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Finance and Economics Discussion Series

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Abstract: We use a new and large panel dataset of household income to shed light on the permanent versus transitory nature of rising inequality in individual male labor earnings and in total household income, both before and after taxes, in the United States over the period 1987-2006. Due to the quality and the significant size of our dataset, we are able to conduct our analysis using rich and precisely estimated error-components models of income dynamics. Our main specification finds evidence for a quadratic heterogeneous income profiles component and a random walk component in permanent earnings, and for a moving-average component in autoregressive transitory earnings. We find that the increase in inequality over our sample period was entirely permanent for male earnings, and predominantly permanent for household income. We also show that the tax system, though reducing inequality, nonetheless did not materially affect its increasing trend. Furthermore, we compare our model-based findings against those of simpler, non-model based inequality decomposition methods. We show that the results for the trends in the evolution of the permanent and transitory variances are remarkably similar across methods, whereas the results for the shares of those variances in cross-sectional inequality differ widely. Further investigation into the sources of these differences suggests that simpler methods produce erroneous decompositions because they cannot flexibly capture the relative degree of persistence of the transitory component of income.

Keywords: Income inequality, variance decomposition, error-components models, transitory vs. permanent

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Abstract: This paper reviews Allan H. Meltzer's "A History of the Federal Reserve, Volume 2." This two-book volume covers Federal Reserve policies from 1951 to 1986. The book represents an enormous achievement in synthesizing a great amount of archival information into a historical account grounded on economic analysis. At the same time, Meltzer's interpretation of specific eras is open to question. He does not appear to acknowledge adequately the degree to which 1950s monetary policy decisions had a solid analytical foundation. Furthermore, Meltzer's account of the shift from the 1970s inflation to the 1980s disinflation implausibly stresses a shift in policymakers' objective function. The crucial change over this period, both in the United States and other countries, is more likely to have been policymakers' improved grasp of the connections between monetary policy and inflation. The review also takes issue with Meltzer's account, in his book's epilogue, of the financial crisis from 2007 to 2009. In this epilogue, Meltzer understates the degree to which the Federal Reserve's reaction to the financial crisis was in line with the historical practice of the Federal Reserve and other central banks.

Keywords: Federal Reserve history, financial crisis, Allan Meltzer, Great Inflation

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feds 2011-58
March 2012

The Information Content of the Embedded Deflation Option in TIPS (PDF)

Olesya V. Grishchenko, Joel M. Vanden, and Jianing Zhang

Abstract: In this paper we estimate the value of the embedded option in U.S. Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS). The option value exhibits significant time variation that is correlated with periods of deflationary expectations. We use our estimated option values to construct an embedded option price index and an embedded option return index. We then use our embedded option indices as independent variables and examine their statistical and economic significance for explaining the future inflation rate. In most of our regressions, our embedded option return index is significant even in the presence of traditional inflation variables, such as the yield spread between nominal Treasuries and TIPS, the return on gold bullion, the VIX index return, and the lagged inflation rate. We conduct several robustness tests, including alternative weighting schemes, alternative variable specifications, and alternative data samples. We conclude that the embedded option in TIPS contains useful information for future inflation, both in-sample and out-of-sample. Our results should be valuable to practitioners, monetary authorities, and policymakers alike.

Keywords: TIPS, embedded option, inflation, deflation, term structure

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feds 2011-57
January 2012

Commodity Index Trading and Hedging Costs (PDF)

Celso Brunetti and David Reiffen

Abstract: Trading by commodity index traders (CITs) has become an important aspect of financial markets over the past 10 years. We develop an equilibrium model of trader behavior that relates uninformed CIT trading to futures prices. The model predicts that CIT trading reduces the cost of hedging. We test the model using a unique non-public dataset which precisely identifies trader positions. We find evidence, consistent with the model, that index traders have become an important supply of price risk insurance.

Keywords: Commodity index traders, hedging costs, volatility

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Abstract: This paper examines a number of alternative PCE price inflation measures including overall PCE inflation, PCE inflation excluding food and energy, trimmed mean PCE inflation, component-smoothed inflation, variance-weighted inflation, inflation with weights based on disaggregated regressions, and survey measures of inflation expectations. When averaging across a handful of specifications based on the primary uses of a core inflation measure three conclusions arise: 1. Inflation rates for nearly all the measures best track ex-post trend inflation or predict future overall inflation when they are averaged over a considerable number of months. Overall PCE price inflation should be averaged over 18 months or longer. A shorter averaging period is appropriate for core measures, often on the order of 12 months. 2. Even after appropriately averaging each index, core inflation indexes generally perform better than overall inflation. 3. Exclusion indexes, such as PCE excluding food and energy, perform slightly worse than many other possible core inflation measures; trimmed mean PCE, or a variance-weighted index, may be better choice for a summary inflation measure.

Keywords: Inflation, core prices

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Abstract: Previous literature demonstrates that in a computational life cycle model the optimal tax on capital is positive and large. Given the computational complexities of these overlapping generations models it is helpful to determine the relative importance of the economic factors driving this result. I highlight the impact of changing two common assumptions in a benchmark model that generates a large optimal tax on capital similar to the model in Conesa et al. (2009). First, the utility function is altered such that it implies an agent's Frisch labor supply elasticity is constant, as opposed to increasing, over his lifetime. Second, the government is allowed to tax accidental bequests at a separate rate from ordinary capital income. The main finding of this paper is that these two changes cause the optimal tax on capital to drop by almost half. Furthermore, I find that the welfare costs of adopting the high optimal tax on capital from the benchmark model in the model with the altered assumptions, which calls for a lower tax on capital, are equivalent to 0.35 percent of total lifetime consumption. Quantifying the impact of these assumptions in the benchmark model is important because the first has limited empirical evidence and the second, although included for tractability, confounds a motive for taxing capital with a motive for taxing accidental bequests.

Keywords: Opitmal taxation, capital taxation

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feds 2011-54
June 2012

Investment, Idiosyncratic Risk, and Ownership (PDF)

Vasia Panousi and Dimitris Papanikolaou

Abstract: High-powered incentives may induce higher managerial effort, but they also expose managers to idiosyncratic risk. If managers are risk averse, they might underinvest when firm-specific uncertainty increases, leading to suboptimal investment decisions from the perspective of well-diversified shareholders. We empirically document that when idiosyncratic risk rises, firm investment falls, and more so when managers own a larger fraction of the firm. This negative effect of managerial risk aversion on investment is mitigated if executives are compensated with options rather than with shares or if institutional investors form a large part of the shareholder base.

Keywords: Investment, idiosyncratic risk, managerial onwership, risk aversion

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Abstract: American women tend to be less financially literate than men, which is consistent with a household division of labor in which men manage finances. However, women also tend to outlive their husbands, so they will eventually need to take over this task. Using a new survey of older couples, I find that women acquire financial literacy as they approach widowhood. At an estimated increase of 0.04 standard deviations per year approaching widowhood, 80 percent of women in the sample would catch up with their husbands prior to the expected onset of widowhood. These findings reflect actual increases by women and are not merely an artifact of cognitive decline among older men. The results are consistent with a model in which the household division of labor breaks down when a spouse dies: women have incentives both to delay acquiring financial knowledge and also to begin learning before widowhood. This paper represents the first empirical examination of the financial literacy of both members of couples and provides a life-cycle interpretation of the gender gap in financial literacy.

Keywords: Financial literacy, cognitive abilities, human capital, surveys, aging

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feds 2011-52
April 2012

Stock Return Predictability and Variance Risk Premia: Statistical Inference and International Evidence (PDF)

Tim Bollerslev, James Marrone, Lai Xu, and Hao Zhou

Abstract: Recent empirical evidence suggests that the variance risk premium, or the difference between risk-neutral and statistical expectations of the future return variation, predicts aggregate stock market returns, with the predictability especially strong at the 2-4 month horizons. We provide extensive Monte Carlo simulation evidence that statistical finite sample biases in the overlapping return regressions underlying these findings can not ``explain" this apparent predictability. Further corroborating the existing empirical evidence, we show that the patterns in the predictability across different return horizons estimated from country specific regressions for France, Germany, Japan, Switzerland and the U.K. are remarkably similar to the pattern previously documented for the U.S. Defining a "global" variance risk premium, we uncover even stronger predictability and almost identical cross-country patterns through the use of panel regressions that effectively restrict the compensation for world-wide variance risk to be the same across countries. Our findings are broadly consistent with the implications from a stylized two-country general equilibrium model explicitly incorporating the effects of world-wide time-varying economic uncertainty.

Keywords: Variance risk premium, return predictability, over-lapping return regressions, international stock market returns, global variance risk

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feds 2011-51
July 2012

Tossed and Turned: Wealth Dynamics of U.S. Households 2007-2009 (PDF)

Arthur B. Kennickell

Abstract: For many years, the cross-sectional Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) has shown relatively weak or inconsistent changes in the shape of the distribution of net worth, despite many shifts in income and other economic factors. In 2009, households that had taken part in the 2007 SCF were re-interviewed to obtain information on the changes in their financial condition over the period of the intervening financial crisis. Looked at as a second cross section, the 2009 data show a pattern of wealth distribution very similar in shape to what had been seen in the earlier cross sections. Between the two years, however, there was considerable variation in the relative positions of households within the wealth distribution. This paper presents data on the changed situation of households and it decomposes the observed wealth changes in terms of underlying portfolio shifts. It is generally recognized that changes in the value of residential real estate, corporate equities and private businesses were important sources of wealth losses. Although the data presented here confirm that picture, they also show a great deal of heterogeneity below the aggregate level. The observed stability of the pseudo-cross-sectional wealth shares in the panel despite the underlying turmoil is largely a consequence of changes in values of businesses and equities among comparatively wealthy households offsetting changes in the value of housing assets among other households.

Keywords: Wealth mobility, financial crisis, Survey of Consumer Finances, portfolio choice

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feds 2011-50
April 2012

Distributional dynamics under smoothly state-dependent pricing (PDF)

James Costain and Anton Nakov

Abstract: Starting from the assumption that firms are more likely to adjust their prices when doing so is more valuable, this paper analyzes monetary policy shocks in a DSGE model with firm-level heterogeneity. The model is calibrated to retail price microdata, and inflation responses are decomposed into "intensive", "extensive", and "selection" margins. Money growth and Taylor rule shocks both have nontrivial real effects, because the low state dependence implied by the data rules out the strong selection effect associated with fixed menu costs. The response to sector-specific shocks is gradual, but inappropriate econometrics might make it appear immediate.

Keywords: Nominal rigidity, state-dependent pricing, menu costs, heterogeneity, Taylor rule

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feds 2011-49
April 2012

Liquidity Risk and Hedge Fund Ownership (PDF)

Charles Cao and Lubomir Petrasek

Abstract: Using a unique, hand-collected data set of hedge fund ownership, we examine the effects of hedge fund ownership on liquidity risk in the cross-section of stocks. After controlling for institutional preferences for stock characteristics, we find that stocks held by hedge funds as marginal investors are more sensitive to changes in aggregate liquidity than comparable stocks held by other types of institutions or by individuals. Stocks held by hedge funds also experience significantly negative abnormal returns during liquidity crises. These findings support the theory of Brunnermeier and Pedersen (2009) that ownership by levered traders leads to a greater liquidity risk.

Keywords: Liquidity risk, institutional investors, hedge funds

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feds 2011-48
April 2012

Optimal Monetary Policy with State-Dependent Pricing (PDF)

Anton Nakov and Carlos Thomas

Abstract: In an abstract economic model, we study optimal monetary policy from the timeless perspective under a general state-dependent pricing framework. We find that when firms are monopolistic competitors subject to idiosyncratic menu cost shocks, households have isoelastic preferences, and there is no government spending, strict price stability is optimal both in the long run and in response to aggregate shocks. Key to this finding is an "envelope" property: At zero inflation, a marginal increase in the rate of inflation has no effect on firms' profits and therefore it has no effect on the probability of price adjustment. Our results lend support to more informal statements about the suitability of the Calvo model for studying optimal monetary policy despite its apparent conflict with the Lucas critique. We offer an analytic solution that does not require local approximation or efficiency of the steady state.

Keywords: Monetary policy, state-dependent pricing, monopolistic competition

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Abstract: We econometrically estimate a consumption-based asset pricing model with stochastic internal habit and test it using the generalized method of moments. The model departs from existing models with deterministic internal habit (e.g., Dunn and Singleton (1983), Ferson and Constan- tinides (1991), and Heaton (1995)) by introducing shocks to the coefficients in the distributed lag specification of consumption habit and consequently an additional shock to the marginal rate of substitution. The stochastic shocks to the consumption habit are persistent and provide an additional source of time variation in expected returns. Using Treasury bond returns and broad equity market index returns, we show that stochastic internal habit formation models resolve the dichotomy between the autocorrelation properties of the stochastic discount factor and those of expected returns. Consequently, they provide a better explanation of time-variation in expected returns than models with either deterministic habit or stochastic external habit.

Keywords: Asset pricing, consumption-based asset pricing models, habit formation, stochastic internal habit, aggregate equity and bond returns

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Abstract: We construct new estimates of potential output and the output gap using a multivariate approach that allows for an explicit role for measurement errors in the decomposition of real output. Because we include data on hours, output, employment, and the labor force, we are able to decompose our estimate of potential output into separate trends in labor productivity, labor-force participation, weekly hours, and the NAIRU. We find that labor-market variables�especially the unemployment rate�are the most informative individual indicators of the state of the business cycle. Conditional on including these measures, inflation is also very informative. Among measures of output, we find that although they add little to the identification for the cycle, the income-side measures of output are about as informative as the traditional product-side measures about the level of structural productivity and potential output. We also find that the output gap resulting from the recent financial crisis was very large, reaching -7 percent of output in the second half of 2009.

Keywords: Business cycles, output gap, potential output, state-space model, Kalman filter, NAIRU, measurement error

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feds 2011-45
January 2012

Risk, Uncertainty, and Expected Returns (PDF)

Turan G. Bali and Hao Zhou

Abstract: A consumption-based asset pricing model with risk and uncertainty implies that the time-varying exposures of equity portfolios to the market and uncertainty factors carry positive risk premiums. The empirical results from the size, book-to-market, and industry portfolios as well as individual stocks indicate that the conditional covariances of equity portfolios (individual stocks) with market and uncertainty predict the time series and cross-sectional variation in stock returns. We find that equity portfolios that are highly correlated with economic uncertainty proxied by the variance risk premium (VRP) carry a significant premium relative to portfolios that are uncorrelated or lowly correlated with VRP. The insignificant alpha estimates indicate that the conditional asset pricing model proposed in the paper also explains the industry, size, and value premiums.

Keywords: Consumption-based asset pricing model, time-series and cross-sectional stock returns, variance risk premium, ICAPM, risk, uncertainty, expected returns

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Abstract: This paper describes the E-Newton and E-QNewton algorithms for solving rational expectations (RE) models. Both algorithms treat a model's RE terms as exogenous variables whose values are iteratively updated until they (hopefully) satisfy the RE requirement. In E-Newton, the updates are based on Newton's method; E-QNewton uses an efficient form of Broyden's quasi-Newton method. The paper shows that the algorithms are reliable, fast enough for practical use on a mid-range PC, and simple enough that their implementation does not require highly specialized software. The evaluation of the algorithms is based on experiments with three well-known macro models--the Smets-Wouters (SW) model, EDO, and FRB/US--using code written in EViews, a general-purpose, easy-to-use software package. The models are either linear (SW and EDO) or mildly nonlinear (FRB/US). A test of the robustness of the algorithms in the presence of substantial nonlinearity is based on modified versions of each model that include a smoothed form of the constraint that the short-term rate of interest cannot fall below zero. In two single-simulation experiments with the standard and modified versions of the models, E-QNewton is found to be faster than E-Newton, except for solutions of small-to-medium sized linear models. In a multi-simulation experiment using the standard versions of the models, E-Newton dominates E-QNewton.

Keywords: Solution algorithms, rational expectations

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Abstract: This paper studies what determines whether federal and state supervisors examine state banks independently or together. The results suggest that supervisors coordinate examinations in order to support states with lower budgets and capabilities and more banks to supervise. I find that states with larger budgets examine more banks independently, that they accommodate changes in the number of banks mostly through the number of examinations with a federal supervisor and that, when examining banks together, state banking departments that have earned quality accreditation are more likely to write conclusion reports separately from federal supervisors. The results also indicate that regulation impacts supervision by changing the characteristics of banks. Independent examinations decrease with branch deregulation, which is consistent with the facts that this reform consolidated banks within fewer independent firms and that state and federal supervisors are more likely to examine large and complex institutions together.

Keywords: Bank Supervision, Bank Regulation, Bank Examination, State Banks

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Abstract: Firmly-anchored inflation expectations are widely viewed as playing a central role in the successful conduct of monetary policy. This paper presents estimates of trend inflation, based on information contained in survey expectations, the term structure of interest rates, and realized inflation rates. My application combines a variety of data sources at the monthly frequency and it can flexibly handle missing data arising from infrequent observations and limited data availability. In order to assess whether inflation expectations are anchored, uncertainty surrounding future changes in trend inflation--measured by a time-varying volatility of trend shocks--is estimated as well.

Not surprisingly, the estimates suggest that trend inflation in the U.S. rose and fell again over the 1970s and 1980s, accompanied by increases in uncertainty. Considering the recent crisis, full-sample estimates of trend inflation fell quite a bit, but not too dramatically. In contrast, real-time estimates recorded sizeable increases of trend uncertainty during the crisis of 2007/2008, which have abated since then.

Keywords: Trend cycle model, inflation target, stochastic volatility, surveys, bayesian econometrics

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Abstract: Since the beginning of the recent recession, the employment-population ratio for high-school age youth (16-17 years old) has fallen by nearly a third, to its lowest level ever. However, this recession has exacerbated a longer-run downward trend that actually began in the 1990s and accelerated in the early 2000s. There is little research regarding why teen employment has fallen. Some earlier work emphasized labor supply explanations related to schooling and education, such as an increased emphasis on college preparation (Aaronson, Park, and Sullivan 2006), while others have argued that adult immigrants have crowded out teens, at least in part because adult immigrants and native teens tend to be employed in similar occupations (Sum, Garrington, and Khatiwada 2006, Camarota and Jensenius 2010, Smith 2012). This paper presents updated trends in teen employment and participation across multiple demographic characteristics, and argues that, in addition to immigration, occupational polarization in the U.S. adult labor market has resulted in increased competition for jobs that teens traditionally hold. Testing various supply and demand explanations for the decline since the mid-1980s, I find that demand factors can explain at least half of the decline unexplained by the business cycle, and that supply factors can explain much of the remaining decline.

Keywords: Youth employment, polarization, immigration, education

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Abstract: This paper describes the effects of a temporary increase in tariffs on the performance and behavior of U.S. manufacturers. Using a dataset that includes the full population of U.S. manufacturing plants, I show that an apparent positive correlation between antidumping duties and traditional revenue productivity is likely misleading. For the subset of plants reporting quantity-based output data, increases in prices and markups artificially inflate the effect of antidumping duties on revenue productivity, while physical productivity actually falls. Moreover, antidumping duties allow low-productivity plants to continue producing protected products, slowing the reallocation of resources from less productive to more productive uses.

Keywords: Antidumping, temporary protection, heterogeneous firms, productivity

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Abstract: We study the effects of belief dispersion on stock trading volume. Unlike most of the existing work on the subject, our paper focuses on how household investors' disagreements on macroeconomic variables influence market-wide trading volume. We show that greater belief dispersion among household investors is associated with significantly higher trading volume, even after controlling for the disagreements among professional forecasters. Further, we find that the belief dispersion among household investors who are more likely to own stocks has more pronounced effects on trading volume, suggesting a causal relationship. Finally, we show that greater "belief jumbling," or the dispersion of belief changes over a given period, is also related to more active trading during the same period.

Keywords: Belief dispersion, trading volume, household investors, Surveys of Consumers

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Abstract: This paper examines the mechanism through which banking sector distress affects the availability of credit. We use the experience of the United States during the Great Depression, a period of intense bank distress, to conduct our analysis. We utilize previously neglected data from a 1934 survey conducted by the Federal Reserve System of both banks and Chambers of Commerce regarding the availability of credit, and examine which aspects of the banking system collapse affected credit availability as indicated by the survey. A number of scholars have posited different ways that bank distress constrained credit availability and impacted economic activity during the 1930s; however, the empirical evidence regarding these channels is modest. In this study, we find that bank failures had the most dominant impact, but there is also some evidence for the importance of funding constraints from deposit outflows and of protracted deposit liquidation.

Keywords: Great Depression, credit intermediation, distressed banks, credit availability

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Abstract: Macroeconomists have long recognized that activity-gap measures are unreliable in real time and that this can present serious difficulties for stabilization policy. This paper investigates whether the credit-to-GDP ratio gap, which has been proposed as a reference point for accumulating countercyclical capital buffers, is subject to similar problems. We find that ex-post revisions to the U.S. credit-to-GDP ratio gap are sizable and as large as the gap itself, and that the main source of these revisions stems from the unreliability of end-of-sample estimates of the series' trend rather than from revised estimates of the underlying data. The paper considers the potential costs of gap mismeasurement. We find that the volume of lending that may incorrectly be curtailed is potentially large, although loan interest-rates appear to increase only modestly.

Keywords: Countercyclical capital buffers, macroprudential policy, Basel III, trend-cycle decomposition, real-time data

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feds 2011-36
August 2011

The Subprime Crisis: Is Government Housing Policy to Blame? (PDF)

Robert B. Avery and Kenneth P. Brevoort

Abstract: A growing literature suggests that housing policy, embodied by the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) and the affordable housing goals of the government sponsored enterprises, may have caused the subprime crisis. The conclusions drawn in this literature, for the most part, have been based on associations between aggregated national trends. In this paper we examine more directly whether these programs were associated with worse outcomes in the mortgage market, including delinquency rates and measures of loan quality. We rely on two empirical approaches. In the first approach, which focuses on the CRA, we conjecture that historical legacies create significant variations in the lenders that serve otherwise comparable neighborhoods. Because not all lenders are subject to the CRA, this creates a quasi-natural experiment of the CRA's effect. We test this conjecture by examining whether neighborhoods that have been disproportionally served by CRA-covered institutions historically experienced worse outcomes. The second approach takes advantage of the fact that both the CRA and GSE goals rely on clearly defined geographic areas to determine which loans are favored by the regulations. Using a regression discontinuity approach, our tests compare the marginal areas just above and below the thresholds that define eligibility, where any effect of the CRA or GSE goals should be clearest. We find little evidence that either the CRA or the GSE goals played a significant role in the subprime crisis. Our lender tests indicate that areas disproportionately served by lenders covered by the CRA experienced lower delinquency rates and less risky lending. Similarly, the threshold tests show no evidence that either program had a significantly negative effect on outcomes.

Keywords: Community Reinvestment Act, CRA, government sponsored enterprises, affordable housing goals, mortgages, subprime crisis

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Abstract: This paper examines the effects of credit availability on small firm survivability over the period 2004 to 2008 for non-publicly traded small enterprises. Using data from the 2003 Survey of Small Business Finances, we develop failure prediction models for a sample of small firms that were confirmed to have been in business as of December 2003, with particular attention to the impact of credit constraints. We find that credit constrained firms were significantly more likely to go out of business than non constrained firms. Moreover, credit constraint and credit access variables appear to be among the most important factors predicting which small U.S. firms went out of business during the 2004-2008 period even though an extensive set of firm, owner, and market characteristics were also included as explanatory factors.

Keywords: Small business survivability, small business credit access, Survey of Small Business Finances

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Abstract: This paper examines the impact of bank capital ratios on bank lending by comparing differences in loan growth to differences in capital ratios at sets of banks that are matched based on geographic area as well as size and various business characteristics. We argue that such comparisons are most effective at controlling for local loan demand and other environmental factors. For comparison we also control for local factors using MSA fixed effects. We find, based on data from 2001 to 2009, that the relationship between capital ratios and bank lending is insignificant until the recent financial crisis. We also find that the effect of capital ratios on loan growth varies by type of loan, with some of the strongest effects in recent years being for commercial real estate loans. Finally, we show that the elasticity of bank lending with respect to capital ratios is higher when capital ratios are relatively low, suggesting that the effect of capital ratio on bank lending is nonlinear.

Keywords: Regulatory capital, bank capital, bank lending

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Abstract: I examine whether the cyclical behavior of unemployment has changed over the post WWII period. Specifically, I test whether cyclical movements in unemployment have become more persistent. Finding that they have, indeed, become more persistent, I then take some initial steps in explaining why. I find that the increase in persistence has affected private nonfarm payroll employment as well as unemployment and that increased persistence appears to be widespread across industries. At the same time, increased persistence owes primarily to greater persistence in job finding rates and greater persistence in unemployment among permanent job losers. This combination suggests that the welfare loss from cyclical increases in unemployment is becoming increasingly concentrated among permanent job losers who become unemployed for extended durations during cyclical downturns.

Keywords: Unemployment rate, cyclical fluctuations, persistence

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Abstract: Despite the recent flood of foreclosures on residential mortgages, little is known about what happens to borrowers and their households after their mortgage has been foreclosed. We study the post-foreclosure experience of U.S. households using a unique dataset based on the credit reports of a large panel of individuals to from 1999 to 2010. Although foreclosure considerably raises the probability of moving, the majority of post-foreclosure migrants do not end up in substantially less desirable neighborhoods or more crowded living conditions. These results suggest that, on average, foreclosure does not impose an economic burden large enough to severely reduce housing consumption.

Keywords: Foreclosure, migration, household formation, housing consumption

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feds 2011-31
June 2011

Legal Entity Identifier: What Else Do You Need to Know? (PDF)

Linda F. Powell, Mark Montoya, and Elena Shuvalov

Abstract: The passage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act sparked discussion of creating a systematic code that uniquely identifies an entity. This code is commonly referred to as a legal entity identifier (LEI). The information that is collected to accompany and describe the LEI will play an important role in enhancing the usefulness of the LEI. This paper explores the information (referred to as reference data) commonly used in datasets that describe entities and evaluates the usefulness of reference data elements for uniquely identifying an entity and for monitoring systemic risk in the financial industry.

Keywords: Reference data, legal entity identifier

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Abstract: We review patterns in migration within the U.S. over the past thirty years. Internal migration has fallen noticeably since the 1980s, reversing increases from earlier in the century. The decline in migration has been widespread across demographic and socioeconomic groups, as well as for moves of all distances. Although a convincing explanation for the secular decline in migration remains elusive and requires further research, we find only limited roles for the housing market contraction and the economic recession in reducing migration recently. Despite its downward trend, migration within the U.S. remains higher than that within most other developed countries.

Keywords: U.S. migration, homeowner migration, trends in migration, cross-country comparison of migration

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Abstract: Are consumers who have filed for personal bankruptcy before excluded from the unsecured credit market? Using a unique data set of credit card mailings, we directly explore the supply of unsecured credit to consumers with the most conspicuous default risk--those with a bankruptcy history. On average, over one-fifth of personal bankruptcy filers receive at least one offer in a given month, with the likelihood being even higher for those who filed for bankruptcy within the previous two years. However, offers to bankruptcy filers carry substantially less favorable terms than those to comparable consumers without a bankruptcy history, with higher interest rates, lower credit limits, a greater likelihood of having an annual fee, and a smaller likelihood of having rewards or promotions. In addition, our analysis of credit terms typically disclosed only in the fine print suggests that offers to filers tend to include more "hidden" costs.

Keywords: Personal bankruptcy, credit supply, credit card, mail solicitation, shrouding

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Abstract: We develop a macroeconomic model in which the balance sheet/liquidity condition of financial institutions plays an important role in the determination of asset prices and economic activity. The financial intermediaries in our model are required to make investment commitments before a complete resolution of idiosyncratic funding risk that can be addressed only by costly refinancing, forcing them to behave in a risk-averse manner. The model shows that the balance sheet condition of intermediaries can drive asset values away from their fundamentals, causing aggregate investment and output to respond to shocks to intermediaries. We use this model to evaluate several public policies designed to address balance sheet problems at financial institutions. With regard to short-run policies, we find that capital injections conditioned upon voluntary recapitalization can be a more effective tool than direct lending/asset purchases. With regard to long-run policies, we demonstrate that higher capital requirements can have sizable short-run effects on economic activity if not implemented carefully, and that a long transition period helps avoid such effects.

Keywords: Capital market friction, financial intermediary, capital constraint, Liquidity based asset pricing, asset purchase program, capital injection policy, regulatory capital standards

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Abstract: Financial intermediation transforms short-term liquid assets into long-term capital assets. As a result, risk taking, in the form of long-term commitments despite unresolved short-term funding risk, is an essential element of intermediation. If such funding risk must be addressed by costly recapitalization and/or distressed asset sales due to capital market frictions, an increase in uncertainty can cause a disruption in the intermediation process by forcing risk-neutral intermediaries to behave in a risk-averse manner. Our analysis examines this behavior theoretically and empirically. We first develop a dynamic macroeconomic model in which the balance sheet/liquidity condition of financial intermediaries plays an important role in the determination of asset prices and economic activity under time-varying uncertainty. Second, we present new evidence on the importance of uncertainty facing financial intermediaries for credit terms and volume and for aggregate economic activity, thereby partially quantifying the significance of capital market frictions. We adopt a structural identification strategy in which the predictions of our theory, in the form of sign restrictions, play an important role.

Keywords: Capital market friction, financial intermediary, capital constraint, liquidity based asset pricing, credit provision, uncertainty, aggregate fluctuation

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Abstract: This paper views the policy response to the recent financial crisis from the perspective of Milton Friedman's monetary economics. Five major aspects of the policy response are: 1) discount window lending has been provided broadly to the financial system, at rates low relative to the market rates prevailing pre-crisis; 2) the Federal Reserve's holdings of government securities have been adjusted with the aim of putting downward pressure on the path of several important interest rates relative to the path of short-term rates; 3) deposit insurance has been extended, helping to insulate the money stock from credit market disruption; 4) the commercial banking system has received assistance via a recapitalization program, while existing equity holders have borne losses; and 5) an interest-on-reserves system has been introduced. These five elements of the policy response are in keeping with those that would arise from Friedman's framework, while a number of the five depart appreciably from other prominent benchmarks (such as the Bagehot-Thornton prescription for discount rate policy, and New Keynesian approaches to stabilization policy). One notable part of the policy response, the TALF initiative, draws largely on frameworks other than Friedman's. But, in important respects, the overall monetary and financial policy response to the crisis can be viewed as Friedman's monetary economics in practice.

Keywords: Milton Friedman, financial crisis, monetary aggregates, credit

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feds 2011-25
May 2011

Household Income Uncertainties over Three Decades (PDF)

James Feigenbaum and Geng Li

Abstract: We study the trend in household income uncertainty using a novel approach that measures income uncertainty as the variance of forecast errors at each future horizon separately without imposing parametric restrictions on the underlying income shocks. We find that household income uncertainty has risen significantly and persistently since the early 1970s. For example, our measure of near-future uncertainty in total family non-capital income rose about 40 percent between 1971 and 2002. This rising uncertainty is likely due to the increase in variances of both persistent and transitory income shocks. Although the increase in uncertainty was widespread, the increase was most pronounced among single-earner households and high-income households. A parsimoniously calibrated Aiyagari (1994) model is solved to illustrate how rising income uncertainty affects aggregate saving.

Keywords: Income uncertainty, Great Moderation, Precautionary saving

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Abstract: This paper presents evidence that the economic stall speed concept has some empirical content, and can be moderately useful in forecasting recessions. Specifically, output tends to transition to a slow-growth phase at the end of expansions before falling into a recession, and the paper designs Markov-switching models that behave in that way. While the switching models using output growth alone produce a considerable number of false positive recession signals, adding the slope of the yield curve, the percent change in housing starts, and the change in the unemployment rate to the model reduces false positives and improves recession forecasting. The switching model is particularly good at forecasting at long horizons, outperforming Blue Chip consensus forecasts.

Keywords: Markov-switching models, business cycles, forecasting

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Abstract: This paper develops a theoretical model of trading in the federal funds market that captures characteristics of discount window borrowing and the federal funds market during the first year of the financial crisis, including the narrowing of the spread between the discount rate and the target rate; the increased incidence of high-rate trading; and the decline in participation in the federal funds market. The model shows that differences in stigma of borrowing from the discount window across banks can cause the federal funds rate to rise, even when the spread between the discount rate and the target rate narrows. The model is then evaluated using both aggregate and institution-level data. The data suggest that in aggregate, federal funds volume brokered at rates above the primary credit rate and discount window borrowing both increased during the first stages of the crisis. Bank-level data suggest that institutions that went to the discount window paid lower rates in the federal funds market than banks that did not. This effect became stronger as the spread between the primary credit rate and the target rate narrowed, coincident with the intensification of the financial crisis.

Keywords: Discount window, financial crisis, federal funds market

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feds 2011-22
April 2011

Volatility, Money Market Rates, and the Transmission of Monetary Policy (PDF)

Seth B. Carpenter and Selva Demiralp

Abstract: Central banks typically control an overnight interest rate as their policy tool, and the transmission of monetary policy happens through the relationship of this overnight rate to the rest of the yield curve. The expectations hypothesis, that longer-term rates should equal expected future short-term rates plus a term premium, provides the typical framework for understanding this relationship. We explore the effect of volatility in the federal funds market on the expectations hypothesis in money markets. We present two major results. First, the expectations hypothesis is likely to be rejected in money markets if the realized federal funds rate is studied instead of an appropriate measure of the expected federal funds rate. Second, we find that lower volatility in the bank funding markets market, all else equal, leads to a lower term premium and thus longer-term rates for a given setting of the overnight rate. The results appear to hold for the US as well as the Euro Area and the UK. The results have implications for the design of operational frameworks for the implementation of monetary policy and for the interpretation of the changes in the Libor-OIS spread during the financial crisis. We also demonstrate that the expectations hypothesis is more likely to hold the more closely linked the short- and long-term interest rates are.

Keywords: Monetary transmission mechanism, expectations hypothesis, Term premium

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Abstract: Past research argues that changes in adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) payments may lead households to cut back on consumption or to default on their mortgages. In this paper, we argue that these outcomes are more likely if ARM borrowers are borrowing constrained, and find that ARM borrowers exhibit characteristics and behavior that are consistent with being borrowing constrained. Although the demographic and financial characteristics of ARM and fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) borrowers are quite similar, ARM borrowers differ from FRM borrowers in their uses of credit and attitudes towards it. In addition, we find the consumption growth of households with an ARM is more sensitive to past income than the consumption growth of other households, suggesting the ARM borrowers are more likely subject to borrowing constraints that hinder their ability to smooth consumption.

Keywords: Adjustable-rate mortgages, consumption, borrowing constraints

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Abstract: This paper develops and tests the hypothesis that accounting rules mitigate the impact of tax policy on investment decisions by obscuring the timing of tax payments. I model a firm that maximizes a discounted weighted average of after-tax cash flows and accounting profits. The cost of capital and the impact of tax incentives for investment both depend on the weight placed on accounting profits. I estimate this weight by comparing the effectiveness of tax incentives that do and do not affect accounting profits. Investment tax credits, which do affect accounting profits, have more impact on investment than accelerated depreciation, which does not. This difference in estimated impact is not obviously driven by discounting, cash flow effects, or measurement error. Results thus suggest that the tax burden on corporate capital could be lower than we would otherwise estimate, and accelerated depreciation provisions are less effective than they otherwise would be.

Keywords: Investment, taxes, bonus depreciation, expensing, accounting, salience

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Abstract: Trading portfolios at Financial institutions are typically driven by a large number of financial variables. These variables are often correlated with each other and exhibit by time-varying volatilities. We propose a computationally efficient Value-at-Risk (VaR) methodology based on Dynamic Factor Models (DFM) that can be applied to portfolios with time-varying weights, and that, unlike the popular Historical Simulation (HS) and Filtered Historical Simulation (FHS) methodologies, can handle time-varying volatilities and correlations for a large set of financial variables. We test the DFM-VaR on three stock portfolios that cover the 2007-2009 financial crisis, and find that it reduces the number and average size of back-testing breaches relative to HS-VaR and FHS-VaR. DFM-VaR also outperforms HS-VaR when applied risk measurement of individual stocks that are exposed to systematic risk.

Keywords: Value-at-Risk, dynamic factor models, stock portfolios

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Abstract: This paper proposes a residual based cointegration test with improved power. Based on the idea of Hansen (1995) and Elliott & Jansson (2003) in the unit root testing case, stationary covariates are used to improve the power of the residual based Augmented Dickey Fuller (ADF) test. The asymptotic null distribution contains difficult to estimate nuisance parameters for which there is no obvious method of estimation, therefore we propose a bootstrap methodology to obtain test critical values. Local-to-unity asymptotics and Monte Carlo simulations are used to evaluate the power of the test in large and small samples, respectively. These exercises show that the addition of covariates increases power relative to the ADF and Johansen tests, and that the power depends on the long-run correlation between the covariates and the cointegration candidates. The new test is used to test for cointegration between Credit Default Swap (CDS) and corporate bond spreads for a panel of U.S. firms during the 2007-2009 financial crisis. The new test finds stronger evidence for cointegration between the two spreads for more firms, relative to ADF and Johansen tests.

Keywords: Cointegration, stationary covariates, local asymptotic power, CDS basis

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Abstract: In 2009, the Federal Reserve Board implemented a survey of families that participated in the 2007 Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) to gain detailed information on the effects of the recent recession on all types of households. Using data from the 2007-09 SCF panel, we highlight the variation in households' financial experiences by examining the distribution of changes in families' balance sheets. Further, we use information on changes in families' saving, investing, and spending behavior to consider the potential longer-term consequences of the current recession on households' finances and decisions.

Most families experienced a decline in wealth between 2007 and 2009, but many families saw only small changes on net, and others saw substantial increases in their wealth. This pattern of gains and losses typically holds within demographic groups. Changes in families' wealth over the period appear to reflect changes in asset values (particularly the value of homes, stocks, and businesses) rather than changes in the level of ownership of assets and debts or in the amount of debt held. On the whole, families appear more cautious in 2009 than in 2007, as most families reported greater desired buffer savings, and many expressed concern over future income and employment.

Keywords: Wealth distribution, wealth change, household finances, financial crisis

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Abstract: In response to the near collapse of US securitization markets in 2008, the Federal Reserve created the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, which offered non-recourse loans to finance investors' purchases of certain highly rated asset-backed securities. We study the effects of this program and find that it lowered interest rate spreads for some categories of asset-backed securities but had little impact on the pricing of individual securities. These findings suggest that the program improved conditions in securitization markets but did not subsidize individual securities. We also find that the risk of loss to the US government was small.

Keywords: Securitization, financial crisis, monetary policy, discount window, lender of last resort

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Abstract: This paper uses rich, new data to examine the fleets of corporate jets operated by both publicly traded and privately held firms. In the cross-section, firms owned by private equity funds average jet fleets at least 40 percent smaller than observably similar publicly-traded firms. Similar fleet reductions are observed within firms that go private in leveraged buyouts. I discuss assumptions under which comparisons across and within firms provide estimates of lower and upper bounds on the average treatment effect of taking a firm from public to private in a leveraged buyout. Both censored and standard quantile regressions suggest that results at the mean are driven by firms in the upper 30 percent of the conditional jet distribution. Results thus suggest that executives in a substantial minority of public firms enjoy more generous perquisites than they would if subject to the pressures of private equity ownership.

Keywords: Agency problem, corporate governance, executive compensation, private equity, corporate jet

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Abstract: The expected return to equity--typically measured as a historical average--is a key variable in the decision making of investors. A recent literature based on analysts forecasts and practitioner surveys finds estimates of expected returns that are sometimes much lower than historical averages. This study presents a novel method that estimates the expected return to equity using only observable data. The method builds on a present value relationship that links dividends, earnings, and investment to market values via expected returns. Given a model that captures this relationship, one can infer the expected return. Using this method, the estimated expected real return to equity ranges from 4 to 5.5 percent. Furthermore, the analysis indicates that expected returns have declined by about 2 percentage points over the past forty years. These results indicate that future returns to equity may be lower than past realized returns.

Keywords: Expected returns, production-based models

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Abstract: This paper characterizes the features of an account-based payment card--including bank debit cards, prepaid debit cards, and payroll cards--that elicit a high take-rate among low- and moderate-income (LMI) households, particularly those without bank accounts. We apply marketing research techniques, specifically choice modeling, to identify the design of a specific financial services product for LMI households, who often face difficulties maintaining standard bank accounts but need banking services. After monthly cost, we find that, on average, non-monetary features of a payment card, such as the availability of federal protection and the type of card, are factors LMI consumers weigh most heavily when choosing among differently designed payment cards. We estimate a high take rate for a well-designed payment card that is decreasing in its cost. The sensitivity of the take-rate with respect to cost varies by income and bank account ownership. These results can guide private and public sector initiatives to expand the range of financial services available to LMI households.

Keywords: Poverty, banking regulation, consumer protection, choice modeling, conjoint

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feds 2011-12
March 2011

Litigation Risk, Strategic Disclosure and the Underpricing of Initial Public Offerings (PDF)

Kathleen Weiss Hanley and Gerard Hoberg

Abstract: Using word content analysis on the time-series of IPO prospectuses, we find evidence that issuers trade off underpricing and strategic disclosure as potential hedges against litigation risk. This tradeoff explains a significant fraction of the variation in prospectus revision patterns, IPO underpricing, the partial adjustment phenomenon, and litigation outcomes. We find that strong disclosure is an effective hedge against all lawsuits. Underpricing, however, is an effective hedge only against the incidence of Section 11 lawsuits, those lawsuits which are most damaging to the underwriter. Underwriters who fail to adequately hedge litigation risk experience economically large penalties including loss of market share.

Keywords: Initial public offerings, disclosure, litigation, securities underwriting

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feds 2011-11
March 2011

How Useful are Estimated DSGE Model Forecasts (PDF)

Rochelle M. Edge and Refet S. Gurkaynak

Abstract: DSGE models are a prominent tool for forecasting at central banks and the competitive forecasting performance of these models relative to alternatives--including official forecasts--has been documented. When evaluating DSGE models on an absolute basis, however, we find that the benchmark estimated medium scale DSGE model forecasts inflation and GDP growth very poorly, although statistical and judgmental forecasts forecast as poorly. Our finding is the DSGE model analogue of the literature documenting the recent poor performance of macroeconomic forecasts relative to simple naive forecasts since the onset of the Great Moderation. While this finding is broadly consistent with the DSGE model we employ--ie, the model itself implies that under strong monetary policy especially inflation deviations should be unpredictable--a "wrong" model may also have the same implication. We therefore argue that forecasting ability during the Great Moderation is not a good metric to judge the usefulness of model forecasts.

Keywords: DSGE model forecast, forecast comparison, great moderation

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Abstract: This paper presents a framework to study movements in the matching efficiency of the labor market and highlights two observable factors affecting matching efficiency: (i) unemployment composition and (ii) dispersion in labor market conditions, the fact that tight labor markets coexist with slack ones. Using CPS micro data over 1976-2009, we find that composition is responsible for most of the movements in matching efficiency until 2006. In 2008-2009, only forty percent of an exceptionally low matching efficiency can be attributed to composition. New highly disaggregated data on vacancies and unemployment show that the unexplained decline in matching efficiency coincides with an increase in dispersion.

Keywords: Matching function, matching efficiency, composition effect, mismatch

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Abstract: The lack of property tax escrow accounts among subprime mortgages causes borrowers to make large lump-sum tax payments that reduce liquidity. Different property tax collection dates across states and counties create exogenous variation in the time between loan origination and the first property tax due date, affording the opportunity to estimate the causal effect of loan-level exposure to liquidity reductions on mortgage default. We find that a nine-month delay in owing property taxes reduces the probability of first-year default by about 4 percent, or about one-third of the effect of a reduction in equity from 10 percent to negative 20 percent.

Keywords: Property taxes, escrow, mortgage default

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feds 2011-08
January 2011

Systemic Risk Contributions (PDF)

Xin Huang, Hao Zhou, and Haibin Zhu

Abstract: We adopt a systemic risk indicator measured by the price of insurance against systemic financial distress and assess individual banks' marginal contributions to the systemic risk. The methodology is applied using publicly available data to the 19 bank holding companies covered by the U.S. Supervisory Capital Assessment Program (SCAP), with the systemic risk indicator peaking around $1.1 trillion in March 2009. Our systemic risk contribution measure shows interesting similarity to and divergence from the SCAP expected loss measure. In general, we find that a bank's contribution to the systemic risk is roughly linear in its default probability but highly nonlinear with respect to institution size and asset correlation.

Keywords: Distress Insurance Premium, Systemic Risk, Macroprudential Regulation, Large Complex Financial Institution, Too-Big-to-Fail, Too-Connected-to-Fail

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feds 2011-07
January 2011

Creating a Linchpin for Financial Data: Toward a Universal Legal Entity Identifier (PDF)

John A. Bottega and Linda F. Powell

Abstract: The financial industry, like many others, is powered by information and data. A number of government agencies, quasi-government agencies, and private companies collect, process, use, and distribute information about a variety of players in the financial world. While the subjects of the data (balance sheet items or counterparty information, for example) may vary dramatically by agency and use, they all describe a particular financial institution or legal entity. Yet a standard way to uniquely identify one financial entity from another does not currently exist. A Social Security number distinguishes one John Smith from another John Smith, but at present no single identifier distinguishes one First National Bank from another. Several private companies have developed proprietary identifiers created for their own purposes but none of those identifiers are industry-wide, universal, or strictly focused on identifying a specific institution.

A diverse group of analysts from the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and Treasury have developed guidelines detailing the best way the industry might create, develop, and maintain such a crucial identifier. The paper summarizes the current environment of entity identification and the problems that are currently encountered in both the private and public sectors by the lack of an industry-wide identifier. The paper identifies the key components that should be incorporated into the LEI such as uniqueness, persistence, and public availability. The paper identifies possible alternative approaches to solving the LEI problem and supports a collaborative public and private sector approach. The paper also considers the need for an international solution, as financial markets grow ever more interconnected across the globe.

Keywords: Legal entity identification, reference data, metadata

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Abstract: There is a large literature showing that the self-employed underreport their income to tax authorities. In this paper, we quantify the extent to which the self-employed also systematically underreport their income in U.S. household surveys. To do so, we use the Engel curve describing the relationship between income and expenditures of wage and salary workers to infer the actual income, and thus the reporting gap, of the self-employed based on their reported expenditures. We find that the self-employed underreport their income by about 30 percent. This result is remarkably robust across data sources and alternative model specifications. Failing to account for such income underreporting leads to biased conclusions. We document this bias in existing measures of earnings differentials, wealth differentials, precautionary savings, lifecycle earnings profiles, and earnings variation across MSAs. Our results show that it is naive for researchers to take it for granted that individuals will provide unbiased information to household surveys given their demonstrated tendency of providing distorted reports of the same information to other administrative sources.

Keywords: Household surveys, self-employed, income underreporting, Engel Curve

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feds 2011-05
January 2011

Differences Across Originators in CMBS Loan Underwriting (PDF)

Lamont K. Black, Chenghuan Sean Chu, Andrew Cohen, and Joseph B. Nichols

Abstract: Differences in the organizational structure of CMBS loan originators may reflect differences in the incentives they face for underwriting risky loans. We treat an originator's type--that is, commercial bank, investment bank, insurance company, finance company, conduit lender, or foreign-owned entity--as a proxy for incentives related to warehousing risk, balance sheet lending, and regulatory constraints. After controlling for observable credit characteristics of over 30,000 loans securitized into CMBS after 1999, we find considerable differences in loan performance across originator types. The results suggest that moral hazard--captured by lack of warehousing risk-negatively affected the quality of loans underwritten by conduit lenders. On the other hand, despite opportunities for adverse selection, balance sheet lenders--commercial banks, insurance companies and finance companies--actually underwrote higher quality loans.

Keywords: CMBS, moral hazard, adverse selection, underwriting

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Abstract: Which of the strategies for financing constraints in economic models is the most empirically plausible? This paper tests two commonly used models of financing constraints, costly state verification (Townsend, 1979) and moral hazard (Holmström and Tirole, 1997), using a comprehensive data set of US small business credit contracts. The data include detailed information about the business, its owner, bank balance sheet information, and the terms of credit. In line with the predictions of models of financing constraints, I find that an additional dollar of net worth accounts for about 30 cents of external finance. More than two thirds of the business credit contracts can be rationalized by one period debt contracts with costly state verification. The parameter values obtained in the costly state verification model imply bankruptcy costs of 28% of expected output and a rate of return ranging between 5% and 8% annually, which are consistent with studies on bankruptcy incidences and returns to entrepreneurial investment. The moral hazard model, however, performs poorly. The correlation between model implied interest rates and actual interest rates paid is close to zero because the bank variables emphasized by this model do not explain loan interest rates.

Keywords: Micro foundations of financing constraints, credit contracts, small business financing

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Abstract: Recent years have seen large increases in the prices of houses, farm products, and oil, often with little clear connection to economic fundamentals. These price increases created plausibly exogenous shifts in demand for construction, farm, and mining machinery. This paper uses these demand shifts to estimate the elasticity of machinery supply. Graphical evidence, OLS, and IV estimates all indicate that the quantity of machinery supplied increased rapidly during the booms, with only modest increases in prices. Pooled sample estimates of the supply elasticity are around 5, much larger than the estimate of 1 from Goolsbee (1998). Results thus suggest that public policies that stimulate investment demand will have only modest effects on the prices of investment goods.

Keywords: Investment, capital supply elasticity, bonus depreciation, expensing

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feds 2011-02
January 2011

Credit Default Swap Spreads and Variance Risk Premia (PDF)

Hao Wang, Hao Zhou, and Yi Zhou

Abstract: We find that firm-level variance risk premium, estimated as the difference between option-implied and expected variances, has a prominent explanatory power for credit spreads in the presence of market- and firm-level risk control variables identified in the existing literature. Such a predictability complements that of the leading state variable--leverage ratio--and strengthens significantly with lower firm credit rating, longer credit contract maturity, and model-free implied variance. We provide further evidence that: (1) variance risk premium has a cleaner systematic component and Granger-causes implied and expected variances, (2) the cross-section of firms' variance risk premia seem to price the market variance risk correctly, and (3) a structural model with stochastic volatility can reproduce the predictability pattern of variance risk premia for credit spreads.

Keywords: Variance risk premia, credit default swap spreads, option-implied variance, expected variance, realized variance

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Abstract: We employ empirical pricing models for mortgage-backed security (MBS) yields and for mortgage rates to measure deviations from normal market functioning in order to assess how the Federal Reserve MBS purchase program--a 16 month program announced on November 25, 2008 and completed on March 31, 2010--affected risk premiums that were embedded in mortgage and swap markets. Our pricing models suggest that the announcement of the program, which signaled strong and credible government backing for mortgage markets in particular and for the financial system more generally, reduced mortgage rates by about 85 basis points between November 25 and December 31, 2008, even though no MBS had (yet) been purchased by the Federal Reserve.

Once the Federal Reserve's MBS program started purchasing MBS, we estimate that the abnormal risk premiums embedded mortgage rates decreased roughly 50 basis points. However, observed mortgage rates declined only slightly because of generally rising interest rates.

After May 27, 2009 fairly normal pricing conditions existed in U.S. primary and secondary mortgage markets; that is, the relationship between mortgage rates and its determinants was similar to that observed prior to the financial crisis. After the end of the Federal Reserve's MBS purchase program on March 31, 2010, mortgage rates and interest rates more generally were significantly less than they had been at the beginning.

In sum, we estimate that the Federal Reserve's MBS purchase program removed substantial risk premiums embedded in mortgage rates because of the financial crisis. The Federal Reserve also re-established a robust secondary mortgage market, which meant that the marginal mortgage borrower was funded by the capital markets and not directly by the banks during the financial crisis-had bank funding been the only source of funds, primary mortgage rates would have been much higher.

Lastly, many observers have attributed part of the Federal Reserve's effect from purchasing MBS to portfolio rebalancing. We find that if portfolio rebalancing had a substantial effect, it may have had its greatest importance only after the Federal Reserve's purchases ended, but while the Federal Reserve held a substantial portion of the stock of outstanding MBS.

Keywords: Federal Reserve, mortgage-backed securities, MBS, mortgage rate, quantitative easing

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