Financial shocks, reopening the case

David Gauthier

Since the tumultuous events of 2007, much work has suggested that financial shocks are the main driver of economic fluctuations. In a recent paper, I propose a novel strategy to identify financial disturbances. I use the evolution of loan finance relative to bond finance to proxy for firms’ credit conditions and single out the shocks born in the financial sector. I apply and test the method for the US economy. I obtain three key results. First, financial shocks account for around a third of the US business cycle. Second, these shocks occur around precise events such as the Japanese crisis and the Great Recession. Third, the financial shocks I obtain are predictive of the corporate bond spread.

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Machine learning the news for better macroeconomic forecasting

Arthur Turrell, Eleni Kalamara, Chris Redl, George Kapetanios and Sujit Kapadia

Every day, journalists collate information about the world and, with nimble keystrokes, re-express it succinctly as newspaper copy. Events about the macroeconomy are no exception. So could there be additional valuable information about the economy contained in the news? In a recent research paper, we ask whether newspaper stories could help to predict future macroeconomic developments. We find that news can be used to enhance statistical economic forecasts of growth, inflation and unemployment — but only by using supervised machine learning techniques. We also find that the biggest forecast improvements occur when it matters most — during stressed periods.

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First-time buyers: how do they finance their purchases and what’s changed?

John Lewis and Fergus Cumming

The changing nature of first-time buyers

Average first-time buyer (FTB) house prices have risen by 60% over the past 15 years and homeownership has fallen. How did those who bought their first home finance it and how has this changed? i) We find that average incomes of FTBs have risen. ii) But age-cohorts with the most FTBs (e.g. millennials) have recently experienced below-average income growth. iii) FTBs are therefore increasingly richer than their classmates: in 2018 they had 1.8x the mean cohort income vs. 1.5x in 2006. iv) FTBs are also taking on bigger mortgages. v) But monthly FTB mortgage payments have actually remained flat as lower interest rates and longer mortgages mean the same monthly payment can service more debt.

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Covid-19 briefing: tracking economic variables in real time

Joel Mundy

During the current pandemic, economic variables have moved quickly and by large magnitudes. Given the publication lags for official data this has led to a greater emphasis on higher-frequency and/or more timely measures to track the economic impact of the pandemic and gauge the state of the economy in real time. This post looks at the emerging body of work in this area, with a particular focus on real-time measures of consumer expenditure and activity in the labour market.

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Covid-19 briefing: heterogeneous impacts of the pandemic

Andrea Šiško

The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly spawned a literature analysing its impact on macroeconomic aggregates. But there’s also been work that seeks to look at heterogeneity of impacts across industries, households and individuals. This post summarises this literature which seeks to better understand the heterogeneous effects of the pandemic and associated policy responses on income, hours worked and employment status.

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Monetary policy and happiness

Philip Bunn and Alice Pugh

It has been well established that macroeconomic outcomes, such as recessions and unemployment, can have important impacts on households’ well-being. So it follows that monetary policy decisions can affect happiness too. In a recent working paper we use a novel approach to assess how the unprecedented loosening in monetary policy in response to the 2008 global financial crisis affected the well-being of UK households. The framework we use could be used to assess the welfare implications of other monetary policy responses, including to the spread of Covid-19 during 2020.

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Global financial cycles since 1880

Galina Potjagailo and Maik H. Wolters

Global financial cycles: a long-term affair

Today’s financial system is global: credit and several financial asset classes show booms and busts across countries, sometimes with severe repercussions to the global economy. Yet it is debated to what extent common dynamics rather than domestic cycles lie behind financial fluctuations and whether the impact of global drivers is growing. In a recent Staff Working Paper, we observe various global financial cycles going as far back as the 19th century. We find that a volatile global equity price cycle is nowadays the main driver of stock prices across advanced economies. Global cycles in credit and house prices have become larger and longer over the last 30 years, having gained relevance in economies that are more financially open and developed.

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Consumption in the time of a pandemic: tracking UK consumption in real time

Sinem Hacioglu Hoke, Diego Kaenzig and Paolo Surico

The response to the Covid-19 pandemic has included closure of retail outlets and social distancing. How large was the resulting consumption fall in the UK? In a new paper, we try to answer this question using a transaction-level dataset of over 8 million individual transactions. This gives a near-real time read on consumer spending, without the publication lags associated with national accounts consumption data. We find that the bulk of the fall had occurred before legally mandated lockdown started. The largest declines occurred in retail, restaurants and transport, but spending on some items such as online shopping, alcohol and tobacco rose. There is substantial variation in change in consumption across age, income group, housing tenure and local authority.

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Global real rates, 1311–2018

Paul Schmelzing

Paul Schmelzing is an academic visitor to the Bank of England, currently based at Yale University. In this guest post, he summarises his research on the differential between real interest rates and real growth rates over the past seven centuries…

There is a lively academic and policy debate about whether a build-up of excess savings in advanced economies has created a drag on long-term interest rates. In a recent paper, I provide new context to these discussions. I construct a long-run advanced economy (DM) public real interest rate series geographically covering 78% of DM GDP since the 14th century. Using this series, I argue that current interest rate trends cannot be rationalized in a “secular stagnation” framework that has been “manifest for two decades”. Rather, historical data illustrates that advanced economy real rates have steadily declined for more than five centuries, despite important reversal periods. This post draws from long-run economic history to provide additional insights concerning the current interest rate environment.

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