Ben Guttman-Kenney, Liam Kirwin, Sagar Shah
Consumer credit growth has raised concern in some quarters. This type of borrowing – which covers mainstream products such as credit cards, motor finance, personal loans and less mainstream ones such as rent-to-own agreements – has been growing at a rapid 10% a year. What’s been driving this credit growth, and how worried should policymakers be?
Marko Melolinna and Srdan Tatomir
Uncertainty is in the spotlight again. And the MPC believe it is an important factor influencing the slowdown in domestic demand (August 2017 Inflation Report). Previous work by Haddow et al. (2013) has found a composite aggregate indicator of uncertainty combining several different variables that does appear to have explanatory power for GDP growth; but as Kristin Forbes notes these measures correlate better with consumption than investment. So in this blog post, we look at firm-level data to explore measures of uncertainty that matter for how firms invest in the United Kingdom. Our aggregate measure of uncertainty has a better forecast performance for investment than the composite aggregate indicator does.
What could falls in sterling mean for UK firms’ ability to sustain foreign currency (FX) debt obligations? The value of sterling began falling around two years ago and dropped further after the EU referendum – remaining around these lower values ever since. There is every possibility that sterling may stay low for the foreseeable future – creating both potential winners and losers. In this piece, I investigate one particular channel for losses related to sterling weakness: whether UK firms could find meeting their FX debt obligations more challenging. By reviewing market intelligence, market prices and derivatives databases, I find limited evidence that sterling weakness has yet produced any significant changes to UK firms’ ability to manage their FX debt obligations.
Stephen Burgess and Rachana Shanbhogue
In 2016 the UK’s current account deficit was 5.9% of GDP, the widest since official records began in 1948. Many economists, including the IMF and FPC have suggested the UK is therefore vulnerable to foreign investors becoming less willing to invest in the country. In this post we challenge the idea that the UK is at the mercy of the “kindness of strangers”. Looking at gross, rather than net capital flows since 2012 suggests inflows have been extremely subdued relative to past levels. Instead, the UK has benefitted from increasing capital gains on past foreign investments and used these to fund its spending. We argue this carries lower financial stability risks than relying on gross inflows to cover the current account deficit.
Ben Bernanke famously remarked that “the trouble with QE is that it works in practice but not in theory”. And ahead of its adoption, many academics were sceptical that QE would have any effects at all. Yet despite QE being a part of the monetary policy landscape for nearly a decade, the bulk of academic research on QE has been on its empirical effect, with relatively little on theory and less still on normative policy questions. In a recent Staff Working Paper I develop a model which can provide answers to questions such as: “How should monetary policymakers return their instruments to more normal levels?” and “Should QE be part of the regular monetary policy toolkit?”
Smartphone apps and newsfeeds are designed to constantly grab our attention. And research suggests we’re distracted nearly 50% of the time. Could this be weighing down on productivity? And why is the crisis of attention particularly concerning in the context of the rise of AI and the need, therefore, to cultivate distinctively human qualities?
Almog Adir and Simon Whitaker
In the last few years there has been a small net overall flow of capital from advanced to emerging market economies (EMEs), in contrast to the ‘paradox’ prevailing for much of this century of capital flowing the ‘wrong’ way, uphill from poor to rich countries. In this post we show the ‘paradox’ in the aggregate flows actually concealed private capital flowing the ‘right’ way for much of the time. And even during recent turbulence, foreign direct investment (FDI) flows, likely to be particularly beneficial to growth, have persisted. But EMEs could still benefit more from harnessing capital from advanced economies and Argentina has set a useful precedent as it prepares to take over the Presidency of the G20 in 2018.
Despite decades of trade deficits (spending more on foreign products than foreigners spend on UK products), the UK’s net liability with the rest of the world remains negligible. How does it pull off that trick? By earning a higher return on its foreign assets than it pays on its foreign liabilities.
Paul Schmelzing is a visiting scholar at the Bank from Harvard University, where he concentrates on 20th century financial history. In this guest post, he looks at how global real interest rates have evolved over the past 700 years.
With core inflation rates remaining low in many advanced economies, proponents of the “secular stagnation” narrative –that markets are trapped in a period of permanently lower equilibrium real rates- have recently doubled down on their pessimistic outlook. Building on an earlier post on nominal rates this post takes a much longer-term view on real rates using a dataset going back over the past 7 centuries, and finds evidence that the trend decline in real rates since the 1980s fits into a pattern of a much deeper trend stretching back 5 centuries. Looking at cyclical dynamics, however, the evidence from eight previous “real rate depressions” is that turnarounds from such environments, when they occur, have typically been both quick and sizeable.
Ambrogio Cesa-Bianchi , Chris Redl, Andrej Sokol and Gregory Thwaites
Volatile economic data or political events can lead to heightened uncertainty. This can then weigh on households’ and firms’ spending and investment decisions. We revisit the question of how uncertainty affects the UK economy, by constructing new measures of uncertainty and quantifying their effects on economic activity. We find that UK uncertainty depresses domestic activity only insofar as it is driven by developments overseas, and that other changes in uncertainty about the UK real economy have very little effect.