Great Expectations: the economic power of news about the future

Silvia Miranda-Agrippino, Sinem Hacioglu Hoke and Kristina Bluwstein

Can shifts in beliefs about the future alter the macroeconomic present? This post summarizes our recent working paper where we have combined data on patent applications and survey forecasts to isolate news of potential future technological progress, and studied how macroeconomic aggregates respond to them. We have found news-induced changes in beliefs to be powerful enough to enable economic expansions even if different economic agents process these types of news in very different ways. A change in expectations about future improvements in technology can account for about 20% of the variation in current unemployment and aggregate consumption.

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Houses are assets not goods: taking the theory to the UK data

John Lewis and Fergus Cumming

In yesterday’s post we argued that housing is an asset, whose value should be determined by the expected future value of rents, rather than a textbook demand and supply for physical dwellings. In this post we develop a simple asset-pricing model, and combine it with data for England and Wales. We find that the rise in real house prices since 2000 can be explained almost entirely by lower interest rates. Increasing scarcity of housing, evidenced by real rental prices and their expected growth, has played a negligible role at the national level.

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Houses are assets not goods: What the difference between bulbs and flowers tells us about the housing market

John Lewis and Fergus Cumming

A tulip bulb produces flowers. Those flowers are what people actually enjoy consuming, not the bulb. Whilst that’s blindingly obvious for tulips, the equivalent is also true for housing. The physical dwelling is the asset, but it’s the actual living there (aka “housing services”) that people consume. The two things sound very similar and are often lumped together as “housing”. But in today’s post, we argue they are as different as bulbs and flowers. Sketching out a simplified framework of houses as assets we show how this can radically change how one views the “housing market”. Tomorrow, we use this to develop a toy model and bring it to the data to shed light on house price growth in England and Wales.

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How economic integration fuels macroeconomic imbalances

Sophie Piton

From the introduction of the Euro up to the 2008 global financial crisis, macroeconomic imbalances widened among Member States. These imbalances took the form of strong differences in the dynamics of unit labour costs, which increased much faster in ‘peripheral’ economies than in ‘core’ countries. At first, these imbalances were interpreted as reflecting a catch-up and convergence process within the Euro Area – and were supposed to fall as countries converged. But, more recently economists and policymakers have challenged this view, suggesting that imbalances reflected a broader competitiveness problem in the ‘periphery’ compared to the ‘core’ countries. This post, based on a recent Staff Working Paper, revisits the effect of economic integration on macroeconomic imbalances.

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Is there really a global decline in the (non-housing) labour share?

Germán Gutiérrez and Sophie Piton

Much has been written on the global decline of the corporate labour share (defined as the share of corporate value added going to wages, salaries and benefits). The IMF and OECD worry about this trend, linking it to decreasing wages and rising inequality. And economists are hard at work looking for an explanation: prominent hypotheses range from automation and ‘superstar’ firms to offshoring. But is there really a global decline in the non-housing/business labour share? Not if you properly exclude housing income and account for self-employment, as described in a recent Staff Working Paper. Adjusting for housing and self-employment, labour shares have remained stable across most advanced economies except in the US, where the labour share still declines by 6% since 1980 (Figure 1).

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Bitesize: How much did PPI subsidise personal loan rates pre-crisis?

David Seaward

The Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) mis-selling scandal has rumbled on for years. But how did PPI impact loan margins pre-crisis?

This post argues that income from cross-selling PPI substantially offset lenders’ margins on personal loans between 2004 and 2009, and compares the pre-crisis PPI-adjusted margin to loan spreads today.

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Interregional mobility and monetary policy

By Daniela Hauser and Martin Seneca

According to conventional wisdom, a currency area benefits from internal labour mobility. If independent stabilisation policies are unavailable, the argument goes, factor mobility helps regions respond to shocks. Reasonable as it sounds, few attempts have been made to test this intuition in state-of-the-art macroeconomic models. In a recent Staff Working Paper (also available here), we build a DSGE model of a currency area with internal migration to go through the maths. So does the old intuition hold up? The short answer, we think, is yes. Internal labour mobility eases the burden on monetary policy by reducing regional labour markets imbalances. But policymakers can improve welfare by putting greater weight on unemployment. Effectively, interregional migration justifies a somewhat higher ‘lambda’.

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The long-run effects of uncertainty shocks

Dario Bonciani and Joonseok Jason Oh

Is uncertainty a significant drag for investment and consumption? Since the global financial crisis heightened uncertainty has been considered to be one of the main factors behind the depth of the great recession and the subdued recovery. Understanding the channels through which uncertainty affects economic activity is therefore of primary interest for policymakers in order to design appropriate policy responses. In our recent working paper, we show that shocks increasing macroeconomic uncertainty can lead to very persistent negative effects on economic activity that last well beyond the business cycle frequency. In a theoretical framework, we argue that the presence of long-term risks about the economic outlook can exacerbate the households’ precautionary savings motive and the overall effects of uncertainty shock.

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No island is an ‘island’ in the age of GVCs

Tommaso Aquilante, Marco Garofalo and Enrico Longoni

Over the past few decades production processes have become increasingly complex and integrated across national boundaries through so-called Global Value Chains (GVCs). With increasing trade tensions and uncertainty regarding future economic integration, the 400-year old words of the English poet John Donne captured in ‘No man is an island’ seem more topical than ever. In this BU we explore the UK’s position in GVCs showing that also no island is really an island! Using a sophisticated yet intuitive decomposition of UK’s trade flows we will show how GVCs matter for the UK economy, and in particular how they seem to matter more for what we export than imports.

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Bitesize: The travels of Montagu Norman

Mike Anson, Georgina Green and Ryan Lovelock

Montagu Norman was the Bank of England’s longest serving Governor (1920-44) and one of the leading players on the interwar international financial stage. He was a controversial and enigmatic character who pioneered co-operation between central banks.

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