Consumer credit card balances in the United States experienced unprecedented declines during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the G.19 Consumer Credit statistical release, revolving consumer credit fell more than $120 billion (11 percent) in 2020, the largest decline in both nominal and percentage terms in the history of the series.
After collapsing in the second half of 2020, global demand for goods, as reflected in global trade, has been exceptionally strong and now well exceeds pre-pandemic levels. The sharp bounceback reflects several factors, including an unprecedented amount of global stimulus and the drawdown of excess savings (especially for high-income households).
On January 1, 2020, most large and mid-sized U.S. banks adopted Current Expected Credit Losses (CECL), a new accounting standard for estimating allowances. Allowance for credit losses is an estimate of the amount that a bank is unlikely to recover from a financial asset.
At the onset of the COVID-19 recession, a large share of the employed switched to remote work. Individual- and firm-level surveys indicated that the switch affected between 35 and 45 percent of workers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has materially affected U.S. consumer behavior and business operations in many important aspects. This note focuses on the changes in banks’ balance sheets and demonstrates how we could apply a novel measure of portfolio similarity to balance sheet data and assess the drivers of similarity change along the path of the pandemic.
In the decade prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, bank branches were closing at a steady rate. Additionally, households with a bank account increasingly adopted mobile or online banking for at least a portion of their banking needs. As COVID-19 dramatically changes the desire and willingness for consumers to have in-person interactions, it may accelerate both of these trends and lead to a permanent shift in how people access financial services.
Shortages of key components and logistics problems have constrained factory output since the start of the year. Numerous anecdotes and survey measures have highlighted the emergence of supply chain bottlenecks and other supply constraints; to complement those qualitative characterizations, this note proposes a novel methodology to quantify bottlenecks in the manufacturing sector.
A key challenge for monetary policymakers in achieving their inflation goals—particularly important at the current juncture—is to be able to distinguish between persistent inflationary changes and short-term idiosyncratic shocks. The most common approach for filtering out short-term price shocks from inflation is to focus on measures of "core" inflation, traditionally defined as the change in the consumer price index (CPI) excluding food and energy prices.
The labor force participation rate (LFPR)—the fraction of the population ages 16 and older that is either working or actively looking for work—moved up steadily over the last few years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and stood at 63.3 percent in February 2020. Two months later, the LFPR had plunged to 60.2 percent, and despite some improvement since then, the LFPR has remained depressed relative to its pre-COVID level (fluctuating between 61.4 percent and 61.7 percent since Fall 2020).
Large and growing income differentials in the US have generated a mounting interest in income inequality among economists. The average income in the highest quintile of households increased by about 70 percent in real terms from 1985 to 2019, whereas the average income of the lowest quintile only increased by 20 percent during this period (Semega et al. 2020).
In the United States, the average Black and Hispanic or Latino households earn about half as much as the average White household and own only about 15 to 20 percent as much net wealth. As we see in Figure 1 below, this wealth gap has widened notably over the past few decades.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a large shock to economies and financial systems around the world. In the beginning, as governments introduced unprecedented measures to contain the quickly spreading virus and households hunkered down to socially distance from one another, output plummeted, unemployment skyrocketed, and significant financial stress materialized.
Banking organizations in the United States have long been subject to two broad categories of regulatory standards. The first is permissive: a "positive" grant of rights and privileges, typically via a charter for a corporate entity, to engage in the business of banking.
Since 2011, the Chair of the Federal Reserve has held post-FOMC meeting press conferences. In a recent survey by the Hutchins Center at Brookings, which canvassed Federal Reserve watchers in academia and the private sector, respondents indicated that they view these live press conferences as the most useful of the Federal Reserve's communication tools, with more than 80 percent of respondents rating the press conferences as "useful" or "extremely useful."
For most of the last century, the preeminent role of the U.S. dollar in the global economy has been supported by the size and strength of the U.S. economy, its stability and openness to trade and capital flows, and strong property rights and the rule of law. As a result, the depth and liquidity of U.S. financial markets is unmatched, and there is a large supply of extremely safe dollar-denominated assets.
Economic textbooks outline a simple relationship between movements in a country’s exchange rate and its export volumes. When the exporter’s currency depreciates, export volumes are expected to increase due to competitiveness gains in foreign markets.
Hedge funds play an increasingly important role in U.S. Treasury (UST) cash and futures markets, a role that has been widely discussed following the March 2020 U.S. Treasury sell-off. In this note, we analyze hedge funds' holdings of UST securities and their UST market activities in normal times and in times of financial market stress using regulatory data from the SEC Form PF.
The failure of large and connected financial institutions often leads to system-wide financial crises and economic downturns (Labonte 2015). Even absent outright failure and bankruptcy, perceived weakness of a large and connected financial firm can result in decrease valuation of other firms – due to perceived linkages – and overall decrease in market liquidity.
A wide range of economic activity has been severely disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, while others have been remarkably resilient throughout the restrictions placed on our physical interactions. The unique pattern of income losses, spending reductions and substitutions, and government relief raise many questions about how different groups fared economically over the last year.
Banks need sufficient liquidity—cash and other assets that may be easily and immediately converted into cash—to meet their financial obligations, such as when households withdraw deposits or businesses tap credit lines. One key takeaway from the Global Financial Crisis of 2007–09 was that continuity of bank intermediation is particularly important in times of stress to limit pressure on the financial system, and that banks need to consistently maintain sufficient liquidity to achieve that outcome.
What Did we Learn from 2 billion jabs? Early Cross-Country Evidence on the Effect of COVID-19 Vaccinations on Deaths, Mobility, and Economic Activity
In the first five months of 2021, about two billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered around the world. The pace of vaccinations varied significantly across countries and over time. In this note, we study the early effects of vaccinations on mortality, stringency of government restrictions on activity, and mobility indicators, using a large sample of advanced and emerging market economies from December 2020 through May 2021.
This note analyzes competition and concentration in the small business lending market using data obtained from Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) disclosures and data on local branches from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation's (FDIC) Summary of Deposits (SOD). In 1963, the Supreme Court defined the product market for commercial banking.
New homes listed for sale fell sharply at the beginning of the pandemic. Anecdotal evidence suggests that fear of COVID made homeowners reluctant to list their homes, driving down new listings. Figure 1 shows that from March to April 2020, as COVID lockdowns went into effect, new listings declined by more than one-third relative to previous years and did not return to normal levels until July 2020.
The shortage of women and historically underrepresented racial and ethnic groups in the economics profession has received considerable public attention in the past several years. The American Economic Association (AEA), the professional organization for economists, has been taking steps to address criticism that the economics discipline is unwelcoming to women and underrepresented minorities.
Before the 2008 financial crisis, the Federal Reserve (Fed) regularly conducted repurchase agreements (repos) in a fairly modest size with primary dealers to adjust the supply of reserves in the banking system and to keep the federal funds rate at the target set by the FOMC. During the economic downturn that followed the financial crisis, the Fed engaged in large scale asset purchases in order to provide additional monetary accommodation, and those purchases significantly increased the supply of reserves and eliminated the need for the Fed to engage in repo operations to increase reserves in the system.
The overnight segment of the triparty repurchase agreement (repo) market plays a pivotal role in the normal functioning of the U.S. financial system by acting as an important source of secured short-term funding and supporting the liquidity of key fixed income markets, including U.S. Treasury and agency securities. This over-the-counter market accounts for over $1 trillion in daily transactions and provides a unique venue in which a diverse set of market participants invest their cash as well as obtain short-term funding.
The COVID-19 recession resulted in historic unemployment and a significant shock to much of the service sector. Despite these macroeconomic challenges, banks' risk-based capital buffers remain high and the number of bank failures remains low. Government relief programs, including the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, both directly and indirectly helped stabilize bank balance sheets during the crisis.
The unprecedented fiscal and monetary policy support in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the fore concerns that cheap credit could fuel the financing of zombie firms—that is, firms that are unable to generate enough profits to cover debt-servicing costs and that need to borrow to stay alive. Many observers have recently commented that zombie firms may crowd out lending to productive firms and erode the strength of the U.S. economy.
Accounting for COVID-19 Related Funding, Credit, Liquidity, and Loan Facilities in the Financial Accounts of the United States
Does the Age at Which a Consumer Gets Their First Credit Matter? Credit Bureau Entry Age and First Credit Type Effects on Credit Score
The consumer credit market plays a prominent role in the financial life of U.S. households. Consumers' credit histories and, in particular their credit scores, are key factors that determine their access to credit and the price at which they borrow.
Beginning in late February 2020, market liquidity for corporate bonds dried up and corporate bond credit spreads soared amid broad financial market dislocations related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The causes of this liquidity dry-up and the spike in corporate bond spreads remain subjects of debate.
As the labor market recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, claims for unemployment insurance (UI) have been surprisingly slow to return to conventional levels. As recently as 2021Q1, initial claims for regular UI benefits averaged nearly 800,000 per week (see Figure 1)—more than twice as many as were observed at a comparable point during the recovery from the Great Recession.
The labor market experiences of Americans differ by race, ethnicity, and gender. For example, between 1977 and 2019, the monthly standard deviation (volatility) of the unemployment rate for Black workers was 3.2 percent, substantially higher than the 1.5 percent experienced by their white counterparts.
Banks' numerous and simultaneous backtesting exceptions in March 2020, during the COVID-19-related market crash, would have amplified their already-large spike in market risk capital requirements in the absence of regulatory intervention. This note provides background on how backtesting exceptions affect capital requirements generally, the source of those exceptions during the COVID-19 crash, and how regulators exercised discretion to mitigate the unintended capital increase.
This note shows forward term spreads provide little information about recessions more than a couple years ahead. In fact, forward term spreads are essentially equivalent to today's term spreads in their ability to accurately predict further-ahead recessions.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the housing market has tightened considerably. The tighter housing market could reflect increased demand (higher inflow of buyers to the market), reduced supply (lower inflow of sellers to the market), or some combination of the two.
Rising U.S. interest rates are often thought to be bad news for emerging market economies (EMEs) as they increase debt burdens, trigger capital outflows, and generally cause a tightening of financial conditions that can lead to financial crises. Indeed, as shown in Figure 1 below, the rise in the federal funds rate (the black line) during the Volcker disinflation of the early 1980s was associated with a sharp rise in the incidence of financial crises in EMEs (the green bars).
This note focuses on the importance of a mechanism guaranteeing the inseparable functionality of the technical components of a programmable money system rather than prescribing the specific nature of those components.
The downturn in global economic activity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic was unique both for its causes and for its severity. Even though, on a global scale, the recent contraction is unprecedented in modern times, it is useful to look at the consequences of large recessions which affected individual countries in the past.
Did the U.S. Bilateral Goods Deficit With China Increase or Decrease During the US-China Trade Conflict?
The United States' bilateral goods trade deficit with China appeared to have narrowed substantially since the escalation of the U.S.-China trade conflict in 2018, or so U.S. trade data suggest. By contrast, the Chinese data tell a much different story: the deficit, as implied by China's bilateral surplus, nearly reached historical highs by the end of 2020.
The Federal Reserve's oldest data collection, designed to gather weekly information about commercial banks' balance sheets, will turn 104 years old this year. Initiated in December 1917 in response to World War I, this voluntary collection currently underlies the Board's H.8 statistical release, Assets and Liabilities of Commercial Banks in the United States. This Note describes the origins of this collection, some highlights regarding its evolution, and how the data are used today.
The Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) is one of the main data sources in the United States for assessing and analyzing differences in wealth and financial well-being across families. In recent years, the SCF estimates of racial and ethnic wealth gaps have garnered considerable attention, in part because these disparities are so large and persistent.
During early March 2020, amid rapidly spreading restrictions associated with preventing the spread of COVID-19, financial markets came under immense strain. These strains ultimately spilled over to funding markets and to institutions that are highly dependent on such markets.
The Vaccine Boost: An Analysis of the Impact of the COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout on Measures of Activity
Several measures of economic activity have shown improvement since the start of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. This note quantifies the impact of the rollout across four main dimensions of activity: spending, mobility, education, and employment.
How much lockdown policies contribute to local unemployment? Evidence from the first and second waves of COVID-19
Did people reduce their social interactions as a result of the pandemic, restrictive lockdown policies, or both? What was the impact of reduced social interactions on local employment? Importantly, why did unemployment spike during the first wave of the pandemic, but gradually decline thereafter, even though the outbreak was much more severe during the second wave? In this note, we attempt to answer these questions by exploiting newly available data on hours worked among small firms at the industry-county-state-week level.
After plunging in the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, residential investment had a strong recovery in the second half of 2020. The initial decline resulted from both a disruption in activity due to social distancing, a broad-based drop in demand from economic uncertainty, and reduced access to credit (DeSanctis 2020).
The Treasury market flash event of February 25, 2021 underscores the pivotal role of high-speed liquidity provision in the most liquid electronic parts of the Treasury market. We find evidence that the sharp drop in prices that day was accompanied by a sudden drop in market depth and a brief deterioration in high-speed liquidity provision amid elevated transaction volumes, albeit to a much lesser extent than during the episode of severe illiquidity in March 2020. Similar to some previous episodes accompanied by moderately elevated economic and financial market uncertainty, market depth has recovered steadily since February 25 at a pace comparable to that observed following other such episodes, while high-speed liquidity provision appears to have rebounded fairly quickly. That said, market depth has taken over a month to partially recover, which suggests that Treasury market liquidity has been more heavily reliant on high-speed replenishment to meet trading demand and may remain fragile.
Foreign banks’ asset reallocation in response to the introduction of the Intermediate Holding Company rule of 2016
The implementation of the 2016 intermediate holding company (IHC) rule required foreign banking organizations (FBOs) operating with more than $50 billion total global consolidated assets and with $50 billion or more in U.S. non-branch assets to consolidate their non-branch activities – including their U.S. subsidiaries and U.S. broker-dealers – into holding companies, to be supervised by the Federal Reserve.
The distribution of household credit risk can vary with aggregate economic and credit conditions. For example, the share of subprime-scored borrowers declined at a relatively steady pace during the economic recovery from the Global Financial Crisis. Although the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the economic conditions that supported this trend, the pace of decline accelerated following the pandemic’s onset in March 2020. The analysis that follows suggests that this acceleration was largely driven by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act’s (CARES Act) forbearance provisions.
In this note, we look into investment funds' access to and usage of bank credit, based on a new dataset on credit line (and other types of loan) extension by top bank holding companies to open-end mutual funds and ETFs in the United States. We find that the aggregate amount of bank lending to open-end funds and ETFs was small and greatly fluctuated across time. Bank credit, particularly in the form of credit lines, has offered funds a flexible liquidity source from which they can draw down cash in times of excessive fund outflows, such as during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. In particular, funds that hold relatively more illiquid assets, such as bank loan funds, are more reliant on bank credit lines.
The Main Street Lending Program (Main Street) was one of several new credit facilities launched by the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We analyze the recent behavior of oil and equity prices in the context of our earlier work, Datta, et al. (2021), which focuses on the previous zero lower bound (ZLB) episode, in the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis. We find that the correlation between oil and equity returns and the responsiveness of these returns to macroeconomic surprises are perhaps elevated relative to normal times but somewhat moderated relative to the previous ZLB episode.
In August 2020, the Federal Open Market Committee approved a revised Statement on Longer-Run Goals and Monetary Policy Strategy (FOMC, 2020) and in the subsequent FOMC meetings, the Committee made material changes to its forward guidance to bring it in line with the new framework. Clarida (2021) characterizes the new framework as comprising a number of key features.
This Note describes how risks arising from climate change may affect financial stability. We describe how climate-change related risks may emerge either as shocks to the financial system or as financial system vulnerabilities that could amplify the effects of these or other shocks.
The global financial crisis of 2008-09 (GFC) followed an extended period of growth in non-financial corporate (NFC) sector debt. NFC corporate debt resumed its climb a few years after the GFC, and the pace of growth picked up in 2020, as firms took on debt to cover revenue lost during the pandemic or to build up precautionary liquidity buffers.
The contrast between the labor market and house prices during the pandemic has been stark. In this note, we document a strong positive relationship between forbearance takeup and house price growth at the county level, controlling for the unemployment rate and other factors.
In an earlier FEDS Note, "Index of Common Inflation Expectations," we introduced the Index of Common Inflation Expectations, or "CIE", which summarizes the comovement of a wide variety of inflation expectations measures based on a dynamic factor model.
Why is the Default Rate So Low? How Economic Conditions and Public Policies Have Shaped Mortgage and Auto Delinquencies During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Delinquencies and defaults on household debt typically closely follow the business cycle. As economic conditions deteriorate, falling employment and incomes put a strain on family finances, leading to a rise in missed debt payments and defaults. Yet, against the backdrop of a historic rise in unemployment associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, delinquencies have fallen. This FEDS Note documents trends in delinquency on mortgages and auto loans during the COVID-19 pandemic, and unpacks how changes in economic conditions and public policies have been associated with borrowers’ debt repayment behavior.
In this note, we estimate the economic effects of the increases in tariffs between China and the USA since the beginning of 2018, taking into account the investment channel. As of the bilateral Phase One agreement in early 2020, the United States has raised tariffs on about $335 billion of Chinese goods and China has raised tariffs on about $120 billion of US goods.
The 12-month change in core PCE price inflation was 1.5 percent in December. Why was core inflation so low in 2020? How much of this weakness can be attributed to the COVID pandemic? And what does this mean for inflation going forward?
Over the last few years, interest in the potential issuance of a general-purpose central bank digital currency (CBDC) has increased. Introducing and operating a CBDC would require actions by many stakeholders and not just the central bank. In view of the far-reaching implications of introducing a new form of money to the public, the decision cannot be taken lightly. This paper outlines foundational preconditions and proposes areas of work that may help achieve them prior to the possible implementation of a potential future general-purpose CBDC in the United States. These foundational preconditions include clear policy objectives, broad stakeholder support, a strong legal framework, robust technology, and readiness for market acceptance and adoption.
Acts of Congress and COVID-19: A Literature Review on the Impact of Increased Unemployment Insurance Benefits and Stimulus Checks
Congress passed the first COVID-19 relief package for businesses and individuals in March 2020, when the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was enacted, providing, among other things, one-time stimulus checks for individuals, extended unemployment insurance (UI) benefits, relief for state and local governments, liability protection, and the Paycheck Protection Program for small-business loan forgiveness.
The period from January 2018 to September 2019 saw an unprecedented increase in tariffs placed on U.S. imports, especially on those originating in China. We document the extent to which tariff exclusions and other factors lowered the average effective tariff on Chinese goods. Given that the large majority of tariff exclusions expired on December 31, 2020, our analysis also indicates that U.S. effective tariffs on Chinese goods increased notably at the start of 2021.
Since early-April 2020, the Community Development function of the Federal Reserve Board and the twelve Federal Reserve Banks have, approximately every eight weeks, surveyed key stakeholders in local communities across the United States to learn about how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting their community.
This FEDS Note looks at the effect of Regional Trade Agreements on trade between the agreement zone and the rest of the world. Global Value Chains are associated with an increase in outflow. Hence, RTAs can be a stumbling block for multilateralism.
The global collapse in economic activity triggered by individual and policy-mandated responses to the spread of COVID-19 is unprecedented both in scale and origin. At the time of writing, U.S. GDP is expected by professional forecasters to contract a staggering 6 percent over the course of 2020 driven by its 32 percent collapse in the second quarter (measured at an annual rate).
As of year-end 2019, nonfinancial business debt (BD) and household debt (HD) as a share of GDP were at similar levels of around 74 percent, and yet Federal Reserve Financial Stability Report suggested that BD posed greater risks to financial stability than HD. Since the onset of the pandemic, the size of aggregate BD has increased considerably as a result of roughly $1.25 trillion of new issuance, while HD has grown by less than $100 billion. This note looks through the lens of fire-sale risks to show why nonfinancial BD is more concerning for financial stability than the HD.
In most recessions, household spending on goods—particularly durables—and housing tends to fall sharply and remain weak for many quarters. In contrast, services spending has generally responded little to business cycles. This time, however, the opposite has occurred, as shown in Figure 1.
Disclaimer: FEDS Notes are articles in which Board staff offer their own views and present analysis on a range of topics in economics and finance. These articles are shorter and less technically oriented than FEDS Working Papers and IFDP papers.