Mark Joy, Noëmie Lisack, Simon Lloyd, Rana Sajedi and Simon Whitaker
Trade liberalisation since the 1990s has boosted living standards by raising productivity growth. However, it has been predominantly skewed towards reducing barriers to goods trade, rather than services. Since then, goods-focussed exporters have seen increased current account surpluses, and those focussed on services, have seen increased deficits. Could these developments be causally related? In this post we argue that simple tweaks to a canonical two-country model can generate this result, and building on the Governor’s Mansion House Speech, we present empirical evidence that trade liberalisation has affected current account positions asymmetrically. That suggests future liberalisation of services trade, as well as generating increased gains from trade, could also help to reduce global imbalances.
Thomas Viegas and Emil Iordanov
Since Donald Trump was elected to the Oval Office last November, consumer confidence in the US has picked up notably. But is this post-election rise unusual?
A fall in the real exchange rate can increase demand for domestic output in two main ways. The volume of exports – which become cheaper – is boosted. And goods and services that were previously imported can instead be supplied by domestic producers, which become more competitive as the price of imports rises. Economists call the second effect ‘import substitution’. Using data from Supply-Use tables can help us better understand the process of import substitution, in particular by examining how the composition of expenditure has influenced imports. Doing so shows that the import substitution effect of the 2008-09 depreciation was partly masked by other, co-incident factors.
Marek Raczko, Mo Wazzi and Wen Yan
Economists view the United Kingdom as a small-open economy. In economists’ jargon it means that the UK is susceptible to foreign shocks, but that UK shocks do not influence other countries. This definitely was not the case in 2016. The result of the EU referendum, even though it was a UK-specific policy event, had a global impact. Our analysis shows that the Brexit vote not only had a significant impact on UK bond and equity markets, but also spilled over significantly to other advanced economies. Moreover, this approach suggests that the initial Brexit-shock has only partially reversed and still remains a drag on global bond yields and equity prices, though there are wide error bands around that conclusion.
Stijn Claessens and Neeltje van Horen.
Foreign banks can be important for trade. They can increase the availability of external finance for exporting firms and help overcome information asymmetries. Consistent with these channels, we show that firms in emerging markets tend to export more when foreign banks are present, especially when the parent bank is headquartered in the importing country. In advanced countries, where financial markets are more developed and information is more readily available, the presence of foreign banks does not play such a role. Financial globalization through the local presence of foreign banks can thus positively affect real integration.
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.
Ambrogio Cesa-Bianchi, Fernando Eguren Martin and Gregory Thwaites.
Why do banking crises happen in “waves” across countries? Do global developments matter for domestic financial stability? Is there such a thing as a global cycle in domestic credit? In this post we link these ideas and show that foreign financial developments in general, and global credit growth in particular, are powerful predictors of domestic banking crises. Channels seem to be financial rather than related to trade, and these include transmission of market sentiment, cross-border portfolio flows and direct crisis contagion.
This blog discusses the impact of economic uncertainty on euro-area activity. To do that, we built on the methodology developed for the UK by Haddow et al. (2013). Our analysis suggests that elevated economic uncertainty has been an important driver of euro-area GDP during the financial and sovereign crisis, detracting (on average) around 0.5 pp from annual euro-area growth in the period between 2008Q3 and 2011Q3. As the shock unwound, GDP was boosted during the subsequent recovery. This analysis suggests that any further increase in uncertainty could have a materially negative impact on euro-area activity. Therefore, it needs to be carefully monitored by policy makers, particularly in the context of the upcoming political elections in a number of countries.
Real interest rates have fallen by around 5 percentage points since the 1980s. Many economists attribute this to “secular” trends such as a structural slowdown in global growth, changing demographics and a fall in the relative price of capital goods which will hold equilibrium rates low for a decade or more (Eggertsson et al., Summers, Rachel and Smith, and IMF). In this blog post, I argue this explanation is wrong because it’s at odds with pre-1980s experience. The 1980s were the anomaly (chart A). The decline in real rates over the 1990s and early 2000s simply reflected a return to historical norms from an unusually high starting point. Further falls since 2008 are far more plausibly related to the financial crisis than secular trends.
Glenn Hoggarth, Carsten Jung and Dennis Reinhardt.
Supporters of financial globalisation argue that global finance allows investors to diversify risks, it increases efficiency and fosters technology transfer. The critics point to the history of financial crises which were associated with booms and busts in capital inflows. In our recent paper ‘Capital inflows – the good, the bad and the bubbly’, we argue that the risks depend on the type of capital inflow, the type of lender and also the currency denomination of the inflows. We find that equity inflows are more stable than debt, foreign banks are more flighty than non-bank creditors, and flows denominated in local currency are more stable than in foreign currency. We also find evidence that macroprudential policies can make capital inflows more stable.