A Closer Look at the BoC-BoE Sovereign Default Database

David Beers and Jamshid Mavalwalla

Defaults on sovereign debt – the term commonly used to denote debt issued by national governments and other fiscally autonomous territories – are a recurring feature of public finance. They are more widespread than is often appreciated, since 1960 involving 145 governments, over half the current sovereign universe. Examples include the many governments ensnared in the Latin American and Eastern European debt crises of the 1980s. More recently, there have been big bond defaults by Russia (1998), Argentina (2001), Greece (2012), and Puerto Rico (2015). On a smaller scale, scores of sovereign defaults can occur each year on one or more types of debt. Some, such as Sudan’s, have dragged on for decades and remain unresolved (Chart 1).

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The seven deadly paradoxes of cryptocurrency

John Lewis

Will people in 2030 buy goods, get mortgages or hold their pension pots in bitcoin, ethereum or ripple rather than central bank issued currencies? I doubt it.  Existing private cryptocurrencies do not seriously threaten traditional monies because they are afflicted by multiple internal contradictions. They are hard to scale, are expensive to store, cumbersome to maintain, tricky for holders to liquidate, almost worthless in theory, and boxed in by their anonymity. And if newer cryptocurrencies ever emerge to solve these problems, that’s additional downside news for the value of existing ones.

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Filed under Banking, Currency, Financial Markets, Market Infrastructure

Reflections on the Bank’s History

David Kynaston

Last May, the Bank organised an economic history workshop at the St Clere Estate, home of former governor Montagu Norman. In this guest post, one of the speakers David Kynaston, visiting Professor at Kingston University, reflects on more than three centuries of Bank history…

It was a huge honour to be asked by Mervyn King to write a history of the Bank. The eventual book, Till Time’s Last Sand, was published last autumn. It covers 1694 to 2013 and is based heavily on the Bank’s own archive. Fitting more than 300 years of history into a single volume was a difficult task, and condensing that into a short blog post is harder still. Here I will try to bring out a handful of key lessons from my research into the Bank’s history that might be useful for the policymakers, economists and other interested observers of today – and their successors…

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How did organisations adapt to change in the 18th and 19th century: Lessons from the Bank of England Archives…

Anne Murphy

Last May, the Bank organised an economic history workshop at the St Clere Estate, home of former governor Montagu Norman. In this guest post, one of the speakers Anne Murphy from the University of Hertfordshire, looks at what the Bank’s archives can tell historians about how business dealt with rapid organisational change at the start of the industrial revolution…

Industrialisation was not the only driver of change during the eighteenth century. Recent historiography has revealed more about the financial and organisational revolutions that helped to shape the British state and the country’s economic development. The Bank of England was at the forefront of these revolutions and a pioneer of new modes of business organisation. A business that started out in a small rented space with only seventeen clerks in 1694 was, by 1815, employing nearly 1,000 workers and occupying most of the Threadneedle Street block. Yet it has been sadly neglected as a case study. What might we find in the Bank’s archives to understand how business adapted to rapid and radical change during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries?

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Montagu Norman: The View from St Clere

Barry Eichengreen

Last May, the Bank organised an economic history workshop at the St Clere Estate, home of former governor Montagu Norman. In this guest post, one of the speakers, Barry Eichengreen from the University of California Berkeley, looks back at Montagu Norman’s time as governor.

Montagu Norman’s aura is palpable at St. Clere. It is said that Norman spent many of his weekends and holidays at his estate in Kent, overseeing improvements and admiring the vistas. His legacy is, if anything, even more prominent at the Bank of England. Norman supervised the design of the present Bank building. His portrait, along with those of the other members of his Court, was displayed on the first-floor landing in the Bank’s main atrium; he is only a handful of governors so honored. The Bank’s recent St. Clere workshop thus provided an opportunity to ponder some of the enduring themes and legacies of Norman’s quarter-century as governor.

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Car insurance telematics: why the black box should become more transparent

Fergus Cumming

Imagine you have just passed your driving test. After many hours of careful instruction, you are keen to put your good driving habits to the test on the open road. You phone up your insurance company but discover that your insurance premiums will cost you hundreds of pounds more than you can afford because “newly-qualified drivers are worse than average”. This post is about how developments in the car insurance market have the potential to revolutionise the way we drive and how we guard against the risks of bangs, scrapes and scratches. The increased use of telematics (also known as black boxes) has important implications for anyone who might consider driving, policymakers and for society as a whole.

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Could knowledge about Central banks impact households’ expectations?

Emma Rockall

Should central banks care if people understand them? Whereas once Alan Greenspan famously declared: “If I seem unduly clear to you, you must have misunderstood what I said”, central bankers now dedicate considerable time and thought to transparency and communications. While transparency initiatives have value in their own right in improving accountability, results from the Bank’s Inflation Attitudes Survey suggest that they could have potentially far-reaching effects on the economy through their impact on households’ expectations. If they improve households’ knowledge of central banks, they may produce inflation expectations that are more stable and closer to the inflation target in the medium term – that is, ‘better-anchored’ expectations.

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Low-Carbon Macro

Carsten Jung, Theresa Löber, Anina Thiel and Thomas Viegas

Governments have pledged to meet the Paris Target of restricting global temperature rises to ‘well below’ 2˚C.  But reducing CO2 emissions and other greenhouse gases means reallocating resources away from high-carbon towards low-carbon activities. That reallocation could be considerable: fossil fuels account for more than 10% of world trade and around 10% of global investment.  In this post, we consider the macroeconomic effects of the transition to a low-carbon economy and how it might vary across countries. While much of the discussion has focussed on the hit to economic activity and the potential for job losses in higher-carbon sectors, we highlight that the transition also offers opportunities. And the overall impact depends crucially on when and how the transition takes place.

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Insulated from risk? The relationship between the energy efficiency of properties and mortgage defaults

Benjamin Guin and Perttu Korhonen

A well-insulated house reduces heat loss during cold winter periods and it keeps outdoor heat from entering during hot summer conditions. Hence, effective insulation can reduce the need for households to use cooling and heating systems. While this can lower greenhouse gas emissions by households, it also reduces homeowners’ energy bills, which can free up available income. This can protect households from unexpected decreases in income (e.g. reduced overtime payments) or increases in expenses (e.g. healthcare costs). It could also help homeowners to make their mortgage payments even if such shocks occurred. But does this also imply that mortgages against energy-efficient properties are less credit-risky?

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Filed under Banking, Financial Markets, Financial Stability, Microprudential Regulation

Bitesize: Premium Delirium II

Nicholas Vause

In a recent post, my co-author and I showed some charts suggesting that investors have been accepting less compensation for bearing credit risk. This type of risk can be very costly when it materialises, but the probability of that happening is typically very low. A similar risk is inherent in deeply out-of-the-money options. Here too, investors seem to be accepting less compensation for risk.

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