The Bank of England co-organised a ‘History and Policy Making Conference‘ in late 2020. This guest post by Catherine Schenk, Professor of Economic and Social History at the University of Oxford, is based on material included in her conference presentation.
Since the Great Financial Crisis started in 2007 there has been renewed interest in using the past as a basis for policy responses in the present, but how useful is history and how is it best used? Certainly, the old chestnut that ‘those who neglect the past are sure to repeat it’ is a valid warning, but how to select the appropriate historical examples and draw the right lessons is a more nuanced exercise that is explored in this post.
In 2018, IFRS 9 came into effect, replacing IAS 39. IFRS 9 has important implications especially for banks, as they mostly hold financial assets. IAS 39 is based on the incurred-loss model, which allows recognition of credit losses (in the form of provisions) only when there is objective evidence of impairment, dividing loans into performing and impaired loans (Figure 1). IFRS 9 introduces the more forward-looking expected loss model, under which provisions are equal to the expected credit losses. As illustrated in Figure 1, IFRS 9 classifies loans into three stages: Stage 1 loans (performing loans), Stage 2 loans (underperforming loans) and Stage 3 loans (nonperforming loans).
‘Zombie lending’ occurs when a lender supports an otherwise insolvent borrower through forbearance measures such as repayment holidays and temporary interest-only loans. The phrase was first coined for Japan in the late 1990s, but more recently several authors have documented that zombie lending to European firms has been widespread following the sovereign debt crisis (see Acharya et al (2019), Adalet McGowan et al (2018), Banerjee and Hofmann (2020), Blattner et al (2018) and Schivardi et al (2017)). In a recent paper, I examine whether these lending practices contributed to the subsequent low output experienced by the euro area. My findings suggest that zombie lending had negative consequences for output, investment and productivity in the euro area over the period 2011 to 2014.
In the wake of the global financial crisis in 2008, nominal interest rates in the US and other advanced economies have approached the effective lower bound (ELB). This fact has motivated new research to understand, both theoretically and empirically, the impact of monetary policies when the nominal policy rate is at the ELB. In a new paper, we show that accounting for balance sheet policies (QE) can ease the constraints imposed by the ELB on monetary policy and resolve several paradoxical results arising in canonical New Keynesian models at the ELB. The ‘paradox of flexibility’, the ‘paradox of toil’ and the puzzle of excessively large fiscal multipliers are all resolved when QE is added to the model as policy tool.
Better communications, enhanced transport links, integration agreements between governments, and other factors have all helped increase global economic interconnectedness over the past few decades. Yet, comparing a state-of-the-art gravity model for trade versus migration reveals important differences in the evolution of globalization over time on flows of goods versus people. For trade, the boost from free trade agreements declines the farther apart signatories are, but for migration the boost increases with distance between signatories. Further, while both border and distance frictions have declined for trade over time, this is not the case for migration flows.
Are less open economies more resilient to downturns? There is general agreement on the benefits of openness, but its adverse link to volatility is ambiguous. On the one hand, globalisation makes countries less sensitive to domestic disturbances, yet it also makes them more exposed to foreign shocks. In this post, I use local projections (LP) to show that international business cycles since 1870 appear to support a positive effect of openness on the economic resilience of a country, and that we may thus expect the current international slowbalisation trend to worsen future recessions.
Joel Suss, David Bholat, Alex Gillespie and Tom Reader
‘Bad cultures’ at banks are often blamed for scandals and crises, from the global financial crisis to the mis-selling of payment protection insurance (PPI) in the UK. Yet surprisingly little research has tested this claim. This is because quantifying culture is difficult to do. Our working paper gives it a go. Leveraging unique access to data available to regulators, we diagnose the cultural health of the UK banking sector. We find that banks with organisational cultures two standard deviations below the sector average are associated with a 50% increased risk of failure.
How is household consumption affected by borrowing constraints in the mortgage market? In a new paper, we answer this question by studying the UK’s Help to Buy (HTB) program over the period 2014–16. The program facilitated home purchases with only a 5% down payment and resulted in a sharp relaxation of the down-payment constraint. We show that HTB boosted household consumption in addition to stimulating housing market activity. Home purchases increased by 11%, and the increase was driven almost entirely by first-time and young buyers. In addition, household consumption grew by 5% more in parts of the UK more exposed to the program. Relaxing the down payment constraint thus has important macroeconomic effects that extend beyond the housing market.
Repo markets form part of the plumbing of the financial system. They allow participants to borrow cash against collateral and buy back this collateral at a higher price at the end of the transaction. When there is a blockage in repo it has repercussions on financial markets. Since 2014 there have been significant changes in repo functioning, causing policymakers to question why these changes are happening and what it means for financial stability. Our paper addresses these questions. We find fluctuations in repo were driven by changes in dealers’ supply in the pre-Covid period 2014–18. We subsequently consider the possible role that the introduction of the leverage ratio played in the willingness of intermediaries to respond to demands for cash.
Ivan Yotzov, Nick Bloom, Philip Bunn, Paul Mizen, Pawel Smietanka and Greg Thwaites
Text data is often raw and unstructured, and yet it is the key means of human communication. Textual analysis techniques are increasingly being used in economic and financial research in a variety of different ways. In this post we apply these techniques to a new setting: the text comments left by respondents to the Decision Maker Panel (DMP) Survey, a UK-wide monthly business survey. Using over 20,000 comments, we show that: (i) these comments are a rich and unexplored data source, (ii) Brexit has been the dominant topic of comments since 2016, (iii) text-based indices match existing uncertainty measures from the DMP at both the aggregate and firm level, and (iii) sentiment among UK firms has been declining since 2016.