Impact of the UK QE on banks’ balance sheets

Mahmoud Fatouh

Quantitative easing (QE) involves creating new central bank reserves to fund asset purchases. Deposited in the reserves account of the seller’s bank, these reserves can have implications for banks’ asset mixes. In our paper, we use balance sheet data for 118 UK banks to empirically investigate whether the asset compositions of banks involved in the UK QE operations reacted differently in comparison to banks not involved in the initial rounds of QE between March 2009 and July 2012.

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Household debt and labour supply – a new labour market channel

Philip Bunn, Jagjit Chadha, Thomas Lazarowicz, Stephen Millard and Emma Rockall

Does higher household debt lead to greater labour supply? Ahead of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), UK household debt rose considerably. Since that crisis, the UK labour market has experienced high employment and high participation, alongside relatively weak wage growth. Might these observations be evidence that higher debt leads to higher labour supply? In a recent Working Paper, we attempt to answer this question. We do find a significant channel by which households with higher debt increase their labour supply in response to negative income shocks by more than households with lower (or no) debt. But, we do not think the effect is strong enough to explain the post-crisis strength in employment and participation at the aggregate level.

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(Some of) The macroeconomics of working from home

John Lewis

Increased working from home (WFH) for public health reasons during the pandemic has spawned a debate about whether this shift might become permanent. In this post, I try to sketch out some of the (macro) economics of a longer-run post-pandemic shift towards more WFH. I argue that: i) on consumption, it won’t affect aggregate expenditure, it will just reallocate it across space and sectors ii) in property markets, effects hinge on supply responses; iii) for output, cost-savings to firms from cutting back office space don’t translate one-for-one into GDP gains.

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Did the Covid-19 local lockdowns reduce business activity in the UK?

James Hurley and Danny Walker

In 2020 governments around the world responded to Covid-19 (Covid) by introducing lockdown measures that were designed to slow the spread of the virus. Business activity fell materially. But it is difficult to isolate the impact of the local lockdown measures on business activity, given that business activity was affected by other factors such as voluntary social distancing at the same time. In this post we compare UK small and medium enterprises (SMEs) located close to the borders of – but not within – local lockdowns with similar businesses just inside, and conclude that the local lockdown measures causally reduced turnover growth by 8 percentage points relative to businesses outside of the lockdowns, driven by restaurants and non-food retail. Average turnover growth over the period was around -20%, which implies that the lockdowns accounted for only two fifths of the overall drop in business activity at most.

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How does house price indexation affect the valuation of equity release mortgages?

Craig Turnbull

Equity Release Mortgages (ERMs) are different from traditional mortgages. Both mortgages provide an upfront cash lump sum. But traditional mortgages are tied to an immediate home purchase that is repaid over a set period, while equity release mortgages are tied to a share of a future home sale. In this blog post, I examine some of the challenges with valuing equity release mortgages. Specifically, I focus on the approaches used to estimate the current home value – a key input to the mortgage valuation – which typically involves applying a simple house price index return to the most recent house survey valuation or transaction price. I show this widespread approach may understate equity release mortgage risks and overstate portfolio values.

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Gender imbalance in economics: what next?

Misa Tanaka

This post by Misa Tanaka is based on her talk at the Royal Economic Society’s webinar on Gender Imbalance in UK Economics which took place on 6 October. She is Head of Research at the Bank of England and a member of the Royal Economic Society’s Women’s Committee. 

The latest report on the Gender Imbalance in UK Economics by the Royal Economic Society (RES) Women’s Committee makes a depressing read. In a nutshell, little if any progress has been made in women’s representation in academic economics in the past decade. A well-considered action plan is needed to improve gender balance and diversity in the discipline, if the next decade is to look any different.

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Challenges to monetary policy: lessons from Medieval Europe

Nathan Sussman

The Bank of England co-organised a ‘History and Policy Making Conference‘ in late 2020. This guest post by Nathan Sussman, Professor of International Economics at the Graduate Institute of Geneva, is based on material included in his conference presentation.

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From Pillar 2 to post: is it time for a change in concentration risk methodology?

Chris Leaney

The Herfindahl-Hirschman Index (HHI) is a measure of diversification, commonly used as an indicator to calculate banks’ credit concentration risk capital requirements (where credit concentration risk is potential losses from undiversified portfolios). According to BCBS (2019) HHI is employed by c. 50% of regulators, including the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) since 2016. However, despite some evidence that the data-light, easy-to-implement HHI produces broadly comparable outcomes with formal models (eg Bundesbank (2006)), such evidence is limited to large banks or theoretical datasets. In this post I examine the relationship between HHI and a formal model of sector and geographical concentration risk. I show that, for a wide sample of bank sizes, HHI is poorly correlated with the model outputs for both risk types.

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Pinning the tail on the economy: why domestic developments aren’t enough

Simon Lloyd and Ed Manuel

Central banks don’t just care about what is expected to happen. They also care about what could happen if things turn out worse than expected. In line with this, an emerging literature has developed models for measuring and predicting overall levels of macroeconomic risk. This body of work has focused on estimating the level of ‘tail risk‘ in a country by monitoring a range of domestic developments. But this misses a key part of the picture. In a recent Staff Working Paper, we show that monitoring developments abroad is as important as monitoring developments at home when assessing the vulnerability of the economy to a severe downturn.

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I need a dollar, dollar, a dollar is what I need

Ambrogio Cesa-Bianchi and Fernando Eguren-Martin


In March 2020, the Covid-19 (Covid) outbreak turned the world upside down. With economies virtually shut, financial markets were an exception and remained open. However, it was not business as usual for them: the increased need to meet immediate obligations, and a more generalised increase in risk aversion, led investors to liquidate positions in favour of hard old cash. In a recent Staff Working Paper we pose that investors did not seek any type of cash but rather that the world witnessed a ‘dash for dollars’. We show that the resulting race for dollars went beyond exchange rate markets and led to selling pressure on dollar bonds in corporate bond markets, which experienced particularly large increases in spreads.

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