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Finance and Economics Discussion Series

Other Years Available:
feds 1997-59
January 1998

Interest Rates and M2 in an Error-Correction Macro Model (PDF)

William Whitesell

Abstract: With annual data, real M2 is shown to have a surprisingly strong contemporaneous and leading relationship to GDP, that is robust to the inclusion of other explanatory variables. When combined and tested with parsimonious error correction equations for money demand, price determination, and a monetary policy reaction function, an overall macroeconometric model is revealed with an unusually good fit aside from a velocity shift adjustment needed for the early 1990s and better inflation performance than expected of late. A regime shift is evident in the stronger response of the Federal Reserve to inflation in the 1980s than in the previous two decades.

Keywords: Money, M2, macroeconometric model, p-star

Abstract: This paper presents an intuitive and analytical model of how the federal safety net affects banks' cost of funds. Emphasis is placed on distinguishing between fixed and marginal costs in banking and on the implications of the model for measuring the subsidy. Empirical results strongly suggest that the safety net has benefitted banks and that over recent years bank holding companies have tended to move activities into a bank or a bank subsidiary. We conclude that limiting extension of the safety net subsidy should be a serious concern when designing strategies for expanding bank activities.

Keywords: Banks, safety net, deposit insurance, powers

Abstract: Blanchflower and Oswald (1994) have argued that, in regional data, the level of unemployment is related to the level of wages. This result is at variance with the implications of the original Phillips curve for regional data, which would predict that the change in wages ought to be related to the unemployment rate. On the other hand, there is considerable empirical support for the expectations-augmented Phillips curve using macroeconomic data. I resolve this tension by showing that a standard macroeconomic expectations-augmented Phillips curve can be derived from microfoundations that begin with the wage curve.

Keywords: Phillips curve, wage curve, new keynesian economics

Abstract: This paper reexamines the oil price-macroeconomy relationship with rolling Granger causality and structural stability tests. It finds that this relationship broke down amidst the falling oil prices and market collapse of the 1980s, suggesting misspecification of the oil price rather than a weakened relationship. Some proposed respecifications of the oil price yield considerable improvements, although they are not sufficient to achieve Granger causality of output unless interest rates are excluded from the VAR. There is some support for the explanation that oil prices affect the economy indirectly by inducing monetary policy responses, but this is incomplete and some evidence of misspecification remains.

Keywords: Oil price shocks, Granger causality

Full paper (778 KB Postscript)

Abstract: This paper uses the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) to examine pension coverage, estimate Social Security and pension wealth for U.S. households in 1989 and 1992, and estimate the effects of pension wealth on non-pension net worth. As expected, the SCF data show that including pensions and Social Security in net worth makes the distribution more even. The analysis of the effects of pension wealth on other types of savings indicates that there is a negative effect of defined benefit plan coverage on non-pension net worth. Surprisingly, the effect of defined contribution plans, such as 401(k) plans is insignificant.

Keywords: Pensions, social security, wealth distribution

Abstract: This paper presents a simple model of wage bargaining and employment flows designed to address the effects of policies to increase the rate of exit to employment of the long-term unemployed. Exit rates from long- and short-term unemployment have two effects on the unemployment rate: a positive one as high exit rates strengthen current employees' bargaining positions and thus wages and a negative one as faster outflows from unemployment reduce the stock of unemployed. Thus, there is a trade-off between the exit rate from long-term unemployment and the exit rate from short-term unemployment. The paper's principal result is that, in steady-state, increasing the exit rate from long-term unemployment reduces the unemployment rate. Dynamic simulations show that raising the exit rate of the long-term unemployed leads to a decrease in both the mean and variance of the unemployment rate.

Keywords: Unemployment, duration dependence

Full paper (828 KB Postscript)
feds 1997-53
November 1997

Inflation, Taxes, and the Durability of Capital (PDF)

Darrel Cohen and Kevin Hassett

Abstract: Auerbach (1979, 1981) has demonstrated that inflation can lead to large inter-asset distortions, with the negative effects of higher inflation unambiguously declining with asset life. We show that this is true only if depreciation is treated as geometric for tax purposes. When depreciation is straightline, higher inflation can have the opposite effect, discouraging investment in long-lived assets. Since our current system can be thought of as a mixture of straightline and geometric, the sign of the inter-asset distortion is indeterminate. We show that under current U.S. tax rules, the "straightline" and "geometric" effects approximately cancel for equipment, causing almost no inter-asset distortions. For structures, inflation clearly causes substitution into long-lived assets.

Keywords: Inflation, user cost of capital, capital durability

Full paper (102 KB Postscript)
feds 1997-52
January 1998

Market Definition and the Analysis of Antitrust in Banking (PDF)

Myron L. Kwast, Martha Starr-McCluer, and John D. Wolken

Abstract: In antitrust analysis of bank mergers, banking markets are viewed as geographically local, with a "cluster" of products as the relevant product line. This view is criticized as outdated, now that many bank products are offered by nonbank institutions and financial institutions' operations are increasingly national in scope. This paper reexamines the question of market definition in banking, using two micro data sets uniquely well-suited to the task. We find that local depositories remain the dominant supplier of key financial services to households and small businesses, with geographic proximity still important in their institution choice.

Keywords: Market definition, antitrust, banking

Full paper (350 KB Postscript)

Abstract: The standard derivation of the accelerationist Phillips curve relates expected real wage inflation to the unemployment rate and invokes a constant price markup and adaptive expectations to generate the accelerationist price inflation formula. Blanchflower and Oswald (1994) argue that microeconomic evidence of a low autoregression coefficient in real wage regressions invalidates the macroeconomic Phillips curve. This conclusion has been disputed by a number of authors on the grounds that the true autoregression coefficient is close to 1. This paper shows that given the assumption of a constant price markup, micro-level real wage dynamics have no observable implications for macro data on wage and price inflation.

Keywords: Inflation, wage curve, Phillips curve

Full paper (192 KB Postscript)
feds 1997-50
January 1998

Consistency Conditions for Regulatory Analysis of Financial Institutions: A Comparison of Frontier Efficiency Methods (2.5 MB PDF)

Paul W. Bauer, Allen N. Berger, Gary D. Ferrier, and David B. Humphrey

Abstract: We propose a set of consistency conditions that frontier efficiency measures should meet to be most useful for regulatory analysis or other purposes. The efficiency estimates should be consistent in their efficiency levels, rankings, and identification of best and worst firms; consistent over time and with competitive conditions in the market; and consistent with standard nonfrontier measures of performance. We provide evidence on these conditions by evaluating and comparing efficiency estimates on U.S. bank efficiency from variants of all four of the major approaches--DEA, SFA, TFA, and DFA--and find mixed results.

Keywords: Bank, financial institution, efficiency, regulation, profit, cost

Abstract: This paper analyzes tests of the Cagan hyperinflation-money demand model that have several advantages relative to those in the literature. They do not confound specification error with rational bubbles, are implementable with a linear procedure, and are frequently able to detect periodically collapsing bubbles that have challenged existing tests. After a Monte Carlo analysis, the tests are applied to data from hyperinflations in Austria, Germany, Hungary, and Poland. Strong evidence of model misspecification is found for Austria, while the model with a rational, explosive component well characterizes the Polish data. Inferences for Germany and Hungary are mixed.

Keywords: Hyperinflation, bubble, specification error

Abstract: This paper uses individual responses from the Michigan SRC survey of consumer attitudes to examine worker anxiety. It identifies "anxious" households (those that express some concern about job security) and analyzes some factors that might be driving this angst. It found that a little more than a quarter of households revealed concerns about job security. Also, the results suggest that less-educated households (those lacking a high-school diploma) were significantly more likely to be concerned about job loss than were black or Asian households.

Keywords: Job insecurity, Michigan survey

Full paper (490 KB Postscript)
feds 1997-47
January 1998

Restraining the Leviathan: Property Tax Limitation in Massachusetts (PDF)

David M. Cutler, Douglas W. Elmendorf, and Richard Zeckhauser

Abstract: We examine the effects of Proposition 2-1/2--a property tax limitation law approved by Massachusetts voters in 1980--and assess voter satisfaction with these effects. We find that the proposition had a smaller effect on local revenues and spending than expected, as a result of both amendments to the law and a strong economy. Voters in 1980 believed there was significant waste in local government, partly because of an inability to monitor local officials. Proposition 2-1/2 curbed these agency losses, but direct local override votes and municipal expenditure patterns imply that the proposition initially reduced spending more than voters wanted.

Keywords: Property tax limits, agency problems

Full paper (431 KB Postscript)

Abstract: This paper emphasizes the notion that model features that contribute to endogenous price rigidity under staggered price setting lower the elasticity of marginal cost with respect to output, and these same model features tend to generate equilibrium indeterminacy, or "sunspot fluctuations", under price flexibility. Using this insight, staggered price setting is shown to imply persistent output responses to monetary shocks for certain parameterizations of one- and two-sector models with small increasing returns or countercyclical markups, and other model features that would contribute to persistence are discussed.

Keywords: Nominal price rigidity, indeterminacy

Full paper (270 KB Postscript)

Abstract: Rising inequality in the relative wages of skilled and unskilled labor is often attributed to skill-biased technological progress. This paper presents a model in which the adoption of skill-biased or "unskilled-biased" technologies is endogenous. Conventional wisdom states that an increase in the supply of skilled labor lowers the relative wage of skilled to unskilled labor. In this paper, an increase in the supply of skilled labor leads to temporary stagnation in the wages of unskilled workers and an expanding gap between the wages of skilled and unskilled workers through an acceleration of skill-biased technological change.

Keywords: Wage inequality, endogenous growth

Full paper (121 KB Postscript)

Abstract: This paper uses the NLSY to examine (1) the returns to two-year college, (2) whether attendance at a two-year college helps students to transfer to four-year college, and (3) whether reducing tuition would alter attendance enough to affect labor outcomes. I find that the returns to a year of two-year college are large (7 to 10 percent). Completing an associate's degree raises wages further. One year of two-year credits has the same effect on subsequent four-year attendance as one year of four-year credits. Finally, simulations show that reducing tuition could raise income modestly by increasing college attendance.

Keywords: Two-year college, four-year college, community college, training, returns to schooling

Abstract: A feature of GMM estimation--the use of a consistent estimate of the optimal weighting matrix rather than the joint estimation of the model parameters and the weighting matrix--can lead to the sensitivity of GMM estimation to the choice of parameter normalization. In many applications, including Euler equation estimation, a model parameter multiplies the equation error in some, but not all, normalizations. But, conventional GMM estimators that either hold the estimate of the weighting matrix fixed or allow some limited iteration on the weighting matrix fail to account for the dependence of the weighting matrix on the parameter vector implied by the multiplication of the error by the parameter. In finite samples, GMM effectively minimizes the square of the parameter times the objective function that obtains from an alternative normalization where no parameter multiplies the equation error, resulting in estimates that are smaller (in absolute value) than those from the alternative normalization. Of course, normalization is irrelevant asymptotically.

Keywords: GMM, finite-sample, normalization, euler-equation, adjustment-costs--employment

Full paper (1089 KB Postscript)
feds 1997-42
September 1997

Expectations, Learning and the Costs of Disinflation: Experiments using the FRB/US Model (PDF)

Antulio Bomfim, Robert Tetlow, Peter von zur Muehlen, and John C. Williams

Abstract: The costs of disinflation are explored using the Board's new sticky-price rational expectations macroeconometric model of the U.S. economy, FRB/US. The model nests both model consistent and `restricted-information rational' expectations. Monetary policy is governed by interest-rate reaction functions of which two are considered: the well-known Taylor rule and another rule that is more aggressive and richer in its specification, estimated using data for the last fifteen years. Agents are required to learn of shifts of the inflation target using linear updating rules. The simulated costs of disinflation are compared with other estimates of sacrifice ratios.

Keywords: Monetary policy, disinflation, expectations, learning, macroeconomic modeling

Full paper (322 KB Postscript)

Abstract: This paper investigates the relations between aggregate trading volume and information on financial markets from a theoretical standpoint. Through numerical examples, it relates some statistics describing equilibrium price and volume--such as the variance of the price and its correlation with the true asset value, the volume mean, variance, skewness, and kurtosis--to the distribution of information across traders. The analysis is carried out in a static noisy rational expectations framework, with multiple informed traders, where both the precision and the correlation of the signals observed by the traders can be modified.

Keywords: Trading volume, information

Full paper (2184 KB Postscript)

Abstract: This paper examines a central bank's choice of intraday credit policy for Real-Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) systems. Formal analysis of central bank objectives and commercial bank payment activity provides insight into both the choice and effects of several possible intraday credit policies. Observed intraday credit policies are interpreted within the context of the model. Among G-10 central banks, different combinations of prices, collateral, and quantity limits have been chosen to manage the supply of intraday credit. Conditions that rationalize these choices are shown to rely on a) central bank preferences regarding credit risk and systemic risk, b) liquidity management technologies, and c) the cost of collateral.

Keywords: Daylight credit, payment systems, RTGS, intraday credit

Abstract: Lamont (1997) claims to find evidence of credit market imperfections that distort financing and investment decisions of a sample of oil-dependent firms, as investment by non-oil units fell when oil cash flow dropped. However, a simple test reveals that few of these firms behaved in a fashion consistent with binding cash flow constraints. In addition, most were cash rich. The data provide strong evidence against the hypothesis that investment decisions by non-oil units were significantly affected by oil cash flow, or that credit market imperfections are an important factor for this set of firms.

Keywords: Cash flow, investment, liquidity constraint

feds 1997-38
August 1997

The Effects of Interest Rates and Taxes on New Car Prices (PDF)

Maura P. Doyle

Abstract: Utilizing the Consumer Expenditure Survey and state-level variation in taxes, this study finds that prices for most models of new cars shift by more than the amount of a sales tax. The evidence of an overshifting of prices offers support for the recent models of tax incidence in imperfectly competitive markets. The results also suggest that changes in the after-tax interest rate have offsetting effects on new car prices; a one percentage point increase in the after-tax real interest rate will prompt, on average, a mark-down of $106.

Keywords: Sales taxes, car prices, interest rates

Full paper (297 KB Postscript)
feds 1997-37
August 1997

Risk, Entrepreneurship, and Human Capital Accumulation (PDF)

Murat F. Iyigun and Ann L. Owen

Abstract: Entrepreneurial human capital plays a relatively more important role in intermediate income countries, but professional human capital is relatively more abundant in richer economies. Because the return to entrepreneurship is risky, individuals devote less time to the accumulation of entrepreneurial skills and more to the accumulation of professional skills as per capita income grows. Countries that initially have too little of either entrepreneurial or professional skills may end up in a development trap. The steady state may be characterized by either too much or too little education.

Keywords: Human capital, occupational choice, education, entrepreneurship, growth

feds 1997-36
August 1997

A Quantitative Exploration of the Opportunistic Approach to Disinflation (PDF)

Athanasios Orphanides, David H. Small, Volker Wieland, and David W. Wilcox

Abstract: A number of observers have advocated recently that the Federal Reserve take an "opportunistic" approach to the conduct of monetary policy. A hallmark of this approach is that the central bank focuses on fighting inflation when inflation is high, but focuses on stabilizing output when inflation is low. The implied policy rule is nonlinear. This paper compares the behavior of inflation and output under opportunistic and conventional linear policies. Using stochastic simulations of a small-scale rational expectations model, we study the cost and time required to achieve a given disinflation, as well as the steady-state distributions of inflation and output under the various rules.

Keywords: Inflation, monetary policy, interest rates, policy rules

Full paper (1052 KB Postscript)

Abstract: This study uses the 1995 Survey of Consumer Finances to examine households' use of technologies, including electronic means, to carry out transactions at a financial institution and to gain information for making saving and borrowing decisions. Household use of various technologies is correlated with household income, financial assets, age, and years of education. Results suggest that relatively new electronic technologies are used by relatively few households, and that household use of electronic sources of information for financial decisionmaking is barely off the ground.

Keywords: Banks, banking, electronic, households, technology, information

Abstract: This paper examines the claim that observed racial differences in rejection rates for mortgage applications, which persist after controlling for many relevant factors, are due to racial differences in short-run earnings stability, which has not typically been included in empirical tests. The evidence does not support the proposition that blacks suffer from greater earnings instability than comparable whites, as few consistent significant differences between black and white earnings volatility are found. Only in the case of drastic earnings shocks with persistent effects does the possibility of significant racial differences reasonably remain. In general, racial differences in earnings stability appear to be minor and are unlikely to result in substantial differences in creditworthiness.

Keywords: Credit risk, race, earnings variance, mortgages

Full paper (477 KB Postscript)
feds 1997-33
July 1997

Premiums in Private versus Public Bank Branch Sales (2.1 MB PDF)

James A. Berkovec, John J. Mingo, and Xuechun Zhang

Abstract: This paper is the first to directly estimate the determinants of differences in premiums received by public and private sellers in the market for bank branches (deposit bases). Deposit premiums received in private sector transactions exceeded those received by the FDIC and the RTC, even after controlling for known characteristics of the transactions and after corrections for possible sample selection bias. The observed differential disappeared by 1992, suggesting improved market efficiency and/or the impact of FDICIA (1991), which mandated "least-cost" resolution procedures for failed institutions. Additionally, the evidence suggests that bank branches are independent value objects whose auctions always result in "unintended" transfers of value to the winning bidders. This result, while consistent with previous literature that found positive cumulative abnormal returns (CARs) to the winners of auctions for the branches of failed banks, nevertheless suggests that not all of the positive CARs can be due to market inefficiency.

Keywords: FDIC, auctions, deposit premiums, bank failures

Abstract: This paper assesses the effect of social security privatization on the government budget, economic efficiency, national savings, and the distribution of resources across generations. It is shown that the benefits of privatization most often touted by privatization advocates can be achieved by simply altering taxes and social security pensions and leaving the basic structure of social security unchanged. In the conclusion, two simple arguments are given for why privatization might be a good idea nonetheless.

Keywords: Social security, privatization

Full paper (234 KB Postscript)
feds 1997-31
July 1997

Asymmetric Adjustments of Price and Output (PDF)

P.A. Tinsley and Reva Krieger

Abstract: Asymmetries in price adjustment can reconcile contrasts between rapid price movements in inflationary episodes, consistent with classical theories of flexible pricing, and sluggish price responses in contractions, consistent with Keynesian theories of sticky price adjustments. Nonparametric analysis of SIC two-digit industry data indicates that negative asymmetries are more pronounced for real outputs than for nominal outputs, suggesting reversed positive asymmetries in producer pricing. Pricing decision rules are estimated to distinguish between asymmetries in conditioning shocks and asymmetries in producer responses. Two rational motives for asymmetric pricing are supported.

Keywords: Asymmetric trend deviations, rational error correction, producer pricing

Full paper (309 KB Postscript)

Abstract: Low required reserve balances in 1991 led to a sharp increase in the volatility of the federal funds rate, but similarly low balances in 1996 did not. This paper develops and simulates a microeconomic model of the funds market that explains these facts. We show that reductions in reserve balances increase the volatility of the federal funds rate, but that this relationship changes over time in response to observable changes in bank behavior. The model predicts that a continued decline in required reserves could increase funds-rate volatility significantly.

Keywords: Reserve requirements, federal funds rate, volatility

Full paper (372 KB Postscript)
feds 1997-29
July 1997

The Evolution of Macro Models at the Federal Reserve Board (PDF)

Flint Brayton, Andrew Levin, Ralph Tryon, and John C. Williams

Abstract: Large-scale macroeconomic models have been used at the Federal Reserve Board for nearly thirty years. After briefly reviewing the first generation of Fed models, which were based on the IS/LM/Phillips curve paradigm, the paper describes the structure and properties of a new set of models. The new models are more explicit in their treatment of expectations formation and household and firm intertemporal decisionmaking. The incorporation of more rigorous theoretical microfoundations is accomplished while maintaining a high standard of goodness of fit. Simulations illustrate the effects of alternative assumptions about the formation of expectations and policy credibility on system properties.

Keywords: Macroeconometric models, monetary policy, fiscal policy

Full paper (634 KB Postscript)
feds 1997-28
July 1997

The Effects of Bank Mergers and Acquisitions on Small Business Lending (PDF)

Allen N. Berger, Anthony Saunders, Joseph M. Scalise, and Gregory F. Udell

Abstract: We examine the effects of over 6,000 M&As involving more than 10,000 banks on small business lending. We are the first to decompose the impact of M&As into static effects associated with a simple melding of the antecedent institutions and dynamic effects associated with post-M&A refocusing of the consolidated institution. We are also the first to estimate the reactions of other local banks to M&As. We find that the static effects that reduce small business lending are mostly offset by the reactions of other banks and, in some cases, also by the refocused efforts of the consolidating institutions themselves.

Keywords: Bank, mergers, small business lending

Full paper (1202 KB Postscript)
feds 1997-27
July 1997

Default Correlation: An Analytical Result (PDF)

Chunsheng Zhou

Abstract: Evaluating default correlations and the probabilities of multiple defaults is an important task in credit analysis and risk management, but it has never been an easy one because default correlations cannot be measured directly. This paper provides, for the first time, an analytical formula for calculating default correlations based on a first-passage-time model that can be easily implemented and conveniently used in a variety of financial applications. This paper also provides a theoretical justification for many empirical results found in the literature and increases our understanding of the important features of default correlations.

Keywords: Default correlation, first-passage-time

Full paper (243 KB Postscript)

Abstract: Nonparametric kernel density estimation has recently been used to estimate and test short-term interest rate models, but inference has been based on asymptotics. We derive finite sample properties of kernel density estimates of the ergodic distribution of the short-rate when it follows a continuous time AR(1) as in Vasicek. We find that the asymptotic distribution substantially understates finite sample bias, variance, and correlation. Also, estimator quality and bandwidth choice depend strongly on the persistence of the interest rate process and on the span of the data, but not on sampling frequency. We also examine the size and power of one of Ait-Sahalia's nonparametric tests of continuous time interest rate models. The test rejects too often. This is probably because the quality of the nonparametric density estimate depends on persistence, but the asymptotic distribution of the test does not. After critical values are adjusted for size, the test has low power in distinguishing between the Vasicek and Cox-Ingersoll-Ross models relative to a conditional moment-based specification test.

Keywords: Interest rate, nonparametric, bandwidth, specification test

Full paper (2045 KB Postscript)

Abstract: The paper uses data on the volume outstanding of small business loans from the midyear Call Reports to summarize the nature of small business lending at banks that were involved in mergers between June 1993 and June 1996. Then a model of gradual adjustment by the consolidated bank following the merger is estimated to determine whether the portfolio share of small business loans at the consolidated bank tends to move over time toward either the pre-merger share at the acquiring bank or the typical share at other banks of roughly the same size as the consolidated bank.

Keywords: Bank consolidation, small business loans

Full paper (399 KB Postscript)

Abstract: This paper presents a model in which efficiency wages generate acyclical real wages but do not lower the sensitivity of marginal cost to output or increase price stickiness. Consideration of previous models suggests that efficiency wages are a poor source of real rigidity.

Keywords: Efficiency wages, nominal price rigidity

Full paper (53 KB Postscript)
feds 1997-23
June 1997

Dynamic Equilibrium Economies: A Framework for Comparing Models and Data (3 MB PDF)

Francis X. Diebold, Lee E. Ohanian, and Jeremy Berkowitz

Abstract: We propose a constructive, multivariate framework for assessing agreement between (generally misspecified) dynamic equilibrium models and data, which enables a complete second-order comparison of the dynamic properties of models and data. We use bootstrap algorithms to evaluate the significance of deviations between models and data, and we use goodness-of-fit criteria to produce estimators that optimize economically relevant loss functions. We provide a detailed illustrative application to modeling the U.S. cattle cycle.

Keywords: Evaluation, multivariate, frequency domain, bootstrap

Abstract: This study assesses the state of the policy debate that surrounds the federal regulation of margin requirements. A relatively comprehensive review of the literature finds no undisputed evidence that supports the hypothesis that margin requirements can be used to control stock return volatility and correspondingly little evidence that suggests that margin-related leverage is an important underlying source of "excess" volatility. The evidence does not support the hypothesis that there is a stable inverse relationship between the level of Regulation T margin requirements and stock returns volatility nor does it support the hypothesis that the leverage advantage in equity derivative products is a source of additional returns volatility in the stock market.

Keywords: Margin requirements, volatility, leverage

Full paper (264 KB Postscript)

Abstract: This paper evaluates the quantitative importance of removing U.S. currency held abroad from the monetary base. We find that a simple macroeconometric model that uses home base has more explanatory power for changes in nominal income than a model using the total base. Moreover, proposed base rules for the conduct of monetary policy perform better when the model for home base is employed. The evidence from our elementary exercises suggests that accounting for foreign holdings of U.S. currency may also be important in other contexts.

Keywords: Currency abroad, monetary base, nominal income

Full paper (210 KB Postscript)
feds 1997-20
May 1997

Extracting Information from Trading Volume (PDF)

Dominique Y. Dupont

Abstract: This paper shows how to infer information about any random variable from trading volume, assuming that the random variable and the traders' demands are symmetrically (and then normally) distributed around zero. The volume-based conditional expectation of such a random variable is zero, while the covariance between its absolute value and volume is positive if the variable is jointly normally distributed with the traders' demands. In that case, numerical examples indicate that the volume-based conditional probability of extreme asset value realizations (positive or negative) increases with volume. These results, developed in a market-clearing framework, apply also to market-making frameworks. Finally, the paper develops a simple model where transaction costs can generate a positive covariance between price and trading volume.

Keywords: Information, trading volume

Full paper (367 KB Postscript)

Abstract: Over the past two years, many mortgage market analysts have praised automated underwriting as a technological innovation that will lower the costs of processing mortgage applications. However, automated underwriting is unlikely to decrease processing costs uniformly for all mortgage applications. Instead, it makes identifying and processing low-risk mortgage borrowers less costly, but may not significantly lower the costs of identifying and processing relatively high-risk applicants. Our results suggest that after the one-time cost reduction produced by automated underwriting, the resulting mortgage market equilibrium is characterized by lower mortgage rates and lower profits for the mortgage securitizer.

Keywords: Automated underwriting, credit scoring, mortgages, securitization

Full paper (312 KB Postscript)
feds 1997-18
May 1997

Three Sources of Increasing Returns to Scale (PDF)

Jinill Kim

Abstract: This paper reviews various types of increasing returns from a critical perspective. Increasing returns have been introduced in a monopolistic-competition model both at the firm level and at the aggregate level. We show that the degree of the aggregate returns to scale is a linear combination of three return parameters, with the weights determined by the specification of a zero-profit condition. Identification issues are discussed with an emphasis on recent macro literature. We argue that disaggregate data give information on the market structure rather than the technology. Welfare implications explain why it is important to identify various increasing returns.

Keywords: Increasing returns, monopolistic competition, returns to variety

Full paper (504 KB Postscript)
feds 1997-17
May 19977

Price Level Determinacy and Monetary Policy under a Balanced Budget Requirement (PDF)

Stephanie Schmitt-Grohe and Martin Uribe

Abstract: This paper analyzes the implications of a balanced budget fiscal policy rule for the determinacy of the price level in a cash-in-advance economy under three alternative monetary policy regimes. It shows that, in such stylized models with flexible prices and a period-by-period balanced budget requirement, the price level is determinate under a money growth rate peg and is indeterminate under a pure nominal interest rate peg. Under a feedback rule whereby the nominal interest rate is set as an increasing function of the inflation rate, the price level is determinate for intermediate values of the inflation elasticity of the feedback rule and is indeterminate for both very low and very high values of the inflation elasticity. Finally, regardless of the particular monetary policy specification, a rational expectations equilibrium consistent with the optimal quantity of money may not exist.

Keywords: Balanced budget rules, price level determinacy

Full paper (304 KB Postscript)

Abstract: The payoffs of path-dependent options depend not only on the final values, but also on the sample paths of the prices of the underlying assets. A rigorous modeling of the underlying asset price processes which can appropriately describe the sample paths is therefore critical for pricing path-dependent options. This paper allows for discontinuities in the sample paths of the underlying asset prices by assuming that these prices follow jump diffusion processes. A general yet tractable approach is presented to value a variety of path-dependent options with discontinuous processes. The numerical examples show that ignoring the jump risk may lead to serious biases in path-dependent option pricing.

Keywords: Path-dependent, option, jump diffusion

Full paper (201 KB Postscript)

Abstract: The existing structural models of credit risk have relied almost exclusively on diffusion processes to model the evolution of firm value. While a diffusion approach is convenient, it has produced very disappointing results in empirical application. Jones, Mason, and Rosenfeld (1984) find that the credit spreads on corporate bonds are too high to be matched by the diffusion approach. Also, because the instantaneous default probability of a healthy firm is zero under a continuous process, the diffusion approach predicts that the term structure of credit spreads should always start at zero and slope upward for firms that are not currently in financial distress. Empirical literature shows, however, that the actual credit spread curves are sometimes flat or even downward-sloping. If a diffusion approach cannot capture the basic features of credit risk, what approach can? This paper develops a new structural approach to valuing default-risky securities by modeling the evolution of firm value as a jump-diffusion process. Under a jump-diffusion process, a firm can default instantaneously because of a sudden drop in its value. With this characteristic, a jump-diffusion model can match the size of credit spreads on corporate bonds and can generate various shapes of yield spread curves and marginal default rate curves. The model also links recovery rates to firm value at default in a natural way so that variation in recovery rates is endogenously generated in the model. The model is also consistent with many other stylized empirical facts in the credit-risk literature.

Keywords: Credit risk, jump diffusion

Full paper (397 KB Postscript)

Abstract: This paper develops a model of bank behavior that focuses on the interaction between the incentives created by fixed-rate deposit insurance and a bank's choice of its loan portfolio and its market-traded financial instruments. The model is used to analyze the consequences of the Federal Reserve Board's proposed pre-commitment approach (PCA) for setting market risk capital requirements for bank trading portfolios. Under the PCA, a bank determines its own market risk capital requirement and is subject to a known regulatory penalty should its trading activities generate subsequent losses that exceed its market risk capital commitment.

Keywords: Bank capital, market risk, incentive regulation

Full paper (535 KB Postscript)
feds 1997-13
May 1997

Credit Derivatives in Banking: Useful Tools for Managing Risk? (PDF)

Gregory R. Duffee and Chunsheng Zhou

Abstract: We model the effects on banks of the introduction of a market for credit derivatives--in particular, credit default swaps. A bank can use such swaps to temporarily transfer credit risks of their loans to others, reducing the likelihood that defaulting loans would trigger the bank's financial distress. Because credit derivatives are more flexible at transferring risks than are other, more established tools, such as loan sales without recourse, these instruments make it easier for banks to circumvent the "lemons" problem caused by banks' superior information about the credit quality of their loans. However, we find that the introduction of a credit derivatives market is not necessarily desirable because it can cause other markets for loan risk-sharing to break down. In this case, the existence of a credit derivatives market will lead to a greater risk of bank insolvency.

Keywords: Credit default swaps, bank loans, loan sales, asymmetric information

Full paper (202 KB Postscript)
feds 1997-12
May 1997

Measuring the Social Return to R&D (PDF)

Charles I. Jones and John C. Williams

Abstract: A large, empirical literature reports estimates of the rate of return to R&D ranging from 30 percent to over 100 percent, supporting the notion that there is too little private investment in research. This conclusion is challenged by the new growth theory. We derive analytically the relationship between the social rate of return to R&D and the coefficient estimates of the empirical literature. We show that these estimates represent a lower bound on the true social rate of return. Using a conservative estimate of the rate of return to R&D of about 30 percent, optimal R&D investment is at least four times larger than actual investment.

Keywords: Social rate of return, research and development, endogenous growth

Full paper (118 KB Postscript)

Abstract: This paper surveys 130 studies that apply frontier efficiency analysis to financial institutions in 21 countries. The primary goals are to summarize and critically review empirical estimates of financial institution efficiency and to attempt to arrive at a consensus view. We find that the various efficiency methods do not necessarily yield consistent results, and we suggest some ways that these methods might be improved to bring about findings that are more consistent, accurate, and useful. Secondary goals are to address the implications of efficiency results for financial institutions in the areas of government policy, research, and managerial performance. Areas needing additional research are also outlined.

Keywords: Bank, merger, efficiency, profit, cost

Abstract: Over the past several years, substantial research effort has gone into measuring the efficiency of financial institutions. Many studies have found that inefficiencies are quite large, on the order of 20 percent or more of total banking industry costs and about half of the industry's potential profits. There is no consensus on the sources of the differences in measured efficiency. This paper examines several possible sources, including differences in efficiency concept, measurement method, and a number of bank, market, and regulatory characteristics. We review the extant literature and provide new evidence using data on U.S. banks over the period 1990-95.

Keywords: Bank, efficiency, cost, profit

feds 1997-09
May 1997

The Effects of Megamergers on Efficiency and Prices: Evidence from a Bank Profit Function (2.8 MB PDF)

Jalal D. Akhavein, Allen N. Berger, and David B. Humphrey

Abstract: This paper examines the efficiency and price effects of mergers by applying a frontier profit function to data on bank "megamergers." We find that merged banks experience a statistically significant 16 percentage point average increase in profit-efficiency rank relative to other large banks. Most of the improvement is from increasing revenues, including a shift in outputs from securities to loans, a higher-valued product. Improvements were greatest for the banks with the lowest efficiencies prior to merging, who therefore had the greatest capacity for improvement. By comparison, the effects on profits from merger-related changes in prices were found to be very small.

Keywords: Bank, merger, efficiency, profit, price, antitrust

feds 1997-08
May 1997

Problem Loans and Cost Efficiency in Commercial Banks (PDF)

Allen N. Berger and Robert DeYoung

Abstract: This paper addresses a little-examined intersection between the problem-loan literature and the bank-efficiency literature. We employ Granger causality techniques to test four hypotheses regarding the relationships among loan quality, cost efficiency, and bank capital. The data suggest that problem loans precede reductions in measured cost efficiency; that measured cost efficiency precedes reductions in problem loans; and that reductions in capital at thinly capitalized banks precede increases in problem loans. Hence, cost efficiency may be an important indicator of future problem loans and problem banks. Our results are ambiguous concerning whether or not researchers should control for problem loans in efficiency estimation.

Keywords: Commercial banks, cost efficiency, loan quality, Granger causality

Full paper (426 KB Postscript)

Abstract: The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) requires lenders ``to help meet the credit needs of the local communities in which they are chartered, consistent with the safe and sound operation of such institutions.'' For proponents of efficient markets, the CRA is a threat to lender profitability. For others, the CRA has the potential to increase profitability. We examine the relative profitability of commercial banks that specialize in mortgage lending in lower-income neighborhoods or to lower-income borrowers using three different techniques, and find that lenders active in lower-income neighborhoods and with lower-income borrowers appear to be as profitable as other mortgage-oriented commercial banks.

Keywords: CRA, mortgages, banking, profit

Full paper (176 KB Postscript)
feds 1997-06
May 1997

Earnings Forecasts and the Predictability of Stock Returns: Evidence from Trading the S&P (PDF)

Joel Lander, Athanasios Orphanides, and Martha Douvogiannis

Abstract: We develop a simple error-correction model, based on a well-known theory, espoused by Benjamin Graham and David Dodd and others, which presumes stock returns tend to restore an equilibrium relationship between the forecasted earnings yield on common stocks and the yield on bonds. The estimation uses I/B/E/S analysts forecasts of S&P earnings. To evaluate the model, we use rolling regressions to obtain out-of-sample forecasts of excess returns. Tests of association show the implicit timing signals to be statistically significant. Further, a strategy of investing in cash, when the excess return forecast is negative, and investing in the S&P, when the excess return forecast is positive, outperforms the S&P with higher returns and smaller volatility. Using the bootstrap methodology, we demonstrate that the findings are statistically significant.

Keywords: Asset allocation, earnings yield, analyst earnings forecasts, I/B/E/S, S&P 500, market timing, regression models

Full paper (436 KB Postscript)

Abstract: Although the mathematical foundations of common value auctions have been well understood since Milgrom & Weber (1982), equilibrium bidding strategies are computationally complex. Very few calculated examples can be found in the literature, and only for highly specialized cases. This paper introduces two sets of distributional assumptions that are flexible enough for theoretical and empirical applications and yet permit straightforward calculation of equilibrium bidding strategies.

Keywords: Common value auctions

Full paper (229 KB Postscript)
feds 1997-04
February 1997

Information Sharing and Competition in the Motor Vehicle Industry (PDF)

Maura P. Doyle and Christopher M. Snyder

Abstract: Up to six months ahead of actual production, U.S. automakers announce plans for their monthly domestic production of cars. A leading industry trade journal publishes the initial plan and then a series of revisions leading up to the month in question. We analyze a panel data set spanning the years 1965--1995, matching the production forecasts with data for actual monthly production. We show that a firm's plan announcement affects competitors' later revisions of their own plans and eventual production. The interaction appears to be complementary---large plans or upward revisions cause competitors to revise plans upward and increase production. The results are consistent with models in which firms share information about common demand parameters.

Keywords: Information sharing, motor vehicle production

Abstract: We use a Monte Carlo approach to investigate the performance of several different methods designed to reduce the bias of the estimated coefficients for dynamic panel data models estimated with the longer, narrower panels typical of macro data. We find that the bias of the least squares dummy variable approach can be significant, even when the time dimension of the panel is as large as 30. For panels with small time dimensions, we find a corrected least squares dummy variable estimator to be the best choice. However, as the time dimension of the panel increases, the computationally simpler Anderson-Hsiao estimator performs equally well.

Keywords: Panel data, simulation, dynamic model, macroeconomics, growth

Full paper (588 KB Postscript)

Abstract: This paper reexamines claims that non-economic discrimination persists in mortgage loan origination decisions. I find that racial differences in outcomes do exist, as minorities fare worse regarding debt-to-income requirements but better for loan-to-value requirements. Overall, significant racial differentials exist only for "marginal" applicants and are not present for those with higher incomes or those with no credit problems. Thus, the claim that non-economic discrimination is a general phenomenon is refuted. Further, I can say little regarding the existence of discrimination among "marginal" applicants. To conclude that such discrimination exists, one must prove that the observed differences are not due to economic factors.

Keywords: Discrimination, mortgages, race, credit risk

Full paper (591 KB Postscript)

Abstract: This paper tests the hypothesis that firms adjust to the business cycle by altering employment through promotion and hiring and holding the salary structure and salaries assigned to jobs relatively constant. Two comprehensive firm-level panel datasets are used to examine salary setting and worker movement within firms. The salary structure is found to be rigid whereas promotion rates are cyclically sensitive. In contrast to the hypothesis, wage cyclicality in these two firms is driven by changes in salaries associated with jobs rather than by worker movement. An additional finding is that salaries in the two firms are countercyclical.

Keywords: Wage cyclicality, firm-level data


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