Since 2008, aggregate productivity performance in the UK has been substantially worse than in the preceding eight years. Over the same period, aggregate real wage growth has also been significantly lower – it has averaged -0.4% per annum from 2009-16, compared with 2.3% per annum from 2000-08. The MPC, and others, have drawn a link between these two phenomena, arguing that low productivity growth has been a major cause – if not the major cause – of weak wage growth. The logic is simple – if workers produce less output for firms, then in a competitive market firms will only be willing to employ them at a lower wage.
Last year I published a post arguing that there are two productivity puzzles – one in the level and the other in the growth rate of labour productivity – that contained an error. In the original blog, I showed that we could decompose the puzzle(s!) into contributions from either slower than trend growth in capital services per hour worked (capital deepening) or technology growth (TFP).
Caterina Lepore, Caspar Siegert, Quynh-Anh Vo
The 2016 Nobel Prize in economics has been awarded to Professors Oliver Hart and Bengt Holmström for their contributions to contract theory. The theory offers a wide range of real-life applications, from corporate governance to constitutional laws. And, as the post will hopefully convince you, contract theory is also helpful in regulating banks! To this end, we will unpack the outline of the theory and apply it to a number of real-world conundrums: How to pay banks’ chief executives and traders? How to fund a bank’s balance sheet? How to regulate banks?
Fernando V. Cerezetti and Luis Antonio Barron G. Vicente
A vestigial structure is an anatomical feature that no longer seems to have a purpose in the current form of an organism. Goosebumps, for instance, are considered to be a vestigial protection reflex in humans. Default funds, a pool of financial resources formed of clearing member (CM) contributions that can be tapped in a default event, are a ubiquitous part of central counterparty (CCP) safeguard structures. Their history is intertwined with the history of clearinghouses, dating back to a time when the financial sector resembled a Gentlemen’s Club. Here we would like to address the following – perhaps impertinent – question: are current mutualisation processes in CCPs a historical vestige, like goosebumps, or do they still hold an important risk reducing role?
Sinem Hacioglu Hoke and Kerem Tuzcuoglu
We economists want to have our cake and eat it. We have far more data series at our disposal now than ever before. But using all of them in regressions would lead to wild “over-fitting” – finding random correlations in the data rather than explaining the true underlying relationships. Researchers using large data sets have historically experienced this dilemma – you can either throw away some of the information and retain clean, interpretable models; or keep most of the information but lose interpretability. This trade-off is particularly frustrating in a policy environment where understanding the identified relationships is crucial. However, in a recent working paper we show how to sidestep this trade-off by estimating a factor model with intuitive results.
Matteo Benetton, Peter Eckley, Nicola Garbarino, Liam Kirwin and Georgia Latsi.
Do financial regulations change bank behaviour? Does this create new risks? Under Basel II, some banks set capital requirements based on their internal risk models; others use an off-the-shelf standardised approach. These two methodologies can produce very different capital requirements for similar assets. See Figure 1, which displays a snapshot of recent risk weights for UK mortgages. In a new working paper we show empirically that this discrepancy causes lenders to adjust their interest rates and to specialise in which borrowers they target.
Jon Frost and Julia Giese.
A seismic shift is occurring in the European financial system. Since 2008, the aggregate size of bank balance sheets in the EU is essentially flat, while market-based financing has nearly doubled. This shift presents challenges for macroprudential policy, which has a mandate for the stability of the financial system as a whole, but is still focused mostly on banks. As such, macroprudential policymakers are focusing increasing attention on potential systemic risks beyond the banking sector. Drawing from a European Systemic Risk Board (ESRB) strategy paper which we helped write along with five others, we take a step back and set out a policy strategy to address risks to financial stability wherever they arise in the financial system.
Sebastian J A de-Ramon and Michael Straughan.
The landscape for competition between UK deposit takers (retail banks and building societies) was reset in the 1980s with the removal of the bank “corset” (1981), the Big Bang reforms and the Building Societies Act (both in 1986). These reforms facilitated entry and expansion of different business models into markets that had previously been off-limits. What followed was a significant restructuring of the deposit taking sector in the UK. In a new paper, we show that competition between UK deposit takers weakened substantially in the years leading up to the financial crisis.
Frank Eich and Jumana Saleheen.
Despite the fact that the financial crisis erupted nearly a decade ago, its legacy is still being felt today. Disappointingly weak growth and low interest rates are arguably part of that legacy (though other developments also matter), and policy makers are increasingly worried that these are no longer temporary phenomena but instead have become permanent features. This blog assesses what a prolonged period of weak growth and low interest rates (sometimes also referred to by “secular stagnation” or “low for long”) might mean for the viability of defined-benefit (DB) occupational pension schemes in the UK and what financial stability risks might arise as a result of a changing business environment.
Mauricio Armellini and Tim Pike.
This post highlights some of the possible economic implications of the so-called “Fourth Industrial Revolution” — whereby the use of new technologies and artificial intelligence (AI) threatens to transform entire industries and sectors. Some economists have argued that, like past technical change, this will not create large-scale unemployment, as labour gets reallocated. However, many technologists are less optimistic about the employment implications of AI. In this blog post we argue that the potential for simultaneous and rapid disruption, coupled with the breadth of human functions that AI might replicate, may have profound implications for labour markets. We conclude that economists should seriously consider the possibility that millions of people may be at risk of unemployment, should these technologies be widely adopted.