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Finance and Economics Discussion Series

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Abstract: In their competitive analysis of proposed bank mergers, the Federal Reserve Board, Department of Justice, and other agencies accept branch divestitures as an antitrust remedy in local markets where there is substantial overlap between the acquirer and target. The results of this study, which examines the performance of 751 branches that were divested between June 1989 and June 1998 in conjunction with a merger that raised possible competition issues, suggest that the policy of accepting branch divestitures as an antitrust remedy has been successful. Divested branches operate for lengths of time that are comparable to all branches, and even though they experience substantial deposit runoff around the time of the merger, divested branches subsequently exhibit deposit growth rates that are comparable to those of other similar branches. Cross-sectional analysis does not find any significant relationships between either deposit runoff or subsequent growth and various characteristics of the branch being sold or the firm that purchased it, except for some evidence that post-divestiture growth may increase with the size of the purchaser.

Keywords: Divestiture, bank, merger, acquisition, antitrust, competition, branch

Abstract: Applying insights from theoretical tax competition models, this study of manufacturing investment and taxes in U.S. states makes four contributions to the empirical tax competition literature. First, while the existing empirical literature has assumed exogenous tax rates, the theoretical model, which endogenizes state tax rate choices, demonstrates that tax rates and investment decisions are determined by the same set of jurisdiction characteristics. The endogeneity corrected estimates, which rely on instruments motivated by the theoretical model, suggest stronger responses to tax rates than the uncorrected estimates in both this paper and the existing literature. The second insight involves the appropriate unit of observation. The empirical literature has conducted both aggregate analyses, in which jurisdictions are the unit of observation, and discrete choice analyses, in which manufacturing plants are the unit of observation. While the tax competition model demonstrates the violation of a key assumption in discrete choice analyses, the estimating equation in this paper, an aggregate analysis, can be derived directly from the model. Third, the theoretical model sheds light on the appropriateness of previously employed measures of tax burdens. The effective tax rate is shown to be superior to the after-tax rate of return, which is both invariant across jurisdictions and dependent on the distribution of investment. Fourth, this paper provides estimates of the degree of undertaxation of capital, which has been the focus of the theoretical tax competition literature but has yet to be addressed empirically. These estimates suggest that the efficient revenues may be as much as two times the size of actual revenues.

Keywords: Tax competition, fiscal federalism, state and local public finance

Abstract: This paper estimates a structural demand model for commercial bank deposit services. Following the discrete choice literature, consumer decisions are based on prices and bank characteristics. The results, based on the U.S. for 1993-1999, indicate that, with respect to prices, consumers respond to deposit rates, and to a lesser extent, to account fees, in choosing a depository institution. Moreover, consumers respond favorably to the branch staffing and geographic density, as well as to the bank's age, size, and geographic diversification. In light of the banks' responses to regulatory changes throughout the period, most markets experience a slight increase in welfare.

Keywords: Demand, discrete choice, consumer welfare, product differentiation, market power, banking

Abstract: In the past decade, the U.S. economy has witnessed a tremendous surge in the usage of electronic payment processing services and an increased importance of the firms that provide these services. The payments industry has also undergone changes in cost structure with the introduction of new technology. Unfortunately, data on the private provision of payment processing services are not available. However, the Federal Reserve provides similar services and collects data on its own provision of payments processing, offering an opportunity to gain insights into the cost structure of payments processing. In this paper, we estimate the scope and scale economies and the technical change in the Federal Reserve's provision of payments processing from 1990-2000. We find considerable scale economies and evidence of some scope economies for the provision of automated clearinghouse, Fedwire, and book-entry services no matter whether we specify a separable quadratic or a translog cost function. In addition, we find that disembodied technical change also contributed to the overall reduction in costs throughout the 1990s.

Keywords: Productivity, scope economies, scale economies, financial institutions

Abstract: Federal funds and eurodollar futures contracts are among the most useful instruments for deriving expectations of the future path of monetary policy. However, reading policy expectations from those instruments is complicated by the presence of risk premia. This paper demonstrates how to extract the expected policy path under the assumption that risk premia are constant over time, and under a simple model that allows risk premia to vary. In the latter case, the risk premia are identified under the assumption that policy expectations level out after a long enough horizon. The results provide evidence that the risk premia on these futures contracts vary over time. The impact of this variation is fairly limited for futures contracts with short horizons, but it increases as the horizon of the contracts lengthens.

Keywords: Futures rates, monetary policy expectations, risk premia

Abstract: When economic capital is calculated using a portfolio model of credit value-at-risk, the marginal capital requirement for an instrument depends, in general, on the properties of the portfolio in which it is held. By contrast, ratings-based capital rules, including both the current Basel Accord and its proposed revision, assign a capital charge to an instrument based only on its own characteristics. I demonstrate that ratings-based capital rules can be reconciled with the general class of credit VaR models. Contributions to VaR are portfolio-invariant only if (a) there is only a single systematic risk factor driving correlations across obligors, and (b) no exposure in a portfolio accounts for more than an arbitrarily small share of total exposure. Analysis of rates of convergence to asymptotic VaR leads to a simple and accurate portfolio-level add-on charge for undiversified idiosyncratic risk. There is no similarly simple way to address violation of the single factor assumption.

Keywords: Capital allocation, banking regulation, value-at-risk

Abstract: Corporate governance theory predicts that leverage affects agency costs and thereby influences firm performance. We propose a new approach to test this theory using profit efficiency, or how close a firm's profits are to the benchmark of a best-practice firm facing the same exogenous conditions. We are also the first to employ a simultaneous-equations model that accounts for reverse causality from performance to capital structure. We also control for measures of ownership structure in the tests. We find that data on the U.S. banking industry are consistent with the theory, and the results are statistically significant, economically significant, and robust.

Keywords: Capital structure, agency costs, banking, efficiency

Abstract: Lettau and Ludvigson (2001) argue that a log-linearized approximation to an aggregate budget constraint predicts that log consumption, assets, and labor income will be cointegrated. They conclude that this cointegrating relationship is present in U.S. data, and that the estimated cointegrating residual forecasts future asset growth. This note examines whether the cointegrating relationship suggested by Lettau and Ludvigson's theoretical framework actually exists. We demonstrate that we cannot reject the hypothesis that cointegration is absent from the data once we employ measures of consumption, assets, and labor income that are jointly consistent with an underlying budget constraint. By contrast, Lettau and Ludvigson use a set of variables that do not belong together in an aggregate budget constraint, thereby testing a cointegrating relationship that is not implied by their theory.

Keywords: Consumption, asset returns, cointegration, budget constraints

feds 2002-52
November 2002

Market Power in Outputs and Inputs: An Empirical Application to Banking (PDF)

Robert M. Adams, Lar-Hendrik Roeller, and Robin C. Sickles

Abstract: This paper provides evidence on the empirical separability of input and output market imperfections. We specify a model of banking competition and simultaneously estimate bank conduct in output (loan) and input (deposit) markets. Our results suggest that firms display some degree of non-competitive behavior in both the loan and the deposit markets. Moreover, we find that the input side and the output side are empirically separable, that is, the measurement of market power on one side of the market is not affected by assuming that the other side of the market is perfectly competitive. Our results suggest that empirical studies of market power that concentrate on either the input side or the output side are not subject to significant misspecification error.

Keywords: Measuring market power, banking

Abstract: We add a nominal tax system to a sticky-price monetary business cycle model. When nominal interest income is taxed, the coefficient on inflation in a Taylor-type monetary policy rule must be significantly larger than one in order for the model economy to have a determinate rational expectations equilibrium. When depreciation is treated as a charge against taxable income, an even larger weight on inflation is required in the Taylor rule in order to obtain a determinate and stable equilibrium. These results have obvious implications for assessing the historical conduct of monetary policy.

Keywords: Taylor rule, Taylor principle, equilibrium determinacy

Abstract: This paper examines technological progress and its effects in the banking industry. Banks are intensive users of both IT and financial technologies, and have a wealth of data available that may be helpful for the general understanding of the effects of technological change. The research suggests improvements in costs and lending capacity due to improvements in "back-office" technologies, as well as consumer benefits from improved "front-office" technologies. The research also suggests significant overall productivity increases in terms of improved quality and variety of banking services. In addition, the research indicates that technological progress likely helped facilitate consolidation of the industry.

Keywords: Technological progress, productivity, banks, mergers, efficiency

Abstract: In the United States, antitrust authorities rely heavily on numerical measures of local banking market concentration such as the Herfindahl Hirschmann Index to assess the likely competitive effects of proposed bank mergers and acquisitions. This approach to antitrust enforcement relies on two important assumptions: (1) that markets for at least some types of banking products are local in scope, and (2) that market concentration measures can serve as effective proxies for banks' abilities to extract monopoly rents. This paper uses balance sheet data from most banks operating in the United States in 1988, 1992, 1996, and 1999 to test these assumptions.

Keywords: Banking, markets, antitrust

feds 2002-48
October 2002

The S&P 500 Effect: Not Such Good News in the Long Run (PDF)

Daniel Cooper and Geoffrey Woglom

Abstract: This paper analyzes the effect on a company's stock price when it is added to the S&P 500 Index. A simple theoretical model is developed to show how trading effects and changes to fundamentals should affect the price of S&P500 additions upon announcement and in the long run. This model predicts that a company added to the S&P500 should experience an initial price increase followed by a reversal of this price increase owing to the predicted increased stock price volatility of companies post-addition. All of these effects should be growing over time because of the increasing importance of S&P500 indexed mutual funds. We test the predictions of the model using a sample of 303 S&P500 Index additions between 1978 and 1998. We find results generally consistent with the model, particularly in the most recent period when it appears that the post-addition increase in stock price volatility reverses almost all of the initial price increase.

Keywords: Capital markets, market efficiency, asset pricing

feds 2002-47
October 2002

Consolidation and Efficiency in the Financial Sector: A Review of the International Evidence (2.5 MB PDF)

Dean Amel, Colleen Barnes, Fabio Panetta, and Carmelo Salleo

Abstract: In response to fundamental changes in regulation and technology, the financial industry around the world is undergoing an unprecedented wave of consolidation. A growing body of empirical literature has attempted to measure the efficiency gains from M&As; however there is little sense of how the results might depend on the country, industry and time period analysed. In this paper we review critically works that cover the main sectors of the financial industry (commercial and investment banks, insurance and asset management companies) in the major industrialised countries over the last twenty years, searching for common patterns that transcend national and sectoral peculiarities. We find that consolidation in the financial sector is beneficial up to a relatively small size in order to reap economies of scale, but there is little evidence that mergers yield economies of scope or gains in managerial efficiency.

Keywords: Mergers, efficiency, bank mergers

Abstract: This paper demonstrates that the risk sensitivity of a banking organization's subordinated debt yield spreads may understate the potential for market discipline in some periods and overstate in others because such spreads contain liquidity premiums that are driven, in part, by the risk-sensitivity of funding manager decisions. Once such decisions are accounted for, new evidence is provided that indicates that subordinated debt spreads were sensitive to organization-specific risks in the mid-1980s, and that the risk- sensitivity of such spreads was about the same in the pre- and post-FDICIA periods. These results resolve some anomalies in the existing literature. In addition, it is argued that mandating the regular issuance of subordinated debt would, by reducing the endogeneity of liquidity premiums, improve the information content of both primary and secondary market debt spreads, thereby augmenting both direct and indirect market discipline.

Keywords: Market discipline, subordinated debt, market efficiency

Abstract: In this paper, we first document some stylized facts about very short-term and long-term corporate yield spreads. We find that short-term spreads are sizable, and the correlations between many firms' short-term and long-term yield spreads are at times negative. We then develop a structural model that generates levels and correlations of short-term and long-term spreads that are more consistent with what we observe. The model allows for the possibility of payment delays when a firm's liquid asset position deteriorates. Payment delays generate sizable short-term debt spreads because the realized returns on short-term investments are very sensitive to an increase in the holding period. The presence of liquidity risk can also explain negative correlations between short- and long-term spreads because liquidity risk is imperfectly correlated with insolvency risk. Using firm-level data, we provide empirical evidence that liquid assets holdings help predict short-term spreads, but not long-term spreads.

Keywords: Yields, spreads, default, insolvency, liquidity

Abstract: This article presents descriptive findings from new survey data on households' decisions to change or remain with their providers of checking or savings accounts. The data show that the distribution of household tenure is wide, and that about a third of households have never changed depository institutions. The primary reason reported for changing banks is a household relocation; other reasons are customer service and price factors. Customer service and location are the most frequently cited reasons for remaining with a bank. The importance of location and mobility supports previous survey evidence that the local area is the appropriate market for competitive analysis in banking. The findings presented here are consistent with earlier studies showing that population migration increases competitive pressure on firms and therefore should mitigate the anticompetitive effects of bank mergers.

Keywords: Switching costs, banking, mergers

feds 2002-43
September 2002

The Dark Side of Competitive Pressure (PDF)

Jason G. Cummins and Ingmar Nyman

Abstract: One of the most basic principles in economics is that competitive pressure promotes efficiency. However, this pressure can also have a dark side because it makes firms reluctant to act on private information that is unpopular with consumers. As a result, firms that possess superior information about the consequences of their actions for consumers' welfare may choose not to use it. We develop this idea in a simple model of delegated investment in which agents are fully rational and risk neutral, and agency problems are absent. We show that competitive pressure obliges firms to make inefficient decisions when their information advantage over consumers is relatively small. This result could be applied to a broad range of economically important situations.

Keywords: Competition, information aggregation, incentives

feds 2002-42
September 2002

Measuring the Cost Impact of Hospital Information Systems (PDF)

Ron Borzekowski

Abstract: This study measures the impact of information technology (IT) use on hospital operating costs during the late 1980's and early 1990's. Using a proprietary eight-year panel dataset (1987-1994) that catalogues application-level automation for the complete census of the 3,000 U.S. hospitals with more than 100 beds, this study finds that both financial/administrative and clinical IT systems at the most thoroughly automated hospitals are associated with declining costs three and five years after adoption. At the application level, declining costs are associated with the adoption of some of the newest technologies, including systems designed for cost management, the administration of managed care contracts, and for both financial and clinical decision support. The association of cost declines with lagged IT as well as the cost patterns at the less automated hospitals both provide evidence of learning effects.

Keywords: Hospitals, information technololgy, productivity

Abstract: This study examines the adoption of hospital information systems (HIS), specifically focusing on the connection between the financing of health care and the adoption of these new technologies. Using a recently uncovered dataset detailing the systems installed at over 2300 hospitals, the results indicate that state price regulations slowed the adoption of these systems during the 1970's. In contrast, hospitals increased their adoption of HIS in response to the implementation of Medicare's prospective payment system. The evidence suggests that in the early years, these systems did not have the ability to save sufficient funds to justify their expense and adopters, in particular not-for-profit hospitals, were motivated by factors other than cost. By the early 1980's, this had changed: hospitals with the greatest incentives to lower costs were now more likely to adopt these technologies.

Keywords: Hospitals, information technololgy, medicare

feds 2002-40
September 2002

Market-Based Measures of Monetary Policy Expectations (PDF)

Refet S. Gurkaynak, Brian Sack, and Eric Swanson

Abstract: A number of recent papers have used short-maturity financial instruments to measure expectations of the future course of monetary policy, and have used high-frequency changes in these instruments around FOMC dates to measure monetary policy shocks. This paper evaluates the empirical success of a variety of market instruments in predicting the future path of monetary policy. We find that federal funds futures dominate other market-based measures of monetary policy expectations at horizons out several months. For longer horizons, the predictive power of many of the instruments considered is very similar. In addition, we present evidence that monetary policy shocks computed using the current-month federal funds futures contract are influenced by changes in the timing of policy actions that do not influence the expected course of policy beyond a horizon of about six weeks. We propose alternative shock measures that capture changes in market expectations of policy over slightly longer horizons.

Keywords: Monetary policy expectations, monetary policy shocks

feds 2002-39
September 2002

Trading Activity and Price Volatility in the Municipal Bond Market (PDF)

Chris Downing and Frank Zhang

Abstract: Utilizing a comprehensive database of transactions in municipal bonds, we investigate the volume-volatility relationship in the muni market. We find a positive relationship between the number of transactions and a bond's price volatility. In contrast to previous studies, we find a negative relationship between average deal size and price volatility. These results are found to be robust throughout the sample. Our results are inconsistent with current theoretical models of the volume-volatility relationship. These inconsistencies may arise because current models fail to account for the effects of overall market liquidity on the costs of large transactions.

Keywords: Municipal bond, price, volatility, volume

Abstract: The existence of durable goods implies that the welfare flow from consumption cannot be directly associated with total consumption expenditures. As a result, tests of standard theories of consumption (such as the Permanent Income Hypothesis, or PIH) typically focus on nondurable goods and services. Specifically, these studies generally relate real consumption of nondurable goods and services to measures of real income and wealth, where the latter are deflated by a price index for total consumption expenditures. We demonstrate that this procedure is only valid under the assumption that real consumption of nondurables and services is a constant multiple of aggregate real consumption outlays--an assumption that represents a very poor description of U.S. data. We develop an alternative approach that is based on the observation that the ratio of these series has historically been stable in nominal terms, and use this approach to examine two basic predictions of the PIH. We obtain significantly different results relative to the traditional approach.

Keywords: Permanent income hypothesis, consumption deflation

feds 2002-37
September 2002

The Role of Semiconductor Inputs in IT Hardware Price Decline: Computers vs. Communications (PDF)

Ana Aizcorbe, Kenneth Flamm, and Anjum Khurshid

Abstract: Sharp declines in semiconductor prices are largely responsible for observed declines in computer prices. Although communications equipment also has a large semiconductor content,communications equipment prices do not fall nearly as fast as computer prices. This paper partly resolves the puzzle-first noted by Flamm(1989)-by demonstrating that prices for chips used in communications equipment do not fall nearly as fast as prices for those chips used in computers, and those differences are large enough to potentially explain all of the output price differences.

Keywords: Price indexes, semiconductors, high-tech sector, computer prices, telecommunications prices

Abstract: Using panel data for nearly 1,000 companies during 1991 to 2000, this paper finds that employees allocated nearly 20 percent of their total 401(k) contributions to purchases of company stock, and then relates this share to plan design features and firm financial characteristics. We find that the number of investment alternatives offered, n, and whether the company requires some of the match to be in company stock are key factors of the share of total contributions in company stock. We cannot reject the hypothesis that participants invest 1/n of their contributions in company stock. In addition, participants do not offset an employer match in company stock with a smaller share of their own contributions to company stock, contrary to efficient diversification. Workers also appear to view other plan restrictions as providing cues about the desirability of purchasing company stock. Thus, plan design is very important in determining the share of 401(k) assets in company stock.

Keywords: 401(k)plans, company stock, behavioral finance, portfolio choice

feds 2002-35
August 2002

Small Business Loan Turndowns, Personal Wealth and Discrimination (PDF)

Ken Cavalluzzo and John Wolken

Abstract: Using newly available data from the Federal Reserve, we examine the impact of personal wealth on small business loan turndowns across demographic groups. Information on home ownership, home equity, and personal net worth excluding the business owner's home, in combination with data on the personal credit history of the principal owner, the business credit history of the firm, a rich set of additional explanatory variables, and information on the competitiveness of local banking markets, contributes to our understanding of the credit market experiences of small businesses across demographic groups. We find substantial unexplained differences in denial rates between African American-, Hispanic-, Asian-, and white-owned firms. We also find that greater personal wealth is associated with a lower probability of loan denial. However, even after controlling for personal wealth, large differences in denial rates across demographic groups remain. Further, consistent with Becker's classic theories (1957), we find some evidence that African American-denial rates increase with lender market concentration.

Keywords: Discrimination, small business financing, personal wealth

Abstract: Several empirical studies report violations of the asset-pricing model of Sharpe (1964), Lintner (1965), and Black (1972). But, there is no consensus on specification in this literature, as such studies typically consider only a limited number of explanatory variables and do not satisfactorily control for previous findings. Extreme bound analysis (EBA), an imperfect but useful remedy for model uncertainty, suggests that comparatively few factors are robust. Given the cross-section of expected stock returns from July 1963 through December 2000, three of 23 variables - market size as well as short and medium run lagged return - pass the traditional EBA decision rule given all possible 3-, 4-, and 5-factor models of monthly stock returns. This paper also explores several potential improvements to EBA, including explicit consideration of possible multicollinearity, which largely does not affect the results, as well as sample divisions, which suggest that fewer variables are sturdy correlates of returns.

Keywords: Asset pricing, extreme bound analysis, stock returns

Abstract: Participants in 401(k) plans are more likely than other workers to list "retirement" as their main reason for saving, to hold individual retirement accounts and to invest in the stock market. There are two possible reasons for these differences: (1) workers who like to save choose to participate in the program; or (2) 401(k) participation educates workers about investing. I disentangle these explanations using the 1983-1989 Survey of Consumer Finances. I find that 401(k) participants have a greater interest in saving for retirement than other workers, suggesting that extrapolating from their saving behavior to that of the workforce at large could be misleading. 401(k) participation also appears to increase awareness of retirement saving, but the gains are largest among workers who already prioritize retirement saving.

Keywords: 401(k), social security, financial education, saving

feds 2002-32
August 2002

Treasury Inflation-Indexed Debt: A Review of the U.S. Experience (PDF)

Brian Sack and Robert Elsasser

Abstract: This paper reviews the U.S. experience with inflation-indexed debt. To date, Treasury inflation-indexed securities have not been highly valued by investors, with the spread between the yields on nominal and inflation-indexed securities falling consistently below most measures of long-run inflation expectations. A number of factors might have contributed to the low relative valuation of TIIS, including the difficulty for investors of adjusting to a new asset class, the concentration of participation in the market, the lower liquidity of TIIS relative to nominal Treasury securities, and the divergent trends in the supply of nominal and inflation-indexed Treasury debt. As a result, inflation-indexed debt has not yet lived up to one of its main purposes--to reduce financing costs to the Treasury. However, there are signs that the TIIS market is still evolving, which could affect the valuation of TIIS going forward.

Keywords: Inflation-indexed debt, TIPS

feds 2002-31
June 2002

Technological Progress and the Geographic Expansion of the Banking Industry (PDF)

Allen N. Berger and Robert DeYoung

Abstract: We test some predictions about the effects of technological progress on geographic expansion using data on banks in U.S. multibank holding companies over 1985-1998. Specifically, we test whether over time (a) parental control over affiliate banks has increased, and (b) the agency costs associated with distance from the parent have decreased. The data suggest that banking organizations exercise significant control over affiliates that has been increasing over time, and that the agency costs associated with distance have decreased somewhat over time. The findings are consistent with the hypothesis that technological progress has facilitated the geographic expansion of the banking industry.

Keywords: Banks, efficiency, mergers, productivity, technological progress

Abstract: Woodford (2001) has presented evidence that the new-Keynesian Phillips curve fits the empirical behavior of inflation well when the labor income share is used as a driving variable, but fits poorly when deterministically detrended output is used. He concludes that the output gap--the deviation between actual and potential output--is better captured by the labor income share, in turn implying that central banks should raise interest rates in response to increases in the labor share. We show that the empirical evidence generally suggests that the labor share version of the new-Keynesian Phillips curve is a very poor model of price inflation. We conclude that there is little reason to view the labor income share as a good measure of the output gap, or as an appropriate variable for incorporation in a monetary policy rule.

Keywords: Inflation, labor share, output gap, Phillips curve

feds 2002-29
June 2002

Information Technology and Productivity: Where Are We Now and Where Are We Going? (PDF)

Stephen D. Oliner and Daniel E. Sichel

Abstract: Productivity growth in the U.S. economy jumped during the second half of the 1990s, a resurgence that many analysts linked to information technology (IT). However, shortly after this consensus emerged, demand for IT products fell sharply, leading to a lively debate about the connection between IT and productivity and about the sustainability of the faster growth. We contribute to this debate in two ways. First, to assess the robustness of the earlier evidence, we extend the growth-accounting results in Oliner and Sichel (2000a) through 2001. The new results confirm the basic story in our earlier work -- that the acceleration in labor productivity after 1995 was driven largely by the greater use of IT capital goods and by the more rapid efficiency gains in the production of IT goods. Second, to assess whether the pickup in productivity growth is sustainable, we analyze the steady-state properties of a multi-sector growth model. This exercise generates a range for labor productivity growth of 2 percent to 2-3/4 percent per year, which suggests that much -- and possibly all -- of the resurgence is sustainable.

Keywords: Productivity, information technology, growth accounting

Abstract: Several trends in the financial industry could have weakened the competitiveness of small banks in recent years. Despite those challenges, small banks have grown more rapidly than larger banks over the period from 1985 to 2001, and their profitability has been sustained at high levels. However, small banks have needed to increase the interest rates offered on deposit accounts in order to attract progressively more deposit funding. In this paper, we provide empirical evidence that this increased interest cost primarily reflects the high rate of return that small banks were able to earn on their assets. Moreover, we show with an arbitrage model that the decline in the real value of deposit insurance has only a small effect on deposit rates as long as bank failure rates are in the low range of recent years.

Keywords: Banking, mergers, deposit insurance, systemic risk

feds 2002-27
June 2002

Imperfect Knowledge, Inflation Expectations, and Monetary Policy (PDF)

Athanasios Orphanides and John C. Williams

Abstract: This paper investigates the role of imperfect knowledge regarding the structure of the economy on the formation of expectations, macroeconomic dynamics, and the efficient formulation of monetary policy. Economic agents rely on an adaptive learning technology to form expectations and continuously update their beliefs regarding the dynamic structure of the economy based on incoming data. The process of perpetual learning introduces an additional layer of dynamic interactions between monetary policy and economic outcomes. We find that policies that would be efficient under rational expectations can perform poorly when knowledge is imperfect. In particular, policies that fail to maintain tight control over inflation are prone to episodes in which the public's expectations of inflation becomes uncoupled from the policy objective and stagflation results, in a pattern similar to that experienced in the United States during the 1970s. More generally, we show that in the presence of imperfect knowledge, policy should respond more aggressively to inflation than under perfect knowledge.

Keywords: Inflation targeting, policy rules, rational expectations, learning, inflation persistence

feds 2002-26
June 2002

Credit Scoring and the Availability, Price, and Risk of Small Business Credit (PDF)

Allen N. Berger, W. Scott Frame, and Nathan H. Miller

Abstract: We examine the economic effects of small business credit scoring (SBCS) and find that it is associated with expanded quantities, higher average prices, and greater risk levels for small business credits under $100,000. These findings are consistent with a net increase in lending to relatively risky "marginal borrowers" that would otherwise not receive credit, but pay relatively high prices when they are funded. We also find that: 1) bank-specific and industrywide learning curves are important; 2) SBCS effects differ for banks that adhere to "rules" versus "discretion" in using the technology; and 3) SBCS effects differ for slightly larger credits.

Keywords: Banks, credit scoring, small business, risk

feds 2002-25
May 2002

To What Extent Will the Banking Industry Be Globalized? A Study of Bank Nationality and Reach in 20 European Nations (PDF)

Allen N. Berger, Qinglei Dai, Steven Ongena, and David C. Smith

Abstract: We model two dimensions of bank globalization -- bank nationality (a bank from the firm's host nation, its home nation, or a third nation) and bank reach (a global, regional, or local bank) using a two-stage nested multinomial logit model. Our data set includes over 2,000 foreign affiliates of multinational corporations operating in 20 European nations. We find that these firms frequently use host nation banks for cash management services, and that bank reach may be strongly influenced by this choice of bank nationality. Our results suggest limits to the degree of future bank globalization.

Keywords: Bank, globalization, Europe, mergers

Abstract: Many researchers have found that the lagged interest rate enters estimated monetary policy rules with overwhelming significance. However, a recent paper by Rudebusch (2002) argues that the lagged interest rate is not a fundamental component of the U.S. policy rule, and that its significance arises from the omission of serially correlated variables from the policy rule. This paper demonstrates that, contrary to Rudebusch's claims, these two hypotheses can be directly distinguished in the estimation of the policy rule. Our findings indicate that while serially correlated omitted variables may be present, the lagged interest rate enters the policy rule on its own right and plays an important role in describing the behavior of the federal funds rate.

Keywords: Monetary policy rules, interest rate smoothing

Abstract: Does national market size matter for industrial structure? Round One (Krugman) answered in the affirmative: Home market effects matter. Round Two (Davis) refuted this, arguing that an assumption of convenience--transport costs only for the differentiated goods--conveniently obtained the result. In Round Three we relax another persistent assumption of convenience--industry types differentiated only by the degree of scale economies--and find that market size reemerges as a relevant force in determining industrial structure.

Keywords: Market size, home market effects, scale economies

Abstract: Models featuring increasing returns to scale in at least one factor of production have been used to study two separate phenomena: (1) multiplicity of self-fulfilling rational expectations equilibria (i.e. sunspots), and (2) production schedules that optimally feature bunching. We show in a continuous-time model with increasing returns to labor (IRL) that if the economy features multiple competitive equilibria, the optimal path of investment, employment and consumption cannot be constant, or even smoothly-varying. Any macroeconomic policies that shielded the economy from sunspot fluctuations would necessarily not be optimal. We then characterize the optimal allocation (the solution to the planner's problem) in a discrete time version of the model. We find that the optimal investment, employment and consumption policies under increasing returns can feature (1) discontinuous jumps, (2) endogenous cycles (with time-varying cycle limits) and (3) stochastic controls (lotteries). Our discrete-time model is very close to that studied by Christiano and Harrison (1999); they, however find that fluctuations are not optimal. We show that this difference is driven by their assumption that production is linear in capital.

Keywords: Increasing returns, externalities, fluctuations, lotteries

Full paper (757 KB Postscript)

Abstract: Recent trends in lifetime earnings inequality in the United States have been barely explored, despite the fact that lifetime earnings are a better measure of access to resources than the more widely studied annual earnings. This paper demonstrates that lifetime earnings inequality has increased over the past 30 years. We first explore how starting wages and wage growth have changed over time and link the changes to trends in lifetime earnings and the lifetime skill-premium. We then calculated a broader measure of lifetime earnings inequality and show that since the late 1960s, lifetime earnings inequality has increased by a third. Between the late 1960s and mid-1970s a rise in within-education-group inequality more than accounts for the increase; since then the growth in between-education-group inequality accounted for a majority of the rise. These results are consonant with the data on starting wages and wage growth. Finally, we show that the increase in inequality has been largely driven by greater dispersion in hourly wages, although declining hours of work among low-education young men did play a role. The analysis uses data from the March Current Population Survey as well as matched CPS data. Thus we demonstrate how repeated cross-sections and short panels of data can be used to examine issues usually reserved for long panels.

Keywords: Earnings, inequality, lifecycle, wage growth

Abstract: By any measure, price deflators for semiconductors fell at a staggering pace over much of the last decade. These rapid declines are typically attributed to technological innovations that lower constant-quality manufacturing costs. But, given Intel's dominance in the microprocessor market, those price declines may also reflect changes in Intel's profit margins. Disaggregate data on Intel's operations are used to explore these issues. There are three basic findings. First, the industry data show that Intel's markups from its microprocessor segment shrank substantially from 1993-99. Second, about 3-1/2 percentage points of the average 24 percent price decline in a price index for Intel's chips can be attributed to declines in these profit margins over this period. And, finally, the data suggest that virtually all of the remaining price declines can be attributed to quality increases associated with product innovation.

Keywords: Price indexes, multifactor productivity, semiconductors, high-tech industries, measurement

Abstract: The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) encourages lenders to make mortgage loans to certain classes of borrowers. However, the law does not apply to all lenders, and lenders do not necessarily receive credit for all loans made to borrowers of a particular class. We use this variation to test whether or not CRA-affected lenders cut interest rates to CRA-eligible borrowers; in other words, we test for the presence of a regulation-driven subsidy. Our theory suggests that loans made by commercial banks and savings associations ("relationship lenders") and mortgage companies ("transaction lenders") will differ from one another depending on borrower risk and homeownership benefits. Empirically, we find that CRA-eligible loans at CRA-affected institutions do carry lower mortgage spreads compared with other loans at the same institution. However, once we control for risk and benefit effects suggested by our theory, these differences in mortgage spreads become economically and statistically insignificant.

Keywords: Community Reinvestment Act, mortgages, bank regulation

Full paper (438 KB Postscript)

Abstract: Differences in financing patterns and financial characteristics between female- and male-owned firms are often attributed to imperfections in credit markets. However, these differences could arise for many reasons, such as differences in the characteristics and preferences of owners and firms. The differences in lending patterns by gender may in fact have little or nothing to do with supply side factors or market imperfections. The goal of our paper is to test the hypothesis that differences in financing patterns between female- and male-owned small businesses can be explained by differences in business, credit history, and owner characteristics other than gender. In what follows, we first describe how owner, business, and financing characteristics of female-owned businesses differ from male-owned businesses. We then conduct a multivariate analysis of indicators of credit use and recent lending experiences, modeling each of these as a function of firm, owner, and credit history characteristics.

Keywords: Small business, financing, gender

Abstract: Big cities specialize in services rather than manufacturing. Big-city establishments in services are larger than the national average while those in manufacturing are smaller. This paper proposes an explanation of these and other facts. The theory is developed in an economic geography model that is an alternative to the standard Dixit-Stiglitz structure. In our tractable structure that has potentially wider application, firms have monopoly power in local markets, but are price takers in export markets.

Keywords: Geographic concentration, establishment size, transportation costs

Abstract: How much of aggregate employment fluctuations is due to plants destroying and then recreating the same jobs over the cycle and how much is due to some plants permanently destroying jobs in a recession and other plants permanently creating jobs in an expansion? This paper decomposes plant level job flows into permanent and temporary components to answer this question, and finds that the permanent reallocation of jobs across plants accounts for approximately 30 percent of the cyclical fluctuations in aggregate employment.

Keywords: Job flows, reallocation, employment fluctuations

feds 2002-15
March 2002

Estimated Variance of Seasonally Adjusted Series (PDF)

William P. Cleveland

Abstract: For model-based seasonal adjustment, there are explicit formulas for obtaining the variance of the seasonal factors or the seasonally adjusted series. For series adjusted with X-11 or X-12, variance estimates are generally based on a linear approximation of the seasonal adjustment procedure. The work of Pfeffermann (1992) extends earlier work by Wolter and Monseur. This study uses simulated series and comparisons of alternative seasonal adjustment results for a few economic series to assess the accuracy of variance estimates. Pfeffermann's method gives good results when the true seasonal is centered and follows a fairly smooth evolution from year to year. Comparisons with formula-based computations and estimates from the Tramo-Seats programs by Maravall and Gomez show the latter can give good variance results for series adjusted with X-11 even if the seasonal factors themselves differ from X-11 factors.

Keywords: Seasonal adjustment, signal extraction

Full paper (123 KB Postscript)

Abstract: Consumer bankruptcy laws, which vary across states and over time, permit debtors to keep assets below a statutory exemption while debts are forgiven. High exemptions distort household portfolio decisions and tempt households to default on debts, but they also provide a crude form of consumption insurance. We combine information on state-level bankruptcy laws with the Consumer Expenditure Survey from 1984-1999. We find that higher exemptions are associated with (1) higher bankruptcy rates, (2) households that are more likely to simultaneously hold low-return liquid assets and owe high-cost unsecured debt, and (3) slightly better insurance for renters and worse insurance for homeowners.

Keywords: Bankruptcy law, household debt, portfolio puzzle

Full paper (608 KB Postscript)
feds 2002-13
March 2002

Price Measures for Semiconductor Devices (PDF)

Ana Aizcorbe

Abstract: This note provides quality-adjusted price indexes and nominal shipments data for highly disaggregate classes of semiconductor devices. These data may be used to construct indexes under different assumptions from those used in indexes that are currently available. Because the construction of these building blocks require some assumptions, the indexes are compared with similar price measures constructed by Bruce Grimm (1998) and by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Keywords: Price indexes, semiconductor industry, high-technology goods, price measurement

Abstract: Using a band pass filter, this paper estimates plant-level job flows at different frequencies and examines the characteristics of the high frequency (transitory) and low frequency (permanent) component flows. Because high frequency employment movements, which likely result in changes in the utilization of plant assets, and low frequency movements, which likely coincide with the restructuring of plant assets, result in different costs to the economy, understanding their separate behavior is important. High frequency plant-level employment fluctuations account for the majority of cyclical movements in aggregate manufacturing employment, but the temporal separation between job destruction and job creation is more pronounced for low frequency job flows, suggesting that permanent job flows reflect a more protracted employment adjustment process. To facilitate the evaluation of job flow models, many of which describe either transitory or permanent job flows, time series of job flows at different frequencies are presented in the appendix.

Keywords: Job flows, employment fluctuations, frequency decomposition

Abstract: There are two competing theories explaining bank panics. One argues that panics are driven by real shocks, asymmetric information, and concerns about insolvency. The other theory argues that bank runs are self-fulfilling, driven by illiquidity and the beliefs of depositors. This paper tests predictions of these two theories using information uniquely available for the Crisis of 1893. The results suggest that real economic shocks were important determinants of the location of panics at the national level, however at the local level, both insolvency and illiquidity were important as triggers of bank panics.

Keywords: Bank runs, bank suspensions, Panic of 1893

Abstract: By extrapolating Gordon's (1990) measures of the quality-bias in the official price indexes, we construct quality-adjusted price indexes for 24 types of equipment and software (E&S) from 1947 to 2000 and use them to measure technical change at the aggregate and at the industry level. Technological improvement in E&S accounts for an important fraction of postwar GDP growth and plays a key role in the productivity resurgence of the 1990s. Driving this finding is 4 percent annual growth in the quality of E&S in the postwar period and more than 6 percent annual growth in the 1990s. The acceleration in the 1990s occurred in every industry, consistent with the idea that information technology represents a general purpose technology. Furthermore, we measure for the aggregate economy and different sectors the "technological gap": how much more productive new machines are compared to the average machine. We show that the technological gap explains the dynamics of investment in new technologies and the returns to human capital, consistent with Nelson and Phelps' (1966) conjecture. Since the technological gap continues to increase -- it more than doubled in the past 20 years -- our evidence supports the view that at least some of the recent increase in productivity growth is sustainable.

Keywords: Quality-adjusted prices, growth accounting, skill premium

Abstract: We examine learning, model misspecification, and robust policy responses to misspecification in a quasi-real-time environment. The laboratory for the analysis is the Sargent (1999) explanation for the origins of inflation in the 1970s and the subsequent disinflation. Three robust policy rules are derived that differ according to the extent that misspecification is taken as a parametric phenomenon. These responses to drifting estimated parameters and apparent misspecification are compared to the certainty-equivalent case studied by Sargent. We find gains from utilizing robust approaches to monetary policy design, but only when the approach to robustness is carefully tailored to the problem at hand. In the least parametric approach, the medicine of robust control turns out to be too potent for the disease of misspecification. In the most parametric approach, the response to misspecification is too weak and too misdirected to be of help. But when the robust approach to policy is narrowly directed in the correct location, it can avoid Nash inflation and improve social welfare. It follows that agnosticism regarding the sources of misspecification has its pitfalls. We also find that Sargent?s story for the rise of inflation of the 1970s and its subsequent decline in the 1980s is robust to most ways of relaxing a strong assumption in the original work.

Keywords: Uncertainty, knightian uncertainty, robust control, learning, monetary policy

Full paper (847 KB Postscript)
feds 2002-08
January 2002

Monetary Policy Rules and the Great Inflation (PDF)

Athanasios Orphanides

Abstract: The nature of monetary policy during the 1970s is evaluated through the lens of a forward-looking Taylor rule based on perceptions regarding the outlook for inflation and unemployment at the time policy decisions were made. The evidence suggests that policy during the 1970s was essentially indistinguishable from a systematic, activist, forward-looking approach such as is often identified with good policy advice in theoretical and econometric policy evaluation research. This points to the unpleasant possibility that the policy errors of the 1970s occured despite the use of a seemingly desirable policy approach. Though the resulting activist policies could have appeared highly promising, they proved, in retrospect, counterproductive.

Keywords: Monetary policy rules, inflation, unemployment, Greenbook forecasts

Abstract: The long-term growth forecasts of equity analysts do not have well-defined horizons, an ambiguity of substantial import for many applications. I propose an empirical valuation model, derived from the Campbell-Shiller dividend-price ratio model, in which the forecast horizon used by the "market" can be deduced from linear regressions. Specifically, in this model, the horizon can be inferred from the elasticity of the price-earnings ratio with respect to the long-term growth forecast. The model is estimated on industry- and sector-level portfolios of S&P 500 firms over 1983-2001. The estimated coefficients on consensus long-term growth forecasts suggest that the market applies these forecasts to an average horizon of at least 6 years, and as many as 10 years.

Keywords: Stock returns, equity premium, price-earnings ratio, earnings growth

Abstract: Although households have invested billions in 401(k) accounts, these balances may not be new saving if workers invest money that they would have saved in the program's absence. In this paper, I assess the effect of the 401(k) program on saving by comparing changes in the wealth of 401(k) eligible and ineligible households over the 1989-1998 period using data from the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF). This comparison may yield misleading estimates of the effect of 401(k)s on saving if eligible households have a higher taste for saving than ineligible households or if they begin the 1989-1998 period with greater amounts of wealth. I adjust for these potential biases by constructing subjective measures of saving taste from questions on the SCF and by transforming the wealth measure with the inverse hyperbolic sine. Incorporating these adjustments suggests that 401(k)s have little to no effect on saving.

Keywords: 401(k) program, saving, wealth data, survey of consumer finances

feds 2002-05
January 2002

Rule-of-Thumb Behaviour and Monetary Policy (PDF)

Jeffery D. Amato and Thomas Laubach

Abstract: We investigate the implications of rule-of-thumb behaviour on the part of consumers or price setters for optimal monetary policy and simple interest rate rules. The existence of such behaviour leads to endogenous persistence in output and inflation; changes the transmission of shocks to these variables; and alters the policymaker's welfare objective. Our main finding is that highly inertial policy is optimal regardless of what fraction of agents occasionally follow a rule of thumb. We also find that the interest rate rule that implements optimal policy in the purely optimising case, and a first-difference version of Taylor's (1993) rule, have desirable properties in all of the cases we consider. By contrast, the coefficients in other optimised simple rules tend to be extremely sensitive with respect to the fraction of rule-of-thumb behaviour and changes in other parameters of the model.

Keywords: Rule of thumb, optimal monetary policy, interest rate rules

feds 2002-04
January 2002

The Impact of Monetary Policy on Asset Prices (PDF)

Roberto Rigobon and Brian Sack

Abstract: Estimating the response of asset prices to changes in monetary policy is complicated by the endogeneity of policy decisions and the fact that both interest rates and asset prices react to numerous other variables. This paper develops a new estimator that is based on the heteroskedasticity that exists in high frequency data. We show that the response of asset prices to changes in monetary policy can be identified based on the increase in the variance of policy shocks that occurs on days of FOMC meetings and of the Chairman's semi-annual monetary policy testimony to Congress. The identification approach employed requires a much weaker set of assumptions than needed under the "event-study" approach that is typically used in this context. The results indicate that an increase in short-term interest rates results in a decline in stock prices and in an upward shift in the yield curve that becomes smaller at longer maturities.

Keywords: Monetary policy, stock market, yield curve, identification, heteroskedasticity

feds 2002-03
January 2002

Growth Effects of Progressive Taxation (PDF)

Wenli Li and Pierre-Daniel Sarte

Abstract: Criticisms of endogenous growth models with flat rate taxes have highlighted two features that are not substantiated by the data. These models generally imply: (1) that economic growth must fall with the share of government expenditures in output across countries, and (2) that one-time shifts in marginal tax rates should instantaneously lead to similar shifts in output growth. In contrast, we show that allowing for heterogenous households and progressive taxes into otherwise conventional linear growth models radically changes these predictions. In particular, economic growth does not have to fall, and may even increase, with the share of government expenditures in output across countries. Moreover, discrete permanent shifts in tax policy now lead to protracted transitions between balanced growth paths. Both of these findings hold whether or not government expenditures are thought to be productive, and better conform to available empirical evidence.

Keywords: Economic growth, progressive taxation, heterogenous households

Abstract: This paper develops a general equilibrium model of both taste-based and statistical discrimination in credit markets. We find that both types of discrimination have similar predictions for intergroup differences in loan terms. The commonly held view has been that if there exists taste-based discrimination, loans approved to minority borrowers would have higher expected profitability than to majorities with comparable credit background. We show that the validity of this profitability view depends crucially on how expected loan profitability is measured. We also show that there must exist taste-based discrimination if loans to minority borrowers have higher expected rate of return or lower expected rate of default loss than to majorities with the same exogenous characteristics at the time of loan origination. Empirical evidence on expected rate of default loss cannot reject the null hypothesis of non-existence of taste-based discrimination.

Keywords: Credit rationing, discrimination, mortgage, credit risk

feds 2002-01
January 2002

Inflation and the Size of Government (PDF)

Song Han and Casey B. Mulligan

Abstract: It is commonly supposed in public and academic discourse that inflation and big government are related. We show that economic theory delivers such a prediction only in special cases. As an empirical matter, inflation is significantly positively related to the size of government mainly when periods of war and peace are compared. We find a weak positive peacetime time series correlation between inflation and the size of government and a negative cross-country correlation of inflation with non-defense spending.

Keywords: Inflation, government size, central bank independence


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