What does population ageing mean for net foreign asset positions?

Noëmie Lisack, Rana Sajedi and Gregory Thwaites

How sound is the argument that current account balances are driven by demographics? Our multi-country lifecycle model explains 20% of the variation in observed net foreign asset positions among advanced economies through differences in population age structure. These positions should expand further as countries continue to age at varying speeds.

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Perceiving risk wrong: what happens when markets misprice risk?

Kristina Bluwstein and Julieta Yung

Financial markets provide insightful information about the level of risk in the economy. However, sometimes market participants might be driven more by their perception rather than any fundamental changes in risk. In a recent Staff Working Paper we study the effect of changes in risk perceptions that can lead to a mispricing of risk. We find that when agents over-price risk, banks adjust their bank lending policies, which can lead to depressed investment and output. On the other hand, when agents under-price risk, excessive lending creates a ‘bad’ credit boom that can lead to a severe recession once sentiment is reversed.

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Bitesize: Fixing ideas – The Slowing of Interest-rate Pass-through to Mortgagors

Fergus Cumming

When choosing a mortgage, a key question is whether to choose a fixed or variable-rate contract. By choosing the former, households are unaffected by official interest-rate decisions for the length of the fixation period. We can use transaction data on residential mortgages to get a sense of how long it takes interest-rate decisions to filter through to people’s finances.

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TEMPEST: a storm in a teacup?

Ashley Sweetman

This guest post is the second of an occasional series of guest posts by external researchers who have used the Bank of England’s archives for their work on subjects outside traditional central banking topics.


What can the Bank of England Archive tell us about cyber security? The answer is almost certainly more than you might expect. For my PhD thesis Computer Security in the UK Financial Sector, 1960-1990, I visited the Bank Archives in the interests of being thorough, fully expecting to have exhausted relevant folders within a matter of hours. How wrong I was. They turned out to be a treasure trove of detail on historical computer security and informed a key part of my research. One particular piece of fragmentary evidence offered a window into a particularly secretive and little-known surveillance mechanism which the Bank and intelligence agencies feared and which was known only by its NATO codename, TEMPEST.

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Great Expectations: the economic power of news about the future

Silvia Miranda-Agrippino, Sinem Hacioglu Hoke and Kristina Bluwstein

Can shifts in beliefs about the future alter the macroeconomic present? This post summarizes our recent working paper where we have combined data on patent applications and survey forecasts to isolate news of potential future technological progress, and studied how macroeconomic aggregates respond to them. We have found news-induced changes in beliefs to be powerful enough to enable economic expansions even if different economic agents process these types of news in very different ways. A change in expectations about future improvements in technology can account for about 20% of the variation in current unemployment and aggregate consumption.

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Houses are assets not goods: taking the theory to the UK data

John Lewis and Fergus Cumming

In yesterday’s post we argued that housing is an asset, whose value should be determined by the expected future value of rents, rather than a textbook demand and supply for physical dwellings. In this post we develop a simple asset-pricing model, and combine it with data for England and Wales. We find that the rise in real house prices since 2000 can be explained almost entirely by lower interest rates. Increasing scarcity of housing, evidenced by real rental prices and their expected growth, has played a negligible role at the national level.

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Houses are assets not goods: What the difference between bulbs and flowers tells us about the housing market

John Lewis and Fergus Cumming

A tulip bulb produces flowers. Those flowers are what people actually enjoy consuming, not the bulb. Whilst that’s blindingly obvious for tulips, the equivalent is also true for housing. The physical dwelling is the asset, but it’s the actual living there (aka “housing services”) that people consume. The two things sound very similar and are often lumped together as “housing”. But in today’s post, we argue they are as different as bulbs and flowers. Sketching out a simplified framework of houses as assets we show how this can radically change how one views the “housing market”. Tomorrow, we use this to develop a toy model and bring it to the data to shed light on house price growth in England and Wales.

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How economic integration fuels macroeconomic imbalances

Sophie Piton

From the introduction of the Euro up to the 2008 global financial crisis, macroeconomic imbalances widened among Member States. These imbalances took the form of strong differences in the dynamics of unit labour costs, which increased much faster in ‘peripheral’ economies than in ‘core’ countries. At first, these imbalances were interpreted as reflecting a catch-up and convergence process within the Euro Area – and were supposed to fall as countries converged. But, more recently economists and policymakers have challenged this view, suggesting that imbalances reflected a broader competitiveness problem in the ‘periphery’ compared to the ‘core’ countries. This post, based on a recent Staff Working Paper, revisits the effect of economic integration on macroeconomic imbalances.

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Does liquidity spill over in the credit market? The case of CDS and corporate bonds

Robert Czech

Credit default swaps (CDS) have a notoriously bad reputation. Critics refer to CDS as a “global joke” that should be “outlawed”, not at least due to the opaque market structure. Even the Vatican labelled CDS trading as “extremely immoral”. But could there be a brighter side to these swaps? In theory, CDS contracts can reduce risks in financial markets by providing valuable insurance. In a recent paper, I show that CDS also offer another, more subtle benefit: an increase in the liquidity of the underlying bonds.

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Tracking foreign capital

Christiane Kneer and Alexander Raabe

Capital flows are fickle. In the UK, the largest and most volatile component of inflows from foreign investors are so-called ‘other investment flows’ – the foreign capital which flows into banks and other financial institutions. But where do these funds ultimately go and which sectors are particularly exposed to fickle capital inflows? Do capital inflows allow domestic firms to borrow more? Or does capital from abroad ultimately finance mortgages of UK households? Some of the foreign capital could also get passed on to the financial sector or flow back abroad.

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