The consumption response to borrowing constraints in the mortgage market

Belinda Tracey and Neeltje van Horen

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.

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Decomposing changes in the functioning of the sterling repo market from 2014 to 2018

Rupal Patel

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.

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What matters to firms? New insights from survey text comments

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.

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It’s windy when it’s wet why UK insurers may need to reassess their modelling assumptions

Giorgis Hadzilacos, Ryan Li, Paul Harrington, Shane Latchman, John Hillier, Richard Dixon, Charlie New, Alex Alabaster and Tanya Tsapko

The 2015/16 storms caused the most extreme flooding on record, with parts of the UK impacted by heavy precipitation and extreme wind over a four-month period. These extreme weather events occurred in quick succession, hindering relief efforts and accruing £1.3 billion in insured losses. Without adequate mitigation, such events may result in claims handling strain and capital risk for insurers. Recent research finds that above-average windstorm seasons are typically accompanied by above-average inland flooding. That raises a challenge for insurers: should they have adequate risk mitigation measures in place for periods that are both windy and wet? We argue that insurers need to reassess their model assumptions, especially as climate change might make wet years more frequent than in the past.

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What to expect when they’re expecting

Maren Froemel, Mike Joyce and Iryna Kaminska


During 2020 the MPC announced a further £450 billion of QE purchases, slightly more than the total amount of assets purchased over the preceding ten years, taking the target QE stock to £875 billion of gilt holdings and £20 billion of sterling investment-grade corporate bonds. We study the high-frequency reaction of gilt markets to these QE announcements in light of the surprises to market expectations of the future QE path. We find the yield reactions to be broadly consistent with news about the expected medium-term stock of QE. This is in line with recent commentary, which has focused on the ‘pace of purchases’, as a faster/slower pace translated into a larger/lower stock of expected purchases, and could capture the effects of the local supply channel. The reaction to news about purchase pace could also be potentially consistent with an impact on expected liquidity premia or expected policy rates.

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Uncertainty and voting in monetary policy committees

Alastair Firrell and Kate Reinold

The right stance for monetary policy is highly uncertain, and so it is no surprise that members of monetary policy committees – like the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) – regularly disagree about the best course of action. Asking a committee to decide allows different opinions to be aired and challenged, with a majority vote needed to determine policy. But how should we expect those disagreements and votes to change in periods of higher uncertainty? Should we expect more 9–0 unanimous votes? Or more 5–4 close contests? We address these questions in this post and find that the degree of disagreement is little changed in periods of high uncertainty, and nor are dissenting votes. There is, however, some difference in how voting decisions are formed when uncertain, with both individual and committee-wide views having less explanatory power for votes.

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Negotiating nationalisation

Austen Saunders

1 March 2021 was the 75th anniversary of the Bank of England’s nationalisation. While its stock formerly passed into public ownership in 1946, Lord Catto (the Governor) and Hugh Dalton (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had negotiated the terms of the Bank’s nationalisation the summer before. During these negotiations Catto lobbied for the Bank not to be given more powers to regulate banks. Why? The answer hinges on how the Bank understood its role. And it helps explain why, as David Kynaston sees it, the Bank and the government ‘missed a historic opportunity’ to comprehensively redefine the Bank’s responsibilities.

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Cloudy with a chance of tariffs: the impact of policy uncertainty on the global economy

Ed Manuel, Alice Pugh, Anina Thiel, Tugrul Vehbi and Seb Vismara

Average tariffs on goods traded between the US and China increased by 15 percentage points from early 2018 to 2019. By making it more costly to buy goods from abroad, higher tariffs have reduced global trade flows and spending by households and businesses. But ‘direct’ effects of tariffs are not the only ways in which trade-related issues can affect global growth. Trade-related uncertainty has risen sharply since the escalation of trade tensions in 2018, which may have caused businesses to postpone costly investment decisions and financial conditions to tighten. In this post we investigate the size of these ‘indirect’ channels.

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What is the relationship between a markets-based measure of leverage and banks’ funding costs?

Kieran Dent, Sinem Hacioglu Hoke and Apostolos Panagiotopoulos

The Great Financial Crisis demonstrated an important feedback loop between banks’ capitalisation and funding costs. As banks’ capitalisation declined, banks’ wholesale creditors responded by demanding higher interest rates to lend to them. In turn, higher funding costs dented banks’ profitability, further weakening their capitalisation. Quantifying the relationship between funding costs and market-based measures of leverage – a proxy for bank solvency – is key to understand how banks might fare in a future stress situation – for instance as part of regulatory stress tests.

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Do banks need belts and braces?

Marcus Buckmann, Paula Gallego Marquez, Mariana Gimpelewicz and Sujit Kapadia

Bank failures are very costly for society. Following the 2007/2008 global financial crisis, international regulators introduced a package of new banking regulations, known as Basel III. This includes a wider range of capital and liquidity requirements to protect banks from different risks. But could the additional complexity be unnecessary or even increase risks, as some have argued? In a recent staff working paper, we assess the value of multiple regulatory requirements by examining how different combinations of metrics might have helped prior to the 2007/2008 crisis in gauging banks that subsequently failed. Our results generally support the case for a small portfolio of different regulatory metrics: having belts and braces (or suspenders) can strengthen the resilience of the banking system.

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