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 2020-006
Approximately Right?: Global v. Local Methods for Open-Economy Models with Incomplete Markets

Oliver de Groot, C. Bora Durdu and Enrique G. Mendoza

Abstract: Global and local methods are widely used in international macroeconomics to analyze incomplete-markets models. We study solutions for an endowment economy, an RBC model and a Sudden Stops model with an occasionally binding credit constraint. First-order, second-order, risky steady state and DynareOBC solutions are compared v. fixed-point-iteration global solutions in the time and frequency domains. The solutions differ in key respects, including measures of precautionary savings, cyclical moments, impulse response functions, financial premia and macro responses to credit constraints, and periodograms of consumption, foreign assets and net exports. The global method is easy to implement and faster than local methods for the endowment model. Local methods are faster for the RBC model and the global and DynareOBC solutions are of comparable speed. These findings favor global methods except when prevented by the curse of dimensionality and urge caution when using local methods. Of the latter, first-order solutions are preferable because results are very similar to second-order methods.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2020.006

FEDS 2020-005
Consumption Heterogeneity: Micro Drivers and Macro Implications

Edmund Crawley and Andreas Kuchler

Abstract: This paper explores the microfoundations of consumption models and quantifies the macro implications of consumption heterogeneity. We propose a new empirical method to estimate the response of consumption to permanent and transitory income shocks for different groups of households. We then apply this method to administrative data from Denmark. The large sample size, along with detailed household balance sheet information, allows us to finely divide the population along relevant dimensions. We find that households that stand to lose from an interest rate hike are significantly more responsive to income shocks than those that stand to gain. Following a 1-percentage-point interest rate increase, we estimate that consumption growth decreases by a 1/4 percentage point through this interest rate exposure channel alone, making this channel substantially larger than the intertemporal substitution channel that is at the core of representative agent New Keynesian models.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2020.005

FEDS 2020-004
Confidence, financial literacy and investment in risky assets: Evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances

Andrej Cupák, Pirmin Fessler, Joanne W. Hsu, Piotr R. Paradowski

Abstract: We employ recent Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) microdata from the US to analyze the impacts of confidence in one's own financial knowledge, confidence in the economy, and objective financial literacy on investment in risky financial assets (equity and bonds) on both the extensive and intensive margins. Controlling for a rich set of covariates including risk aversion, we find that objective financial literacy is positively related to investment in risky assets as well as debt securities. Moreover, confidence in own financial skills additionally increases the probability of holding risky assets and bonds. While these relationships are rather robust for the extensive margin, they break down with regard to the conditional share of financial wealth in risky assets of those who actually hold them. The relevance of financial literacy as well as confidence varies considerably with the distribution of wealth as well as across several socio-economic dimensions such as age, education and race.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2020.004

FEDS 2020-003
Short-term Planning, Monetary Policy, and Macroeconomic Persistence

Abstract: This paper uses aggregate data to estimate and evaluate a behavioral New Keynesian (NK) model in which households and firms plan over a finite horizon. The finite-horizon (FH) model outperforms rational expectations versions of the NK model commonly used in empirical applications as well as other behavioral NK models. The better fit of the FH model reflects that it can induce slow-moving trends in key endogenous variables which deliver substantial persistence in output and inflation dynamics. In the FH model, households and firms are forward-looking in thinking about events over their planning horizon but are backward looking regarding events beyond that point. This gives rise to persistence without resorting to additional features such as habit persistence and price contracts indexed to lagged inflation. The parameter estimates imply that the planning horizons of most households and firms are less than two years which considerably dampens the effects of expected fut ure changes of monetary policy on the macroeconomy.
 

Keywords: Finite-horizon planning, learning, monetary policy, New Keynesian model, Bayesian estimation.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2020.003

FEDS 2020-002
Monetary Policy and Birth Rates: The Effect of Mortgage Rate Pass-Through on Fertility

Fergus Cumming and Lisa Dettling

Abstract: This paper examines whether monetary policy pass-through to mortgage interest rates affects household fertility decisions. Using administrative data on mortgages and births in the UK, our empirical strategy exploits variation in the timing of when families were eligible for a rate adjustment, coupled with the large reductions in the monetary policy rate that occurred during the Great Recession. We estimate that each 1 percentage point drop in the policy rate increased birth rates by 2 percent. In aggregate, this pass-through of accommodative monetary policy to mortgage rates was sufficiently large to outweigh the headwinds of the Great Recession and prevent a "baby bust" in the UK, in contrast to the US. Our results provide new evidence on the nature of monetary policy transmission to households and suggest a new mechanism via which mortgage contract structures can affect both aggregate demand and supply.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2020.002

FEDS 2020-001
The Power of Narratives in Economic Forecasts

Steven A. Sharpe, Nitish R. Sinha and Christopher A. Hollrah

Abstract: We apply textual analysis tools to the narratives that accompany Federal Reserve Board economic forecasts to measure the degree of optimism versus pessimism expressed in those narratives. Text sentiment is strongly correlated with the accompanying economic point forecasts, positively for GDP forecasts and negatively for unemployment and inflation forecasts. Moreover, our sentiment measure predicts errors in FRB and private forecasts for GDP growth and unemployment up to four quarters out. Furthermore, stronger sentiment predicts tighter than expected monetary policy and higher future stock returns. Quantile regressions indicate that most of sentiment's forecasting power arises from signaling downside risks to the economy and stock prices.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2020.001

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Last Update: January 17, 2020