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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Le Pont de Londres: monetary policy spillovers, prudential policies and the financial centre effect

Robert Hills, Simon Lloyd, Rhiannon Sowerbutts, Dennis Reinhardt, Matthieu Bussière, Baptiste Meunier and Justine Pedrono

Large amounts of capital flow across borders. But these can be destabilising. So can recipient countries employ prudential policies to offset monetary policy changes in centre countries? And does it matter where sending banks are located? Our findings suggest it does. Our case study of French banks operating in London – part of a broader international initiative – suggests prudential policies have a much bigger offsetting effect on French banks’ lending out of the UK’s financial centre than on their lending out of headquarters in France. In line with those observations, we uncover evidence of a ‘London Bridge’ in cross-border lending: the way French banks channel funds to the UK is responsive to prudential policies in the rest of the world.

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A fistful of dollars: transmission of global funding shocks to emerging markets

Aakriti Mathur and Shekhar Hari Kumar

Emerging markets (EMs) have become more exposed to the global financial cycle in recent years. Positive liquidity shocks – that is, a loosening of global funding market conditions – have led to exchange rate appreciations, reductions in long-term bond yields, stock market booms, and increased gross capital flows to EMs (Bhattarai et al (2018)). Negative liquidity shocks on the other hand constitute a tightening of financial conditions, reducing lending and real investment (Bruno and Shin (2015) and Avdjiev et al (2018)).

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Covid-19 briefing: pandemics, natural disasters and banks’ balance sheets

Neeltje van Horen

The Covid-19 (Covid) pandemic is a major shock to the economy but unlike traditional crises or credit crunches, its origin is exogenous to the financial sector. The economy’s ability to recover from the impact of the pandemic will however depend in part on the availability of credit. This raises the question how banks absorb a large shock which originates from outside the financial sector. To answer this question this post reviews the literature on how previous pandemics and natural disasters in the developed world affected banks’ balance sheets. One key message stands out: banks that are more rooted in their market are much more likely to continue lending when faced with the economic fallout from such shock.

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How competitive are UK insurance markets?

Fraser Drew, David Humphry, Michael Straughan and Eleanor Watson

For most of us buying insurance nowadays, price comparison websites offer plenty of choice. But how much competition in insurance markets is there? There are very few studies that address this question (see here for a summary), unlike for banking where there is a wide literature. We take an exploratory approach to address the question, applying benchmarks used in competition research to a unique set of reporting data across multiple UK insurance regulatory regimes, with the hope of stimulating further work. We find competition generally works well in UK life and non-life insurance markets, despite increases in life market concentration over the past 25 years. However, competition regulators have found practices in specific markets that harm consumers.

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How Britain paid for war: bond holders in the Great War 1914-32

Norma Cohen

This post contributes to our 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.

In August 1914, Britain was the world’s wealthiest country. Yet there was no guarantee that government would be able to harness that wealth for World War I. Effectively, Britain was forced into a ‘Battle for Capital’ simultaneous with its military efforts — with the efficacy of the latter dependent on the success of the former. Over 80% of the £7,280 million Britain borrowed from 1914 to 1919, was raised at home. New research shows that Britain’s desperate efforts to marshal its citizens’ capital for the purpose of war, while also struggling to direct wartime production, profits and labour, led to a sharp shift in the sources of its borrowings during the war and in the years after.

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