Staff working papers in the Finance and Economics Discussion Series (FEDS) investigate a broad range of issues in economics and finance, with a focus on the U.S. economy and domestic financial markets.

FEDS 2019-043
A Unified Measure of Fed Monetary Policy Shocks (PDF)

Chunya Bu, John Rogers, and Wenbin Wu

Abstract: Identification of Fed monetary policy shocks is complex, in light of the distinct policymaking regimes before, during, and after the ZLB period of December 2008 to December 2015. We develop a heteroscedasticity-based partial least squares approach, combined with Fama-MacBeth style cross-section regressions, to identify a US monetary policy shock series that usefully bridges periods of conventional and unconventional policymaking and is effectively devoid of the central bank information effect. Our series has moderately high correlation with well-known shocks in the literature, but has crucially important differences. Following conventional tests, we find scant evidence of the information effect in our measure. We attribute the source of these different findings to our econometric procedure and our use of the full maturity spectrum of interest rate instruments in constructing our measure. We then present evidence confirming an hypothesis in the literature that the information effect can lead to the result that shocks to monetary policy have transmission effects with signs that differ from traditional theory. We find that shocks to series that are devoid of (embody) the information effect display conventionally-signed (perverse) impulse responses of output and inflation. This provides evidence of first-order importance to staff at central banks undertaking quantitative theoretical modeling of the effects of monetary policy.

Original paper: PDF

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.043r1

FEDS 2019-042
Inflation and Deflationary Biases in Inflation Expectations (PDF)

Michael J. Lamla, Damjan Pfajfar, and Lea Rendell

Abstract: We explore the consequences of losing confidence in the price-stability objective of central banks by quantifying the inflation and deflationary biases in inflation expectations. In a model with an occasionally binding zero-lower-bound constraint, we show that an inflation bias as well as a deflationary bias exist as a steady-state outcome. We assess the predictions of this model using unique individual-level inflation expectations data across nine countries that allow for a direct identification of these biases. Both inflation and deflationary biases are present (and sizable) in inflation expectations of these individuals. Among the euro-area countries in our sample, we can document significant differences in perceptions of the European Central Bank's objectives, despite having a common monetary policy.

Keywords: ZLB, confidence in central banks, deflationary bias, inflation bias, inflation expectations, microdata

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.042

FEDS 2019-041
The costs and benefits of liquidity regulations: Lessons from an idle monetary policy tool (PDF)

Christopher J. Curfman and John Kandrac

Abstract: We investigate how liquidity regulations affect banks by examining a dormant monetary policy tool that functions as a liquidity regulation. Our identification strategy uses a regression kink design that relies on the variation in a marginal high-quality liquid asset (HQLA) requirement around an exogenous threshold. We show that mandated increases in HQLA cause banks to reduce credit supply. Liquidity requirements also depress banks' profitability, though some of the regulatory costs are passed on to liability holders. We document a prudential benefit of liquidity requirements by showing that banks subject to a higher requirement before the financial crisis had lower odds of failure.

Keywords: Monetary policy, bank failure, bank lending, liquidity regulation, required reserves

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.041

FEDS 2019-040
Bond Risk Premiums at the Zero Lower Bound (PDF)

Martin M. Andreasen, Kasper Jørgensen, and Andrew Meldrum

Abstract: This paper documents a significantly stronger relationship between the slope of the yield curve and future excess bond returns on Treasuries from 2008-2015 than before 2008. This new predictability result is not matched by the standard shadow rate model with Gaussian factor dynamics, but extending the model with regime-switching in the (physical) dynamics of the factors at the lower bound resolves this shortcoming. The model is also consistent with the downwards trend in surveys on short rate expectations at long horizons, but requires a break in the level of its factors to closely fit the low level of these surveys since 2015.

Keywords: Dynamic term structure model, bond return predictability, regime-switching, shadow rate model, structural break

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.040

FEDS 2019-039
The Role of U.S. Monetary Policy in Global Banking Crises (PDF)

Bora Durdu, Alex Martin, and Ilknur Zer

Abstract: We examine the role of U.S. monetary policy in global financial stability by using a cross-country database spanning the period from 1870-2010 across 69 countries. U.S. monetary policy tightening increases the probability of banking crises for those countries with direct linkages to the U.S., either in the form of trade links or significant share of USD-denominated liabilities. Conversely, if a country is integrated globally, rather than having a direct exposure, the effect is ambiguous. One possible channel we identify is capital flows: If the correction in capital flows is disorderly (e.g., sudden stops), the probability of banking crises increases. These findings suggest that the effect of U.S. monetary policy in global banking crises is not uniform and largely dependent on the nature of linkages with the U.S.

Keywords: Banking Crises, Financial Stability, Monetary Policy Shocks, Sudden Stops

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.039

FEDS 2019-038
Benchmarking Operational Risk Stress Testing Models (PDF)

Filippo Curti, Marco Migueis, and Robert Stewart

Abstract: The Federal Reserve's Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review (CCAR) requires large bank holding companies (BHCs) to project losses under stress scenarios. In this paper, we propose multiple benchmarks for operational loss projections and document the industry distribution relative to these benchmarks. The proposed benchmarks link BHCs' loss projections with both financial characteristics and metrics of historical loss experience. These benchmarks capture different measures of exposure and together provide a comprehensive view of the reasonability of model outcomes. Furthermore, we employ several approaches to assess the conservatism of BHCs' stress loss projections and our estimates for the conservatism of loss projections for the median bank range from the 90th percentile to above the 99th percentile of the operational loss distribution.

Keywords: Benchmarking, Operational Risk, Stress testing

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.038

FEDS 2019-037
Credible Forward Guidance (PDF)

Taisuke Nakata and Takeki Sunakawa

Abstract: We analyze credible forward guidance policies in a sticky-price model with an effective lower bound (ELB) constraint on nominal interest rates by solving a series of optimal sustainable policy problems indexed by the duration of reputational loss. Lower-for-longer policies---while effective in stimulating the economy at the ELB---are potentially time-inconsistent, as the associated overheating of the economy in the aftermath of a crisis is undesirable ex post. However, if reneging on a lower-for-longer promise leads to a loss of reputation and prevents the central bank from effectively using lower-for-longer policies in future crises, these policies can be time-consistent. We find that, even without an explicit commitment technology, the central bank can still credibly keep the policy rate at the ELB for an extended period---though not as extended under the optimal commitment policy---and meaningfully mitigate the adverse effects of the ELB constraint on economy activity.

Keywords: Credibility, Effective Lower Bound, Forward Guidance, Sustainable Plan, Time-Consistency

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.037

FEDS 2019-036
Optimal Inflation Target with Expectations-Driven Liquidity Traps (PDF)

Philip Coyle and Taisuke Nakata

Abstract: In expectations-driven liquidity traps, a higher inflation target is associated with lower inflation and consumption. As a result, introducing the possibility of expectations-driven liquidity traps to an otherwise standard model lowers the optimal inflation target. Using a calibrated New Keynesian model with an effective lower bound (ELB) constraint on nominal interest rates, we find that even a very small probability of falling into an expectations-driven liquidity trap lowers the optimal inflation target nontrivially. Our analysis provides a reason to be cautious about the argument that central banks should raise their inflation targets in light of a higher likelihood of hitting the ELB.

Keywords: Liquidity Traps, Optimal Inflation Target, Sunspot Shock, Zero Lower Bound

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.036

FEDS 2019-035
Measuring Labor-Force Participation and the Incidence and Duration of Unemployment (PDF)

Hie Joo Ahn and James D. Hamilton

Abstract: The underlying data from which the U.S. unemployment rate, labor-force participation rate, and duration of unemployment are calculated contain numerous internal contradictions. This paper catalogs these inconsistencies and proposes a reconciliation. We find that the usual statistics understate the unemployment rate and the labor-force participation rate by about two percentage points on average and that the bias in the latter has increased since the Great Recession. The BLS estimate of the average duration of unemployment overstates by 50 percent the true duration of uninterrupted spells of unemployment and misrepresents what happened to average durations during the Great Recession and its recovery.

Keywords: Labor-force participation rate, Measurement errors, Unemployment duration, Unemployment rate

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.035

FEDS 2019-034
Business Dynamics in the National Establishment Time Series (NETS) (PDF)

Abstract: Business microdata have proven useful in a number of fields, but the main sources of comprehensive microdata are subject to significant confidentiality restrictions. A growing number of papers instead use a private data source seeking to cover the universe of U.S. business establishments, the National Establishment Time Series (NETS). Previous research documents the representativeness of NETS in terms of the distribution of employment and establishment counts across industry, geography, and establishment size. But there exists considerable need among researchers for microdata suitable for studying business dynamics--birth, growth, decline, and death. We evaluate NETS in terms of its ability to corroborate key insights from the business dynamics literature with a particular focus on the behavior of new and young firms. We find that NETS microdata exhibit patterns of business dynamics that are markedly different from official administrative sources, limiting the usefuln ess of NETS for studying these topics.

Keywords: business microdata, economic measurement, entrepreneurship, firm dynamics, high-growth firms, job flows

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.034

FEDS 2019-033
A Generalized Approach to Indeterminacy in Linear Rational Expectations Models (PDF)

Francesco Bianchi and Giovanni Nicolò

Abstract: We propose a novel approach to deal with the problem of indeterminacy in Linear Rational Expectations models. The method consists of augmenting the original state space with a set of auxiliary exogenous equations to provide the adequate number of explosive roots in presence of indeterminacy. The solution in this expanded state space, if it exists, is always determinate, and is identical to the indeterminate solution of the original model. The proposed approach accommodates determinacy and any degree of indeterminacy, and it can be implemented even when the boundaries of the determinacy region are unknown. Thus, the researcher can estimate the model using standard packages without restricting the estimates to the determinacy region. We apply our method to estimate the New-Keynesian model with rational bubbles by Galí (2017) over the period 1982:Q4 until 2007:Q3. We find that the data support the presence of two degrees of indeterminacy, implying that the central bank was not reacting strongly enough to the bubble component.

Keywords: Bayesian methods, General Equilibrium, Indeterminacy, Solution method

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.033

FEDS 2019-032
Some International Evidence for Keynesian Economics Without the Phillips Curve (PDF)

Roger E.A. Farmer and Giovanni Nicolò

Abstract: Farmer and Nicolò (2018) show that the Farmer Monetary (FM)-model outperforms the three-equation New-Keynesian (NK)-model in post war U.S. data. In this paper, we compare the marginal data density of the FM-model with marginal data densities for determinate and indeterminate versions of the NK-model for three separate samples using U.S., U.K. and Canadian data. We estimate versions of both models that restrict the parameters of the private sector equations to be the same for all three countries. Our preferred specification is the constrained version of the FM-model which has a marginal data density that is more than 30 log points higher than the NK alternative. Our findings also demonstrate that cross-country macroeconomic differences are well explained by the different shocks that hit each economy and by differences in the ways in which national central banks reacted to those shocks.

Keywords: Bayesian methods, General Equilibrium, Indeterminacy, International business cycles, Keynes, Monetary policy, Phillips Curve

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.032

FEDS 2019-031
Understanding Bank and Nonbank Credit Cycles: A Structural Exploration (PDF)

Abstract: We explore the structural drivers of bank and nonbank credit cycles using an estimated medium-scale macro model that allows for bank and nonbank financial intermediation. We posit economy-wide aggregate and sectoral disturbances to potentially drive bank and nonbank credit growth. We find that sectoral shocks affecting the balance sheets of entrepreneurs who borrow from the financial sector are important for the business cycle frequency fluctuations in bank and nonbank credit growth. Economy-wide entrepreneurial risk shocks gain predominance for explaining the longer-horizon comovement between the two series.

Keywords: Banks, Capital requirements, Credit cycles, DSGE models, Leverage, Nonbanks

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.031

FEDS 2019-030
When Simplicity Offers a Benefit, Not a Cost: Closed-Form Estimation of the GARCH(1,1) Model that Enhances the Efficiency of Quasi-Maximum Likelihood (PDF)

Abstract: Simple, multi-step estimators are developed for the popular GARCH(1,1) model, where these estimators are either available entirely in closed form or dependent upon a preliminary estimate from, for example, quasi-maximum likelihood. Identification sources to asymmetry in the model's innovations, casting skewness as an instrument in a linear, two-stage least squares estimator. Properties of regular variation coupled with point process theory establish the distributional limits of these estimators as stable, though highly non-Gaussian, with slow convergence rates relative to the √n-case. Moment existence criteria necessary for these results are consistent with the heavy-tailed features of many financial returns. In light-tailed cases that support asymptotic normality for these simple estimators, conditions are discovered where the simple estimators can enhance the asymptotic efficiency of quasi-maximum likelihood estimation. In small samples, extensive Monte Carlo experiments reveal these efficiency enhancements to be available for (very) heavy tailed cases. Consequently, the proposed simple estimators are members of the class of multi-step estimators aimed at improving the efficiency of the quasi-maximum likelihood estimator.

Appendix (PDF)

Keywords: GARCH models, Closed form estimation, Heavy tails, Instrumental variables, Regular variation

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.030

FEDS 2019-029
Second-Home Buying and the Housing Boom and Bust (PDF)

Abstract: The effects of the surge in second-home buying (homeowners acquiring nonprimary residences) on the housing boom and bust remain an open question partly because reliable geographic data is currently unavailable. This paper constructs local data on second-home buying by merging credit bureau data with mortgage servicing records. The identification strategy exploits the fact that the vacation share of housing in 2000 predicts second-home origination shares during the boom years, while also uncorrelated with other boom-bust drivers including proxies for local housing expectations, the use of alternative and privately securitized mortgages, and supply constraints. Areas with plausibly exogenous increases in second-home buying experienced a sharper boom and bust. Overall, second-home buying could explain about 30 percent and 10 percent of the run-up in construction employment and house prices, respectively, from 2000 to 2006.

Original paper: PDF

Keywords: Real estate investors, housing boom, speculation

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.029r1

FEDS 2019-028
Likelihood Evaluation of Models with Occasionally Binding Constraints (PDF)

Abstract: Applied researchers interested in estimating key parameters of DSGE models face an array of choices regarding numerical solution and estimation methods. We focus on the likelihood evaluation of models with occasionally binding constraints. We document how solution approximation errors and likelihood misspeci cation, related to the treatment of measurement errors, can interact and compound each other.
 

Keywords: Measurement error, Occasionally binding constraints, Particle filter, Solution error

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.028

FEDS 2019-027
The Marginal Effect of Government Mortgage Guarantees on Homeownership (PDF)

Abstract: The U.S. government guarantees a majority of residential mortgages, which is often justified as a means to promote homeownership. In this paper we use property-level data to estimate the effect of government mortgage guarantees on homeownership, by exploiting variation of the conforming loan limits (CLLs) along county borders. We find substantial effects on government guarantees, but find no robust effect on homeownership. This finding suggests that government guarantees could be considerably reduced with modest effects on homeownership, which is relevant for housing finance reform plans that propose to reduce the government's involvement in the mortgage market by reducing the CLLs.

Keywords: Federal Housing Administration, Government mortgage guarantees, Government-sponsored enterprises, Homeownership

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.027

FEDS 2019-026
Assessing Macroeconomic Tail Risk (PDF)

Francesca Loria, Christian Matthes, and Donghai Zhang

Abstract: What drives macroeconomic tail risk? To answer this question, we borrow a definition of macroeconomic risk from Adrian et al. (2019) by studying (left-tail) percentiles of the forecast distribution of GDP growth. We use local projections (Jordà, 2005) to assess how this measure of risk moves in response to economic shocks to the level of technology, monetary policy, and financial conditions. Furthermore, by studying various percentiles jointly, we study how the overall economic outlook--as characterized by the entire forecast distribution of GDP growth--shifts in response to shocks. We find that contractionary shocks disproportionately increase downside risk, independently of what shock we look at.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.026

FEDS 2019-025
Information in Yield Spread Trades (PDF)

Abstract: Using positions data on bond futures, I document that speculators' spread trades contain private information about future economic activities and asset prices. Strong steepening trades are associated with negative payroll surprises in subsequent months and can predict asset markets' reaction to future payroll releases, suggesting that speculators hold superior information about future payrolls. Steepening trades can also predict the rise of stock prices within a few hours before subsequent FOMC announcements, implying that the pre-FOMC stock drift is driven by informed speculation. Overall, evidence highlights spread traders' superior information and its important role in explaining announcement returns and pre-announcement drifts.

Keywords: Business Cycle, Informed Trading, Macroeconomic Announcements, Pre-FOMC, Term Structure

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.025

FEDS 2019-024
Uncertainty shocks, monetary policy and long-term interest rates (PDF)

Gianni Amisano and Oreste Tristani

Abstract: We study the relationship between monetary policy and long-term rates in a structural, general equilibrium model estimated on both macro and yields data from the United States. Regime shifts in the conditional variance of productivity shocks, or "uncertainty shocks", are an important model ingredient. First, they account for countercyclical movements in risk premia. Second, they induce changes in the demand for precautionary saving, which affects expected future real rates. Through changes in both risk-premia and expected future real rates, uncertainty shocks account for about 1/2 of the variance of long-term nominal yields over long horizons. The remaining driver of long-term yields are changes in in ation expectations induced by conventional, autoregressive shocks. Long-term in ation expectations implied by our model are in line with those based on survey data over the 1980s and 1990s, but less dogmatically anchored in the 2000s.
Appendix(PDF)

Keywords: Bayesian Estimation, Monetary Policy Rules, Regime Switches, Term Structure Of Interest Rates, Uncertainty Shocks

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.024

FEDS 2019-023
How does the strength of monetary policy transmission depend on real economic activity? (PDF)

Abstract: We study the relationship between the strength of the bank credit channel (BCC) of monetary policy and real GDP growth in the United States using quarterly commercial bank level data between 1986 and 2008. We find that the BCC was significantly stronger during periods of low economic growth. Monetary policy is more effective through this channel in spurring economic activity during periods of low growth, rather than in cooling the economy when growth is high. Furthermore, we find that the BCC operated through a broader range of loan categories and banks than previously documented, underscoring this channel's economic relevance.

Keywords: Bank balance sheet, Bank lending channel, GDP growth, Monetary policy transmission

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.023

FEDS 2019-022
Marketplace Lending and Consumer Credit Outcomes: Evidence from Prosper (PDF)

Abstract: In 2005, Prosper launched the first peer-to-peer lending website in the US, allowing for consumers to apply for and receive loans entirely online. To understand the effect of this new credit source, we match application-level data from Prosper to credit bureau data. Post application, borrowers' credit scores increase and their credit card utilization rates fall relative to non-borrowers in the short run. In the longer run, total debt levels for borrowers are higher that of non-borrowers. Differences in mortgage debt are particularly large and increasing over time. Despite increased debt levels relative to non-borrowers, delinquency rates for borrowers are significantly lower.

Keywords: Marketplace lending, Online lending, Peer-to-peer lending, Prosper Marketplace, disintermediation

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.022

FEDS 2019-021
Do Greasy Wheels Curb Inequality? (PDF)

Abstract: I document a disparity in the cyclicality of the allocative wage-the labor costs considered when deciding to form or dissolve an employment relationship-across levels of educational attainment. Specifically, workers with a bachelors degree or more exhibit an allocative wage that is highly pro-cyclical while high school dropouts exhibit no statistically discernible cyclical pattern. I also assess the response to monetary policy shocks of both employment and allocative wages across education groups. The less educated respond to monetary policy shocks on the employment margin while the more educated respond on the wage margin. An important takeaway is that conventional monetary policy easing reduces employment inequality but increases wage inequality. I embed these findings in a New Keynesian framework that includes price and heterogeneous wage rigidity and show that heterogeneity results in welfare losses due to fluctuations that exceed those of the output-gap and p rice-level equivalent representative agent economy. The excess welfare loss is borne by the least educated.

This paper was modified on April 3, 2019, to correct a typo in Equation 6.6.

Keywords: Inequality, Monetary policy, Wage Rigidity

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.021

FEDS 2019-020
Duration dependence, monetary policy asymmetries, and the business cycle (PDF)

Abstract: We produce business cycle chronologies for U.S. states and evaluate the factors that change the probability of moving from one phase to another. We find strong evidence for positive duration dependence in all business cycle phases but find that the effect is modest relative to other state- and national-level factors. Monetary policy shocks also have a strong influence on the transition probabilities in a highly asymmetric way. The effect of policy shocks depends on the current state of the cycle as well as the sign and size of the shock.

Keywords: Duration analysis, business cycles, hazard rates, monetary policy asymmetries

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.020

FEDS 2019-019
New Financial Stability Governance Structures and Central Banks (PDF)

Rochelle M. Edge and J. Nellie Liang

Abstract: We evaluate the institutional frameworks developed to implement time-varying macroprudential policies in 58 countries. We focus on new financial stability committees (FSCs) that have grown dramatically in number since the global financial crisis, and their interaction with central banks, and infer countries' revealed preferences for effectiveness versus political economy considerations. Using cluster analysis, we find that only one-quarter of FSCs have both good processes and good tools to implement macroprudential actions, and that instead most FSCs have been designed to improve communication and coordination among existing regulators. We also find that central banks are not especially able to take macroprudential actions when FSCs are not set up to do so. We conclude that about one-half of the countries do not have structures to take or direct actions and avoid risks of policy inertia. Rather countries' decisions appear to be consistent with strengthening the politica l legitimacy of macroprudential policies with prominent roles for the ministry of finance and avoiding placing additional powers in central banks that already are strong in microprudential supervision and have high political independence for monetary policy. The evidence suggests that countries are placing a relatively low weight on the ability of policy institutions to take action and a high weight on political economy considerations in developing their financial stability governance structures.

Keywords: Central bank independence, Countercyclical capital buffer, Financial stability committees, Macroprudential policy

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.019

FEDS 2019-018
Does Price Regulation Affect Competition? Evidence from Credit Card Solicitations (PDF)

Yiwei Dou, Geng Li, and Joshua Ronen

Abstract: We study the unintended consequences of consumer financial regulations, focusing on the CARD Act, which restricts consumer credit card issuers' ability to raise interest rates. We estimate the competitive responsiveness--the degree to which a credit card issuer changes offered interest rates in response to changes in interest rates offered by its competitors--as a measure of competition in the credit card market. Using small business card offers, which are not subject to the Act, as a control group, we find a significant decline in the competitive responsiveness after the Act. The decline in responsiveness is more pronounced for competitors' reductions, as opposed to increases, in interest rates, and is more pronounced in areas with more subprime borrowers. The reduced competition underscores the potential unintended consequence of regulating the consumer credit market and contributes toward a more comprehensive and balanced evaluation of the costs and benefits of consumer financial regulations.

Keywords: CARD Act, Competitive responsiveness, Credit card market, Regulations

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.018

FEDS 2019-017
Introducing the Distributional Financial Accounts of the United States (PDF)

Abstract: This paper describes the construction of the Distributional Financial Accounts (DFAs), a new dataset containing quarterly estimates of the distribution of U.S. household wealth since 1989, and provides the first look at the resulting data. The DFAs build on two existing Federal Reserve Board statistical products --- quarterly aggregate measures of household wealth from the Financial Accounts of the United States and triennial wealth distribution measures from the Survey of Consumer Finances --- to incorporate distributional information into a national accounting framework. The DFAs complement other existing sources of data on the wealth distribution by using a more comprehensive measure of household wealth and by providing quarterly data on a timely basis. We encourage policymakers, researchers, and other interested parties to use the DFAs to help understand issues related to the distribution of U.S. household wealth.

Keywords: Economic data, economic measurement, household economics, inequality, national accounts, wealth distribution, wealth dynamics

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.017

FEDS 2019-016
The Limits of p-Hacking: a Thought Experiment (PDF)

Abstract: Suppose that asset pricing factors are just p-hacked noise. How much p-hacking is required to produce the 300 factors documented by academics? I show that, if 10,000 academics generate 1 factor every minute, it takes 15 million years of p-hacking. This absurd conclusion comes from applying the p-hacking theory to published data. To fit the fat right tail of published t-stats, the p-hacking theory requires that the probability of publishing t-stats < 6.0 is infinitesimal. Thus it takes a ridiculous amount of p-hacking to publish a single t-stat. These results show that p-hacking alone cannot explain the factor zoo.

Keywords: Stock return anomalies, multiple testing, p-hacking, publication bias

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.016

FEDS 2019-015
Who Values Access to College? (PDF)

Kartik Athreya, Felicia F. Ionescu, Urvi Neelakantan, and Ivan Vidangos

Abstract: A first glance at US data suggests that college -- given its mean returns and sharply subsidized cost for all enrollees -- could be of great value to most. Using an empirically-disciplined human capital model that allows for variation in college readiness, we show otherwise. While the top decile of valuations is indeed large (40 percent of consumption), nearly half of high school completers place zero value on access to college. Subsidies to college currently flow to those already best positioned to succeed and least sensitive to them. Even modestly targeted alternatives may therefore improve welfare. As proof of principle, we show that redirecting subsidies away from those who would nonetheless enroll -- towards a stock index retirement fund for those who do not even when college is subsidized -- increases ex-ante welfare by 1 percent of mean consumption, while preserving aggregate enrollment and being budget neutral.

Keywords: Financial Investment, Higher Education, Human Capital

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.015

FEDS 2019-014
Inferring Term Rates from SOFR Futures Prices (PDF)

Abstract: The Alternative Reference Rate Committee, a group of private-sector market participants convened by the Federal Reserve, has recommended that markets transition to the use of the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) in financial contracts that currently reference US dollar LIBOR. This paper examines the feasibility of using SOFR futures prices to construct forward-looking term reference rates that are conceptually similar to the term LIBOR rates commonly used in loan contracts. We show that futures-implied term SOFR rates have closely tracked federal funds OIS rates over the eight months since SOFR futures began trading. To examine the performance of our approach over a longer time horizon, we compare term rates derived from federal funds futures with observed overnight rates and OIS rates from 2000 to the present. Consistent with prior research, we find that futures-implied term rates accurately predict realized compounded overnight rates during most periods.

Keywords: Derivatives, futures, and options, LIBOR, SOFR, financial contracts, interest rates, reference rates

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.014

FEDS 2019-013
Test Questions, Economic Outcomes, and Inequality (PDF)

Abstract: Standard achievement scales aggregate test questions without considering their relationship to economic outcomes. This paper uses question-level data to improve the measurement of achievement in two ways. First, the paper constructs alternative achievement scales by relating individual questions directly to school completion and labor market outcomes. Second, the paper leverages the question data to construct multiple such scales in order to correct for biases stemming from measurement error. These new achievement scales rank students differently than standard scales and typically yield achievement gaps by race, gender, and household income that are larger by 0.1 to 0.5 standard deviations. Differential performance on test questions can fully explain black-white differences in both wages and lifetime earnings and can explain roughly half of the difference in these outcomes between youth from high- versus low-income households. By contrast, test questions do not explain gender differences in labor market outcomes.

Keywords: achievement gaps, human capital, inequality, measurement error

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.013

FEDS 2019-012
Getting Smart About Phones: New Price Indexes and the Allocation of Spending Between Devices and Services Plans in Personal Consumption Expenditures (PDF)

David M. Byrne, Daniel E. Sichel, and Ana Aizcorbe

Abstract: This paper addresses two measurement issues for mobile phones. First, we develop a new mobile phone price index using hedonic quality-adjusted prices for smartphones and a matched-model index for feature phones. Our index falls at an average annual rate of 17 percent during 2010-2018, close to the rate of decline in the price index used in the GDP Accounts. Given relatively flat average prices over this period, our index points to substantial quality improvement. Second, we propose a methodology to disentangle purchases of phones and wireless services when they are bundled together as part of a long-term service contract. Getting the allocation right is especially important for real PCE because the price deflators for phones and wireless services exhibit very different trends. Our adjusted estimates suggest that real PCE spending currently captured in the category Cellular Phone Services increased 4 percentage points faster than is reflected in published data.

Keywords: Cell phone, hedonic indexes, mobile phone, personal consumption expenditures, price indexes, quality adjustment, smartphone

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2019.012

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: June 06, 2019