an important role in the U.S. economy, providing loans and other financial services to households and small businesses within their local markets. In recent years, technological and legal developments, as well as changes in the business strategies of larger banks and non-bank financial service providers, have purportedly made it more difficult for community banks to attract and retain customers, and hence to survive. Indeed, the number of community banks and the shares of bank branches, deposits, banking assets, and small business loans held by community banks in the U.S. have all declined substantially over the past two decades. Nonetheless, many community banks have successfully adapted to their changing environment and have continued to thrive. This paper uses data from 1992 through 2011 to examine the relationships between community bank profitability and various characteristics of the banks and the local markets in which they operate. Bank characteristics examined include size, age, ownership structure, management quality, and portfolio composition; market characteristics include population, per capita income, unemployment rate, and banking market structure. We find that community bank profitability is strongly positively related to bank size; that local economic conditions have significant effects on bank profitability; that the quality of bank management matters a great deal to profitability, especially during times of economic stress; and that small banks that make major shifts to their lending portfolios tend to be less profitable than other small banks. Variables within managers' control account for between 70 percent and 96 percent of the total explanatory power of equations explaining variations in performance across community banks.

Keywords: Banking, community banks, bank profitability, management quality

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Abstract: There exists an extensive literature estimating idiosyncratic labor income processes. While a wide variety of models are estimated, GMM estimators are almost always used. We examine the validity of using likelihood based estimation in this context by comparing the small sample properties of a Bayesian estimator to those of GMM. Our baseline studies estimators of a commonly used simple earnings process. We extend our analysis to more complex environments, allowing for real world phenomena such as time varying and heterogeneous parameters, missing data, unbalanced panels, and non-normal errors. The Bayesian estimators are demonstrated to have favorable bias and efficiency properties.

Keywords: Labor income process, small sample properties, GMM, bayesian estimation, error component models

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feds 2014-24
Published: April 2014; Revised: May 2016

Tips from TIPS: the Informational Content of Treasury Inflation-Protected Security Prices (PDF)

Stefania D'Amico, Don H. Kim, and Min Wei

Abstract: Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS) are frequently thought of as risk-free real bonds. Using no-arbitrage term structure models, we show that TIPS yields exceeded risk-free real yields by as much as 100 basis points when TIPS were first issued and up to 300 basis points during the recent financial crisis. This spread reflects predominantly the poorer liquidity of TIPS relative to nominal Treasury securities. Other factors, including the indexation lag and the embedded deflation protection in TIPS, play a much smaller role. Ignoring this spread also significantly distorts the informational content of TIPS breakeven inflation, a widely-used proxy for expected inflation.

Keywords: TIPS, breakeven inflation, deflation floor, expected inflation, indexation Lag, inflation risk premium, liquidity premiums

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Abstract: This article relates corporate credit rating quality to competition in lending between the public bond market and banks. In the model, the monopolistic rating agency's choice of price and quality leads to an endogenous threshold separating low-quality bank-dependent issuers from higher-quality issuers with access to public debt. In a baseline equilibrium with expensive bank lending, this separation across debt market segments provides information, but equilibrium ratings are uninformative. A positive shock to private (bank) relative to public lending supply allows banks to compete with public lenders for high-quality issuers, which threatens rating agency profits, and informative ratings result to prevent defection of high-quality borrowers to banks. This prediction is tested by analyzing two events that increased the relative supply of private vs. public lending sharply: legislation in 1994 that reduced barriers to interstate bank lending and the temporary shutdown of the high-yield bond market in 1989. After each event, the quality of ratings (based on their impact on bond yield spreads) increased for affected issuers. The analysis suggests that strategic behavior by the rating agency in an issuer-pays setting dampens the influence of macroeconomic shocks, and explains the use of informative unsolicited credit ratings to prevent unrated bond issues, particularly during good times. Additionally, the controversial issuer-pays model of ratings leads to more efficient outcomes than investor-pays alternatives.

Keywords: Issuer pays, credit rating, segmented markets, unsolicited rating

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Abstract: In this paper, we re-examine the relationship between money and interest rates with a focus on the past few years, when the opportunity cost of M2 has dropped below zero. Until the late 1980s, a stable relationship between monetary aggregates and the opportunity cost of holding money--measured as the spread between the three-month Treasury bill yield and the deposit-weighted average return on M2 assets--existed, and played an integral role in the conduct of monetary policy (e.g., Moore et al.(1990)). This relationship broke down in the early 1990s, when M2 velocity increased beyond the range that could be explained by movements in M2 opportunity cost. As of the mid-2000s, a new relationship was emerging, but was still statistically unstable. In late 2008, the opportunity cost of holding money dropped precipitously and has remained at its zero lower bound. Standard money-demand theory indicates that in such cases the interest elasticity of money demand should rise sharply. Reviewing the evidence to date, we fail to find support for such a rise through 2011, but we observe a notable change in the relationship over the most recent quarters. We conjecture that the more recent shifts, however, could be due to the effects of regulatory and monetary policy changes rather than a fundamental shift in the relationship between money and opportunity cost. Further work is needed to determine the contribution of these regulatory and monetary policy factors.

Keywords: Money demand, M2, zero lower bound, opportunity cost

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Abstract: We study the performance and behavior of Value at Risk (VaR) measures used by a number of large banks during and before the financial crisis. Alternative benchmark VaR measures, including GARCH-based measures, are also estimated directly from the banks' trading revenues and help to explain the bank VaR performance results. While highly conservative in the pre-crisis period, bank VaR exceedances were excessive and clustered in the crisis period. All benchmark VaRs were more accurate in the pre-crisis period with GARCH VaR measures the most accurate in the crisis period having lower exceedance rates with no exceedance clustering. Variance decompositions indicate a limited ability of the banks' VaR methodologies to adjust to the crisis-period market conditions. Despite their weaker performance, the bank VaRs exhibited greater predictive power for a measure of realized PnL volatility than benchmark VaR measures. Benchmark Expected Shortfall measures are also considered.

Keywords: Market risk, value at risk, backtesting, profit and loss, financial crisis

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Abstract: I study whether commercial banks can improve their supervisory ratings by switching charters. I use the fees charged by chartering authorities to establish a causal effect from switching on ratings. Banks receive more favorable ratings after they change charters, an effect that is large for both national and state charters. In addition, controlling for bank ratings, banks that switch charters fail more often than others. These results suggest that banks can arbitrage ratings by switching charters and are consistent with regulators competing for banks by rating incoming banks better than similar banks that they already supervise.

Keywords: Bank charter, bank regulator, banking supervision, ratings

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feds 2014-19
March 2014

National Bank Examinations and Operations in the Early 1890s (PDF)

Charles W. Calomiris and Mark Carlson

Abstract: We use information from examination reports to enrich our understanding of both the examination process and bank operations for National Banks in the early 1890s, the height of the National Banking Era. We describe the examination process and its frequency, as well as the information contained in the examinations relating to bank ownership and corporate governance, the composition and quality of the loan book, dividend payments made by the banks, and the use of different types of liabilities. Our sample of banks is from the larger cities, including several reserve cities, which allows us to compare similar banks in different regions of the country. There are clear regional differences in banks' examination experiences, structure, and behavior. On average, banks further West tended to be examined less frequently, displayed higher percentages of manager ownership, employed less formal corporate governance arrangements, made riskier loans, paid higher rates on certificates of deposit, and paid higher dividends less often.

Keywords: National Banking Era, bank examinations, bank operations, corporate goverance, regional variation

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Abstract: We study the pricing response of U.S. supermarkets to large demand shocks triggered by labor conflicts, mass population relocation, and shopping sprees around major snowstorms and hurricanes. Our focus on demand shocks is novel in the empirical literature that uses large datasets of individual data to bridge micro price behavior and aggregate price dynamics. We find that large swings in demand have, at best, modest effects on the level of retail prices, consistent with flat short- to medium-term supply curves. This finding holds even when shocks are highly persistent and even though stores adjust prices frequently. We also uncover evidence of tit-for-tat behavior by which retailers with radically different demand shocks nonetheless seek to match their local competitors' pricing movements and recourse to sales and promotions.

Keywords: Demand shocks, inflation, sales, labor conflicts, mass population displacement, severe weather events

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Abstract: Using data on a broad set of European firms, we find a strong positive relationship between the use of external financing and future productivity (TFP) growth within firms. This relationship is robust to various measures of financing and productivity, and strengthens as financing costs increase. We provide evidence against a reverse-causality explanation by showing that this relationship arises from the component of TFP that is outside the information set of the firm. These findings indicate that financial development supports productivity growth within firms, and helps explain why economic activity remains persistently depressed following financial crisis.

Keywords: Finance-growth nexus, financial crisis, total factor productivity (TFP)

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Abstract: We construct a new "list-price index" that accurately reveals trends in house prices several months before existing sales price indices like Case-Shiller. Our index is based on the repeat-sales approach but for recent months uses listings data, which are available essentially in real time, instead of transactions data, which become available with signiffcant lags. Our index methodology is motivated by a simple model of the home-selling problem that shows how listings variables such as the list price and marketing time help predict the final sales price. In a sample of three large MSAs over the years 2008-2012, our index (i) accurately forecasts the Case-Shiller index several months in advance, (ii) outperforms forecasting models that do not use listings data, and (iii) outperforms the market's expectation as inferred from prices on Case-Shiller future contracts.

Keywords: House price indices, house price forecasting, housing market microstructure

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feds 2014-15
February 2014

Banks as Patient Fixed Income Investors (PDF)

Samuel G. Hanson, Andrei Shleifer, Jeremy C. Stein, and Robert W. Vishny

Abstract: We examine the business model of traditional commercial banks in the context of their co-existence with shadow banks. While both types of intermediaries create safe "money-like" claims, they go about this in very different ways. Traditional banks create safe claims with a combination of costly equity capital and fixed income assets that allows their depositors to remain "sleepy": they do not have to pay attention to transient fluctuations in the mark-to-market value of bank assets. In contrast, shadow banks create safe claims by giving their investors an early exit option that allows them to seize collateral and liquidate it at the first sign of trouble. Thus traditional banks have a stable source of cheap funding, while shadow banks are subject to runs and fire-sale losses. These different funding models in turn influence the kinds of assets that traditional banks and shadow banks hold in equilibrium: traditional banks have a comparative advantage at holding fixed-income assets that have only modest fundamental risk, but are relatively illiquid and have substantial transitory price volatility.

Keywords: Banks, shadow banks, money creation

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Abstract: We analyze the interactions between two different forms of unsecured credit and their implications for default behavior of young U.S. households. One type of credit mimics credit cards in the United States and the default option resembles a bankruptcy filing under Chapter 7; the other type of credit mimics student loans in the United States and the default option resembles Chapter 13. In the credit card market a financial intermediary offers a menu of interest rates based on individual default risk, which account for borrowing and repayment behavior in both markets. In the student loan market, the government sets the interest rate and chooses a wage garnishment to pay for the cost associated with default. We prove the existence of a steady-state equilibrium and characterize the circumstances under which a household defaults on each of these loans. We demonstrate that the institutional differences between the two markets make borrowers prefer to default on student loans rather than on credit card debt. We find that the increase in student loan debt together with the expansion of the credit card market fully explains the increase in the default rate for student loans in recent normal years (2004-2007). Worse labor outcomes for young borrowers during the Great Recession (2008-2009) significantly amplified student loan default, whereas credit card market contraction during this period helped reduce this effect. At the same time, the accumulation of student loan debt did not affect much the default risk in the credit card market during normal times, but significantly increased it during the Great Recession. An income contingent repayment plan for student loans completely eliminates the default risk in the credit card market and induces important redistribution effects. This policy is beneficial (in a welfare improving sense) during the Great Recession but not during normal times.

Keywords: Default, student loans, credit cards, Great Recession

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Abstract: This paper quantifies the welfare implications of the U.S. Social Security program during the Great Recession. We find that the average welfare losses due to the Great Recession for agents alive at the time of the shock are notably smaller in an economy with Social Security relative to an economy without a Social Security program. Moreover, Social Security is particularly effective at mitigating the welfare losses for agents who are poorer, less productive, or older at the time of the shock. Importantly, in addition to mitigating the welfare losses for these potentially more vulnerable agents, we do not find any specific age, income, wealth or ability group for which Social Security substantially exacerbates the welfare consequences of the Great Recession. Taken as a whole, our results indicate that the U.S. Social Security program is particularly effective at providing insurance against business cycle episodes like the Great Recession.

Keywords: Social Security, recessions, overlapping generations

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Abstract: We conduct an empirical analysis of the Federal Reserve's large-scale asset purchases (LSAPs) on MBS yields and mortgage rates. The Federal Reserve's accumulation of MBS and Treasury securities lowered MBS yields and mortgage rates by more than what would have been suggested by changes in market expectations alone, suggesting that portfolio rebalancing effects of LSAPs are an important consideration for monetary policy transmission. Our estimates also suggest that the Federal Reserve must hold a substantial market share of agency MBS or of Treasury securities to significantly lower MBS yields and in turn significantly lower mortgage rates.

Keywords: Monetary policy, QE1, QE2, QE3, LSAP, MBS, mortgages

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Abstract: The relationship between the mortgage interest rate and a household's demand for mortgage debt has important implications for a host of public policy questions. In this paper, we use detailed data on over 2.7 million mortgages to provide novel estimates of the interest rate elasticity of mortgage demand. Our empirical strategy exploits a discrete jump in interest rates generated by the conforming loan limit--the maximum loan size eligible for securitization by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This discontinuity creates a large ``notch" in the intertemporal budget constraint of prospective mortgage borrowers, allowing us to identify the causal link between interest rates and mortgage demand by measuring the extent to which loan amounts bunch at the conforming limit. Under our preferred specifications, we estimate that a 1 percentage point increase in the rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage reduces first mortgage demand by between 2 and 3 percent. We also present evidence that about one third of the response is driven by borrowers who take out second mortgages while leaving their total mortgage balance unchanged. Accounting for these borrowers suggests a reduction in total mortgage debt of between 1.5 and 2 percent per percentage point increase in the interest rate. Using these estimates, we predict the changes in mortgage demand implied by past and proposed future increases to the guarantee fees charged by Fannie and Freddie. We conclude that these increases would directly reduce the dollar volume of new mortgage originations by well under 1 percent.

Keywords: Mortgage demand, interest rate elasticity, conforming loan limit, bunching

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feds 2014-10
February 2014

Peer-to-peer lending to small businesses (PDF)

Traci L. Mach, Courtney M. Carter, and Cailin R. Slattery

Abstract: The current paper examines loan-level data from Lending Club to look at peer-to-peer borrowing by small businesses. We begin by looking at characteristics of loan applications that were and were not funded and then take a more in-depth look at funded applications. Summary statistics show an increasing number of small business loan applications over time. Beginning in 2010--when consistent measures of loan purpose were recorded for all applications--loan applications for small businesses were on average less likely than loans for other purposes to have been funded. However, logistic regression results that control for the quality of the application show that, holding all else constant, applications for a loan for a small business were almost twice as likely to have been funded than loans for other purposes. Focusing on funded applications, we note that funded business loans were slightly larger on average than loans funded for other purposes but paid similar interest rates. However, relative to small business loans from traditional sources, peer-to-peer small business borrowers paid an interest rate that was about two times higher. Regression results that control for application quality show that peer-to-peer loans for small businesses were charged almost a percentage point interest rate premium over non-business loans. Logistic regression results that look at loan performance indicate that loans for small businesses were much more likely to be delinquent or charged off.

Keywords: Peer-to-peer lending, small business, alternative small business borrowing, lending club

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Abstract: Why do more educated workers experience lower unemployment rates and lower employment volatility? A closer look at the data reveals that these workers have similar job finding rates, but much lower and less volatile separation rates than their less educated peers. We argue that on-the-job training, being complementary to formal education, is the reason for this pattern. Using a search and matching model with endogenous separations, we show that investments in match-specific human capital reduce the outside option of workers, implying less incentives to separate. The model generates unemployment dynamics that are quantitatively consistent with the cross-sectional empirical patterns.

Keywords: Unemployment, education, on-the-job training, specific human capital

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Abstract: Managers' incentives may conflict with those of shareholders or creditors, particularly at leveraged, opaque banks. Bankers may abuse their control rights to give themselves excessive salaries, favored access to credit, or to take excessive risks that benefit themselves at the expense of depositors. Banks must design contracting and governance structures that sufficiently resolve agency problems so that they can attract funding from outside shareholders and depositors. We examine banks from the 1890s, a period when there were no distortions from deposit insurance or government interventions to assist banks. We use national banks' Examination Reports to link differences in managerial ownership to different corporate governance policies, risk, and methods of risk management. Formal corporate governance is lower when manager ownership shares are higher. Managerial rent seeking via salaries and insider lending is greater when managerial ownership is higher, and lower when formal governance controls are employed. Banks with higher managerial ownership target lower default risk. Higher managerial ownership and less-formal governance are associated with a greater reliance on cash rather than capital as a means of limiting risk, which we show is consistent both with higher adverse-selection costs of raising outside equity and with greater moral-hazard with respect to risk shifting.

Keywords: Manager ownership, corporate governance, rent seeking, risk preferences, bank failures, risk shifting, adverse selection

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Abstract: This paper estimates an arbitrage-free term structure model with both observable yield factors and Treasury and Agency MBS supply factors, and uses it to evaluate the term premium effects of the Federal Reserve's large-scale asset purchase programs. Our estimates show that the first and the second large-scale asset purchase programs and the maturity extension program jointly reduced the 10-year Treasury yield by about 100 basis points.

Keywords: No-arbitrage term structure models, yield curve, preferred habitat, supply effects, factor models, large-scale asset purchases (LSAP), agency mortgage-backed securities (MBS)

Note: This paper is a revised version of FEDS Working Paper #2012-37.

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Abstract: We study how a bank credit crunch--a dramatic worsening of firm and consumer access to bank credit, such as the one observed over the Great Recession--translates into job losses in U.S. manufacturing industries. To identify the impact of the recent credit crunch, we rely on differences in the degree of dependence on external finance and of tangibility of assets across manufacturing industries and in the sensitivity of these industries' output to changes in the supply of consumer credit. We find that, for employment, household access to bank loans matters more than firm access to bank loans. In addition, we show that, over the recent financial crisis, tightening access to commercial and industrial loans and, in particular, consumer installment loans may have contributed significantly to the drop in employment in the manufacturing sector.

Keywords: Bank credit, credit crunch, job losses, Great Recession, Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey

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Abstract: I show that, due to imperfect risk sharing, aggregate shocks to uncertainty about idiosyncratic return on investment generate economic contractions with elevated risk premia and a decrease in the risk-free rate. I present a tractable real business cycle model in which firms experience idiosyncratic shocks, to which managers are at least partially exposed; the distribution of these shocks is time-varying and stochastic. I show that the path for aggregate quantities, the price of physical capital, and the equity premium are the same as in a model without idiosyncratic risk, but with time-preference shocks. That is, in response to an increase in idiosyncratic uncertainty, the response of these variables is the same as if there were no idiosyncratic uncertainty but managers were suddenly reluctant to invest. However, time-preference and idiosyncratic uncertainty shocks are not isomorphic: an increase in idiosyncratic uncertainty leads to greater demand for precautionary saving and hence a decrease in the risk-free rate; in contrast, an increase in impatience has the opposite effect. In addition, with an idiosyncratic uncertainty shock, investment in physical capital can remain low even after the stock market and firm profitability recover, because managers cannot fully transfer idiosyncratic risk to diversified investors. Thus, shocks to idiosyncratic investment risk can explain, qualitatively, the aftermath of financial panics--elevated risk premia, a sharp and persistent decrease in investment, and a decrease in the risk-free rate. In a calibration, an increase in idiosyncratic investment risk similar to that experienced during the Great Recession leads firms to invest as if their cost of capital were 10 percentage points higher than the cost of capital implied by financial markets, and to a large decrease in the real risk-free rate.

Keywords: Incomplete markets, idiosyncratic risk, business cycles, equity premium, risk-free rate

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Abstract: This paper finds a link between the sharp drop in U.S. manufacturing employment beginning in 2001 and a change in U.S. trade policy that eliminated potential tariff increases on Chinese imports. Industries where the threat of tariff hikes declines the most experience more severe employment losses along with larger increases in the value of imports from China and the number of firms engaged in China-U.S. trade. These results are robust to other potential explanations of the employment loss, and we show that the U.S. employment trends differ from those in the E.U., where there was no change in policy.

Keywords: Manufacturing, trade policy, uncertainty, offshoring, China, World Trade Organization, supply chains

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Abstract: This paper compares the effects of conventional monetary policy on real borrowing costs with those of the unconventional measures employed after the target federal funds rate hit the zero lower bound (ZLB). For the ZLB period, we identify two policy surprises: changes in the 2-year Treasury yield around policy announcements and changes in the 10-year Treasury yield that are orthogonal to those in the 2-year yield. The efficacy of unconventional policy in lowering real borrowing costs is comparable to that of conventional policy, in that it implies a complete pass-through of policy-induced movements in Treasury yields to comparable-maturity private yields.

Keywords: Unconventional monetary policy; LSAPs; forward guidance, term premia, corporate bond yields, mortgage interest rates

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Abstract: A fundamental tenet of traditional theories of investment and monetary policy transmission is that interest rates are a critical determinant of business investment expenditures. Yet, a large body of empirical research offers mixed evidence, at best, for substantial interest-rate effects on investment. We examine the sensitivity of investment plans to interest rates based on surveys of CFOs during the recent economic recovery. We find that most firms claim their investment plans to be quite insensitive to decreases in interest rates, and only somewhat more responsive to interest rate increases. CFOs most frequently cited either ample cash or the low level of interest rates as reasons for lack of sensitivity. In the cross-section, we find that insensitivity to interest rate changes tends to be most pronounced among firms that do not indicate financial constraints as a top concern and firms with no near-term plans to borrow. Perhaps more surprisingly, investment is also less interest-rate sensitive at firms expecting higher year-ahead growth. These findings appear to be consistent with survey data on the "hurdle rates" firms report using to make new investments decisions: the average reported hurdle rate has hovered near 15 percent for decades, despite the downward trend in market interest rates. Moreover, firms expecting to grow more tend to have higher hurdle rates, suggesting a possible connection between interest rate insensitivity and high hurdle rates.

Keywords: Investment, interest rates, hurdle rates

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Abstract: We build a market equilibrium theory of asset prices under Knightian uncertainty. Adopting the mean-variance decisionmaking model of Maccheroni, Marinacci, and Ruffino (2013a), we derive explicit demands for assets and formulate a robust version of the two-fund separation theorem. Upon market clearing, all investors hold ambiguous assets in the same relative proportions as the assets' market values. The resulting uncertainty-return tradeoff is a robust security market line in which the ambiguous return on an asset is measured by its beta (systematic ambiguity). A simple example on portfolio performance measurement illustrates the importance of writing ambitious, robust asset-pricing models.

Keywords: Model uncertainty, Mean-variance portfolio-selection theory, Two-fund separation theorem, Capital asset pricing model

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Last update: August 31, 2016