Financing private investment in China: the role of alternative finance and banking reforms

Noëmie Lisack

Small, young private firms in China have long been struggling to obtain formal bank loans. To bypass financial constraints, these firms have resorted to alternative, less formal financing sources. In this context, Chinese authorities are aiming to develop a more formal, market-based, and better regulated credit sector. In a Staff Working Paper, I argue that carefully designed credit sector reforms are crucial to avoid throwing out the baby with the bath water. Despite the interest rate liberalisation progressively implemented by Chinese authorities, a general crackdown on alternative finance would remain detrimental to the dynamism of small enterprises. Selectively tightening the limits around informal financing could better balance financial stability on the one hand, and welfare and efficiency on the other.

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‘The world turned upside down’: How the global economy was hit by the crisis

David Young

For the global economy, it was the best of times, and then it was the worst of times.  Buoyed by very strong growth in emerging markets, the global economy boomed in the mid-2000s.  On average, annualised world GDP growth exceeded 5% for the four years leading up to 2007 – a pace of growth that hadn’t been sustained since the early 1970s.  But it wasn’t to last.  In this post, I illustrate how the failure of Lehman Brothers in September 2008 coincided with the deepest, most synchronised global downturn since World War II.  And I describe how after having seen the fallout of the Lehman collapse, macroeconomic forecasters were nevertheless surprised by the magnitude of the ensuing global recession.

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Making big data work for economics

Arthur Turrell, Bradley Speigner, James Thurgood, Jyldyz Djumalieva, and David Copple

‘Big Data’ present big opportunities for understanding the economy.  They can be cheaper and more detailed than traditional data sources, and on scales undreamt of by survey designers.  But they can be challenging to use because they rarely adhere to the nice neat classifications used in surveys.  We faced just this challenge when trying to understand the relationship between the efficiency with which job vacancies are filled and output and productivity growth in the UK.  In this post, we describe how we analysed text from 15 million job adverts to glean insights into the UK labour market.

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Opposing change? The price impact of removing the penny

Marilena Angeli and Jack Meaning

Would removing the 1p and 2p coins from circulation cause inflation? Or deflation? Or neither? Our analysis, and the overwhelming weight of literature and experience, suggests it would have no significant impact on prices because price rounding would be applied at the total bill level, not on individual items and it would only affect cash transactions, which make up a low proportion of spending by value. Even if individual prices were rounded on all payments, analysis of UK price data suggests no economically significant impact on inflation.

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Using machine learning to understand the mix of jobs in the economy in real-time

Arthur Turrell, Bradley Speigner, James Thurgood, Jyldyz Djumalieva and David Copple

Recently, economists have been discussing, on the one hand, how artificial intelligence (AI) powered by machine learning might increase unemployment, and, on the other, how AI might create new jobs. Either way, the future of work is set to change. We show in recent research how unsupervised machine learning, driven by data, can capture changes in the type of work demanded.

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Pumping Iron: How can metals prices help predict global growth?

Tom Wise

Estimates of GDP growth are published with a considerable lag – even in some major economies we still only have partial data on what GDP growth was in Q1 2018. So ‘nowcasting’ GDP using more timely indicators of economic activity is an important way of assessing the strength of the world economy in real time. Good indicators are timely, correlated with measures of world activity and should outperform simple benchmarks. Unlike other global indicators such as business surveys or trade data, metals prices are available minute by minute. They also tend to move closely with world GDP. This post assesses how well they perform at nowcasting world GDP.

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Tight labour markets and self-service beer: is the productivity slowdown about to reverse?

Will Holman and Tim Pike

Firms are increasingly investing in automation, substituting capital for labour, as workers become more scarce and costly. We are seeing multiple examples, from automation in food processing to increasingly-common self-service tills. This push for productivity growth is one of the key themes from our meetings with businesses in the past year, which we think suggests a reversal of a decade-long trend.

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Would a Central Bank Digital Currency disrupt monetary policy?

Ben Dyson and Jack Meaning

A “Central Bank Digital Currency” (CBDC) may sound like it’s from the future, but it’s something that many central banks are researching today, including those in Sweden, Canada, Denmark, China, and the European Central Bank and Bank of International Settlements (BIS). In a new working paper, we set aside questions about the technological, regulatory and legal aspects of central bank digital currency, and instead explore the underlying economics. Could the existence of a CBDC make it easier or harder for central banks to guide the economy through monetary policy? And could the existence of CBDC make the monetary transmission mechanism (MTM) faster or slower, stronger or weaker?

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Home grown financing: How small business owners use their own houses to support investment

Saleem Bahaj, Angus Foulis and Gabor Pinter

Apocalypse Now is widely regarded as a masterpiece of the new Hollywood era. Director Francis Ford Coppola displayed audacious vision and a willingness to take risks. But we don’t just mean artistic risk. Mr Coppola gambled financially too: he staked his Napa Valley house and vineyard on the film, pledging it order to get the $32 million in loans necessary to keep the production on the road.  While his movie was exceptional, there is nothing unusual about Mr Coppola’s financial strategy.  Small business owners worldwide use their personal assets, and often their house, to back loans to their firms: in a new paper, we use microdata for several thousand firms to show how important this can be for UK investment.

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