Abstract: This note considers the reliability of Federal Reserve Board staff estimates of the output gap after the mid-1990s, and examines the usefulness of these estimates for inflation forecasting. Over this period, we find that the Federal Reserve's output gap is more reliably estimated in real time than previous studies have documented for earlier periods and alternative estimation techniques. In contrast to previous work, we also find no deterioration in forecast performance when inflation projections are conditioned on real-time estimates of the output gap.
Keywords: Output gap, potential output, real-time data, inflation forecastingFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: We provide empirical estimates of the effect of large-scale asset purchase (LSAP)-style operations on longer-term U.S. Treasury yields within a framework that nests the alternative theoretical perspectives on LSAPs. As the principal channels through which LSAPs might matter for longer-term interest rates, we concentrate on (i) the scarcity (available local supply) channel associated with the traditional preferred habitat literature, and (ii) the duration channel associated with the general notion of interest rate risk. We also clarify LSAPs' role in the broader context of monetary policy strategy, bringing out the connections between purchases of longer-term assets and historical Federal Reserve policy approaches. Our results indicate that the impact of LSAP-style operations on longer-term interest rates is mainly felt on the nominal term-premium component; moreover, within the nominal term premium, it is the real term premium that experiences the greatest response. The estimates suggest that the scarcity and duration channels have both been of considerable importance for the transmission of purchases to longer-term Treasury yields. Finally, by isolating the degree to which scarcity and duration impinge on term premiums, our estimates indicate the direction in which macroeconomic models should develop in order to encompass the transmission channels associated with LSAPs.
Keywords: Large-scale asset purchases, history of unconventional monetary policy, monetary transmission mechanism, longer-term interest rates, preferred habitat, duration channelFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: Using a novel dataset which merges real estate listings with real estate transactions in San Francisco from 2007-2009, we present new evidence that foreclosures causally depress nearby home prices. We show that this decrease occurs only after the foreclosed home is listed for sale, which suggests that the effect is due to the additional housing supply created by foreclosure rather than from neglect of the foreclosed property. Consistent with a framework where a foreclosed home simply increases supply, we find that new listings of foreclosed homes and non-foreclosed homes each lower sales prices of homes within 0.1 miles of the listing by 1 percent.
Keywords: Foreclosures, externalitiesFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: Using Bayesian methods, we estimate a nonlinear DSGE model in which the interest-rate lower bound is occasionally binding. We quantify the size and nature of disturbances that pushed the U.S. economy to the lower bound in late 2008 as well as the contribution of the lower bound constraint to the resulting economic slump. We find that the interest-rate lower bound was a significant constraint on monetary policy that exacerbated the recession and inhibited the recovery, as our mean estimates imply that the zero lower bound (ZLB) accounted for about 30 percent of the sharp contraction in U.S. GDP that occurred in 2009 and an even larger fraction of the slow recovery that followed.
Keywords: Zero lower bound, DSGE model, Bayesian estimation
Abstract: The recent financial crisis and the associated decline in economic activity have raised some important questions about economic activity and its links to the financial sector. This paper introduces an index of financial stress--an index that was used in real time by the staff of the Federal Reserve Board to monitor the crisis--and shows how stress interacts with real activity, inflation and monetary policy. We define what we call a stress event--a period affected by stress in both shock variances and model coefficients--and describe how financial stress affects macroeconomic dynamics. We also examine what constitutes a useful and credible measure of stress and the role of monetary policy. We address these questions using a richly parameterized Markov-switching VAR model, estimated using Bayesian methods. Our results show that allowing for time variation is important: the constant-parameter, constant-shock-variance model is a poor characterization of the data. We find that periods of high stress coefficients in general, and stress events in particular, line up well with financial events in recent U.S. history. We find that a shift to a stress event is highly detrimental to the outlook for the real economy, and that conventional monetary policy is relatively weak during such periods. Finally, we argue that our findings have implications for DSGE modeling of financial events insofar as researchers wish to capture phenomena more consequential than garden-variety business cycle fluctuations, pointing away from linearized DSGE models toward either MS-DSGE models or fully nonlinear models solved with global methods.
Keywords: Nonlinearity, Markov switching, financial crises, monetary policy transmission, Bayesian econometricsFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: The integrated macroeconomic accounts (IMAs), produced jointly by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and the Federal Reserve Board (FRB), present a sequence of accounts that relate income, saving, investment in real and financial assets, and asset revaluations to changes in net worth. In this paper we first provide some background information on the IMAs and on their construction. Next, we discuss the usefulness of the IMAs, focusing for instance on the evolution of household net worth and its components, a set of series that has appeared frequently in discussions of the causes and effects of the recent financial crisis. We also discuss some of the challenges associated with integrating nonfinancial and financial data sources, that is, the current and capital accounts statistics from BEA's national income and product accounts (NIPAs) and the financial account statistics from FRB's flow of funds accounts (FFAs). In the final section, we discuss future plans for improving the IMAs, including a proposed framework and methodology for breaking out the financial business sector into three subsectors: 1) Central bank, 2) Insurance and pension funds, and 3) Other financial business.
Keywords: Integrated macroeconomic accounts, flow of funds, national income and product accountsFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: After the run up in debt-to-GDP ratios around the world in the aftermath of the financial crisis and the associated lower fiscal space, the question of prudent fiscal consolidation is back on the agenda. In this paper, I study the macroeconomic implications of fiscal consolidation triggered by the newly introduced "debt brake" in Germany, which dampens the accumulation of debt. I address this question using a medium-size new Keynesian DSGE model for Germany. The model includes the government debt-to-GDP ratio, government transfers, labour income tax, consumption tax and capital tax revenues. I find that the "debt brake" enforces fiscal consolidation in times of economic expansions without constraining fiscal policy makers in times of recessions. I also find that the debt brake raises the government spending multiplier initially but not over time. Finally, the debt brake, with a fiscal consolidation on the government spending and transfers side, leads to a significant stabilization of the private sector without increasing the volatility of the fiscal instruments.
Keywords: DSGE modelling, Bayesian estimation, fiscal policy, fiscal consolidation, debt brakeFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: This paper examines the labor market for CEOs in the financial sector from 1988 to 2007, using a new hand-collected sample of 1,655 CEO successions. We document that there is a significant role of outside successions, as about one out of two successions involves an outside hire. In addition, using difference-in-differences estimates, we study the link between the labor market for finance CEOs and firm performance. We document that (1) there is a large performance gap between inside and outside successions, as outside successions are followed by significantly larger improvements in firm performance; (2) the performance gap between outside and inside successions is larger for firms with an insider dominated board of directors; (3) the performance gap widened after an important deregulation event (the 1999 Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act). These results are robust to using a battery of firm performance measures (short-run and long-run stock market returns, and several long-run operating performance measures) and a matched sample approach to address selection issues. Overall, our findings suggest that managerial human capital is very valuable in the financial industry, and weak internal governance hurts firm performance by limiting the scope of labor market competition.
Keywords: CEO labor market, corporate governance of financial firmsFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: This paper develops a competitive equilibrium model of CEO compensation and industry dynamics. CEOs make product pricing and product improvement decisions subject to shareholders' compensation choices and idiosyncratic shocks to product quality. The choice of high-powered incentives optimally trades off the benefits from expected product improvements and the associated agency costs. In market equilibrium, the interaction between CEO pay and product market decisions affects the stationary distribution of firms. We characterize a dynamic feedback effect of industry structure on CEO incentives. As a result of this effect, we predict that the performance-based component of CEO pay should be higher, (i) across industries, when the degree of heterogeneity of industry structure is lower; (ii) within industries, when firms are laggards with respect to their industry peers. We empirically estimate pay-performance sensitivity for a large sample of U.S. CEOs and other top executives over the 1993 to 2004 period and find strong support for our theory. Our results offer a novel product market rationale for the increased reliance of CEO pay on bonuses and stock options over the 1990s.
Keywords: CEO compensation, product market structureFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Credit Spreads as Predictors of Real-Time Economic Activity: A Bayesian Model-Averaging Approach (PDF)
Abstract: Employing a large number of financial indicators, we use Bayesian Model Averaging (BMA) to forecast real-time measures of economic activity. The indicators include credit spreads based on portfolios--constructed directly from the secondary market prices of outstanding bonds--sorted by maturity and credit risk. Relative to an autoregressive benchmark, BMA yields consistent improvements in the prediction of the cyclically-sensitive measures of economic activity at horizons from the current quarter out to four quarters hence. The gains in forecast accuracy are statistically significant and economically important and owe almost exclusively to the inclusion of credit spreads in the set of predictors.
Keywords: Forecasting, real-time data, Bayesian Model Averaging, credit spreadsFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: This paper uses US state panel data to explore the relationship between the share of income received by affluent households and the level of income and earnings received by low and middle-income families. A rising top share of income can potentially lead to increases in the incomes of low and middle-income families if economic growth is sufficiently responsive to increases in inequality. A substantial literature on the impacts of inequality on economic growth exists, but has failed to achieve consensus, with various studies finding positive impacts, negative impacts, and no impacts on growth from increased levels of income inequality. This paper departs from that literature by exploring the effect of inequality on the standard of living of middle-income and low-income families. In the context of rising inequality, increased overall growth is not necessarily a suitable proxy for overall standard of living, since growth patterns are not always uniform for the entire income distribution. The results of this study indicate that increases in the top share of income (particularly the top one percent) are associated with declines in the actual incomes (and earnings) of middle income families, but have no clear impact on families at the bottom of the income distribution.
Keywords: Inequality, growth, income distribution, standard of livingFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: There are large differences between the microeconometeric estimates of the Frisch labor supply elasticity (0-0.5) and the values used by macroeconomists to calibrate general equilibrium models (2-4). The microeconometric estimates of the Frisch are typically estimated by regressing changes in hours on changes in wages conditional on the individual being a married male head of household, working some minimum number of hours and being of prime working age. In contrast macroeconomic calibration values are typically set such that fluctuations in a general equilibrium model match the observed changes in the aggregate hours and wages from the whole population over time. This paper aims to explain the gap by estimating an aggregate Frisch elasticity which is consistent with the concept of macro calibration values using the microeconometric techniques. In order to estimate the Frisch consistent with the macro concept, this paper alters the typical microeconometric approach in order to incorporate fluctuations on the extensive margin and also broadens the scope of the sample to include single males, females, secondary earners, young individuals, and old individuals. This paper finds that estimates of the aggregate macro Frisch elasticity are in the middle of the range of macroeconomic calibration values (around 3.0). Furthermore, it finds that the key to explaining the difference are the fluctuations on the extensive margin of single males, females, secondary earners, older individuals, and younger individuals.
Keywords: Frisch labor supply elasticity, intensive margin, extensive margin, calibrationFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: A large share of dollar-denominated lending is done by non-U.S. banks, particularly European banks. We present a model in which such banks cut dollar lending more than euro lending in response to a shock to their credit quality. Because these banks rely on wholesale dollar funding, while raising more of their euro funding through insured retail deposits, the shock leads to a greater withdrawal of dollar funding. Banks can borrow in euros and swap into dollars to make up for the dollar shortfall, but this may lead to violations of covered interest parity (CIP) when there is limited capital to take the other side of the swap trade. In this case, synthetic dollar borrowing becomes expensive, which causes cuts in dollar lending. We test the model in the context of the Eurozone sovereign crisis, which escalated in the second half of 2011 and resulted in U.S. money-market funds sharply reducing their funding to European banks. Coincident with the contraction in dollar funding, there were significant violations of euro-dollar CIP. Moreover, dollar lending by Eurozone banks fell relative to their euro lending in both the U.S. and Europe; this was not the case for U.S. global banks. Finally, European banks that were more reliant on money funds experienced bigger declines in dollar lending.
Keywords: Violations of covered interest parity, dollar funding pressures facing non-U.S. banksFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: This paper extends the literature on the earnings losses of displaced workers to provide a more comprehensive picture of the earnings and employment outcomes for workers who separate. First, we compare workers who separate from distressed employers (presumably displaced workers) and those who separate from stable or growing employers. Second, we distinguish between workers who do and do not experience a spell of joblessness. Third, we examine the full distribution of earnings outcomes from separations - not the impact on only the average worker. We find that earnings outcomes depend much less on whether a job separation is associated with a distressed employer than on whether the separator experienced a jobless spell after the separation. Moreover, we find that workers separating from distressed firms are faster to find jobs at new employers than are other separators.
Keywords: Displaced workers, job separations, job-to-job flows, nonemploymentFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: In this paper we analyze the propagation of shocks originating in sectors that are not present in a baseline dynamic stochastic general equilibrium (DSGE) model. Specifically, we proxy the missing sector through a small set of factors, that feed into the structural shocks of the DSGE model to create correlated disturbances. We estimate the factor structure by matching impulse responses of the augmented DSGE model to those generated by an auxiliary model. We apply this methodology to track the effects of oil shocks and housing demand shocks in models without energy and housing sectors.
Keywords: Misspecification, DSGE models, policy analysisFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: This paper explores the fiscal devaluation hypothesis in a model of a monetary union characterised by national fiscal policies and supranational monetary policy. We show that a unilateral tax shift towards indirect taxes in one of the countries produces small but non-negligible long run effects on output and consumption within and between the two countries only when international financial markets are perfectly integrated. In contrast to the existing literature, we find that short-run effects are not always amplified by nominal wage rigidities. We document also how short-run effects of the tax shift depend on the choice of the inflation index stabilized by the central bank and on whether the tax shift is anticipated.
Keywords: Fiscal regimes, monetary policy, currency unionFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: We examine the optimal taxation of capital in a Ramsey setting of a general-equilibrium heterogeneous-agent economy with uninsurable idiosyncratic investment or capital-income risk. We prove that the ex ante optimal tax, evaluated at steady state, maximizes human wealth, namely the present discounted value of agents' income from sources that are not subject to capital risk. Furthermore, when the amount of idiosyncratic risk in the economy is higher than a minimum lower bound, the optimal tax is positive and it is precisely the tax that maximizes the economy-wide aggregates, such as the capital stock and output. By contrast, when the amount of risk is exogenously very low, the social planner finds it optimal to increase social risk taking by subsidizing investment in capital.
Keywords: Optimal capital taxation, idiosyncratic investment risk, general equilibrium, heterogeneous agentsFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: Our paper represents the first attempt in the literature to estimate the properties of business income risk from privately held businesses in the US. Using a new, large, and confidential panel of US income tax returns for the period 1987-2009, we extensively document the empirical stylized facts about the evolution of various business income risk measures over time. We find that business income is much riskier than labor income, not only because of the probability of business exit, but also because of higher income fluctuations, conditional on no exit. We show that business income is less persistent, but is also characterized by higher probabilities of extreme upward transition, compared to labor income. Furthermore, the distribution of percent changes for business income is more dispersed than that for labor income, and it also indicates that business income faces substantially higher tail risks. Our results suggest that the high-income households are more likely to bear both the big positive and the big negative business income percent changes.
Keywords: Business income, privately held businesses, business riskFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: There is growing empirical support for the conjecture that access to credit is an important determinant of firms' export decisions. We study a multi-country general equilibrium economy in which entrepreneurs and lenders engage in long-term credit relationships. Financial constraints arise in consequence of financials contracts that are optimal given information asymmetry. Consistent with empirical regularities, as firm age and size increase, the model implies decreasing mean and variance of firm growth and increasing firm survival. Exporters are larger, their survival in international markets increases with the time spent exporting, and the sales of older exporters are larger and more stable.
Keywords: Private information, long-term lending contracts, exporter dynamics, international trade, financial intermediation
Abstract: I use micro data to quantify key features of U.S. firm financing. In particular, I establish that a substantial 35% of firms' investment is funded using financial markets. I then construct a dynamic equilibrium model that matches these features and fit the model to business cycle data using Bayesian methods. In the model, financial intermediaries enable trades of financial assets, directing funds towards investment opportunities, and charge an intermediation spread to cover their costs. According to the model estimation, exogenous shocks to the intermediation spread explain 40% of GDP and 60% of investment volatility.
Keywords: DSGE model, financial frictions, financial shocks, Bayesian estimation, capital expenditure financing
Abstract: This paper provides a comprehensive study of the interplay between the Federal Reserve's balance sheet and overnight interest rates. We model both the supply of and the demand for excess reserves, treating assets of the Federal Reserve as policy tools, and estimate the effects of conventional and unconventional monetary policy on overnight funding rates. We find that, in the current environment with quite elevated levels of reserves, the effect of further monetary policy accommodation on overnight interest rates is limited. Further, assuming a path for removing monetary policy accommodation that is consistent with the FOMC's exit principles, we project that the federal funds rate increases to 70 basis points, settling in a corridor bracketed by the discount rate and the interest rate on excess reserves, as excess reserves of depository institutions decline to near zero.
Keywords: Reserve balances, federal funds rate, balance sheet, large-scale asset purchases, interest rate on excess reserves, exit strategyFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: Revenues generated from the sales of consolidated data represent a substantial source of income for U.S. stock exchanges. Until 2007, consolidated data revenue was allocated in proportion to the number of reported trades. This allocation rule encouraged market participants to break up large trades and execute them in multiple pieces. Exchanges devised revenue-sharing and rebate programs that rewarded order-flow providers, and encouraged algorithmic traders to execute strategies involving large numbers of small trades. We provide evidence that data revenue allocation influenced the trading process, by examining trading activity surrounding various events that changed the marginal data revenue per trade.
Keywords: Equity market, exchange revenue, trade sizeFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: We use repeated cross-sections of the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) to study the effect of self-reported transitory income shocks on household food spending. The self-reported shocks in the SCF are derived from survey questions about the gap between actual and "normal" income. This approach stands in contrast to existing income shock measures in the literature, which are generally derived from the residuals of estimated earnings or income equations. Although the self-reported transitory shocks could potentially give very different answers, the overall variance and asymmetry of shocks over the business cycle are similar to those of existing residual-based estimates. Engel Curve analysis shows a significant relationship between self-reported income shocks and household food spending, though the estimated spending responses are only a small part of the substantial slowdown in the growth rate of food consumption observed during the recent economic downturn.
Keywords: Transitory income, household spendingFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: Using data on listed and unlisted firms in the U.K., this study documents that average profitability changes systematically with age. In their early years, firms realize substantial profitability increases, while mature firms face slow declines in profitability. A model of endogenous profitability changes arising from product development captures this pattern. Investment in product development generates profitability increases for young firms while competitive pressures from new entrants lead to profitability declines for mature firms. In addition, the model predicts that young firms realize profitability jumps more frequently and that the effect of age on firms' policies would be stronger for young firms. Empirical tests support these predictions. Taken together, these findings show that changes in profitability influences the lifecycle of firms.
Keywords: Firm lifecycles, profitability, product developmentFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
The Anatomy of a Credit Crisis: The Boom and Bust in Farm Land Prices in the United States in the 1920s (4 MB PDF)
Abstract: Does credit availability exacerbate asset price inflation? What channels could it work through? What are the long run consequences? In this paper we address these questions by examining the farm land price boom (and bust) in the United States that preceded the Great Depression. We find that credit availability likely had a direct effect on inflating land prices. Credit availability may have also amplified the relationship between the perceived improvement in fundamentals and land prices. When the perceived fundamentals soured, however, areas with higher ex ante credit availability suffered a greater fall in land prices, and experienced higher bank failure rates. Land prices stayed low for a number of decades after the bust in areas that had higher credit availability, suggesting that the effects of booms and busts induced by credit availability might be persistent. We draw lessons for regulatory policy.
Keywords: Consumer credit, banking, land pricesFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: The McFadden Act of 1927 was one of the most hotly contested pieces of legislation in U.S. banking history, and its influence was still felt over half a century later. The act was intended to force states to accord the same branching rights to national banks as they accorded to state banks. By uniting the interests of large state and national banks, it also had the potential to expand the number of states that allowed branching. Congressional votes for the act therefore could reflect the strength of various interests in the district for expanded banking competition. We find congressmen in districts in which landholdings were concentrated (suggesting a landed elite), and where the cost of bank credit was high and its availability limited (suggesting limited banking competition and high potential rents), were significantly more likely to oppose the act. The evidence suggests that while the law and the overall regulatory structure can shape the financial system far into the future, they themselves are likely to be shaped by well organized elites, even in countries with benign political institutions.
Keywords: Competition, banking, legislationFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: This paper shows that house price fluctuations can have a significant impact on credit markets well beyond the mortgage segment. Using new data from Prosper.com, a peer to peer lending site that matches borrowers and lenders to provide unsecured consumer loans, we find evidence that home owners in states with declining house prices face higher interest rates and greater rationing of credit, while also becoming delinquent faster. Investigating the mechanism, we find separate supply and demand effects, and especially large effects for those subprime borrowers whose balance sheets are likely to be most exposed to asset price declines. This evidence suggests that asset price fluctuations can play an important part in determining credit conditions and are thus a potentially significant mechanism for propagating macroeconomic shocks.
Keywords: Consumer Credit, Banking, House PricesFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: Bank lending to small firms in the U.S. fell substantially during the recent financial crisis and the ensuing recession. Because small firms account for a disproportionate share of new job creation, lending to these firms could have important implications for the pace of economic recovery. A number of factors may have contributed to the decline in small business lending over this period. This paper examines the extent to which changes in banks' supervisory ratings are associated with changes in the rate of growth of their lending to small businesses. Limiting our sample to small banks (those with total assets of $5 billion or less), we estimate the relationship between changes in supervisory CAMELS ratings and changes in small commercial and industrial (C&I) or small commercial real estate (CRE) loans to businesses, between 2007 and 2010. Controlling for other relevant factors, including several balance sheet measures of bank health, we find that small banks that experienced ratings downgrades during 2007-2010 exhibited significantly lower rates of growth in small C&I loans and small CRE loans outstanding compared with banks that maintained their ratings at healthy levels during the same period. We also find evidence suggesting that the slower growth in small business lending at downgraded banks is attributable primarily to aspects of the banks' financial health that were not fully reflected in balance sheet data, rather than to the ratings downgrades themselves or the supervisory process surrounding the downgrades.
Keywords: Bank ratings, CAMELS ratings, supervisory ratings, bank lending, small business lending, small business finances, financial crisis
Abstract: This paper uses data from the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) and the NBER TAXSIM model to estimate marginal and average tax rates for households that own businesses that are pass-thru entities. We examine how marginal and average tax rates vary by the size of business using four different measures of the size: net income, gross receipts, business value, and number of employees. The analysis also uses the long-time series of SCF cross-sections to examine how tax rates for business owners have evolved over the various changes in tax policy of the last two decades.
Keywords: Businesses, tax rates, tax policyFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Expectations about the Federal Reserve's Balance Sheet and the Term Structure of Interest Rates (PDF)
Abstract: This paper provides a systematic assessment of the effect of the Federal Reserve's asset purchase programs on Treasury yields, with particular emphasis on the role of market expectations about the evolution of the Federal Reserve's balance sheet and of interest rates on the impact of the programs. We construct measures of such market expectations based on Blue Chip survey forecasts, Congressional Budget Office projections, and information from formal FOMC communications. Those measures are combined with a no-arbitrage term structure model, in which yields are driven by current and expected future private Treasury holdings, among other factors. This approach allows us to provide estimates of the term premium effects of the asset programs both at the time of the announcements and in the future as expectations about the economy and the Federal Reserve's balance sheet evolve. Our results suggest that the program with the largest initial impact on the ten year Treasury yield was the first purchase program, which is estimated to have held down rates by about 40 basis points in early 2009, and the initial maturity extension program had the second largest estimated impact at its inception, pushing rates down by about 20 basis points in late 2011. Currently, we estimate all programs combined are holding down the 10-year yield by about 65 basis points, of which about one-third is attributable to the first purchase program.
Keywords: Balance sheet projections, term structure of interest rates, supply effects, treasury yields, Large Scale Asset Purchases (LSAP), survey forecastsFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: Over the past few years, the Federal Reserve's use of unconventional monetary policy tools has led it to hold a large portfolio of securities. The securities holdings in excess of historical norms have been shown to be putting downward pressure on longer-term interest rates. One question asked is how long this unusual amount of monetary policy accommodation will be in place. Here we provide projections of the evolution of the Federal Reserve's balance sheet that are consistent with public economic forecasts and announced Federal Open Market Committee policy principles to help answer this question. We begin with a primer on the Federal Reserve's balance sheet. Then, with the foundational concepts in place, we present a framework for projecting Federal Reserve assets and liabilities through time. In the projections, the Federal Reserve's balance sheet remains large by historical standards for several years. Our baseline projection suggests that market participants likely do not expect the Federal Reserve's portfolio to return to a more normal size until August 2017, and its composition to return to normal until September 2018. Overall, this suggests that market participants believe that unconventional monetary policy will be in place for some time, likely depressing longer-term interest rates for a number of years.
Keywords: Federal Reserve's balance sheet, unconventional monetary policy, monetary policy implementationFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: The disappointingly slow recovery in the U.S. from the recent recession and financial crisis has once again focused attention on the relationship between financial frictions and economic growth. With bank loans having only recently started growing and still sluggish, some bankers and borrowers have suggested that unnecessarily tight supervisory policies have been a constraint on new lending that is hindering recovery. This paper explores one specific aspect of supervisory policy: whether the standards used to assign commercial bank CAMELS ratings have changed materially over time (1991-2011). We show that models incorporating time-varying parameters or economy-wide variables suggest that standards used in the assignment of CAMELS ratings in recent years generally have been in line with historical experience. Indeed, each of the models used in this analysis suggests that the variation in those standards has been relatively small in absolute terms over most of the sample period. However, we show that when this particular aspect of supervisory stringency becomes elevated, it has a noticeable dampening effect on lending activity in subsequent quarters.
Keywords: Bank supervision and regulation, financial frictions, CAMELS ratingsFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: I develop empirical models of the U.S. economy that distinguish between the aggregate demand effects of short- and long-term interest rates-one with clear "microfoundations" and one more loosely motivated. These models are estimated using government and private long-term bond yields. Estimation results suggest short- and long-term interest rates both influence aggregate spending. The results indicate that the short-term interest rate has a larger influence on economic activity, through its impact on the entire term structure, than term and risk premiums (for equal-sized movements in long-term interest rates). Potential policy implications are discussed.
Keywords: IS curve, long-term interest ratesFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: We exploit variation in commercial bank capital ratios across states to identify the impact of commercial bank balance sheet pressures manifested through changes in capital ratios on employment in the manufacturing sector. For industries dependent on external finance, we find that an increase in the capital ratio has no statistically significant effect on net firm creation, but has an economically significant impact on average firm size, as measured in the number of employees. Our findings indicate a lack of substitutes for bank funding both in the short and long run. This lack of substitutes implies a notable adverse impact of balance sheet pressures on employment in industries dependent on external sources of funding. Our results highlight the potential effects that bank balance sheet pressures, for example, from tightening capital adequacy standards, such as Basel III, may have on nonfinancial firm dynamics.
Keywords: Bank capital ratios, bank capital regulation, nonfinancial firm dynamicsFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: This paper studies the role of a constitutional rule new to the literature: a limit placed by a city on its own ability to tax or spend. We find that such a limit exists in at least 1 in 8 cities, and that limits are not adopted in response to high levels of or variability in taxation. After limit adoption, municipal revenue growth declines by 16 to 22 percent. Our results suggest that institutional constraints may be effective when representative government falls short of the median voter ideal.
Keywords: Tax and expenditure limits, citiesFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Consolidation and Merger Activity in the United States Banking Industry from 2000 through 2010 (PDF)
Abstract: This study investigates trends in consolidation and merger activity in the United States banking industry from 2000 through 2010. Over this period, the U.S. banking industry has consistently experienced over 150 mergers annually, with the largest banking organizations holding an increasing share of banking assets. While the industry has undergone considerable consolidation at the national level, local banking markets have not experienced significant increases in concentration. The dynamics of consolidation raise concerns about competition, output, efficiency, and financial stability. This study uses a comprehensive proprietary data set to examine mergers and acquisitions involving banks and thrifts. The methodology in this paper expands the definition of mergers to include more types of transactions than previous studies on bank mergers.
Keywords: Banking, mergers, antitrustFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: We test the equivalence of tax-inclusive and tax-exclusive prices through a series of experiments that differ only in their handling of the tax. Subjects receive a cash budget and decide how much to keep and how much to spend on various attractively priced goods. Subjects spend significantly more when faced with tax-exclusive prices. This treatment effect is robust to different price levels, to initial shopping-cart purchases and persists throughout most of the ten rounds. A goods-level analysis, intra-round revisions as well as results from a third tax-deduction treatment all cast doubt on salience as the source of our findings.
Keywords: Experimental economics, sales tax, VAT, tax salienceFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: When stress tests for the banking sector use a macroeconomic scenario, an unstated premise is that macro variables should be useful factors in forecasting the performance of banks. We assess whether variables such as the ones included in stress tests for U.S. bank holding companies help improve out of sample forecasts of chargeoffs on loans, revenues, and capital measures, relative to forecasting models that exclude a role for macro factors. Using only public data on bank performance, we find the macro variables helpful, but not for all measures. Moreover, even our best-performing models imply bands of uncertainty around the forecasts so large as to make it challenging to distinguish the implications of alternative macro scenarios.
Keywords: Forecast combinations, macro variables, banking conditions, stress testFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: This paper examines the effects of seller uncertainty over their home value on the housing market. Using evidence from a new dataset on home listings and transactions, I first show that sellers do not have full information about current period demand conditions for their homes. I incorporate this type of uncertainty into a dynamic search model of the home selling problem with Bayesian learning. Simulations of the estimated model show that information frictions help explain short-run persistence in price appreciation rates and a positive (negative) correlation between price changes and sales volume (time on market).
Keywords: Learning, housing searchFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
The Minimum Balance at Risk: A Proposal to Mitigate the Systemic Risks Posed by Money Market Funds (6 MB PDF)
Abstract: This paper introduces a proposal for money market fund (MMF) reform that could mitigate systemic risks arising from these funds by protecting shareholders, such as retail investors, who do not redeem quickly from distressed funds. Our proposal would require that a small fraction of each MMF investor's recent balances, called the "minimum balance at risk" (MBR), be demarcated to absorb losses if the fund is liquidated. Most regular transactions in the fund would be unaffected, but redemptions of the MBR would be delayed for 30 days. A key feature of the proposal is that large redemptions would subordinate a portion of an investor's MBR, creating a disincentive to redeem if the fund is likely to have losses. In normal times, when the risk of MMF losses is remote, subordination would have little effect on incentives. We use empirical evidence, including new data on MMF losses from the U.S. Treasury and the Securities and Exchange Commission, to calibrate an MBR rule that would reduce the vulnerability of MMFs to runs and protect investors who do not redeem quickly in crises.
Keywords: Money market funds, runs, redemption restrictions, systemic riskFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: Changes in monetary policy have surprisingly strong effects on forward real rates in the distant future. A 100 basis-point increase in the 2-year nominal yield on an FOMC announcement day is associated with a 42 basis-point increase in the 10-year forward real rate. This finding is at odds with standard macro models based on sticky nominal prices, which imply that monetary policy cannot move real rates over a horizon longer than that over which all prices in the economy can readjust. Rather, the responsiveness of long-term real rates to monetary shocks appears to reflect changes in term premia. One mechanism that may generate such variation in term premia is based on demand effects coming from "yield-oriented" investors. We find some evidence supportive of this channel.
Keywords: Monetary policy, real interest rates, term premiaFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Signal Extraction for Nonstationary Multivariate Time Series with Illustrations for Trend Inflation (PDF)
Abstract: This paper advances the theory and methodology of signal extraction by introducing asymptotic and finite sample formulas for optimal estimators of signals in nonstationary multivariate time series. Previous literature has considered only univariate or stationary models. However, in current practice and research, econometricians, macroeconomists, and policy-makers often combine related series - that may have stochastic trends--to attain more informed assessments of basic signals like underlying inflation and business cycle components. Here, we use a very general model structure, of widespread relevance for time series econometrics, including flexible kinds of nonstationarity and correlation patterns and specific relationships like cointegration and other common factor forms. First, we develop and prove the generalization of the well-known Wiener-Kolmogorov formula that maps signal-noise dynamics into optimal estimators for bi-infinite series. Second, this paper gives the first explicit treatment of finite-length multivariate time series, providing a new method for computing signal vectors at any time point, unrelated to Kalman filter techniques; this opens the door to systematic study of near end-point estimators/filters, by revealing how they jointly depend on a function of signal location and parameters. As an illustration we present econometric measures of the trend in total inflation that make optimal use of the signal content in core inflation.
Keywords: Co-integration, common trends, filters, multivariate models, stochastic trends, unobserved componentsFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Flow and Stock Effects of Large-Scale Asset Purchases: Evidence on the Importance of Local Supply (PDF)
Abstract: The Federal Reserve's 2009 program to purchase $300 billion of U.S. Treasury securities represented an unprecedented intervention in the Treasury market and provides a natural experiment with the potential to shed light on the price elasticities of Treasuries and theories of supply effects in the term structure. Using security-level data on Treasury prices and quantities during the course of this program, we document a `local supply' effect in the yield curve--yields within a particular maturity sector responded more to changes in the amounts outstanding in that sector than to similar changes in other sectors. We find that this phenomenon was responsible for a persistent downward shift in yields averaging about 30 basis points over the course of the program (the "stock effect"). In addition, except at very long maturities, purchase operations caused an average decline in yields in the sector purchased of 3.5 basis points on the days when those operations occurred (the "flow effect"). The sensitivity of our results to security characteristics generally supports a view of segmentation or imperfect substitution within the Treasury market during this time.
Keywords: Yield curve, quantitative easing, LSAP, preferred habitat, limits of arbitrageFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: Consumer price inflation excluding food and energy often performs worse than other measures of underlying inflation in out-of-sample tests of predicting future inflation or tracking an ex-post measure of underlying trend inflation. Nonetheless, inflation excluding food and energy remains popular for its simplicity and transparency. Would excluding different items improve performance while maintaining the simplicity and transparency? Unfortunately, probably not. Averaging across a series of tests suggests that knowing what items to exclude before seeing the data is problematic and excluding food and energy is not a bad ex-ante guess. However, ex-post it is not difficult to construct an index which performs considerably better than excluding food and energy.
Keywords: Inflation, price level, core inflationFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: This paper studies whether financial contracts exacerbate or mitigate agency conflicts among stakeholders. We consider a specific contractual provision, debt covenants, and examine how, by allocating control rights between shareholders and debtholders, debt covenants affect the employment relationship. We analyze the role of covenants in both public (bonds) and private (loans) debt contracts. For public debt covenants, we estimate dynamic employment equations and find a significant negative effect of leverage on employment only for firms with relatively high covenant protection. For private debt covenants, we use a regression discontinuity design and document sizable job cuts following a covenant violation. Overall, these findings suggest that creditor rights increase employment risk. As such, they complement the recent literature on financial covenants by showing that covenants affect a broader set of operating decisions than previously recognized. Moreover, the results contribute to our understanding of the consequences of the allocation of control rights within the firm by identifying a specific risk-shifting channel from debtholders to employees.
Keywords: Covenant violations, employmentFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: We study the dynamics of a Lucas-tree model with finitely lived individuals who "learn from experience." Individuals update expectations by Bayesian learning based on observations from their own lifetimes. In this model, the stock price exhibits stochastic fluctuations around the rational expectations equilibrium. This heterogeneous-agents economy can be approximated by a representative-agent model with constant-gain learning, where the gain parameter is related to the survival rate.
Keywords: Learning from experience, OLG, asset pricing, bubbles, heterogeneous agentsFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: In discussions of household wealth, it is not surprising that discussion often tends to focus on the upper half of the wealth distribution: According to the 2007 Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF), that group held 97.5 percent of all directly owned household wealth. This paper investigates the wealth dynamics of the lower half of the distribution using data from the 2007- 2009 SCF panel to examine the degree of distributional mobility among this group, the demographic characteristics associated with such change and the role of initial portfolio allocation. It also provides information from earlier SCFs and the 2010 SCF to put the results in perspective.
Keywords: Wealth distribution, Great RecessionFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: Competitive sorting models of the CEO labor market (e.g., Edmans, Gabaix and Landier (2009)) predict that differences in CEO productive abilities, or "talent", should be an important determinant of CEO pay. However, measuring CEO talent empirically represents a major challenge. In this paper, we document reliable evidence of pay for CEO credentials and argue that the evidence is consistent with models of the CEO labor market. Our main finding is that boards' compensation decisions reward several reputational, career, and educational credentials of CEOs, with newly-appointed CEOs earning a 5 percent ($280,000) total pay premium for each decile improvement in the distribution of these credentials. Consistent with boards using credentials as publicly-observable signals of CEO abilities, we show that pay for credentials displays key cross-sectional features predicted by theory, such as convexity in credentials and complementarity with firm size. Our main finding is robust to a battery of identification tests that address selectivity and endogeneity concerns, including instrumental variables estimates and controlling for firm and CEO fixed effects. We also show that credentials capture variation in CEO human capital that is different from lifetime work experience, and are positively related to long-term firm performance and board monitoring, which helps to distinguish our results from alternative stories based on CEO general human capital, hype, and entrenchment. Overall, our findings suggest that sorting considerations in the CEO labor market are an important determinant of CEO pay. Our results also suggest that the rise in CEO pay over the last decades may owe at least in part to a rise in the CEO talent premium.
Keywords: Determinants of CEO pay, CEO labor marketFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: We examine the effect of balanced budget rules on budget outcomes in the U.S. from the mid-1980s through the present. Rules at both the federal level and the state level are considered. Given the relatively short duration of the federal rules and corresponding lack of data points, we adopt a narrative approach. Our examination fails to uncover evidence that the statutory rules at the federal level have influenced the size of deficits. The laboratory of the states provides more fertile ground for econometric testing of the influence of balanced budget rules. We test the hypothesis that the strength of a state's balanced budget rule influences its response to unanticipated budget shocks. We conclude that rules at the state-level have had a significant influence on budget outcomes.
Keywords: Budget rules, fiscal rules, deficits, balanced budget rulesFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Term Structure Modelling with Supply Factors and the Federal Reserve's Large Scale Asset Purchase Programs (PDF)
Abstract: This paper proposes and estimates an arbitrage-free term structure model with both observable yield factors and Treasury and Agency MBS supply factors, and applies it to evaluate the term premium effects of 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 have a combined effect of about 100 basis points on the 10-year Treasury yield.
Keywords: Yield curve, preferred habitat, supply effects, factor models, state-space models, large-scale asset purchases (LSAP)Full paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: Aggregate under-reporting of household spending in the Consumer Expenditure Survey (CE) can result from two fundamental types of measurement errors: higher-income households (who presumably spend more than average) are under-represented in the CE estimation sample, or there is systematic under-reporting of spending by at least some CE survey respondents. Using a new data set linking CE units to zip-code level average Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), we show that the very highest-income households are less likely to respond to the survey when they are sampled, but unit non-response rates are not associated with income over most of the income distribution. Although increasing representation at the high end of the income distribution could in principle significantly raise aggregate CE spending, the low reported average propensity to spend for higher-income respondent households could account for at least as much of the aggregate shortfall in total spending.
Keywords: Consumer Expenditure Survey, samplingFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: In likelihood-based estimation of linearized Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium (DSGE) models, the evaluation of the Kalman Filter dominates the running time of the entire algorithm. In this paper, we revisit a set of simple recursions known as the ``Chandrasekhar Recursions" developed by Morf (1974) and Morf, Sidhu, and Kalaith (1974) for evaluating the likelihood of a Linear Gaussian State Space System. We show that DSGE models are ideally suited for the use of these recursions, which work best when the number of states is much greater than the number of observables. In several examples, we show that there are substantial benefits to using the recursions, with likelihood evaluation up to five times faster. This gain is especially pronounced in light of the trivial implementation costs--no model modification is required. Moreover, the algorithm is complementary with other approaches.
Keywords: Kalman filter, likelihood estimation, computational techniquesFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: We use a large project-level dataset to estimate the length of the planning period for commercial construction projects in the United States. We find that these time-to-plan lags are long, averaging about 17 months when we aggregate the projects without regard to size and more than 28 months when we weight the projects by their construction cost. The full distribution of time-to-plan lags is very wide, and we relate this variation to the characteristics of the project and its location. In addition, we show that time-to-plan lags lengthened by 3 to 4 months, on average, over our sample period (1999 to 2010). Regulatory factors help explain the variation in planning lags across locations, and we present anecdotal evidence that links at least some of the lengthening over time to heightened regulatory scrutiny.
Keywords: Time to plan, gestation lags, construction, investment, commercial real estateFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: This paper uses a novel instrumental variables approach to quantify the effect that GSE purchase eligibility had on equilibrium mortgage loan terms in the period from 2003 to 2007. The technique is designed to eliminate sources of bias that may have affected previous studies. GSE eligibility appears to have lowered interest rates by about 10 basis points, encouraged fixed-rate loans over ARMs, and discouraged low-documentation and brokered loans. There is no measurable effect on loan performance or on the prevalence of certain types of "exotic" mortgages. The overall picture suggests that GSE purchases had only a modest impact on loan terms during this period.
Keywords: Government-sponsored enterprises, mortgagesFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: In this paper, we propose an econometric model of the joint dynamic relationship between the yield curve and the economy to predict business cycles. We examine the predictive value of the yield curve to forecast future economic growth as well as the beginning and end of economic recessions at the monthly frequency. The proposed nonlinear multivariate dynamic factor model takes into account not only the popular term spread but also information extracted from the level and curvature of the yield curve and from macroeconomic variables. The nonlinear model is used to investigate the interrelationship between the phases of the bond market and of the business cycle. The results indicate a strong interrelation between these two sectors. The proposed factor model of the yield curve exhibits substantial incremental predictive value compared to several alternative specifications. This result holds in-sample and out-of-sample, using revised or real time unrevised data.
Keywords: Forecasting, business cycles, dynamic factor models, Markov switchingFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: This paper studies how building and loan associations (B&Ls) slowly unwound their obligations following a set of financial shocks during the Great Depression, with a special focus on a group of particularly troubled B&Ls in Newark, NJ. Investors in B&Ls disagreed over whether to realize losses on foreclosed real estate holdings, and those investors favoring liquidation were unable to force action after legal developments nullified statutory withdrawal privileges. In the medium run, a market-based resolution mechanism developed in the form of a secondary market for B&L liabilities. Liability holders barred from withdrawal incurred large losses while liquidating their investments on this market. At the same time, B&Ls used the market to avoid realizing some losses by exchanging foreclosed real estate for their second-hand share liabilities. More formal resolution ultimately took place from 1938 to 1943, first consisting heavily of closures, and then of reorganizations. Reorganizations were spurred by a large scale federal intervention arranging for the creation of bad banks, liquidity injections, and liability insurance.
Keywords: Real estate lending, building and loan associations, financial institution resolution, Great DepressionFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: This paper studies the behavior of producers of capital goods, examining how they set shipments in response to fluctuations in new orders. The paper establishes a stylized fact: the response of shipments to orders is more pronounced when the level of new orders is low relative to the level of shipments, usually after orders plunge in recessions. This cyclical change in firm behavior is quantitatively important, accounting for a large portion of the steep decline in equipment investment in the 2001 and 2007--9 recessions. We examine economic interpretations of this stylized fact using a model where firms smooth production with a target delivery lag for new orders. Heightened persistence in orders growth may explain part of the greater responsiveness of shipments to orders, as may increases in firms' target buffer stocks of unfilled orders relative to shipments.
Keywords: Orders, shipments, business investment, business cycles, threshold cointegration models, Markov switching modelsFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: Friedman and Schwartz (1982) and Goodhart (1982) report a zero correlation between money growth and output growth in U.K. historical data. This finding is puzzling, as there is wide agreement that changes in monetary policy are frequently nonneutral in the short run and that the U.K. experience, in particular, is replete with instances of real effects of monetary policy actions. This paper proposes a resolution to the puzzle. An analysis conducted on subperiods shows that a positive money growth/output growth correlation is indeed recoverable from U.K. historical data. Strike activity in the 1970s and shifts in the terms of trade during the interwar period are the two factors primarily responsible for obscuring the positive correlation between money and output in the United Kingdom.
Keywords: Money/output correlation, monetary aggregates, U.K. interwar depressionFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: This paper considers the impact on optimal tax policy of including endogenously determined retirement in a life cycle model. Allowing individuals to determine when they retire causes the optimal tax on capital to increase by 75% because of two implicit changes in the aggregate labor supply elasticity. First, including endogenous retirement causes an increase in the overall aggregate labor supply elasticity since agents can change their labor supply on both the intensive and extensive margins. In response, the government limits the distortions from the tax policy by lowering the tax on labor and increases the tax on capital. Second, given that the choice to retire is more relevant for older individuals, endogenous retirement disproportionately increases older agent's elasticity compared to younger individuals. Ideally, the government would decrease the relative labor income tax on individuals when they are older and supply labor more elastically. However, in the absence of age-dependent taxes, the government mimics such a tax policy by further increasing the tax on capital. I find that the welfare lost from not accounting for endogenous retirement when solving for the optimal tax policy is equivalent to approximately one percent of lifetime consumption.
Keywords: Optimal taxation, capital taxation, endogenous retirementFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: What determined the corporate use of credit lines in the recent financial crisis? To address this question we hand-collect data on credit lines and interest rate hedging for a random sample of 600 COMPUSTAT firms. We document that drawdowns of credit lines had already increased in 2007, earlier than what previous work has found. The surge in drawdowns occurred precisely when disruptions in bank funding markets began. In addition, we distinguish unused and available portions of credit lines, which we then use to disentangle credit supply and credit demand effects. On the supply side, we find covenant-induced reduction of credit supply to be small, and almost no evidence of credit line cancellations. On the demand side, our results confirm that while smaller and lower-rated firms use their credit lines more intensively in general, larger and higher-rated firms were more likely to draw on their credit lines during the crisis. We find that firms that use interest rate swaps to hedge the interest rate risk associated with their credit lines draw down significantly more from those lines than non-hedged firms.
Keywords: Credit lines, financial crisis, liquidity management, hedgingFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: Because they engage in maturity transformation, a steepening of the yield curve should, all else equal, boost bank profitability. We re-examine this conventional wisdom by estimating the reaction of bank intraday stock returns to exogenous fluctuations in interest rates induced by monetary policy announcements. We construct a new measure of the mismatch between the repricing time or maturity of bank assets and liabilities and analyze how the reaction of stock returns varies with the size of this mismatch and other bank characteristics, including the usage of interest rate derivatives. Our results indicate that bank stock prices decline substantially following an unanticipated increase in the level of interest rates or a steepening of the yield curve. A large maturity gap, however, significantly attenuates the negative reaction of returns to a slope surprise, a result consistent with the role of banks as maturity transformers. Share prices of banks that rely heavily on core deposits decline more in response to policy-induced interest rate surprises, a reaction that primarily reflects ensuing deposit disintermediation. Results using income and balance sheet data highlight the importance of adjustments in quantities--as well as interest margins--for understanding the reaction of bank equity values to interest rate surprises.
Keywords: FOMC announcements, interest rate surprises, maturity transformation, bank profitabilityFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
The Government-Sponsored Enterprises and the Mortgage Crisis: The Role of the Affordable Housing Goals (PDF)
Abstract: The U.S. mortgage crisis that began in 2007 generated questions about the role played by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Government-Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs), in its causes. Some have claimed that the Affordable Housing Goals (AHGs), introduced by Congress through the GSE Act of 1992, and the resulting purchases of single-family mortgages the GSEs made to meet those goals, drove lending to high-risk borrowers. Using regression discontinuity analysis, I measure the effect of one of the goals, the Underserved Areas Goal (UAG), on the number of whole single-family mortgages purchased by the GSEs in targeted census tracts from 1996 to 2002. Focusing additionally on tracts that became UAG-eligible in 2005-2006, when the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) began to determine eligibility using the 2000 Census, I measure the effect of the UAG on the GSEs' whole single-family mortgage purchases during peak years for the subprime mortgage market. Under the first approach, I estimate that the GSEs purchased 0 to 3 percent more goal-eligible mortgages than they would have without the UAG in place. Under the second approach, I estimate this effect to be 2.5 to 5 percent. The results suggest a small UAG effect and challenge the view that the goals caused the GSEs to supply substantially more credit to high-risk borrowers than they otherwise would have supplied. Although the goals may have spurred the GSEs to purchase more multi-family mortgages and REMICs than they otherwise would have, my analyses suggest that the GSEs' purchases of whole single-family mortgages to satisfy the goals did not drive the subprime lending boom of 2002-2006.
Keywords: GSE, government sponsored enterprises, affordable housing goals, subprime mortgages, single family mortgages, subprime crisis, housing bubbleFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: Identifying macroeconomic effects of credit shocks is difficult because many of the same factors that influence the supply of loans also affect the demand for credit. Using bank-level responses to the Federal Reserve's Loan Officer Opinion Survey, we construct a new credit supply indicator: changes in lending standards, adjusted for the macroeconomic and bank-specific factors that also affect loan demand. Tightening shocks to this credit supply indicator lead to a substantial decline in output and the capacity of businesses and households to borrow from banks, as well as to a widening of credit spreads and an easing of monetary policy.
Keywords: Credit supply disruptions, bank lending policies, credit crunchAccessible materials (.zip)
Abstract: In this paper, we consider how monetary policy in a large, foreign economy affects optimal monetary policy in a small open economy (`home') in response to a large global demand shock that pushes both economies to the zero lower bound (ZLB) on nominal interest rates. We show that the inability of foreign monetary policy to stabilise the foreign economy at the ZLB creates a spillover that affects how well the home policymaker is able to stabilise its own economy. We show that more stimulatory foreign policy worsens the home policymaker's trade-off between stabilising inflation and the output gap when home and foreign goods are close substitutes. This reflects the fact that looser foreign policy leads to a relatively more appreciated home real exchange rate, which induces large expenditure switching away from home goods when goods are highly substitutable--just at a time (at the ZLB) when home policy is trying to boost demand for home goods. When goods are not close substitutes the home policymaker's ability to stabilise the economy benefits from more stimulatory foreign policy.
Keywords: Small open economy, policy trade-offs, trade structureFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: We provide an empirical analysis of the effects of the Federal Reserve's asset holdings on MBS yields and mortgage rates. We argue that understanding the particulars of the U.S. mortgage markets, particularly the linkages between the secondary and primary mortgage markets, is important. We find evidence that the Federal Reserve's portfolio holdings influence mortgage markets, through both a "portfolio balancing channel" and an "excess reserves" channel. These two channels can work in opposite directions and their magnitudes are difficult to estimate, but on net, larger Federal Reserve's portfolio holdings seem to have placed a significant downward influence on MBS yields and mortgage rates.
Keywords: QE1, QE2, Federal Reserve, MBS, mortgage, interest rates, mortgage rateFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Arbitrage, liquidity and exit: The repo and federal funds markets before, during, and emerging from the financial crisis (PDF)
Abstract: This paper examines the link between the federal funds and repo markets, before, during, and emerging from the financial crisis that began in August 2007. In particular, the paper investigates the initial transmission of monetary policy to closely related money markets, pricing of risk, and liquidity effects, and then shows how these could interact if the Federal Reserve removes the substantial amount of liquidity currently in the federal funds market. The results suggest that pass-through from the federal funds rate to the repo deteriorated somewhat during the zero lower bound period, likely due to limits to arbitrage and idiosyncratic market factors. In addition, during the early part of the crisis, the pricing of federal funds, which are unsecured loans, indicated a marked jump in perceived credit risk. Moreover, the liquidity effect for the federal funds rate, or the change in the federal funds rate associated with an exogenous change in reserve balances, weakened greatly with the increase in supply of these balances over the crisis, implying a non-linear demand for federal funds. Using these analyses, the paper then shows simulations of the dynamic effects and balance sheet mechanics of liquidity draining on the federal funds and repo rates--a tool that might be used in an exit strategy to tighten monetary policy.
Keywords: Repurchase agreement, federal funds, financial crisis, monetary policy implementation, exit strategyFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: Does fiscal policy stimulate output? SVARs have been used to address this question but no stylized facts have emerged. We derive analytical relationships between the output elasticities of fiscal variables and fiscal multipliers. We show that standard identification schemes imply different priors on elasticities, generating a large dispersion in multiplier estimates. We then use extra-model information to narrow the set of empirically plausible elasticities, allowing for sharper inference on multipliers. Our results for the U.S. for the period 1947-2006 suggest that the probability of the tax multiplier being larger than the spending multiplier is below 0.5 at all horizons.
Keywords: Fiscal policy, identification, vector autoregressionsFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
How Does Social Security Claiming Respond to Incentives? Considering Husbands' and Wives' Benefits Separately (PDF)
Abstract: A majority of women receive most of their Social Security benefits based upon their husbands' earnings history, but previous research has shown that husbands' benefit claiming is inconsistent with maximizing lifetime benefits for the couple. However, that research assumes husbands choose their claim age based on all Social Security incentives facing the household. I show that husbands' claiming behavior responds to the actuarial incentives built into their own retired worker benefit formula, but not to the incentives built into the spouse and survivor formulas that determine their wives' benefits. This failure to incorporate his spouses' incentives reduces wives' lifetime benefits. Variation in incentives comes from rule changes to the Social Security benefit calculation in addition to the age difference between spouses and the relative strength of the wife's labor force history. A variety of robustness checks looking at segments of the population predicted to be more responsive to incentives provide similar results to the main specification.
Keywords: Social Security incentives, retirement behavior, married couplesFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: Gambling behavior can serve as an informative indicator of important household heterogeneity that is difficult to observe directly in data. We present, to the best of our knowledge, the first comprehensive study of the consumption and personal finance of gamblers using a nationwide representative household survey. We find that consumers are more likely to gamble when income is higher than its normal level predicted by observable characteristics, and that nongambling expenditures tend to increase with gambling activities. In addition, gamblers are more likely to concurrently have various types of debt and assets, assuming a more active position on household balance sheets. However, gamblers do not necessarily have a higher net worth than comparable nongamblers. Gamblers also tend to engage in health-wise risky behaviors, such as smoking and heavy drinking, while paying out-of-pocket on life and health insurance. We present extensive evidence that such behavior differences observed in the data are not primarily due to different degrees of careless reporting to the survey. Rather, we argue that our findings are consistent with the notion that certain consumers, namely, the active participants in personal finance markets, take on gambling as a form of entertainment.
Keywords: Gambling, consumption, household balance sheet, insurance, charitable giving, unobserved heterogeneityFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Are All Trade Policies Created Equal? Empirical Evidence for Nonequivalent Market Power Effects of Tariffs and Quotas (PDF)
Abstract: Over the past 50 years, the steel industry has been protected by a wide variety of trade policies, both tariff- and quota-based. We exploit this extensive heterogeneity in trade protection to examine the well-established theoretical literature predicting nonequivalent effects of tariffs and quotas on domestic firms' market power. Using plant-level Census Bureau data for steel plants from 1967-2002, we find evidence for significant market power effects for binding quota-based protection, but not tariff-based protection, particularly with respect to integrated and minimill steel producers. Our results are robust to calculation with two standard measures of market power and controlling for potential endogeneity of trade policies.
Keywords: Market structure, nonequivalence of tariffs and quotas, voluntary restraint agreements, antidumping, mini-millsFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: Monitoring changes to product classification systems is an important component of a wide range of empirical research. In this paper we develop an algorithm for concording periodic revisions to the ten-digit Harmonized System (HS) codes used by U.S. statistical agencies to categorize international trade since 1989. We use this algorithm to construct the first comprehensive concordance of HS codes over time, and show how this concordance can be extended to incorporate future revisions. We then characterize the extent of HS-code changes since 1989 and discuss how controlling for these revisions is critical for understanding the growth of U.S. trade. Lastly, we highlight the general applicability of the algorithm to other national and international product classification systems.
Keywords: International trade, product classificationFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
A Concordance Between Ten-Digit U.S. Harmonized System Codes and SIC/NAICS Product Classes and Industries (PDF)
Abstract: While the relationship between international trade and domestic economic activity is an important topic in economics, research in this area has been slowed due to data limitations. In this paper we provide tools that improve the existing data in two ways. First, we develop an algorithm that yields concordances between the ten-digit Harmonized System (HS) codes used to classify products in U.S. international trade and the SIC and NAICS industry codes used to classify domestic economic activity. These concordances then yield novel time series of industry-level international trade data for the years 1989 to 2009. Second, we provide concordances between HS codes and the SIC and NAICS product classes used to classify U.S. manufacturing production, allowing for matching at a more disaggregated level than was previously available.
Keywords: International trade, industry classificationFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Mortgage Debt and Household Deleveraging: Accounting for the Decline in Mortgage Debt Using Consumer Credit Record Data (PDF)
Abstract: One of the major reasons hypothesized for the tepid economic recovery thus far is the ongoing "deleveraging" process. From 2009:Q3 to 2011:Q3, aggregate household debt declined by about $1.5 trillion in real terms, with mortgage debt falling by about $1 trillion. Other than defaults, the factors driving the decline in aggregate debt are not precisely understood, in large part because the necessary data are not widely available. This paper draws on panel data consisting of individual credit records to better understand why mortgage debt has declined. I decompose changes in aggregate mortgage debt over two-year periods spanning the past decade into inflows (from individuals whose mortgage debt increases during a given two-year period) and outflows (from those who reduce or eliminate their mortgage debt over a period). The principal finding is that the drop in outstanding mortgage debt has more to do with shrinking inflows than with expanding outflows, including defaults. Even if outflows had not grown at all, mortgage debt would have declined over the past two years because inflows have been so weak. One factor dampening inflows is historically weak first-time homebuying, especially among those with less-than-excellent credit scores, suggesting tight credit supply has limited debt accumulation even among those who have little debt. On the outflows side, most of the expansion can be traced to financially distressed borrowers and mortgage defaults, with real estate investors playing a disproportionate role. Otherwise, there has not been much of an increase in outflows, implying that borrowers generally are not paying down their balances more aggressively than in the past.
Keywords: Deleveraging, mortgages, mortgage default, household debtFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: This paper examines how the quality of firm information disclosure affects shareholders' use of dividends to mitigate agency problems. Managerial compensation is linked to firm value. However, because the manager and shareholders are asymmetrically informed, the manager can manipulate the firm's accounting information to increase perceived firm value. Dividends can limit such practices by adding to the cost faced by a manager manipulating earnings. Empirical tests match model predictions. Dividend-paying firms show less evidence of earnings management. Furthermore, nondividend payers changed earnings announcement behavior more than dividend payers following the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, a law that increased financial disclosures.
Keywords: Dividends, earnings management, information asymmetry, Sarbanes-Oxley Act, financial disclosureFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: We derive the multivariate moment generating function (mgf) for the stationary distribution of a discrete sample path of n observations of a square-root diffusion (CIR) process, X(t). The form of the mgf establishes that the stationary joint distribution of (X(t(1)),...,X(t(n))) for any fixed vector of observation times (t(1),...,t(n)) is a Krishnamoorthy-Parthasarathy multivariate gamma distribution. As a corollary, we obtain the mgf for the increment X(t+dt)-X(t), and show that the increment is equivalent in distribution to a scaled difference of two independent draws from a gamma distribution. Simple closed-form solutions for the moments of the increments are given.
Keywords: Square-root diffusion, CIR process, multivariate gamma distribution, difference of gamma variates, Krishnamoorthy-Parthasarathy distribution, Kibble-Moran distribution, Bell polynomialsFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: This paper develops and applies tools to assess multivariate aspects of Bayesian Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium (DSGE) model forecasts and their ability to predict comovements among key macroeconomic variables. We construct posterior predictive checks to evaluate conditional and unconditional density forecasts, in addition to checks for root-mean-squared errors and event probabilities associated with these forecasts. The checks are implemented on a three-equation DSGE model as well as the Smets and Wouters (2007) model using real-time data. We find that the additional features incorporated into the Smets-Wouters model do not lead to a uniform improvement in the quality of density forecasts and prediction of comovements of output, inflation, and interest rates.
Keywords: Bayesian methods, DSGE models, forecast evaluation, macroeconomic forecastingFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: This paper examines the effects of credit availability on small firm survivability over the period 2004 to 2008 for non-publicly traded small enterprises. Using data from the 2003 Survey of Small Business Finances, we develop failure prediction models for a sample of small firms that were confirmed to have been in business as of December 2003, with particular attention to the impact of credit constraints. We find that credit constrained firms were significantly more likely to go out of business than non constrained firms. Moreover, credit constraint and credit access variables appear to be among the most important factors predicting which small U.S. firms went out of business during the 2004-2008 period even though an extensive set of firm, owner, and market characteristics were also included as explanatory factors.
Keywords: Small business finance, small firm survivabilityFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: This paper provides an extensive analysis of the predictive ability of financial volatility measures for economic activity. We construct monthly measures of aggregated and industry-level stock volatility, and bond market volatility from daily returns. We model log financial volatility as composed of a long-run component that is common across all series, and a short-run component. If volatility has components, volatility proxies are characterized by large measurement error, which veils analysis of their fundamental information and relationship with the economy. We find that there are substantial gains from using the long term component of the volatility measures for linearly projecting future economic activity, as well as for forecasting business cycle turning points. When we allow for asymmetry in the long-run volatility component, we find that it provides early signals of upcoming recessions. In a real-time out-of-sample analysis of the last recession, we find that these signals are concomitant with the first signs of distress in the financial markets due to problems in the housing sector around mid-2007 and the implied chronology is consistent with the crisis timeline.
Keywords: Realized volatility, business cycles, forecasting, dynamic factor model, Markov switchingFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Allocation and Financial Market Frictions: Some Direct Evidence from the Dispersion in Borrowing Costs (PDF)
Abstract: Financial market frictions distort the allocation of resources among productive units--all else equal, firms whose financing choices are affected by financial frictions face higher borrowing costs than firms with ready access to capital markets. As a result, input choices may differ systematically across firms in ways that are unrelated to their productive efficiency. We propose a simple accounting framework that allows us to assess the empirical magnitude of the loss in aggregate resources due to such misallocation. To a second-order approximation, our accounting framework requires only information on the dispersion in borrowing costs across firms. We measure firm-specific borrowing costs for a subset of U.S. manufacturing firms directly from the interest rate spreads on their outstanding publicly-traded debt. Given the observed variation in borrowing costs, our approximation method implies a relatively modest loss in efficiency due to resource misallocation--on the order of 1 to 2 percent of measured total factor productivity (TFP). According to our accounting framework, the correlation between firm size and borrowing costs is irrelevant under the assumption that financial distortions and firm-level efficiency are jointly log-normally distributed. To take into account the effect of covariation between firm size and borrowing costs, we also consider a more general framework that dispenses with the assumption of log-normality and which yields somewhat higher estimates of the resource losses--about 3.5 percent of measured TFP. Counterfactual experiments indicate that dispersion in borrowing costs must be an order of magnitude higher than that observed in the U.S. financial data, in order for misallocation--arising from financial distortion--to account for a significant fraction of measured TFP differentials across countries.
Keywords: Misallocation, financial market frictions, borrowing costs, firm-level evidenceFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: We study the asset pricing implications of a general equilibrium Lucas endowment economy inhabited by two agents with habit formation preferences. Preferences are modeled either as internal or external habits. We allow for agents' heterogeneity in relative risk aversion and habit strength. We explicitly compute aggregate prices, such as equity premium, equity volatility, Sharpe ratio, interest rate volatility, and asset holdings for both types of preferences. Equilibrium quantities are computed using a recently developed algorithm of Dumas and Lyasoff (2011), which is refined to capture time nonseparability induced by habit. We obtain that internal habits provide for a considerable improvement in obtaining aggregate asset pricing quantities consistent with historically observed magnitudes as opposed to "catching up with Joneses" preferences.
Keywords: Consumption-based asset pricing models, external habit, internal habit, heterogeneity, time nonseparability, general equilibrium, recursive solutionFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: "Inflation-indexed securities would appear to be the most direct source of information about inflation expectations and real interest rates" (Bernanke, 2004). In this paper we study the term structure of real interest rates, expected inflation and inflation risk premia using data on prices of Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS) over the period 2000-2008. The approach we use to estimate inflation risk premium is arbitrage free, largely model free, and easy to implement. We also make distinction between TIPS yields and real yields and take into account explicitly the three-month indexation lag of TIPS in the analysis. In addition, we propose a new liquidity measure based on TIPS prices. Accounting for it, we find that the inflation risk premium is time-varying: it is negative (positive) in the first (second) half of the sample period. The average 10-year inflation risk premium ranges from -16 to 10 basis points over the full sample depending on the proxy used for expected inflation. More specifically, the estimates of the 10-year inflation risk premium range between 14 and 19 basis points for 2004-2008 period.
Keywords: TIPS market, expected inflation, inflation risk premium, term structure of real rates, TIPS liquidityFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: Wage inequality has risen dramatically in the United States since at least 1980. This paper quantifies the role that the tax policies of the federal and state governments have played in mitigating wage inequality. The analysis, which isolates the contribution of federal taxes and state taxes separately, employs two approaches. First, cross-sectional estimates compare before-tax and after-tax inequality across the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Second, inequality estimates across time are calculated to assess the evolution of the effects of tax policies. The results from the first approach indicate that the tax code reduces wage inequality substantially in all states. On average, taxes reverse approximately the last two decades of growth in wage inequality. Most of this compression of the income distribution is attributable to federal taxes. Nevertheless, there is substantial cross-state variation in the extent to which state tax policies compress the income distribution. Cross-state differences in gasoline taxes have a surprisingly large impact on income compression, as do sales tax exemptions for food and clothing. The results of the second approach indicate that the mitigating influence of tax policy on wage inequality has increased very modestly since the early 1980s. The increase is due to the widening of the pre-tax wage distribution interacting with a progressive tax structure. In contrast, legislated tax changes over this period decreased income compression somewhat.
Keywords: Wage inequality, tax incidenceFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: This paper compares different solution methods for computing the equilibrium of dynamic stochastic general equilibrium (DSGE) models with recursive preferences such as those in Epstein and Zin (1989 and 1991) and stochastic volatility. Models with these two features have recently become popular, but we know little about the best ways to implement them numerically. To fill this gap, we solve the stochastic neoclassical growth model with recursive preferences and stochastic volatility using four different approaches: second- and third-order perturbation, Chebyshev polynomials, and value function iteration. We document the performance of the methods in terms of computing time, implementation complexity, and accuracy. Our main finding is that perturbations are competitive in terms of accuracy with Chebyshev polynomials and value function iteration while being several orders of magnitude faster to run. Therefore, we conclude that perturbation methods are an attractive approach for computing this class of problems.
Keywords: DSGE models, recursive preferences, perturbationFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: This paper considers the impact of learning-by-doing on optimal tax policy in a general equilibrium heterogenous agent life-cycle model. Analytically, it identifies two main channels by which learning-by-doing alters the optimal tax policy. First, learning-by-doing creates a motive for the government to use age-dependent labor income taxes. If the government cannot condition taxes on age, then a capital tax or progressive/regressive labor income tax can be used in order to mimic age-dependent taxes. Second, a progressive/regressive labor income tax is potentially more distortionary in a model with learning-by-doing since the distortion is propagated through the additional intertemporal link between current labor and future human capital. Quantitatively, I find that both of these channels are important for the optimal tax policy. Adding learning-by-doing leads to a notably flatter optimal labor income tax due to the second channel. Moreover, including learning-by-doing causes an increase in the optimal capital tax due to the first channel. I find that when solving for the optimal tax policy in the learning-by-doing model, the welfare consequences of not accounting for endogenous human capital accumulation are equivalent to around one percent of expected lifetime consumption, a majority of which are due to adopting too progressive of a tax policy.
Keywords: Optimal taxation, capital taxation, human capital
Revised: Accessible materials (.zip)
Abstract: This paper describes the construction of a financial stress index. This stress index differs from other indexes in that it incorporates the co-movement and volatility of financial series as well as the levels of the series. Our index also uses past experience more than others to guide the assessment about which characteristics of the data suggest financial stress exists. In addition to describing the construction of our financial stress index, we spend some time discussing issues relevant to the general construction of stress indexes.
Keywords: Financial stress, financial markets, financial institutionsFull paper (Screen Reader Version)
Abstract: Although the volatility of house prices is often ascribed to demand-side factors, constraints on housing supply have important and little-studied implications for housing dynamics. I illustrate the strong relationship in city-level data between the volatility of house prices and the regulation of new housing supply. I then employ a dynamic structural model of housing investment to estimate the effect of supply constraints on both the level of new construction and the responsiveness of investment to house prices. I find that supply constraints increase volatility through two channels: First, regulation lowers the elasticity of new housing supply by increasing lags in the permit process and adding to the cost of supplying new houses on the margin. Second, geographic limitations on the area available for building houses, such as steep slopes and water bodies, lead to less investment on average relative to the size of the existing housing stock, leaving less scope for the supply response to attenuate the effects of a demand shock. My estimates and simulations confirm that regulation and geographic constraints play critical and complementary roles in decreasing the responsiveness of investment to demand shocks, which in turn amplifies house price volatility.
Keywords: House prices, volatility, housing supply, regulationFull paper (Screen Reader Version)