FRB: Finance and Economics Discussion Series Working PapersenFEDS 2018-057: Hidden Baggage: Behavioral Responses to Changes in Airline Ticket Tax DisclosureNaomi E. Feldman | We examine the impact on air travelers of an enforcement action issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation in January 2012 that required U.S. air carriers and online travel agents to incorporate all mandatory taxes and fees into their advertised fares. Exploiting cross-itinerary ticket tax variation within international city market pairs, we provide evidence that the more prominent display of tax-inclusive prices is associated with a significant reduction in tax incidence on consumers and a decline in passenger volume along more heavily-taxed itineraries. Ticket revenues are commensurately reduced. These results suggest a pronounced degree of inattention to ticket taxes prior to the introduction of full-fare advertising and reinforces the theoretical predictions and experimental findings of the literature on tax salience in a quasi-experimental context where taxes average more than $100 per ticket and where firms may engage in price-setting behavior.]]>FEDS PaperFEDS 2018-056: A Shadow Rate or a Quadratic Policy Rule? The Best Way to Enforce the Zero Lower Bound in the United StatesAndrew Meldrum | We study whether it is better to enforce the zero lower bound (ZLB) in models of U.S. Treasury yields using a shadow rate model or a quadratic term structure model. We show that the models achieve a similar in-sample fit and perform comparably in matching conditional expectations of future yields. However, when the recent ZLB period is included in the sample, the models'' ability to match conditional expectations away from the ZLB deteriorates because the time-series dynamics of the pricing factors change. In addition, neither model provides a reasonable description of conditional volatilities when yields are away from the ZLB.]]>FEDS PaperFEDS 2018-055: The Near-Term Forward Yield Spread as a Leading Indicator: A Less Distorted MirrorEric C. Engstrom, Steven A. Sharpe | The spread between the yield on a 10-year Treasury bond and the yield on a shorter maturity bond, such as a 2-year Treasury, is commonly used as an indicator for predicting U.S. recessions. We show that such "long-term spreads" are statistically dominated in recession prediction models by an economically more intuitive alternative, a "near-term forward spread." This latter spread can be interpreted as a measure of the market's expectations for the near-term trajectory of conventional monetary policy rates. The predictive power of our near-term forward spread indicates that, when market participants expected--and priced in--a monetary policy easing over the next 12-18 months, this indicated that a recession was quite likely in the offing. Yields on bonds beyond 18 months in maturity are shown to have no added value for forecasting either recessions or the growth rate of GDP.]]>FEDS PaperFEDS 2018-054: Financial Frictions, Financial Shocks, and Aggregate VolatilityCristina Fuentes-Albero | The Great Moderation in the U.S. economy was accompanied by a widespread increase in the volatility of financial variables. We explore the sources of the divergent patterns in volatilities by estimating a model with time-varying nancial rigidities subject to structural breaks in the size of the exogenous processes and two institutional characteristics: the coefficients in the monetary policy rule and the severity of the financial rigidity at the steady state. To do so, we generalize the estimation methodology developed by Cúrdia and Finocchiaro (2013). Institutional changes are key in accounting for the volatility slowdown in real and nominal variables and in shaping the transmission mechanism of financial shocks. Our model accounts for the increase in the volatility of financial variables through larger nancial shocks, but the vulnerability of the economy to these shocks is significantly alleviated by the estimated changes in institutions.]]>FEDS PaperFEDS 2018-053: Tapping into Financial Synergies: Alleviating Financial Constraints Through AcquisitionsJie Yang | The paper examines whether financially constrained firms are able to use acquisitions to ease their constraints. The results show that acquisitions do ease financing constraints for constrained acquirers. Relative to unconstrained acquires, financially constrained firms are more likely to use undervalued equity to fund acquisitions and to target unconstrained and more liquid firms. Using a propensity score matched sample in a difference-in-difference framework, the results show that constrained acquirers become less constrained post-acquisition and relative to matched non-acquiring firms. This improvement is more pronounced for diversifying acquisitions and constrained firms that acquire rather than issue equity and retain the proceeds. Following acquisition, constrained acquirers raise more debt and increase investments, consistent with experiencing reductions in financing constraints relative to matched non-acquirers. These improvements are not seen for unconstrained acquirers. Finally, the familiar diversification discount is non- existent for financially constrained acquirers.]]>FEDS PaperFEDS 2018-052: Preventing Controversial CatastrophesEmilio Osambela | In a market-based democracy, we model different constituencies that disagree regarding the likelihood of economic disasters. Costly public policy initiatives to reduce or eliminate disasters are assessed relative to private alternatives presented by financial markets. Demand for such public policies falls as much as 40% with disagreement, and crowding out by private insurance drives most of the reduction. As support for disaster-reducing policy jumps in periods of disasters, costly policies may be adopted only after disasters occur. In some scenarios constituencies may even demand policies oriented to increase disaster risk if these policies introduce speculative opportunities.]]>FEDS PaperFEDS 2018-051: From Taylor's Rule to Bernanke's Temporary Price Level TargetingDavid Lopez-Salido | Bernanke's strategies for integrating forward guidance into conventional instrument rules anticipate that effective lower bound (ELB) episodes may become part a regular occurrence and that monetary policy should recognize this likelihood (Bernanke (2017a); Bernanke (2017b)). Bernanke's first proposal is a form of flexible temporary price level targeting (TPLT), in which a lower-for-longer policy path is prescribed through a "shadow rate". This shadow rate accounts for cumulative shortfalls in inflation and output relative to exogenous trends, and the policy rate is kept at the ELB until the joint shortfall is made up. Bernanke's second proposal adds only the cumulative inflation shortfall since the beginning of an ELB episode directly to an otherwise standard Taylor rule. This cumulative shortfall in inflation from the 2 percent objective can be restated in terms of deviations of the price level from a price level target that increases at 2 percent annually. We evaluate the performance of these strategies, which we call Bernanke's TPLT rules, using a small version of the FRB/US model. We then optimize these rules, computing efficient policy frontiers that trace out the best (minimum) obtainable combinations of output and inflation volatility given the effective lower bound constraint on the policy rate. The results suggest that Bernanke's rules give better macroeconomic outcomes than most of the other rules considered in the literature (including Taylor (1993) and Taylor (1999)) by stabilizing inflation and unemployment during severe recessions. Under these TPLT strategies, when the policy rate is made more responsive to shortfalls in inflation, the the likelihood of below-target inflation occurring alongside high unemployment rates decreases. However, the probability of an overheated economy, with temporarily above-target inflation and low unemployment rate, increases.]]>FEDS PaperFEDS 2018-050: Speed Limit Policy and Liquidity TrapsTaisuke Nakata, Sebastian Schmidt, and Paul Yoo | The zero lower bound (ZLB) constraint on interest rates makes speed limit policies (SLPs)--policies aimed at stabilizing the output growth--less effective. Away from the ZLB, the history dependence induced by a concern for output growth stabilization improves the inflation-output tradeoff for a discretionary central bank. However, in the aftermath of a deep recession with a binding ZLB, a central bank with an objective for output growth stabilization aims to engineer a more gradual increase in output than under the standard discretionary policy. The anticipation of a more restrained recovery exacerbates the declines in inflation and output when the lower bound is binding.]]>FEDS PaperFEDS 2018-049: Attenuating the Forward Guidance Puzzle: Implications for Optimal Monetary PolicyTaisuke Nakata, Ryota Ogaki, Sebastian Schmidt, and Paul Yoo | We examine the implications of less powerful forward guidance for optimal policy using a sticky-price model with an effective lower bound (ELB) on nominal interest rates as well as a discounted Euler equation and Phillips curve. When the private-sector agents discount future economic conditions more in making their decisions today, an announced cut in future interest rates becomes less effective in stimulating current economic activity. While the implication of such discounting for optimal policy depends on its degree, we find that, under a wide range of plausible degrees of discounting, it is optimal for the central bank to compensate for the reduced effect of a future rate cut by keeping the policy rate at the ELB for longer.]]>FEDS PaperFEDS 2018-048: Income Inequality, Financial Crises, and Monetary PolicyIsabel Cairo and Jae W. Sim | We construct a general equilibrium model in which income inequality results in insufficient aggregate demand, deflation pressure, and excessive credit growth by allocating income to agents featuring low marginal propensity to consume, and if excessive, can lead to an endogenous financial crisis. This economy generates distributions for equilibrium prices and quantities that are highly skewed to the downside due to financial crises and the liquidity trap. Consequently, symmetric monetary policy rules designed to minimize fluctuations around fixed means become inefficient. A simultaneous reduction in inflation volatility and mean unemployment rate is feasible when an asymmetric policy rule is adopted.]]>FEDS PaperFEDS 2018-047: Half-full or Half-empty? Financial Institutions, CDS Use, and Corporate Credit RiskCecilia Caglio, R. Matt Darst, and Eric Parolin | We construct a novel U.S. data set that matches bank holding company credit default swap (CDS) positions to detailed U.S. credit registry data containing both loan and corporate bond holdings to study the effects of banks' CDS use on corporate credit quality. Banks may use CDS to mitigate agency frictions and not renegotiate loans with solvent but illiquid borrowers resulting in poorer measures of credit risk. Alternatively, banks may lay off the credit risk of high quality borrowers through the CDS market to comply with risk-based capital requirements, which does not impact corporate credit risk. We find new evidence that corporate default probabilities and downgrade likelihoods, if anything, are slightly lower when banks purchase CDS against their borrowers. The results are consistent with banks using CDS to efficiently lay off credit risk rather than inefficiently liquidate firms.]]>FEDS PaperFEDS 2018-046: Self-confirming Price Dispersion in Monetary EconomiesGarth Baughman and Stanislav Rabinovich | In a monetary economy, we show that price dispersion arises as an equilibrium outcome without the need for costly simultaneous search or any heterogeneity in preferences, production costs, or search technologies. A distribution of money holdings among buyers makes sellers indifferent across a set of posted prices, leading to a non-degenerate price distribution. This price distribution, in turn, makes buyers indifferent across a range of money balances, rationalizing the non-degenerate distribution of money holdings. We completely characterize the distribution of posted prices and money holdings in any equilibrium. Equilibria with price dispersion admit higher maximum prices than observed in any single-price equilibrium. Also, price dispersion reduces welfare by creating mismatch between posted prices and money balances. Inflation exacerbates this welfare loss by shifting the distribution towards higher prices.]]>FEDS PaperFEDS 2018-045: The Local Impact of ContainerizationGisela Rua | We investigate how containerization impacts local economic activity. Containerization is premised on a simple insight: packaging goods for waterborne trade into a standardized container makes them dramatically cheaper to move. We use a novel costshifter instrument--port depth pre-containerization--to contend with the non-random adoption of containerization by ports. Container ships sit much deeper in the water than their predecessors, making initially deep ports cheaper to containerize. Consistent with New Economic Geography models, we find that counties near container ports grow an additional 70 percent from 1950 to 2010. Gains predominate in counties with initially low population density and manufacturing.]]>FEDS PaperFEDS 2018-044: A Nowcasting Model for the Growth Rate of Real GDP of Ecuador: Implementing a Time-Varying InterceptManuel P. Gonzalez-Astudillo and Daniel Baquero | This paper proposes a model to nowcast the annual growth rate of real GDP for Ecuador. The specification combines monthly information of 28 macroeconomic variables with quarterly information of real GDP in a mixed-frequency approach. Additionally, our setup includes a time-varying mean coefficient on the annual growth rate of real GDP to allow the model to incorporate prolonged periods of low growth, such as those experienced during secular stagnation episodes. The model produces reasonably good nowcasts of real GDP growth in pseudo out-of-sample exercises and is marginally more precise than a simple ARMA model.]]>FEDS PaperFEDS 2018-043: Financial Heterogeneity and Monetary UnionJae W. Sim, and Egon Zakrajsek | We analyze the economic consequences of forming a monetary union among countries with varying degrees of financial distortions, which interact with the firms' pricing decisions because of customer-market considerations. In response to a financial shock, firms in financially weak countries (the periphery) maintain cashflows by raising markups--in both domestic and export markets--while firms in financially strong countries (the core) reduce markups, undercutting their financially constrained competitors to gain market share. When the two regions are experiencing different shocks, common monetary policy results in a substantially higher macroeconomic volatility in the periphery, compared with a flexible exchange rate regime; this translates into a welfare loss for the union as a whole, with the loss borne entirely by the periphery. By helping firms from the core internalize the pecuniary externality engendered by the interaction of financial frictions and customer markets, a unilateral fiscal devaluation by the periphery can improve the union's overall welfare. Technical Appendix (PDF)]]>FEDS Paper