International Finance Discussion Papers (IFDP)
Staff working papers in the International Finance and Discussion Papers (IFDP) series are primarily materials produced by staff in the Division of International Finance. These topics are focused on, though by no means limited to, international macroeconomics, international trade, global finance, financial institutions, and markets, as well as international capital flows
Abstract: A large number of measures for monitoring risk and uncertainty surrounding macroeconomic and financial outcomes have been proposed in the literature, and these measures are frequently used by market participants, policy makers, and researchers in their analyses. However, risk and uncertainty measures differ across multiple dimensions, including the method of calculation, the underlying outcome (that is, the asset price or macroeconomic variable), and the horizon at which they are calculated. Therefore, in this paper, we review the literature on global risk, uncertainty, and volatility measures drawing on internal and external academic research as well as ongoing monitoring conducted by the Federal Reserve Board's economics divisions to catalog measures by method of data collection, computation, and subject. We first explore a set of non-asset-marketbased measures of risk and uncertainty, including news-based and survey-based uncertainty measures of monetary policy and macroeconomic outcomes. We then turn to asset-market-based measures of risk uncertainty for equity prices, interest rates, currencies, oil prices, and inflation.
Keywords: Risk, uncertainty, volatility, monetary policy, geopolitical risk, equities, interest rates, exchange rates, commodities, inflation, variance risk premium
Abstract: We construct new measures of uncertainty about Federal Reserve policy actions and their consequences -- monetary policy uncertainty (MPU) indexes. We show that, under a variety of VAR identification schemes, positive shocks to uncertainty about monetary policy robustly raise credit spreads and reduce output. The effects are of comparable magnitude to those of conventional monetary policy shocks. We evaluate the usefulness of our MPU indexes, and examine the influence of Fed communication. Our analysis suggests that policy rate normalization that is accompanied by reduced uncertainty can help neutralize the contractionary effects of the rate increases themselves.
Keywords: Monetary policy uncertainty, VAR identification, FOMC communication
International Transfer Pricing and Tax Avoidance: Evidence from Linked Trade-Tax Statistics in the UK (PDF)
Abstract: This paper employs unique data on export transactions and corporate tax returns of UK multinational firms and finds that firms manipulate their transfer prices to shift profits to lower-taxed destinations. It uncovers three new findings on tax-motivated transfer mispricing in real goods. First, transfer mispricing increases substantially when taxation of foreign profits changes from a worldwide to a territorial approach in the UK, with multinationals shifting more profits into low-tax jurisdictions. Second, transfer mispricing increases with a firm's R&D intensity. Third, tax-motivated transfer mispricing is concentrated in countries that are not tax havens and have low-to-medium-level corporate tax rates.
Keywords: transfer pricing, corporate taxation avoidance, multinational firms
Abstract: We introduce external risks, in the form of shocks to the level and volatility of world interest rates, into a small open economy model subject to the risk of sudden stops--large recessions together with abrupt reversals in capital inflows--and characterize optimal macroprudential policy in response to these shocks. In the model, collateral constraints create a pecuniary externality that leads to "overborrowing" and sudden stops that arise when the constraints bind. The typical sudden stop generated by the model replicates existing empirical evidence for emerging market economies: Low and stable external interest rates reinforce “overborrowing” and lead to greater exposure to crises typically accompanied by abrupt increases in interest rates and a persistent rise in their volatility. We solve for the optimal policy and argue that the size of a tax on international borrowing that implements the policy depends on two factors, the incidence and the severity of potential future crises. We show quantitatively that these taxes respond to both the level and volatility of interest rates even though optimal decisions in the competitive equilibrium do not respond substantially to changes in volatility, and that the size of the optimal tax is non-monotonic with respect to external shocks.
Keywords: Macroprudential policy, time-varying volatility, sudden stops, financial crises, external interest rates.
Abstract: We propose a method to extract individual firms' risk-neutral return distributions by combining options and credit default swaps (CDS). Options provide information about the central part of the distribution, and CDS anchor the left tail. Jointly, options and CDS span the intermediate part of the distribution, which is driven by moderatesized jump risk. We study the returns on a trading strategy that buys (sells) stocks exposed to positive (negative) moderate-sized jump risk unspanned by options or CDS individually. Controlling for many known factors, this strategy earns a 0.5% premium per month, highlighting the economic value of combining options and CDS.
Keywords: risk neutral distributions; CDS spreads; cross-section of expected returns
Abstract: We analyze reductions in bank credit using a natural experiment where unprecedented flooding differentially affected banks that were more exposed to flooded regions in Pakistan. Using a unique dataset that covers the universe of consumer loans in Pakistan and this exogenous shock to bank funding, we find two key results. First, banks disproportionately reduce credit to new and less-educated borrowers, following an increase in their funding costs. Second, the credit reduction is not compensated by relatively more lending by less-affected banks. The empirical evidence suggests that adverse selection is the primary cause for banks disproportionately reducing credit to new borrowers.
Keywords: Credit markets, capital, liquidity, financial stability, inequality, adverse selection, relationships
Abstract: The provision of public goods in developing countries is a central challenge. This paper studies a model where each agent's effort provides heterogeneous benefits to the others, inducing a network of opportunities for favor-trading. We focus on a classical efficient benchmark -- the Lindahl solution -- that can be derived from a bargaining game. Does the optimistic assumption that agents use an efficient mechanism (rather than succumbing to the tragedy of the commons) imply incentives for efficient investment in the technology that is used to produce the public goods? To show that the answer is no in general, we give comparative statics of the Lindahl solution which have natural network interpretations. We then suggest some welfare-improving interventions.
Keywords: Networks, public goods, repeated games, coalitional deviations, institutions, centrality, Lindahl equilibrium.
Abstract: Using a multi-country regime-switching vector autoregressive (VAR) model we document the existence of two regimes in the volatility of interest rates at which emerging economies borrow from international financial markets, and study the statistical relationship of such regimes with episodes of sudden stops. Periods of high volatility tend to be persistent and are associated with high interest rates, the occurrence of sudden stops in external financing, and large declines in economic activity. Most strikingly, we show that regime switches drive the countercyclicality of interest rates in emerging markets documented in previous literature (Neumeyer and Perri, 2005) and that high-volatility regimes forecast sudden stops 6 and 12 months ahead.
Keywords: Volatility, interest rates, emerging market economies, sudden stops, Markov regime switching.
Abstract: This paper examines an anomaly in China's current account: its large and rapidly growing travel expenditure. Drawing evidence from counterparty data, Chinese international arrival statistics, and gravity equation models extended to travel trade, I find that a significant amount of China's travel spending in the period 2014-2016 could not be explained by accounting factors or economic fundamentals. The unexplained travel imports are inversely associated with domestic growth and positively associated with renminbi depreciation expectations against the dollar, suggesting that they are less likely to be consumption of goods and services abroad than domestic residents' acquisition of foreign financial assets. Adjusted for these potential disguised outflows, China's current account balance could be higher than reported by around 1 percent of GDP in 2015 and 2016, a period when the Chinese economy slowed noticeably as it shifted away from investment-driven growth (i.e. "internal rebalancing"). These results suggest that Chinese households, through the travel channel, have in part replaced the official sector in directing domestic surplus savings abroad in recent years. While the official sector preferred liquid foreign government assets, Chinese households appear to prefer private foreign assets.
Keywords: Capital flight, current account, trade mis-invoicing, services trade
Abstract: We present a tractable framework that embeds goods-market frictions in a general equilibrium dynamic model with heterogeneous exporters and identical importers. These frictions arise because it is time consuming and expensive for exporters and importers to meet. We show that search frictions lead to an endogenous fraction of unmatched exporters, alter the gains from trade, endogenize entry costs, and imply that the competitive equilibrium does not generally result in the socially optimal number of searching firms. Finally, ignoring search frictions results in biased estimates of the effect of tariffs on trade flows.
Keywords: Search, trade, goods, frictions, information
Abstract: This paper develops a multi-country, general equilibrium, semi endogenous growth model of innovation and trade in which specialization in innovation and production are jointly determined. The distinctive element of the model is the ability of the agents to direct their research efforts to specific goods, in a context of heterogeneous innovation capabilities across countries and contemporaneous decreasing returns to R&D. The model features a two-way relationship between trade and technology absent in standard quantitative Ricardian trade models. I calibrate the model using a sample of 29 countries and 18 manufacturing industries and quantify the importance of endogenous adjustments in technology. I find that endogenous adjustments in technology due to directed research can account for up to 52.8 percent of the observed variance in comparative advantage in production. In addition, the model suggests that standard Ricardian models overestimate the reductions in real income from increases in trade costs and underestimate the increment in real income due to trade liberalizations.
Keywords: Trade, innovation, directed research, quantitative models
Abstract: Why do emerging market economies simultaneously hold very high levels of international reserves and foreign liabilities? Moreover, why, even with such huge amounts of international reserves, did countries barely use them during the Global Financial Crisis? I argue that including international reserves as an implicit collateral for external borrowing in a small open economy model subject to exogenous financial shocks can explain both of these puzzling facts. I find that the model can obtain ratios of international reserves and net foreign liabilities to GDP similar to those of Latin American countries. Additionally, the optimal policy implies that the government accumulates international reserves before a sudden stop and that there is a small depletion during it. Finally, an alternative policy of keeping international reserves constant at the average level yields results very similar to those of the optimal policy during sudden stops, highlighting the stabilizing role of international reserves even if central banks do not use them.
Keywords: International reserves, emerging market economies, sudden stops, international crises
Abstract: This paper studies the patterns of internal liquidity management and their effect on bank lending, using a novel branch-level dataset of Brazilian banks. Our results suggest that internal liquidity management increases during times of financial stress. Privately owned banks are most affected by a liquidity shock, and increase the level of internal funding to maintain their branch lending, while their government-owned competitors react strategically. Private and government banks increase the funding of branches in concentrated and riskier areas. This funding translates into more lending, as the sensitivity of lending to internal funding remains high after the liquidity shock. Altogether, this paper provides branch-level evidence of the way that banks ration internal liquidity, both in normal times and in times of stress, and the effect this has on bank lending.
Keywords: Internal liquidity management, Brazil, bank lending.
Abstract: Using the text of financial stability reports (FSRs) published by central banks, we analyze the relation between the financial cycle and the sentiment conveyed in these official communications. To do so, we construct a dictionary tailored specifically to a financial stability context, which assigns positive and negative connotations based on the sentiment conveyed by words in FSRs. With this dictionary, we construct a financial stability sentiment (FSS) index. Using a panel of 35 countries for the sample period between 2005 and 2015, we find that central banks' FSS indexes are mostly driven by developments in the banking sector and by the indicators that convey information about the health of this sector. We also find that the sentiment captured by the FSS index translates into changes in financial cycle indicators related to credit, asset prices, and systemic risk. Finally, our results show that central banks' sentiment deteriorates just prior to the start of banking crises.
Keywords: Financial stability, Central bank communications, Text analysis, Dictionary, Sentiment index.
Abstract: This paper looks at the reversals in global financial integration through the funding liquidity lens. First, we construct a segmentation indicator based on differences in funding liquidity across countries as measured by the performance of betting-against-beta strategies. Second, we find that funding liquidity shocks help explain recent reversals in integration in the absence of explicit foreign investment barriers. These findings are consistent with tighter limits to arbitrage and increased home bias during funding distress periods. Our empirical analysis is guided by a margin-CAPM model generalized to an international setting.
Keywords: International Finance, Market Segmentation, Integration Reversals, Funding Liquidity
Abstract: We build a parsimonious international asset pricing model in which deviations of government bond yields from a fitted yield curve of a country measure the tightness of investors' capital constraints. We compute these measures at daily frequency for six major markets and use them to test the model-predicted effect of funding conditions on asset prices internationally. Global illiquidity lowers the slope and increases the intercept of the international security market line. Local illiquidity helps explain the variation in alphas, Sharpe ratios, and the performance of betting-against-beta (BAB) strategies across countries.
Keywords: Liquidity, Market Frictions, Capital Constraints, International CAPM
Abstract: This paper provides evidence that shifts in the occupational composition of the U.S. workforce are the most important factor explaining the trend decline in the labor share over the past four decades. Estimates suggest that while there is unitary elasticity between equipment capital and non-routine tasks, equipment capital and routine tasks are highly substitutable. Through the lenses of a general equilibrium model with occupational choice and the estimated production technology, I document that the fall in relative price of equipment capital alone can explain 72 percent of the observed decline in the U.S. labor share. In addition, I find that differences in labor share trends across sectors can be accounted for by varying sensitivities of cost of production to the price of equipment capital.
Keywords: Labor share, technological change, capital-task complementarity, elasticity of substitution, job polarization, Bayesian estimation.
Abstract: Recent studies have shown that disaster risk can generate asset return moments similar to those observed in the U.S. data. However, these studies have ignored the cross-country asset pricing implications of the disaster risk model. This paper shows that standard U.S.-based disaster risk model assumptions found in the literature lead to counterfactual international asset pricing implications. Given consumption pricing moments, disaster risk cannot explain the range of equity premia and government bill rates nor the high degree of equity return correlation found in the data. Moreover, the independence of disasters presumed in some studies generates counterfactually low cross-country correlations in equity markets. Alternatively, if disasters are all shared, the model generates correlations that are excessively high. We show that common and idiosyncratic components of disaster risk are needed to explain the pattern in consumption and equity co-movements.
Keywords: Rare disaster, asset returns, international correlations
Abstract: This paper examines the effect of foreign lending on the domestic lending for US global banks. We show that greater foreign loan growth complements, rather than detracts from, domestic commercial lending. Exploiting a confidential data (FFIEC 009) on international loan exposure of US banks, we estimate that a 1% increase in foreign office lending is associated with a 0.6% growth in domestic commercial lending, suggesting complementarity across these lending channels. However, when capital raising is tight during the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, we find that foreign lending did come at the expense of domestic lending.
Keywords: Multinational, Global Banking, Commercial Loans, Foreign Investments
"Low-For-Long" Interest Rates and Banks' Interest Margins and Profitability: Cross-Country Evidence (PDF)
Abstract: Interest rates in many advanced economies have been low for almost a decade now and are often expected to remain so. This creates challenges for banks. Using a sample of 3,385 banks from 47 countries from 2005 to 2013, we find that a one percentage point interest rate drop implies an 8 basis points lower net interest margin, with this effect greater (20 basis points) at low rates. Low rates also adversely affect bank profitability, but with more variation. And for each additional year of "low for long", margins and profitability fall by another 9 and 6 basis points, respectively.
Keywords: Interest rates, Bank profitability, Net interest margin, Low-for-long
Abstract: In this paper we provide strong evidence that heightened uncertainty in the U.S. real economy or financial markets significantly raises excess returns to the currency carry trade. We posit that this works through the influence of uncertainty on global investors' risk preferences. Macro and financial uncertainty also lower foreign exchange risk reversals, an effect that is particularly strong for high interest rate portfolios. Our results are consistent with the idea that an increase in uncertainty regarding the U.S. economy or financial markets increases investors' risk aversion, which in turn drives up the expected returns and the cost of protection against crash risk in the FX market.
Keywords: Exchange rates, uncovered interest parity, uncertainty
Abstract: This paper studies a principal-agent model in which the information on future firm performance is ambiguous and the agent is averse to ambiguity. We show that if firm risk is ambiguous, while stocks always induce the agent to perceive a high risk, options can induce him to perceive a low risk. As a result, options can be less costly in incentivizing the agent than stocks in the presence of ambiguity. In addition, we show that providing the agent with more incentives would induce the agent to perceive a higher risk, and there is a discontinuous jump in the compensation cost as incentives increase, which makes the principal reluctant to reset contracts frequently when underlying fundamentals change. Thus, compensation contracts exhibit an inertia property. Lastly, the model sheds some light on the use of relative performance evaluation, and provides a rationale for the puzzle of pay-for-luck in the presence of ambiguity.
Keywords: Ambiguity, Executive compensation, Options, Relative performance evaluation
Abstract: This paper explores the direct effects and spillovers of unconventional monetary and exchange rate policies. We find that official purchases of foreign assets have a large positive effect on a country's current account that diminishes considerably as capital mobility rises. There is an important additional effect through the lagged stock of official assets. Official purchases of domestic assets, or quantitative easing (QE), appear to have no significant effect on a country's current account when capital mobility is high, but there is a modest positive impact when capital mobility is low. The effects of purchases of foreign assets spill over to other countries in proportion to their degree of international financial integration. We also find that increases in US bond yields are associated with increases in foreign bond yields and in stock prices, as well as with depreciations of foreign currencies, but that all of these effects are smaller on days of US unconventional monetary policy announcements. We develop a theoretical model that is broadly consistent with our empirical results and that highlights the potential usefulness of domestic unconventional policies as responses to the effects of foreign policies of a similar type.
Keywords: current account balance, unconventional monetary policy, foreign exchange intervention, quantitative easing
Abstract: We document new facts about the evolution of firm performance and prices in international markets, and propose a theory of firm dynamics emphasizing the interaction between learning about demand and quality choice to explain the observed patterns. Using data from the Portuguese manufacturing sector, we find that: (1) firms with longer spells of activity in export destinations tend to ship larger quantities at lower prices; (2) older exporters tend to use more expensive inputs; (3) revenue growth within destinations (conditional on initial size) tends to decline with market experience; and (4) input prices and quantities tend to increase with revenue growth within firms. We develop a model of endogenous input and output quality choices in a learning environment that is able to account for these patterns. Counterfactual simulations reveal that minimum quality standards on traded goods reduce welfare by lowering entry in export markets and reallocating resources from old and large towards young and small firms.
Keywords: Learning about demand, prices, product quality, firm dynamics, quality standards.
Abstract: In this paper we study the relationship between task complexity and the occupational wage- and employment structure. Complex tasks are defined as those requiring higher-order skills, such as the ability to abstract, solve problems, make decisions, or communicate effectively. We measure the task complexity of an occupation by performing Principal Component Analysis on a broad set of occupational descriptors in the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) data. We establish four main empirical facts for the U.S. over the 1980-2005 time period that are robust to the inclusion of a detailed set of controls, subsamples, and levels of aggregation: (1) There is a positive relationship across occupations between task complexity and wages and wage growth; (2) Conditional on task complexity, routine-intensity of an occupation is not a Signiant predictor of wage growth and wage levels; (3) Labor has reallocated from less complex to more complex occupations over time; (4) Within groups of occupations with similar task complexity labor has reallocated to non-routine occupations over time. We then formulate a model of Complex-Task-Biased Technological Change with heterogeneous skills and show analytically that it can rationalize these facts. We conclude that workers in non-routine occupations with low ability of solving complex tasks are not shielded from the labor market effects of automatization.
Keywords: Occupational Task Content; Complex Tasks; Wage Polarization; Skills
Abstract: We extend the framework used in Aikman, Kiley, Lee, Palumbo, and Warusawitharana (2015) that maps vulnerabilities in the U.S. financial system to a broader set of advanced and emerging economies. Our extension tracks a broader set of vulnerabilities and, therefore, captures signs of different types of crises. The typical anatomy of the evolution of vulnerabilities before and after a financial crisis is as follows. Pressures in asset valuations materialize, and a build-up of imbalances in the external, financial, and nonfinancial sectors follows. A financial crisis is typically followed by a build-up of sovereign debt imbalances as the government tries to deal with the consequences of the crisis. Our early warnings indicators which aggregate these vulnerabilities predict banking crises better than the Credit-to-GDP gap at long horizons. Our indicators also predict the severity of banking crises and the duration of recessions, as they take into account possible spill-over and amplification channels of financial stress to from one to another sector in the economy. Our indicators are of relevance for macroprudential and crisis management, in part, because they perform better than the Credit-to-GDP gap and do not suffer from the gaps econometric flaws.
Keywords: credit-to-GDP gap; crisis management; financial vulnerabilities; early warning system; financial crises; banking crises; currency crises; macroprudential policy
Abstract: Is there a link between capital controls and monetary policy autonomy in a country with a floating currency? Shocks to capital flows into a small open economy lead to volatility in asset prices and credit supply. To lessen the impact of capital flows on financial instability, a central bank funds it optimal to use the domestic interest rate to "manage" the capital account. Capital account restrictions affect the behavior of optimal monetary policy following shocks to the foreign interest rate. Capital controls allow optimal monetary policy to focus less on the foreign interest rate and more on domestic variables.
Keywords: capital controls; credit constraints; small open economy
Supplemental materials (.zip): This file includes the data, code, and output for the empirical and analytical results in this paper.
Abstract: Government debt and forecasts thereof attracted considerable attention during the recent financial crisis. The current paper analyzes potential biases in different U.S. government agencies' one-year-ahead forecasts of U.S. gross federal debt over 1984-2012. Standard tests typically fail to detect biases in these forecasts. However, impulse indicator saturation (IIS) detects economically large and highly significant time-varying biases, particularly at turning points in the business cycle. These biases do not appear to be politically related. IIS defines a generic procedure for examining forecast properties; it explains why standard tests fail to detect bias; and it provides a mechanism for potentially improving forecasts.
Keywords: Autometrics, bias, debt, federal government, forecasts, impulse indicator saturation, heteroscedasticity, projections, United States.
Abstract: We study how low interest rates in the United States affect risk taking in the market for cross-border corporate loans. Because banks tend to originate these loans with intent to sell to nonbank investors, we examine risk taking by the broad financial system. To the extent that actions of the Federal Reserve affect U.S. interest rates, our analysis provides evidence of cross-border spillover effects of U.S. monetary policy and highlights the global lending and risk-taking channels. We find that movements in the U.S. interest rates have an important effect on ex-ante credit risk of cross-border corporate loans, though the channels are different in the pre- and post-crisis periods. Before the crisis, banks made ex-ante riskier loans to non-U.S. borrowers in response to a decline in U.S. short-term interest rates, and, after it, banks and nonbanks originated such loans in response to a decline in U.S. longer-term interest rates. Economic uncertainty, risk appetite, and the U.S. dollar exchange rate appear to play a limited role in explaining ex-ante credit risk. Our results highlight the potential policy challenges faced by central banks in affecting credit risk cycles in their own jurisdictions.
Keywords: Syndicated loans, risk taking, monetary policy, international spillovers.