A LOOPy model of inflation

Alex Tuckett

The Law of One Price (LOOP) is an old idea in economics. LOOP states that the same product should cost the same in different places, expressed in the same currency. The intuition is that arbitrage (buying a product where it is cheap and selling it where it is expensive) should bring prices back into line. Can LOOP help us understand UK inflation? Yes. I find EU prices have much higher explanatory power for UK prices than domestic cost pressures, and the effects of exchange rate changes last longer, but build more slowly than commonly assumed.

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Filed under Currency, International Economics, Macroeconomics, Monetary Policy

Will Pay Clawback Tame Damaging Risk-Taking In The City?

Misa Tanaka and John Thanassoulis

In the 2007-8 global financial crisis, a number of banks were bailed out by taxpayers while their most senior employees were paid extraordinary bonuses up to that point (E.g. here, here and here). The resulting public outcry led to new regulations allowing clawback of bonuses earned on the back of decisions that subsequently damage their banks and the wider economy. But will these rules work? Our theoretical research shows that sophisticated banks can game clawback regulations by altering pay contracts so as to incentivise bankers to take risks that benefit shareholders but that are excessive for society. The entire pay package matters, and so, understanding how it shapes risk-taking incentives is as important as monitoring compliance with clawback rules.

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Filed under Banking, Financial Stability, Macroprudential Regulation

Mind the gap: Services trade liberalisation and global imbalances

Mark Joy, Noëmie Lisack, Simon Lloyd, Rana Sajedi and Simon Whitaker

Trade liberalisation since the 1990s has boosted living standards by raising productivity growth. However, it has been predominantly skewed towards reducing barriers to goods trade, rather than services. Since then, goods-focussed exporters have seen increased current account surpluses, and those focussed on services, have seen increased deficits. Could these developments be causally related? In this post we argue that simple tweaks to a canonical two-country model can generate this result, and building on the Governor’s Mansion House Speech, we present empirical evidence that trade liberalisation has affected current account positions asymmetrically. That suggests future liberalisation of services trade, as well as generating increased gains from trade, could also help to reduce global imbalances.

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Filed under International Economics, Macroeconomics

The decline of solvency contagion risk

Marco Bardoscia, Paolo Barucca, Adam Brinley Codd and John Hill

The failure of Lehman Brothers on 15 September 2008 sent shockwaves around the world.  But the losses at Lehman Brothers were only the start of the problem.  The price of their bonds halved, almost overnight.  Other institutions that held Lehman’s debt faced huge losses, and markets feared that those losses could trigger further failures. The good news is that our latest research suggests that risks within the UK banking system from one such contagion channel, “solvency contagion”, have declined sharply since 2008. We have developed a new model which quantifies risk from this channel, and helps us understand why it has fallen.  Regulators are using the model to monitor this particular source of risk as part of the Bank’s annual concurrent stress test exercise.

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Filed under Financial Stability, Macroprudential Regulation, New Methodologies

Reducing counterparty credit risk in uncleared markets – but what are the costs?

Darren Massey

When you rent a house, the landlord – your counterparty – will take a security deposit as prepayment to cover potential costs such as unpaid rent or bills. New regulations introduced in major jurisdictions will require major participants in uncleared over-the-counter derivatives (OTCDs) markets to uniformly exchange initial margin – a more complicated version of a security deposit. Much like a rental deposit, OTCD parties must agree the deposit amount, who should hold the funds, and crucially, when a claim can be made. And just like the rental deposit, the protection provided brings new challenges and risks. This blog outlines some of these risks in the OTCD market, and as the framework is implemented, suggests that firms and regulators should consider these risks.

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Filed under Financial Markets, Financial Stability, Macroprudential Regulation, Market Infrastructure

Bitesize: Are leasehold houses really a thing?

Andrew Blake

The so-called ground rent scandal has prompted the launch of a government consultation  into leasehold reform.  One surprise is just how widespread is the practice of selling newly built houses as leasehold, a practice that seems to have been growing over time. Given that the Land Registry publishes details of all housing transaction since 1995, plotting changes in the pattern of leasehold versus freehold for each type of newly built home is easy.

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Insurance companies: amplifiers or the white knights of financial markets?

Graeme Douglas, Nicholas Vause and Joseph Noss

Risky asset prices plummeted following the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. Whilst driven partly by deteriorations in fundamental news, these falls were amplified by ‘flighty’ investors that sold at the first signs of trouble. Conventional wisdom dictates that life insurers, with their long-term investment horizons, are better placed than most to ‘lean against the wind’ by looking through short-term fluctuations in asset prices. They could thereby stabilise prices when others are selling. But the structure of regulations can greatly influence insurers’ investment incentives. Using our model of insurers’ asset allocations, we find that new ‘Solvency II’ regulations reduce UK life insurers’ willingness to act as the white knights of financial markets, particularly in the face of falling interest rates.

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Filed under Financial Markets, Financial Stability, Insurance, Macroprudential Regulation

10 Years after Northern Rock – is the UK more or less likely to see another bank run?

Stephen Clarke

(Northern Rock image – Lee Jordan – Flickr, reproduced from wikimedia commons under CCA licence)

Ten years ago this month, queues of people started to form early in the morning outside Northern Rock branches across the UK, to withdraw their money out of fear that their bank would soon collapse.  As the day wore on panic spread, and the run continued until when the government stepped in to guarantee all Northern Rock deposits. It was the UK’s first retail bank run since the 19th century and one of the first symptoms of the global financial crisis.  This anniversary is an appropriate time to reflect on those events, but also to look forward and assess how things have moved on in the last decade, and whether something similar could ever happen again.

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Filed under Economic History, Financial Stability, Macroprudential Regulation, Microprudential Regulation

Beyond blockchain: what are the technology requirements for a Central Bank Digital Currency?

Simon Scorer

What type of technology would you use if you wanted to create a central bank digital currency (CBDC) i.e. a national currency denominated, electronic, liability of the central bank? It is often assumed that blockchain, or distributed ledger technology (DLT), would be required; but although this could have some benefits (as well as challenges), it may not be necessary. It could be sensible to approach this issue the same way you would any IT systems development problem – starting with an analysis of requirements, before thinking about the solution that best meets these.

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Filed under Banking, Currency, Market Infrastructure

David vs Goliath: the supermarkets’ battle for the consumer

Tim Pike, Juliette Healey and Carleton Webb

Price inflation for food and drink rose sharply between July 2016 and July 2017, going from minus 2.6% to +2.6%. But could those increases have been even steeper?  In this post we examine the evolution of the UK supermarkets sector. Monitoring their pricing behaviour can be important for understanding short-run inflationary developments given the supermarkets’ high share of imported goods, the general volatility of food prices, and the fact that the largest four supermarkets account for over  a quarter of UK retail sales.  We find that intense competition in the sector has slowed pass-through of higher import prices following sterling’s recent depreciation.  We think that competitive pressures will bear down on food price inflation for the foreseeable future, despite pressure on supermarkets’ margins.

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Filed under Macroeconomics