FEDS 2019-011
Over-the-Counter Market Liquidity and Securities Lending (PDF)

Abstract: This paper studies how over-the-counter market liquidity is affected by securities lending. We combine micro-data on corporate bond market trades with securities lending transactions and individual corporate bond holdings by U.S. insurance companies. Applying a difference-in-differences empirical strategy, we show that the shutdown of AIG's securities lending program in 2008 caused a statistically and economically significant reduction in the market liquidity of corporate bonds predominantly held by AIG. We also show that an important mechanism behind the decrease in corporate bond liquidity was a shift towards relatively small trades among a greater number of dealers in the interdealer market.

Keywords: broker-dealers, corporate bonds, insurance companies, market liquidity, over-the-counter markets, securities lending

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.011

FEDS 2019-010
Lifecycle Patterns of Saving and Wealth Accumulation (PDF)

Abstract: Empirical analysis of U.S. income, saving and wealth dynamics is constrained by a lack of high-quality and comprehensive household-level panel data. This paper uses a pseudo-panel approach, tracking types of agents by birth cohort and across time through a series of cross-section snapshots synthesized with macro aggregates. The key micro source data is the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF), which captures the top of the wealth distribution by sampling from administrative records. The SCF has the detailed balance sheet components, incomes, and interfamily transfers needed to use both sides of the intertemporal budget constraint and thus solve for saving and consumption. The results here are consistent with recent papers based on individual panel data from countries with administrative registries, and highlights the different roles of saving, capital gains, and interfamily transfers in wealth change over the lifecycle and across permanent income groups.

Keywords: Consumption, Household income, Lifecycle, Saving, Wealth

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.010

FEDS 2019-009
Monetary Policy Strategies for a Low-Rate Environment (PDF)

Ben S. Bernanke, Michael T. Kiley, and John M. Roberts

Abstract: In low-rate environments, policy strategies that involve holding rates “lower for longer” (L4L) may mitigate the effects of the effective lower bound (ELB). However, these strategies work in part by managing the public’s expectations, which is not always realistic. Using the Fed’s large-scale macroeconometric model, we study the effectiveness of L4L policies when financial market participants are forward-looking but other agents are not. We find that the resulting limited ability to manage expectations reduces but does not eliminate the advantages of L4L policies. The best policies provide adequate stimulus at the ELB while avoiding sizable overshoots of inflation and output.
Appendix (PDF)

Keywords: Intererst rates, Model comparison, Monetary policy

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.009

FEDS 2019-008
Stress Testing Household Debt (PDF)

Abstract: We estimate a county-level model of household delinquency and use it to conduct "stress tests" of household debt. Applying house price and unemployment rate shocks from Comprehensive Capital Analysis Review (CCAR) stress tests, we find that forecasted delinquency rates for the recent stock of debt are moderately lower than for the stock of debt before the 2007-09 financial crisis, given the same set of shocks. This decline in expected delinquency rates under stress reflects an improvement in debt-to-income ratios and an increase in the share of debt held by borrowers with relatively high credit scores. Under an alternative scenario where the size of house price shocks depends on housing valuations, we forecast a much lower delinquency rate than occurred during the crisis, reflecting more reasonable housing valuations than pre-crisis. Stress tests using other scenarios for the path of house prices and unemployment also support the conclusion that household debt curren tly poses a lower risk to financial stability than before the financial crisis.

Keywords: Delinquency, Household debt, Loan default, Stress testing

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.008

FEDS 2019-007
Trade Exposure and the Evolution of Inflation Dynamics (PDF)

Simon Gilchrist and Egon Zakrajsek

Abstract: The diminished sensitivity of inflation to changes in resource utilization that has been observed in many advanced economies over the past several decades is frequently linked to the increase in global economic integration. In this paper, we examine this "globalization" hypothesis using both aggregate U.S. data on measures of inflation and economic slack and a rich panel data set containing producer prices, wages, output, and employment at a narrowly defined industry level. Our results indicate that the rising exposure of the U.S. economy to international trade can indeed help explain a significant fraction of the overall decline in responsiveness of aggregate inflation to fluctuations in economic activity. This flattening of the U.S. Phillips curve is supported strongly by our cross-sectional evidence, which shows that increased trade exposure significantly attenuates the response of inflation to fluctuations in output across industries. Our estimates indicate that the inflation-output tradeoff is about three times larger for low-trade intensity industries compared with their high-trade intensity counterparts.

Keywords: Inflation, Phillips curve, Trade share, globalization

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.007

FEDS 2019-006
Robust Inference in First-Price Auctions: Experimental Findings as Identifying Restrictions (PDF)

Abstract: In laboratory experiments bidding in first-price auctions is more aggressive than predicted by the risk-neutral Bayesian Nash Equilibrium (RNBNE) - a finding known as the overbidding puzzle. Several models have been proposed to explain the overbidding puzzle, but no canonical alternative to RNBNE has emerged, and RNBNE remains the basis of the structural auction literature. Instead of estimating a particular model of overbidding, we use the overbidding restriction itself for identification, which allows us to bound the valuation distribution, the seller's payoff function, and the optimal reserve price. These bounds are consistent with RNBNE and all models of overbidding and remain valid if different bidders employ different bidding strategies. We propose simple estimators and evaluate the validity of the bounds numerically and in experimental data.

Keywords: Experimental Findings, First-Price Auction, Partial Identification, Robust Inference, Structural Estimation

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.006

FEDS 2019-005
Banks as Regulated Traders (PDF)

Abstract: This paper uses detailed high-frequency regulatory data to evaluate whether trading increases or decreases systemic risk in the U.S. banking sector. We estimate the sensitivity of weekly bank trading net profits to a variety of aggregate risk factors, which include equities, fixed-income, derivatives, foreign exchange, and commodities. We find that U.S. banks had large trading exposures to equity market risk before the introduction of the Volcker Rule in 2014 and that they curtailed these exposures afterwards. Pre-rule equity risk exposures were large across the board of the main asset classes, including fixed-income. There is also evidence of smaller exposures to credit and currency risk. We corroborate the main finding on equity risk with a quasi-natural experiment that exploits the phased-in introduction of reporting requirements to refine identification, and an optimal changepoint regression that estimates time-varying exposures to address rebalancing. A stress-test calibration indicates that the Volcker Rule was an effective financial-stability regulation, as even a 5% drop in stock market returns would have led to material aggregate trading losses for banks in the pre-Volcker period, as large as about 3% (1.5%) of sector-wide market risk weighted assets (tier 1 capital).

Keywords: bank trading, regulation, risk exposures, systemic risk

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.005

FEDS 2019-004
Karl Brunner and U.K. Monetary Debate (PDF)

Abstract: Although he was based in the United States, leading monetarist Karl Brunner participated in debates in the United Kingdom on monetary analysis and policy from the 1960s to the 1980s. During the 1960s, his participation in the debates was limited to research papers, but in the 1970s, as monetarism attracted national attention, Brunner made contributions to U.K. media discussions. In the pre-1979 period, he was highly critical of the U.K. authorities’ nonmonetary approach to the analysis and control of inflation--an approach supported by leading U.K. Keynesians. In the early 1980s, Brunner had direct interaction with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on issues relating to monetary control and monetary strategy. He was unsuccessful in persuading her to use the monetary base--instead of a short-term interest rate--as the instrument for implementing monetary policy. However, following his interventions, the U.K. authorities during the 1980s assigned weight to the monetary base as an indicator and target of monetary policy. Brunner’s imprint on U.K. monetary policy has also been felt in the twenty-first century. Brunner’s analysis, with Allan Meltzer, of the monetary transmission mechanism helped provide the basis for the policy of quantitative easing followed by the Bank of England.

Keywords: Karl Brunner, U.K. monetary policy, monetarism, monetary base control, transmission mechanism

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.004

FEDS 2019-003
Monetary Policy Options at the Effective Lower Bound: Assessing the Federal Reserve's Current Policy Toolkit (PDF)

Abstract: We simulate the FRB/US model and a number of statistical models to quantify some of the risks stemming from the effective lower bound (ELB) on the federal funds rate and to assess the efficacy of adjustments to the federal funds rate target, balance sheet policies, and forward guidance to provide monetary policy accommodation in the event of a recession. Over the next decade, our simulations imply a roughly 20 to 50 percent probability that the federal funds rate will be constrained by the ELB at some point. We also find that forward guidance and balance sheet polices of the kinds used in response to the Global Financial Crisis are modestly effective in speeding up the labor market recovery and return of inflation to 2 percent following an economic slump. However, these policies have only small effects in limiting the initial rise in the unemployment rate during a recession because of transmission lags. As with any model-based analysis, we also discuss a number of c aveats regarding our results.

Keywords: Effective lower bound, Federal Reserve balance sheets, Forward guidance, Large-scale asset purchases, Monetary policy

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.003

FEDS 2019-002
Evaluating the conditionality of judgmental forecasts (PDF)

Abstract: We propose a framework to evaluate the conditionality of forecasts. The crux of our framework is the observation that a forecast is conditional if revisions to the conditioning factor are faithfully incorporated into the remainder of the forecast. We consider whether the Greenbook, Blue Chip, and the Survey of Professional Forecasters exhibit systematic biases in the manner in which they incorporate interest rate projections into the forecasts of other macroeconomic variables. We do not find strong evidence of systematic biases in the three economic forecasts that we consider, as the interest rate projections in these forecasts appear to be efficiently incorporated into forecasts of other economic variables.

Keywords: Conditional forecast, Forecast efficiency, Macroeconomic forecasting

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.002

FEDS 2019-001
The Monetary Base in Allan Meltzer's Analytical Framework (PDF)

Abstract: This analysis of Allan Meltzer’s analytical framework focuses on the role that Meltzer assigned to the monetary base. For many years, Meltzer suggested that central banks should use the monetary base as their policy instrument, in place of a short-term nominal interest rate. However, he recognized that in practice central banks did not follow this prescription. He believed that the monetary base could play an important role even when an interest rate was used as the instrument. Meltzer’s reasoning was twofold: (i) The monetary base might shed light on the behavior of important asset prices that mattered for aggregate demand. (ii) The base might serve as a useful indicator of the likely future course of the money stock. In later years, while still emphasizing the valuable indicator properties of the monetary base, Meltzer accepted that interest-rate-based rules could deliver monetary control and economic stabilization. For the situation in which the short-term nom inal interest rate was at its lower bound, Meltzer continued to stress quantities as monetary policy instruments. He felt that, at the lower bound, the central bank remained able, through quantitative easing, to boost asset prices, the money stock, and the economy. Such stimulative actions implied increases in the monetary base; however, Meltzer did acknowledge that the manner in which the base was increased (that is, what asset purchases generated the increase) figured importantly in securing the stimulus.

Keywords: monetarism, monetary base, money supply, transmission mechanism

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.001

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Last Update: February 19, 2019