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Finance and Economics Discussion Series

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Abstract: We reassess the effect of state and federal minimum wages on U.S. earnings inequality, attending to two issues that appear to bias earlier work: violation of the assumed independence of state wage levels and state wage dispersion, and errors-in-variables that inflate impact estimates via an analogue of the well known division bias problem. We find that erosion of the real minimum wage raises inequality in the lower tail of the wage distribution (the 50/10 wage ratio), but the impacts are typically less than half as large as those reported in the literature and are almost negligible for males. Nevertheless, the estimated effects of the minimum wage on points of the wage distribution extend to wage percentiles where the minimum is nominally non-binding, implying spillovers. We structurally estimate these spillovers and show that their relative importance grows as the nominal minimum wage becomes less binding. Subsequent analysis underscores, however, that spillovers and measurement error (absent spillovers) have similar implications for the effect of the minimum on the shape of the lower tail of the measured wage distribution. With available precision, we cannot reject the hypothesis that estimated spillovers to non-binding percentiles are due to reporting artifacts. Accepting this null, the implied effect of the minimum wage on the actual wage distribution is smaller than the effect of the minimum wage on the measured wage distribution.

Keywords: Minimum wage, wage inequality, wage distribution

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feds 2010-59
December 2010

Foreclosure's Wake: The Credit Experiences of Individuals Following Foreclosure (PDF)

Kenneth P. Brevoort and Cheryl R. Cooper

Abstract: While a substantial literature has examined the causes of mortgage foreclosure, there has been relatively little work on the consequences of foreclosure for the borrowers themselves. Using a large sample of anonymous credit bureau records, observed quarterly from 1999Q1 through 2010Q1, we examine the credit experiences of almost 350,000 borrowers before and after their mortgage foreclosure. Our analysis documents the substantial declines in credit scores that accompany foreclosure and examines the length of time it takes individuals to return their credit scores to pre-delinquency levels. The results suggest that, particularly for prime borrowers, credit score recovery comes slowly, if at all. This appears to be driven by persistently higher levels of delinquency on consumer credit (such as auto and credit card loans) in the years that follow foreclosure. Our results also indicate that the experiences of individuals whose mortgages entered foreclosure from 2007 to 2009 have followed a similar path to borrowers foreclosed earlier in the decade, though post-foreclosure delinquency rates for the recently foreclosed have been higher and, consequently, credit score recovery appears to be taking longer.

Keywords: Foreclosure, credit scores, mortgages, consumer credit

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feds 2010-58
December 2010

Does Credit Scoring Produce a Disparate Impact? (PDF)

Robert B. Avery, Kenneth P. Brevoort, and Glenn B. Canner

Abstract: The widespread use of credit scoring in the underwriting and pricing of mortgage and consumer credit has raised concerns that the use of these scores may unfairly disadvantage minority populations. A specific concern has been that the independent variables that comprise these models may have a disparate impact on these demographic groups. By "disparate impact" we mean that a variable's predictive power might arise not from its ability to predict future performance within any demographic group, but rather from acting as a surrogate for group membership. Using a unique source of data that combines a nationally representative sample of credit bureau records with demographic information from the Social Security Administration and a demographic information company, we examine the extent to which credit history scores may have such a disparate impact. Our examination yields no evidence of disparate impact by race (or ethnicity) or gender. However, we do find evidence of limited disparate impact by age, in which the use of variables related to an individual's credit history appear to lower the credit scores of older individuals and increase them for the young.

Keywords: Credit scoring, discrimination, disparate impact

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Abstract: We consider what, if any, relationship there is between monetary aggregates and inflation, and whether there is any substantial reason for modifying the current mainstream mode of policy analysis, which frequently does not consider monetary aggregates at all. We begin by considering the body of thought known as the "quantity theory of money." The quantity theory centers on the prediction that there will be a long-run proportionate reaction of the price level to an exogenous increase in the nominal money stock. The nominal homogeneity conditions that deliver the quantity-theory result are the same as those that deliver monetary neutrality, an important principle behind policy formulation. The quantity theory implies a ceteris paribus unitary relationship between inflation and money growth. Simulations of a New Keynesian model suggest that we should expect this relationship to be apparent in time series data, with no heavy averaging or filtering required, but with allowance needed for the phase shift in the relationship between monetary growth rates and inflation. While financial innovation can obscure the relationship between monetary growth and inflation, evidence of a money growth/inflation relationship does emerge from U.S. time series and G7 panel data. Various considerations suggest that studies of inflation and monetary policy behavior can benefit from including both interest rates and money in the empirical analysis.

Keywords: Monetary aggregates, inflation, interest rates, monetary policy

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Abstract: This paper studies the effects of capital taxation in a dynamic heterogeneous-agent economy with uninsurable entrepreneurial risk. Although it allows for rich general-equilibrium effects and a stationary distribution of wealth, the model is highly tractable. This permits a clear analysis, not only of the steady state, but also of the entire transitional dynamics following any change in tax policies. Unlike either the complete-markets paradigm or Bewley-type models where idiosyncratic risk impacts only labor income, here it is shown that capital taxation may actually stimulate capital accumulation. This possibility emerges because of the general-equilibrium effects of the insurance aspect of capital taxation. In particular, for the preferred calibrated version of the model, when the tax on capital is 25 percent, output per work-hour is 2.2 percent higher than it would have been had the tax rate been zero. Turning to the welfare effects of a reform in capital taxation, it is examined how these effects depend on whether one focuses on the steady state or also takes into account transitional dynamics, as well as how they vary in the cross-section of the population (rich versus poor, entrepreneurs versus non-entrepreneurs).

Keywords: Capital-income taxation, uninsurable idiosyncratic investment risk, general equilibrium, heterogeneous agents

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Abstract: This paper studies the implications of inflation persistence (generated by backward-looking price setters) for monetary policy in a New Keynesian "input-output" model--a model with sticky prices in both intermediate and final goods sectors. Optimal policy under commitment depends on the degree of inflation persistence in both sectors. Under discretion, speed-limit targeting--targeting the change in the output gap--outperforms price-level and inflation targeting in the presence of inflation persistence. If inflation persistence is low in the intermediate goods sector, price-level targeting outperforms inflation targeting despite high inflation persistence in the final goods sector.

Keywords: Inflation persistence, intermediate goods, monetary policy, inflation targeting, price-level targeting, input-output model, New Keynesian model

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feds 2010-54
October 2010

Financial Integration, Entrepreneurial Risk and Global Dynamics (PDF)

Vasia Panousi and George-Marios Angeletos

Abstract: How does financial integration impact capital accumulation, current-account dynamics, and cross-country inequality? This paper investigates this question within a two-country, general-equilibrium, incomplete-markets model that focuses on the importance of idiosyncratic entrepreneurial risk---a risk that introduces, not only a precautionary motive for saving, but also a wedge between the interest rate and the marginal product of capital. Our contribution is then to show that this friction provides a simple explanation for the emergence of global imbalances, a simple resolution to the empirical puzzle that capital often fails to flow from the rich or slow-growing countries to the poor or fast-growing ones, and a distinct set of policy lessons regarding the intertemporal costs and benefits of capital-account liberalization.

Keywords: Financial integration, capital-account liberalization, incomplete markets, idiosyncratic risk, entrepreneurship, current-account deficits, global imbalances

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Abstract: The boom in the subprime mortgage market yielded many loans with high LTV ratios. From a large proprietary database on subprime mortgages, we find that choice of mortgage rate type is not linear in loan sizes. A fixed rate mortgage contract is a popular choice when loan size, measured by LTV ratio, is small. As LTV ratio increases, borrowers become more likely to choose adjustable rate mortgage contracts. However, when LTV reaches a certain level, borrowers start to switch back to fixed rate contracts. For these high LTV loans, fixed rate mortgages dominate borrowers' choices. We present a very simple model that explains this "nonlinear" pattern in mortgage instrument choice. The model shows that the choice of mortgage rate type depends on two opposing effects: a "term structure" effect and an "interest rate volatility" effect. When the loan size is small, the term structure effect dominates: rising LTV ratios making ARM loans less costly, and more attractive. However, when the loan size is large enough, the interest volatility effect dominates: rising LTV ratios making FRM loans less costly and preferable. We present strong empirical evidence in support of the model predictions.

Keywords: Mortgages, household financial decisions

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feds 2010-52
September 2010

Flow and Stock Effects of Large-Scale Treasury Purchases (PDF)

Stefania D'Amico and Thomas B. King

Abstract: Using a panel of daily CUSIP-level data, we study the effects of the Federal Reserve's program to purchase $300 billion of U.S. Treasury coupon securities announced and implemented during 2009. This program represented an unprecedented intervention in the Treasury market and thus allows us to shed light on the price elasticities and substitutability of Treasuries, preferred-habitat theories of the term structure, and the ability of large-scale asset purchases to reduce overall yields and improve market functioning. We find that each purchase operation, on average, caused a decline in yields in the sector purchased of 3.5 basis points on the days when these purchases occurred (the "flow effect" of the program). In addition, the program as a whole resulted in a persistent downward shift in the yield curve of as much as 50 basis points (the "stock effect"), with the largest impact in the 10- to 15-year sector. The coefficient patterns generally support a view of segmentation or imperfect substitution within the Treasury market.

Keywords: Treasury market, LSAP, yield curve, preferred habitat

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Abstract: This paper examines the relationship between money market fund (MMF) risks and outcomes during crises, with a focus on the ABCP crisis in 2007 and the run on money funds in 2008. I analyze three broad types of MMF risks: portfolio risks arising from a fund's assets, investor risk reflecting the likelihood that a fund's shareholders will redeem shares disruptively, and sponsor risk due to uncertainty about MMF sponsors' support for distressed funds. I find that during the run on MMFs in September and October 2008, outflows were larger for MMFs that had previously exhibited greater degrees of all three types of risk. In contrast, as the asset-backed commercial paper (ABCP) crisis unfolded in 2007, many MMFs suffered capital losses, but investor flows were relatively unresponsive to risks, probably because investors correctly believed that sponsors would absorb the losses. However, the consequences of MMF risks were quite costly for some sponsors: Using a unique data set of sponsor interventions, I show that sponsor financial support was more likely for MMFs that previously earned higher gross yields (a measure of portfolio risk) and funds with bank-affiliated sponsors. Funds' gross yields and bank affiliation (but not funds' ratings) also would have helped forecast holdings of distressed ABCP. This paper provides some useful lessons for investors and policymakers. The significance of MMF risks in predicting poor outcomes in past crises highlights the importance of monitoring such risks, and I offer some useful proxies for doing so. The paper also argues for greater attention to the systemic risks posed by the industry's reliance on discretionary sponsor support.

Keywords: Money market fund, mutual fund, ABCP, asset-backed commercial paper, financial crisis, risk, Lehman

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Abstract: We study the fragility of discretionary liquidity provision by major financial intermediaries during systemic events. The laboratory of our study is the recent collapse of the auction rate securities (ARS) market. Using a comprehensive dataset constructed from auction reports and intraday transactions data on municipal ARS, we present quantitative evidence that auction dealers acted at their own discretion as "market makers" before the market collapsed. We show that this discretionary liquidity provision greatly affected both net investor demand and auction clearing rates. Importantly, such discretionary liquidity provision is fragile. As auction dealers suffered losses from other financial markets and faced increasing inventory pressure, they stopped making markets. Moreover, the drop in support occurred suddenly, apparently triggered by the unexpected withdrawal of one major broker-dealer.

Keywords: Auction rate securities, uniform-price auctions, liquidity crisis, financial fragility, market microstructure, municipal bond pricing

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Abstract: State and local government tax revenues dropped steeply following the most severe housing market contraction since the Great Depression. We identify five main channels through which the housing market affects state and local tax revenues: property tax revenues, transfer tax revenues, sales tax revenues (including a direct effect through construction materials and an indirect effect through the link between housing wealth and consumption), and personal income tax revenues. We find that property tax revenues do not tend to decrease following house price declines. We conclude that the resilience of property tax receipts is due to significant lags between market values and assessed values of housing and the tendency of policy makers to offset declines in the tax base with higher tax rates. The other four channels have had a relatively modest effect on state tax revenues. We calculate that these channels jointly reduced tax revenues by $15 billion from 2005 to 2009, which is about 2 percent of total state own-source revenues in 2005. We conclude that the recent contraction in state and local tax revenues has been driven primarily by the general economic recession, rather than the housing market per-se.

This paper was reposted in October 2010 to update values in table 3.

Keywords: Property tax, sales tax, state income tax, transfer tax, housing market

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Abstract: This paper presents a framework to interpret movements in the Beveridge curve and analyze unemployment fluctuations. We decompose the unemployment rate into three main components: (1) a component driven by changes in labor demand--movements along the Beveridge curve and shifts in the Beveridge curve due to layoffs--(2) a component driven by changes in labor supply--shifts in the Beveridge curve due to quits, movements in-and-out of the labor force and demographics--and (3) a component driven by changes in the efficiency of matching unemployed workers to jobs. We find that cyclical movements in unemployment are dominated by changes in labor demand, but that changes in labor supply due to movements in-and-out of the labor force also play an important role. Further, cyclical changes in labor demand lead cyclical changes in labor supply. Changes in matching efficiency generally play a small role but can decline substantially in recessions. At low-frequencies, labor demand displays no trend, and changes in labor supply explain virtually all of the secular trend in unemployment since 1976.

Keywords: Beveridge curve, unemployment rate, gross worker flows, matching function

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Abstract: In the period prior to the financial crisis, leverage in the financial system increased substantially. This buildup was likely facilitated by, among other factors, a loosening of credit terms related to OTC derivatives and securities financing transactions. However, little or no systematic data on these trends were available at the time. The new Senior Credit Officer Opinion Survey on Dealer Financing Terms, which was conducted for the first time in June 2010, partially fills this gap. The new survey provides qualitative information about changes in credit terms and conditions across the entire range of these transactions, and the evolution of market conditions and conventions applicable to such activities.

Keywords: Credit terms, derivatives, securities financing

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Abstract: Mortgage securitization has been tried several times in the United States and each time it has failed amid a credit bust. In what is now a familiar recurring history, during the credit boom, underwriting standards are violated and guarantees are inadequately funded; subsequently, defaults increase and investors in mortgage-backed securities attempt to dump their investments. We focus on a specific market failure associated with asset-backed securitization and propose a tailored government remedy. Our analysis of loan market equilibriums shows that the additional liquidity provided by securitization may (or may not) lower primary loan rates, but such liquidity comes at a cost. More specifically, if guarantee-sensitive investors doubt the credit quality of asset-backed bonds, significant risk premiums can develop. If a financial crisis ensues, securitization can disappear from the market entirely, leaving banks that originate just the highest quality loans as the only source of credit. This abrupt increase in lending standards can tighten credit, exacerbate asset price declines, and impinge on economic growth. We argue that an institutional structure for stemming "runs," analogous to the current set up for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, could be deployed to insure pre-specified asset-backed instruments. Such an insurer would likely benefit from the accumulated information and infrastructure that is embodied in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Hence, the provision of federally-backed catastrophic insurance could provide a rationale for restructuring the housing-related GSEs towards a public purpose. Regardless of its institutional structure, a federally-backed catastrophic bond insurer would provide greater financial stability and ensure credit is provided at reasonable cost both in times of prosperity and during downturns. Moreover, the explicit pricing of the government-backed guarantee would mitigate the market distortions that have been created by implicit government guarantees during prosperity.

Keywords: Fannie Mae (FNM), Freddie Mac (FRE), Mortgage-Backed Securities (MBS), Government-Sponsored Enterprises (GSE), Asset-Backed Securities (ABS), financial crisis, catastrophic risk

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Abstract: We demonstrate that the parameters controlling skewness and kurtosis in popular equity return models estimated at daily frequency can be obtained almost as precisely as if volatility is observable by simply incorporating the strong information content of realized volatility measures extracted from high-frequency data. For this purpose, we introduce asymptotically exact volatility measurement equations in state space form and propose a Bayesian estimation approach. Our highly efficient estimates lead in turn to substantial gains for forecasting various risk measures at horizons ranging from a few days to a few months ahead when taking also into account parameter uncertainty. As a practical rule of thumb, we find that two years of high frequency data often suffice to obtain the same level of precision as twenty years of daily data, thereby making our approach particularly useful in finance applications where only short data samples are available or economically meaningful to use. Moreover, we find that compared to model inference without high-frequency data, our approach largely eliminates underestimation of risk during bad times or overestimation of risk during good times. We assess the attainable improvements in VaR forecast accuracy on simulated data and provide an empirical illustration on stock returns during the financial crisis of 2007-2008.

Keywords: Equity return models, parameter uncertainty, bayesian estimation, high-frequency data, jump-robust volatility measures, value at risk, forecasting

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Abstract: The effect of bank capital on lending is a critical determinant of the linkage between financial conditions and real activity, and has received especial attention in the recent financial crisis. We use panel-regression techniques--following Bernanke and Lown (1991) and Hancock and Wilcox (1993, 1994)--to study the lending of large bank holding companies (BHCs) and find small effects of capital on lending. We then consider the effect of capital ratios on lending using a variant of Lown and Morgan's (2006) VAR model, and again find modest effects of bank capital ratio changes on lending. These results are in marked contrast to estimates obtained using simple empirical relations between aggregate commercial-bank assets and leverage growth, which have recently been very influential in shaping forecasters' and policymakers' views regarding the effects of bank capital on loan growth. Our estimated models are then used to understand recent developments in bank lending and, in particular, to consider the role of TARP-related capital injections in affecting these developments.

Keywords: Bank capital, bank lending

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Abstract: We examine the effects of the economy on the government budget as well as the effects of the budget on the economy. First, we provide measures of the effects of automatic stabilizers on budget outcomes at the federal and state and local levels. For the federal government, the deficit increases about 0.35 percent of GDP for each 1 percentage point deviation of actual GDP relative to potential GDP. For state and local governments, the deficit increases by about 0.1 percent of GDP. We then examine the response of the economy to the automatic stabilizers using the FRB/US model by comparing the response to aggregate demand shocks under two scenarios: with the automatic stabilizers in place and without the automatic stabilizers. Second, we provide measures of discretionary fiscal policy actions at the federal and state and local levels. We find that federal policy actions are somewhat counter-cyclical while state and local policy actions have been somewhat pro-cyclical. Finally, we evaluate the impact of the budget, from both automatic stabilizers and discretionary actions, on economic activity in 2008 and 2009.

Keywords: Fiscal policy, automatic stabilizers

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Abstract: We propose a novel approach to estimate household income uncertainty at various future horizons and characterize how the estimated uncertainty evolves over the life cycle. We measure income uncertainty as the variance of linear forecast errors conditional on information available to households prior to observing the realized income. This approach is semiparametric because we impose essentially no restrictions on the statistical properties of the forecast errors. Relative to previous studies, we find lower and less persistent income uncertainties that call for a life cycle consumption profile with a less pronounced hump.

Keywords: Income uncertainty, forecast errors, semiparametric estimates, lifecycle dynamics

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feds 2010-41
August 2010

Money, Reserves, and the Transmission of Monetary Policy: Does the Money Multiplier Exist? (PDF)

Seth B. Carpenter and Selva Demiralp

Abstract: With the use of nontraditional policy tools, the level of reserve balances has risen significantly in the United States since 2007. Before the financial crisis, reserve balances were roughly $20 billion whereas the level has risen well past $1 trillion. The effect of reserve balances in simple macroeconomic models often comes through the money multiplier, affecting the money supply and the amount of bank lending in the economy. Most models currently used for macroeconomic policy analysis, however, either exclude money or model money demand as entirely endogenous, thus precluding any causal role for reserves and money. Nevertheless, some academic research and many textbooks continue to use the money multiplier concept in discussions of money. We explore the institutional structure of the transmission mechanism beginning with open market operations through to money and loans. We then undertake empirical analysis of the relationship among reserve balances, money, and bank lending. We use aggregate as well as bank-level data in a VAR framework and document that the mechanism does not work through the standard multiplier model or the bank lending channel. In particular, if the level of reserve balances is expected to have an impact on the economy, it seems unlikely that a standard multiplier story will explain the effect.

Keywords: Money mulitplier, reserves

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Abstract: Recent fiscal policies have aimed to stimulate household spending. In 2008, most households received one-time economic stimulus payments. In 2009, most working households received the Making Work Pay tax credit in the form of reduced withholding; other households, mainly retirees, received one-time payments. This paper quantifies the spending response to these different policies and examines whether the spending response differed according to whether the stimulus was delivered as a one-time payment or as a flow of payments in the form of reduced withholding. Based on responses from a representative sample of households in the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers, the paper finds that the reduction in withholding led to a substantially lower rate of spending than the one-time payments. Specifically, 25 percent of households reported that the one-time economic stimulus payment in 2008 led them to mostly increase their spending while only 13 percent reported that the extra pay from the lower withholding in 2009 led them to mostly increase their spending. The paper uses several approaches to isolate the effect of the delivery mechanism from the changing aggregate and individual conditions. Responses to a hypothetical stimulus in 2009, examination of "free responses" concerning differing responses to the policies, and regression analysis controlling for individual economic conditions and demographics all support the primary importance of the income delivery mechanism in determining the spending response to the policies.

Keywords: Fiscal stimulus, tax rebates, marginal propensity to consume, survey responses

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Abstract: The bank lending channel of monetary policy suggests that banks play a special role in the transmission of monetary policy. We look for this special role by examining the business strategies of banks as it relates to mortgage funding and mortgage lending. "Traditional banks" have a large supply of excess core deposits and specialize in information-intensive lending to borrowers (which is proxied here using mortgage lending in subprime communities), whereas "market-based banks" are funded with managed liabilities and mainly lend to relatively easy-to-evaluate borrowers. We predict that only "transition banks" operating between these business strategies are likely to increase their loan rate spreads substantially in response to monetary tightening. To fund ongoing mortgage originations, these banks must substitute from core deposits to managed liabilities, which have a large external finance premium due to these banks' information-intensive lending. Consistent with this prediction, we find evidence of a bank lending channel only among transition banks - they significantly reduce mortgage lending in response to monetary contractions.

Keywords: Bank lending channel, monetary policy, depository institutions, mortgages

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feds 2010-38
June 2010

Exports, Borders, Distance, and Plant Size (PDF)

Thomas J. Holmes and John J. Stevens

Abstract: The fact that large manufacturing plants export relatively more than small plants has been at the foundation of much work in the international trade literature. We examine this fact using Census micro data on plant shipments from the Commodity Flow Survey. We show the fact is not entirely an international trade phenomenon; part of it can be accounted for by the effect of distance, distinct from any border effect. Export destinations tend to be further than domestic destinations, and large plants tend to ship further distances even to domestic locations, as compared with small plants. We develop an extension of the Melitz (2003) model and use it to set up an analysis with model interpretations of ratios between large plant and small plant shipments that can be calculated with the data. We obtain a decomposition of the overall ratio into a term that varies with distance, holding fixed the border, and a term that varies with the border, holding fixed the distance. The distance term accounts for more than half of the overall difference.

Keywords: Border effect, plant size, exports

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Abstract: The impact of undiversified idiosyncratic risk on value-at-risk and expected shortfall can be approximated analytically via a methodology known as granularity adjustment (GA). In principle, the GA methodology can be applied to any risk-factor model of portfolio risk. Thus far, however, analytical results have been derived only for simple models of actuarial loss, i.e., credit loss due to default. We demonstrate that the GA is entirely tractable for single-factor versions of a large class of models that includes all the commonly used mark-to-market approaches. Our approach covers both finite ratings-based models and models with a continuum of obligor states. We apply our methodology to CreditMetrics and KMV Portfolio Manager, as these are benchmark models for the finite and continuous classes, respectively. Comparative statics of the GA with respect to model parameters in CreditMetrics reveal striking and counterintuitive patterns. We explain these relationships with a stylized model of portfolio risk.

Keywords: Granularity adjustment, idiosyncratic risk, portfolio credit risk, value-at-risk, expected shortfall

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Abstract: Gasoline prices influence where households decide to locate by changing the cost of commuting. Consequently, the substantial increase in gas prices since 2003 may have reduced the demand for housing in areas far from employment centers, leading to a decrease in the price and/or quantity of housing in those locations relative to locations closer to jobs. Using annual panel data on ZIP codes and municipalities in a large number of metropolitan areas of the United States from 1981 to 2008, we find that a 10 percent increase in gas prices leads to a 10 percent decrease in construction after 4 years in locations with a long average commute relative to locations closer to jobs, but to no significant change in house prices. Thus, the supply response may prevent the change in housing demand from capitalizing in house prices. Because housing is durable, the resulting change in construction has a long-lived impact on the spatial distribution of housing units.

Keywords: Gasoline price, household location, housing

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Abstract: A central question in the literature on mortgage default is at what point underwater homeowners walk away from their homes even if they can afford to pay. We study borrowers from Arizona, California, Florida, and Nevada who purchased homes in 2006 using non-prime mortgages with 100 percent financing. Almost 80 percent of these borrowers default by the end of the observation period in September 2009. After distinguishing between defaults induced by job losses and other income shocks from those induced purely by negative equity, we find that the median borrower does not strategically default until equity falls to -62 percent of their home's value. This result suggests that borrowers face high default and transaction costs. Our estimates show that about 80 percent of defaults in our sample are the result of income shocks combined with negative equity. However, when equity falls below -50 percent, half of the defaults are driven purely by negative equity. Therefore, our findings lend support to both the "double-trigger" theory of default and the view that mortgage borrowers exercise the implicit put option when it is in their interest.

Keywords: Housing, mortgage default, negative equity

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Abstract: Recent literature has estimated that the 2003 dividend tax cut caused a large increase in aggregate dividend payouts, which would imply that dividend taxation creates large efficiency costs relative to the amount of revenue raised. I document that dividend payouts by real estate investment trusts also rose sharply following the tax cut, even though REIT dividends did not qualify for the cut. Using REITs as a control group in a simple difference-in-differences framework produces small and statistically insignificant estimates of the effect of the tax cut on aggregate dividend payouts. I further document that the ratio of dividend payouts to corporate earnings changed little after the tax cut, and that the ratio of dividend payouts to share repurchases fell dramatically. These facts suggest that contemporaneous increases in earnings and investor demand for payouts drove the observed increases in aggregate dividend payouts, with at most a modest role for the tax cut.

Keywords: Payout policy, dividends, share repurchases, Taxes

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Abstract: Absences in Chicago Public High Schools are 3-7 days per year higher in first period than at other times of the day. This study exploits this empirical regularity and the essentially random variation between students in the ordering of classes over the day to measure how the returns to classroom learning vary by course subject, and how much attendance in one class spills over into learning in other subjects. We find that having a class in first period reduces grades in that course and has little effect on long-term grades or grades in related subjects. We also find moderately-sized negative effects of having a class in first period on test scores in that subject and in related subjects, particularly for math classes.

Keywords: Education, absences, course grades, test scores

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Abstract: We estimate the marginal propensity to consume (MPC) out of permanent and transitory shocks to house price appreciation. We consider two different models under which those shocks may affect consumption. In the first one, housing is a risky asset. In the second one, housing has a role as a consumption and as an investment good. In both, changes in the rate of house price appreciation may affect nonhousing consumption. Shocks to appreciation rates may happen when increases in future house prices are expected to differ from the current ones because heterogeneity, market failures or errors in expectations. We test the implications of those models empirically using the PSID's imputed total consumption from food consumption and self-reported house values, and base our identification strategy on two sources of variation in the appreciation rate. The first source depends on the fact that home prices are far more cyclical in areas where the supply of housing is relatively inelastic. The second source is households' perceptions about which parts of shocks to appreciation rates are permanent or transitory. We model households' self-reported rate of appreciation as an AR(1) process and use both the Hodrick-Prescott and the Kalman filter to separate households' perceptions about permanent and transitory shocks to appreciation. Our results show that (1) consumption responses to house wealth shocks vary greatly by area and depend upon the area-specific levels of temporal persistence and variance of those shocks; (2) the overall MPC out of those shocks is 3.5%; (3) the MPC out of permanent shocks is between 3.4% and 9.1%; and (4) the MPC out of transitory shocks is between 0.5% and 3.3%.

Keywords: Life cycle, marginal propensity to consume, house prices

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Abstract: I estimate the welfare provided by and net costs of the Medicare HMO program in 1999-2002. I measure welfare with a nested logit model of demand for Medicare HMO plans using detailed data on plan benefits. From this, I derive estimates of consumer surplus and find that total welfare provided by the program over the four-year period is about $61 billion (2000 $). I also use data on favorable selection enjoyed by Medicare HMOs to estimate net costs, which total about $21 billion (2000 $). Net welfare therefore totals nearly $40 billion and the return on spending is about 186%.

Keywords: Medicare, HMO, prescription drug benefits, welfare analysis, demand analysis

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Abstract: There is wide variation in the sizes of manufacturing plants, even within the most narrowly defined industry classifications used by statistical agencies. Standard theories attribute all such size differences to productivity differences. This paper develops an alternative theory in which industries are made up of large plants producing standardized goods and small plants making custom or specialty goods. It uses confidential Census data to estimate the parameters of the model, including estimates of plant counts in the standardized and specialty segments by industry. The estimated model fits the data relatively well compared with estimates based on standard approaches. In particular, the predictions of the model for the impacts of a surge in imports from China are consistent with what happened to U.S. manufacturing industries that experienced such a surge over the period 1997--2007. Large-scale standardized plants were decimated, while small-scale specialty plants were relatively less impacted.

Keywords: Plant size, productivity, trade, geographic concentration

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Abstract: This paper provides documentation for a large-scale estimated DSGE model of the U.S. economy--the Federal Reserve Board's Estimated, Dynamic, Optimization-based (FRB/EDO) model project. The model can be used to address a wide range of practical policy questions on a routine basis. The paper discusses the model's specification, estimated parameters, and key properties.

Keywords: DSGE model, policy model

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Abstract: This paper investigates industry-level effects of government purchases in order to shed light on the transmission mechanism for government spending on the aggregate economy. We begin by highlighting the different theoretical predictions concerning the effects of government spending on industry labor market equilibrium. We then create a panel data set that matches output and labor variables to shifts in industry-specific government demand. The empirical results indicate that increases in government demand raise output and hours, but lower real product wages and productivity. Markups do not change as a result of government demand increases. The results are consistent with the neoclassical model of government spending, but they are not consistent with the New Keynesian model of the effects of government spending.

Keywords: Government spending, transmission, hours, productivity, real wage

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feds 2010-27
March 2013

Output Gaps (PDF)

Michael T. Kiley

Abstract: What is the output gap? There are many definitions in the economics literature, all of which have a long history. I discuss three alternatives: the deviation of output from its long-run stochastic trend (i.e., the "Beveridge-Nelson cycle"); the deviation of output from the level consistent with current technologies and normal utilization of capital and labor input (i.e., the "production-function approach"); and the deviation of output from "flexible-price" output (i.e., its "natural rate"). Estimates of each concept are presented from a dynamic-stochastic-general-equilibrium (DSGE) model of the U.S. economy used at the Federal Reserve Board. Four points are emphasized: The DSGE model's estimate of the Beveridge-Nelson gap is very similar to gaps from policy institutions, but the DSGE model's estimate of potential growth has a higher variance and substantially different covariance with GDP growth; the natural rate concept depends strongly on model assumptions and is not designed to guide nominal interest rate movements in "Taylor" rules in the same way as the other measures; the natural rate and production function trends converge to the Beveridge-Nelson trend; and the DSGE model's estimate of the Beveridge-Nelson gap is as closely related to unemployment fluctuations as those from policy institutions and has more predictive ability for inflation.

Keywords: Business cycles, potential output

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feds 2010-26
May 2010

How Has the Monetary Transmission Mechanism Evolved Over Time? (PDF)

Jean Boivin, Michael T. Kiley, and Frederic S. Mishkin

Abstract: We discuss the evolution in macroeconomic thought on the monetary policy transmission mechanism and present related empirical evidence. The core channels of policy transmission - the neoclassical links between short-term policy interest rates, other asset prices such as long-term interest rates, equity prices, and the exchange rate, and the consequent effects on household and business demand - have remained steady from early policy-oriented models (like the Penn-MIT-SSRC MPS model) to modern dynamic-stochastic-general-equilibrium (DSGE) models. In contrast, non-neoclassical channels, such as credit-based channels, have remained outside the core models. In conjunction with this evolution in theory and modeling, there have been notable changes in policy behavior (with policy more focused on price stability) and in the reduced form correlations of policy interest rates with activity in the United States. Regulatory effects on credit provision have also changed significantly. As a result, we review the empirical evidence on the changes in the effect of monetary policy actions on real activity and inflation and present new evidence, using both a relatively unrestricted factor-augmented vector autoregression (FAVAR) and a DSGE model. Both approaches yield similar results: Monetary policy innovations have a more muted effect on real activity and inflation in recent decades as compared to the effects before 1980. Our analysis suggests that these shifts are accounted for by changes in policy behavior and the effect of these changes on expectations, leaving little role for changes in underlying private-sector behavior (outside shifts related to monetary policy changes).

Keywords: Monetary transmission, stability, monetary policy

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Abstract: This paper reviews the behavioral literature on inter-temporal choice and decision making under uncertainty and assesses the evidence on behavioral influences affecting consumers' credit decisions. The evidence reviewed suggests that consumers often do not consider all information available in the market nor deliberately evaluate each alternative. Consumers simplify, take shortcuts, and use heuristics, which may not always be optimal but nevertheless may be an economical means for achieving desired goals. While most economists and psychologists agree that cognitive errors and time inconsistent behavior occur, the extent to which these phenomena impair actual decisions in markets is not at all clear. At this time, neither existing behavioral evidence nor conventional economic evidence supports a general conclusion that consumers' credit decisions are not rational or that markets do not work reasonably well. Empirical evidence suggests that behavioral research can help improve required information disclosures and contribute to more effective regulation, which enhances the performance of markets and improves individual outcomes.

Keywords: Behavioral economics, consumer credit

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feds 2010-24
April 2010

The Credit Market Consequences of Job Displacement (PDF)

Benjamin J. Keys

Abstract: This paper demonstrates the important role of job displacement in the household bankruptcy decision. I develop a dynamic, forward-looking model of unemployment and bankruptcy where persistent negative income shocks increase a household's likelihood of filing for bankruptcy both immediately and in the future. Consistent with the model's predictions, I find that households in the NLSY are 2.5 times more likely to file for bankruptcy in the year immediately following a job loss, at a rate of an additional 10 bankruptcies per 1000 job losses. Heightened bankruptcy risk then declines in magnitude but persists for two to three years. Aggregate patterns in job loss and bankruptcy are also consistent with the micro model. Using county-level data, I similarly find that 1000 job losses are associated with 8 to 11 bankruptcies and that the effects also last two to three years. In addition, the loss of a manufacturing job, a proxy for a more persistent separation, is three times more likely to lead to bankruptcy than the loss of a non-manufacturing job. The results suggest that even relatively brief unemployment spells can have significant long-term consequences on households' credit market outcomes.

Keywords: Job displacement, personal bankruptcy, household finance, event study

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feds 2010-23
April 2010

Credit Where None Is Due? Authorized User Account Status and "Piggybacking Credit" (PDF)

Robert B. Avery, Kenneth P. Brevoort, and Glenn B. Canner

Abstract: An "authorized user" is a person who is permitted by a revolving account holder to use an account without being legally liable for any charges incurred. The Federal Reserve's Regulation B, which implements the 1974 Equal Credit Opportunity Act, requires that information on spousal authorized user accounts be reported to the credit bureaus and considered when lenders evaluate credit history. Since creditors generally furnish to the credit bureaus information on all authorized user accounts, without indicating which are spouses and which are not, credit scoring modelers cannot distinguish spousal from non-spousal authorized user accounts. This effectively requires that all authorized user accounts receive similar treatment. Consequently, becoming an authorized user on an old account with a good payment history, may improve an individual's credit score, potentially increasing access to credit or reducing borrowing costs. As a result, the practice of "piggybacking credit" has developed. In a piggybacking arrangement, an individual pays a fee to be added as an authorized user on an account to "rent" the account's credit history. This paper provides the first comprehensive look at authorized user accounts in individual credit records and how their importance differs across demographic groups. Our analysis suggests that piggybacking credit can materially improve credit scores, particularly for individuals with thin or short credit histories. We also evaluate the effect that eliminating authorized user accounts from credit scoring models would have on individual credit scores. Our results suggest that removing this information has relatively little effect on credit scores, but may reduce model predictiveness.

Keywords: Credit scoring, authorized users, Regulation B, Equal Credit Opportunity Act, piggybacking credit

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Abstract: This study examines the effect of shocks observed in financial markets on output and employment during the Great Depression. We present three main findings. First, an adverse financial shock leads to a decline in the manufacturing sector's output and employment that peaks about 11 months afterward. Next, this shock has a much greater impact on the durables sector than the nondurables sector. Last, continuing financial market weakness in 1933 and 1934 may have restrained the recovery from the Great Depression. The findings suggest that financial market weakness contributed to the length and depth of the Great Depression, and that this occurred mainly through the investment channel. In addition, we use the estimates from the Great Depression data to evaluate the effect of recent financial market disruptions.

Keywords: Financial shock, impulse response, VAR

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Abstract: Stylized facts on U.S. output and interest rates have so far proved hard to match with DSGE models. But model predictions hinge on the joint specification of economic structure and a set of driving processes. In a model, different shocks often induce different comovements, such that the overall pattern depends as much on the specified transmission mechanisms from shocks to outcomes, as well as on the composition of these driving processes. I estimate covariances between output, nominal and real interest rate conditional on several shocks, since such evidence has largely been lacking in previous discussions of the output-interest rate puzzle.

Conditional on shocks to neutral technology and monetary policy, the results square with simple models, like the standard RBC model or a textbook version of the New Keynesian model. In addition, news about future productivity help to explain the overall counter-cyclical behavior of the real rate.

A sub-sample analysis documents also interesting changes in these pattern. During the Great Inflation (1959-1979), permanent shocks to inflation accounted for the counter-cyclical behavior of the real rate and its inverted leading indicator property. Over the Great Moderation (1982-2006), neutral technology shocks were more dominant in explaining comovements between output and interest rates, and the real rate has been pro-cyclical.

Keywords: Interest rates, business cycles, structural VAR, bandpass filter

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Abstract: Although the instruments and transactions most closely associated with the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009 were novel, the underlying themes that played out in the crisis were familiar from previous episodes: Competitive dynamics resulted in excessive leverage and risk-taking by large, interconnected firms, in heavy reliance on short-term sources of funding to finance long-term and ultimately terribly illiquid positions, and in common exposures being shared by many major financial institutions. Understandably, in the wake of the crisis, financial supervisors and policymakers want to obtain better and earlier indications regarding these critical, and apparently recurring, core vulnerabilities in the financial system. Indeed, gaps in data and analysis, in a sense, defined the shadows in which the "shadow banking system" associated with the buildup in financial risks grew. We agree that more comprehensive real-time data is necessary, but we also emphasize that collecting more data is only part of the process of developing early warning systems. More fundamental, in our view, is the need to use data in a different way--in a way that integrates the ongoing analysis of macro data to identify areas of interest with the development of highly specialized information to illuminate those areas, including the relevant instruments and transactional forms. In this paper, we describe why we are concerned that specifying this second stage generically and prior to processing the first-stage signals will not be fruitful: We can easily imagine specifying ex ante a program of data collection that would look for vulnerabilities in the wrong place, particularly if the actual act of looking by macro- or microprudential supervisors causes the locus of activity to shift into a new shadow somewhere else--something we argue occurred during the buildup of risks ahead of this crisis.

Keywords: Financial statistics, financial stability analysis, financial crisis

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Abstract: TIPS breakeven inflation rate, defined as the difference between nominal and TIPS yields of comparable maturities, is potentially useful as a real-time measure of market inflation expectations. In this paper, we provide evidence that a fairly large TIPS liquidity premium existed until recently, using a multifactor no-arbitrage term structure model estimated with nominal and TIPS yields, inflation and survey forecasts of interest rates. Ignoring the TIPS liquidity premiums leads to counterintuitive implications for inflation expectations and inflation risk premium, and produces large pricing errors for TIPS. In contrast, models incorporating a TIPS liquidity factor generate much better fit for these variables and reveal a TIPS liquidity premium that was until recently quite large (~1%) but has come down in recent years, consistent with the common perception that TIPS market grew and liquidity conditions improved. Our results indicate that after taking proper account of the liquidity conditions in the TIPS market, the movement in TIPS breakeven inflation rate can provide useful information for identifying real yields, expected inflation and inflation risk premium.

Keywords: Treasury inflation-protected securities (TIPS), expected inflation, inflation risk premium, liquidity, SPF, term structure

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Abstract: Since Kydland and Prescott (1977) and Barro and Gordon (1983), most studies of the problem of the inflation bias associated with discretionary monetary policy have assumed a quadratic loss function. We depart from the conventional linear-quadratic approach to the problem in favor of a projection method approach. We investigate the size of the inflation bias that arises in a microfounded nonlinear environment with Calvo price setting. The inflation bias is found to lie between 1% and 6% for a reasonable range of parameter values, when the bias is defined as the steady-state deviation of the discretionary inflation rate from the optimal inflation rate under commitment.

Keywords: Inflation bias, discretionary monetary policy, projection methods

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Abstract: This paper develops a new-Keynesian model with nominal depreciation allowances to consider the effects of temporary tax-based investment incentives on capital spending and real activity. In particular, we investigate the effects of a temporary expensing allowance on investment in partial and general equilibrium and challenge the conventional view, advanced by Auerbach and Summers (1979) and Judd (1985), that partial-equilibrium analyses overstate the calculated impact of such policies. We also explore two additional questions. First, we investigate a claim noted by Auerbach and Summers and analyzed by Christiano (1984) that such incentives can be destabilizing. Second, we consider the relative impact of two types of tax-based investment incentives: a temporary partial-expensing allowance and a temporary reduction in capital taxes.

Keywords: New-Keynesian model, business equipment investment, nominal depreciation allowances, partial-expensing allowances, bonus-depreciation allowances

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feds 2010-16
April 2010

Commercial and Residential Land Prices Across the United States (PDF)

Joseph B. Nichols, Stephen D. Oliner, and Michael R. Mulhall

Abstract: We use a national dataset of land sales to construct land price indexes for 23 MSAs in the United States and for the aggregate of those MSAs. We construct the price indexes by estimating hedonic regressions with a large sample of land transactions dating back to the mid-1990s. The regressions feature a flexible method of controlling for spatial price patterns within an MSA. The resulting price indexes show a dramatic increase in both commercial and residential land prices over several years prior to their peak in 2006-07 and a steep descent since then. These fluctuations in land prices are considerably larger than those in well-known indexes of commercial real estate and house prices. Because those existing indexes price a bundle of land and structures, this comparison implies that land prices have been more volatile than structures prices over this period.

Keywords: Price index, land, residential, commercial

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Abstract: I study 46 vintages of FRB/US, the principal macro model used by Federal Reserve Board staff for forecasting and policy analysis, as measures of real-time model uncertainty. I also study the implications of model uncertainty for the robustness of commonly applied, simple monetary policy rules. I first document that model uncertainty poses substantial challenges for policymakers in that key model properties differ in important ways across model vintages. Then I show that the parameterization of optimized simple policy rule--rules that are intended to be robust with respect to model uncertainty--also differ substantially across model vintages. Included in the set of rules are rules that eschew feedback on the output gap, rules that target nominal income growth, and rules that allow for time variation in the equilibrium real interest rate. I find that many rules, which previous research has shown to be robust in artificial economies, would have failed to provide adequate stabilization in the real-time, real-world environment seen by the Fed staff. However, I do identify certain policy rules that would have performed relatively well, and I characterize the key features of those rules to draw more general lessons about the design of monetary policy under model uncertainty.

Keywords: Monetary policy, model uncertainty, real-time analysis

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Abstract: This paper presents predictability evidence from the difference between implied and expected variances or variance risk premium that: (1) the variance difference measure predicts a significant positive risk premium across equity, bond, and credit markets; (2) the predictability is short-run, in that it peaks around one to four months and dies out as the horizon increases; and (3) such a short-run predictability is complementary to that of the standard predictor variables--P/E ratio, forward spread, and short rate. These findings are potentially justifiable by a general equilibrium model with recursive preference that incorporates stochastic economic uncertainty. Calibration evidence suggests that such a framework is capable of reproducing the variance premium dynamics, especially its high skewness and kurtosis, without introducing jumps. The calibrated model can also qualitatively explain the equity premium puzzle and the bond risk premia in short horizons.

Keywords: Short-run predictability, variance premium dynamics, equity premium puzzle, bond risk premia, credit spread puzzle, macroeconomic uncertainty, recursive preference

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Abstract: This paper describes a set of algorithms for quickly and reliably solving linear rational expectations models. The utility, reliability and speed of these algorithms are a consequence of 1) the algorithm for computing the minimal dimension state space transition matrix for models with arbitrary numbers of lags or leads, 2) the availability of a simple modeling language for characterizing a linear model and 3) the use of the QR Decomposition and Arnoldi type eigenspace calculations. The paper also presents new formulae for computing and manipulating solutions for arbitrary exogenous processes.

Keywords: Saddle point property, linear rational expections models

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Abstract: An extensive literature has investigated the effect of market structure on innovation. A persistent concern is that market structure may be endogenous to innovation. Firms may choose to merge so as to capture information spillovers or they may choose to merge so as to dampen competition in innovation. These two scenarios have very different welfare implications. This paper attempts to distinguish between the two scenarios empirically, looking at recent mergers among public companies in the United States. Using patent citation data, I find evidence that firms increase their rate of sequential innovation in the years preceding a merger, and reduce their rate of sequential innovation in the years following a merger. This suggests that mergers are motivated more by the desire to dampen competition than by the desire to capture information spillovers. I use citation-based measures of patent value to shed light on the welfare implications. The question is relevant for policy, as the FTC and DOJ frequently cite innovation as a reason for concern about a merger.

Keywords: Mergers, innovation, patents

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Abstract: In models of monetary policy, discretionary policymaking often lacks the ability to manage public beliefs, which explains the theoretical appeal of policy rules and commitment strategies. But as shown in this paper, when a policymaker possesses private information, belief management becomes an integral part of optimal discretion policies and improves their performance.

Solving for optimal policy in a simple New Keynesian model, this paper shows how discretionary losses are reduced when the policymaker has private information. Furthermore, disinflations are pursued more vigorously, when the hidden information problem is larger, even when inflation is partly backward-looking.

Keywords: Optimal monetary policy, discretion, time-consistent policy, Markov-perfect equilibrium, incomplete information, Kalman filter

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feds 2010-10
February 2010

Pricing Counterparty Risk at the Trade Level and CVA Allocations (PDF)

Michael Pykhtin and Dan Rosen

Abstract: We address the problem of allocating the counterparty-level credit valuation adjustment (CVA) to the individual trades composing the portfolio. We show that this problem can be reduced to calculating contributions of the trades to the counterparty-level expected exposure (EE) conditional on the counterparty's default. We propose a methodology for calculating conditional EE contributions for both collateralized and non-collateralized counterparties. Calculation of EE contributions can be easily incorporated into exposure simulation processes that already exist in a financial institution. We also derive closed-form expressions for EE contributions under the assumption that trade values are normally distributed. Analytical results are obtained for the case when the trade values and the counterparty's credit quality are independent as well as when there is a dependence between them (wrong-way risk).

Keywords: CVA, counterparty risk, derivatives, credit exposure, Euler allocations, simulation, wrong-way risk

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Abstract: No, not really, since spectral estimators suffer from small sample and misspecification biases just as VARs do. Spectral estimators are no panacea for implementing long-run restrictions.

In addition, when combining VAR coefficients with non-parametric estimates of the spectral density, care needs to be taken to consistently account for information embedded in the non-parametric estimates about serial correlation in VAR residuals. This paper uses a spectral factorization to ensure a correct representation of the data's variance. But this cannot overcome the fundamental problems of estimating the long-run dynamics of macroeconomic data in samples of typical length.

Keywords: Structural VAR, long-run identification, non-parametric estimation, spectral factorization

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Abstract: In a seminal article on small business lending, Petersen & Rajan (2002) argue that technological changes have revolutionized small business lending markets, weakening the reliance of small businesses on local lenders and increasing geographic distances between firms and their credit suppliers. While their data only cover through 1993, they conjecture that the pace of change accelerated after 1993. Using the 1993, 1998, and 2003 Surveys of Small Business Finances (SSBFs), we test whether the distance changes identified by Petersen and Rajan continued or accelerated during the following decade. Using a novel application of Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition, we identify the extent to which specific observable characteristics are associated with distance changes and draw three conclusions. First, while distances increased between 1993 and 1998 at a faster rate than found by Petersen & Rajan, distance increases appear to have halted or possibly reversed between 1998 and 2003. Second, rather than increasing proportionally for all small firms, distance increases were uneven across firms over the decade, with higher credit quality firms and firms with more experienced ownership realizing greater gains in distance than other firms. Finally, distances increased faster at older firms and, regardless of firm age, increases in distance have only affected some product types, primarily those involving asset-back loans (including mortgages). For relationships that involved the provision of either lines of credit or multiple types of credit, distances increased very little or not at all during the decade. This analysis provides a detailed and nuanced view of how the market for small business credit has evolved during a period of rapid technological change.

Keywords: Small business lending, distance, opacity

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Abstract: To combat the financial crisis that intensified in the fall of 2008, the Federal Reserve injected a substantial amount of liquidity into the banking system. The resulting increase in reserve balances exerted downward price pressure in the federal funds market, and the effective federal funds rate began to deviate from the target rate set by the Federal Open Market Committee. In response, the Federal Reserve revised its operational framework for implementing monetary policy and began to pay interest on reserve balances in an attempt to provide a floor for the federal funds rate. Nevertheless, following the policy change, the effective federal funds rate remained below not only the target but also the rate paid on reserve balances. We develop a model to explain this phenomenon and use data from the federal funds market to evaluate it empirically. In turn, we show how successful the Federal Reserve may be in raising the federal funds rate even in an environment with substantial reserve balances.

Keywords: Federal funds, segmentation, interest on reserves, corridor system, exit strategy

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Abstract: The downturn in economic activity in the U.S. that began in December 2007 (as determined by researchers with the National Bureau of Economic Research) has been noticeably deeper and has already lasted considerably longer than the prior two recessions--those beginning in July 1990 and in March 2001. In addition, a key difference between the current and the past two recessions is the extent to which consumer spending and residential investment have dropped since late 2007--that is, the extent to which the household sector appears to have "led" the drop in aggregate economic activity in this recession. This paper uses household-level data from the Federal Reserve Board's series of Surveys of Consumer Finances to document three factors that appear to have contributed to greater financial stress in the household sector in the current downturn compared with the prior two: 1) substantial and widespread reductions in home values that resulted in sizable erosions of home equity and net worth for many homeowners; 2) markedly expanded holdings of corporate equity among middle-income households which lost significant market value, on net, as stock prices sunk; and, 3) greater debt on household balance sheets and overall financial vulnerability around the onset of the 2008-09 recession, particularly for those in the middle of the income distribution.

Keywords: Household net worth, consumer finances, business cycle, recession

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Abstract: In its complexity and its vulnerability to market volatility, the CPDO might be viewed as the poster child for the excesses of financial engineering in the credit market. This paper examines the CPDO as a case study in model risk in the rating of complex structured products. We demonstrate that the models used by S&P and Moody's would have assigned very low probability to the spread levels realized in the investment grade corporate credit default swap market in late 2007, even though these spread levels were comparable to those of 2002. The spread levels realized in the first quarter of 2008 would have been assigned negligibly small probabilities. Had the models put non-negligible likelihood on attaining these high spread levels, the CPDO notes could never have achieved investment grade status. We conclude with larger lessons for the rating of complex products and for modeling credit risk in general.

Keywords: Credit risk, securitization, structured credit, rating agencies

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Abstract: The link between taxes and occupational choices is central for understanding the welfare impacts of income taxes. Just as taxes distort the labor-leisure decision, they also distort the wage-amenity decision. Yet, there are no estimates of the full response on this margin. When tax rates increase, workers favor jobs with lower wages and more non-taxable amenities. We introduce a two-step methodology which uses compensating differentials to characterize the tax elasticity of occupational choice. We estimate a significant compensated elasticity of 0.05, implying that a 10% increase in the net-of-tax rate causes workers to change to a 0.5% higher wage job.

Keywords: Income taxes, occupational choice, compensating differentials

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Abstract: The employment-to-population rate of high-school aged youth has fallen by about 20 percentage points since the late 1980s. The human capital implications of this decline depend on the reasons behind it. In this paper, I demonstrate that growth in the number of less-educated immigrants may have considerably reduced youth employment rates. This finding stands in contrast to previous research that generally identifies, at most, a modest negative relationship across states or cities between immigration levels and adult labor market outcomes. At least two factors are at work: there is greater overlap between the jobs that youth and less-educated adult immigrants traditionally do, and youth labor supply is more responsive to immigration-induced changes in their wage. Despite a slight increase in schooling rates in response to immigration, I find little evidence that reduced employment rates are associated with higher earnings ten years later in life. This raises the possibility that an immigration-induced reduction in youth employment, on net, hinders youths' human capital accumulation.

Keywords: Youth employment, immigration

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Abstract: This paper argues that constraining people to choose consumption and labor under finite Shannon capacity produces results in line with U.S. business cycle data. My model has a simple partial equilibrium setting in which risk averse consumers keep high labor supply and low consumption profile at early stage of life to hedge against wealth fluctuations. They rationally choose to keep consumption and labor unchanged until they collect enough information. I find that at high frequency consumption appears to be more sluggish than labor supply. However, when people decide to change consumption they do so by a large amount. This combination leads to higher variance of consumption with respect to labor supply. My model also finds high persistence and strong comovement of consumption and employment and delayed response of consumption and labor with respect to wealth. Furthermore, my framework generates endogenously a wedge between marginal rate of substituition and marginal rate of transformation or wages. Such wedge is bigger and more volatile the lower information flow. These findings suggest that rational inattention offers a promising avenue to bridge the gap between theory and U.S. business cycle data.

Keywords: Rational inattention, savings, labor, decisionmaking

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Abstract: We explore the role of evolving beliefs regarding the structure of the macroeconomy in improving our understanding of the term structure of interest rates within the context of a simple macro-finance model. Using quarterly vintages of real-time data and survey forecasts for the United States over the past 40 years, we show that a recursively estimated VAR on real GDP growth, inflation and the nominal short-term interest generates predictions that are more consistent with survey forecasts than a benchmark fixed-coefficient counterpart. We then estimate a simple term structure model under the assumption that the investors' risk attitude is driven by near-term expectations of the three state variables. When we allow for evolving beliefs about the macroeconomy, the resulting term structure model provides a better fit to the cross section of yields than the benchmark model, especially at longer maturities, and exhibits better performance in out-of-sample predictions of future yield movements.

Keywords: Macro term structure model, recursive VAR, survey forecasts, anticipated utility

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