Sandra Batten and Dena Jacobs
Many governments around the world pursued policies to free up capital flows from the late 1970s to early 1990s with the aim of boosting productivity. There’s now a debate raging about the costs and benefits of globalisation. While detractors highlight concerns about inequality, supporters of capital liberalisation point to the productivity growth it has fostered. Drawing on a unique UK firm-level dataset that merges data from the ONS business and innovation surveys, we show that foreign-owned companies are more productive than domestically owned firms and that their presence boosts domestic labour productivity. We suggest three reasons why: foreign-owned companies invest more in R&D; they are better managed; and they collaborate with other organisations and promote the diffusion of ideas.
Tim Pike, Phil Eckersley and Alex Golledge
Since our first post, car finance has risen up the agenda of regulators, journalists and policymakers. Here we provide an update on recent developments. Sterling’s depreciation has had little impact on car finance costs: first because pass-through to new car prices has been muted, and second because finance providers have responded by lengthening loan terms and increasing balloon payments rather than upping monthly repayments. Providers are increasingly retailing contracts where consumers have no option to purchase the car at the end. This avoids some risks associated with voluntary terminations, but it creates new risks around resale value. In sum, the industry continues to accumulate credit risk, predicated on the belief that used car values will remain robust.
Thomas Viegas and Emil Iordanov
Since Donald Trump was elected to the Oval Office last November, consumer confidence in the US has picked up notably. But is this post-election rise unusual?
Michael Anson, Norma Cohen, Alastair Owens and Daniel Todman
Financing World War I required the UK government to borrow the equivalent of a full year’s GDP. But its first effort to raise capital in the bond market was a spectacular failure. The 1914 War Loan raised less than a third of its £350m target and attracted only a very narrow set of investors. This failure and its subsequent cover-up has only recently come to light following research analysing the Bank’s ledgers. It reveals the shortfall was secretly plugged by the Bank, with funds registered individually under the names of the Chief Cashier and his deputy to hide their true origin. Keynes, one of a handful of officials in the know at the time, described the concealment as “a masterly manipulation”.
Joseph Noss and David Murphy
For some years, financial regulations have been becoming more complex. This has led some prominent commentators, regulators and regulatory bodies, to set out the case for simplicity, including Adrian Blundell–Wignall, Andy Haldane, Basel Committee and Dan Tarullo. In his contribution, Haldane illustrates how simple rules can achieve complex tasks: by simply adjusting its speed to keep its angle of gaze fixed, a dog can manage the complex task of catching a Frisbee. In this post, however, we argue that some financial risks are hard to catch with simple rules – they are more like a boomerang’s flight path than that of a Frisbee. Complex rules can sometimes do a better job at catching risk; and simple rules can be less prudent.
In recent years, the volatility of pension fund deficits has been dampened by pension fund assets behaving more similarly to pension fund liabilities. This is partly because bonds make up a bigger share of assets than a decade ago, and partly because bonds and equities are moving more closely than before. Both factors have increased the correlation of assets with pension funds’ liabilities which tend to be intrinsically bond-like. This matters because the volatility of pension deficits can affect pension fund investment decisions. Given their size, changes in pension fund asset allocation can materially affect asset prices.
Angus Foulis and Jon Bridges
Macropru is new. Although many countries have now used macroprudential tools, there is no well-established guidebook to help policymakers develop their reaction functions. The principles behind macroprudential strategy are still being explored, with recent speeches by Alex Brazier, Vitor Constancio, and a review by the IMF,FSB & BIS. This post illustrates how the balancing act at the heart of the macroprudential debate can be formalised – it is a call to arms for further research, rather than the definitive guide.
Philip Bunn and Jeremy Rowe
Rising inflation is eroding the spending power of UK households’ incomes. How will they react to that? The answer will make a big difference to the economic outlook. Will they dip into savings and carry on buying the same amount of goods and services, or will they just spend the same and be able to buy less with it? New survey evidence suggests that households intend to do a bit of both with nominal spending increasing by around half of the rise in prices but real consumption also falling. But not all households say they will respond in the same way: households with debts and limited savings to fall back on are less likely to be able to increase spending.
Paolo Siciliani and Daniel Norris
Asset managers make it more convenient for savers to diversify their investments in stock markets. They are also in a better position to monitor the managers of firms in their portfolios, even if they adopted a passive investment strategy. However, it has been argued that competition might be weakened when firms competing in concentrated industries, such as airlines, share the same small number of institutional investors as their top shareholders.
Sebastian de-Ramon, Bill Francis and Kristoffer Milonas.
Navigational aids are helpful when visibility is poor or when landmarks are unfamiliar, especially when journeying to new destinations. In a recent working paper, we introduce a new regulatory dataset, the ‘Historical Banking Regulatory Database’ (HBRD), that provides a clearer view of the UK banking sector and helps navigate issues difficult to explore with other datasets. This post describes the HBRD, its benefits for research and policy analyses, and what can be learned from it.