How does the transmission of monetary policy depend on the distribution of debt in the economy? In this blog post we argue that interest rate changes are most powerful when a large share of households are financially constrained. That is, when a higher proportion of all borrowers are close to their borrowing limits. Our findings also suggest that the overall impact of monetary policy partly depends on the behaviour of house prices, and might not be symmetric for interest rate rises and falls.
Saleem Bahaj, Angus Foulis, Gabor Pinter and Paolo Surico
Changes in interest rates affect different parts of the economy differently. In this post, building on a recent working paper, we consider how different types of firms respond to interest rate changes. We focus on firm level employment and ask which firms do the most hiring and firing when monetary policy adjusts. For instance, how important is the age of the firm, its balance sheet position or its size in determining the firm level response to interest rates? Furthermore, do these patterns of responses tell us something about how monetary policy affects the economy?
Bruno Albuquerque, Knut Are Aastveit and André Anundsen
Housing supply elasticities – builders’ response to a change in house prices – help explain why house prices differ across location. As housing supply becomes more inelastic, the more rising demand translates to rising prices and the less to additional housebuilding. In a new paper, we use a rich US dataset and novel identification method to show that supply elasticities vary across cities and across time. We find that US housing supply has become less elastic since the crisis, with bigger declines in places where land-use regulation has tightened the most, and in areas that had larger price declines during the crisis. This new lower elasticity means US house prices should be more sensitive to changes in demand than before the crisis.
Children are expensive. Swings in families’ cash-flow can therefore move the dial on families’ decisions on whether and when to have a baby. For mortgaged families with an adjustable interest rate in 2008, the sharp fall in Bank Rate amounted to a windfall of around £1,000 per quarter in lower mortgage payments. In this post we show that people responded to this cash-flow boost by having more children. In total, we estimate that monetary policy increased the birth rate in the following three years by around 7.5%. That’s around 50,000 extra babies.
Prudential policies have grown in popularity as a tool for addressing financial stability risks since the 2007-09 global financial crisis. Yet their effects are still debated, with sanguine and more pessimistic viewpoints. In a recent Bank of England Staff Working Paper, we assess the extent to which emerging market (EM) prudential policies can partially insulate their domestic economies against the spillovers from US monetary policy. Using a database of prudential policies implemented by EMs since 2000, our estimates indicate that each additional prudential policy tightening can dampen the decline in total credit following a US monetary policy tightening by around 20%. This suggests that domestic prudential policies allow EMs to insulate themselves somewhat from global shocks.
Policymaking is invariably uncertain. I created a new index of ‘policymaker’s uncertainty’ based on a textual search of the minutes of the MPC meetings since 1997. The index is constructed by simply calculating the number of references to the word ‘uncertainty’ (and its derivatives, including ‘not certain’ and ‘far from certain’) as a share of the total word count. To avoid double-counting, it also excludes the Monetary Policy Summary that was introduced in 2015. One caveat of this approach is that it doesn’t distinguish instances of low or falling uncertainty from those where uncertainty was high. That aside, this measure can offer a new insight into uncertainty compared to indicators based on media references or business surveys.
Around the world, central banks have a number of different ownership structures. At one end of the spectrum are central banks, like the Bank of England, that are wholly owned by the public sector. At the other end are central banks, like the Banca d’Italia, whose shareholders are wholly private sector entities. And there are central banks, like the Bank of Japan, that lie in-between. But do these differences matter?
In this blog post, we explore the variety of central bank ownership structures, both historically and globally. We also suggest areas for future research on the topic.
When choosing a mortgage, a key question is whether to choose a fixed or variable-rate contract. By choosing the former, households are unaffected by official interest-rate decisions for the length of the fixation period. We can use transaction data on residential mortgages to get a sense of how long it takes interest-rate decisions to filter through to people’s finances.
The yield curve is an important barometer of market sentiment and reflects interest rate expectations as well as different risk premia. In this post, we show how changes in demand for UK government bonds, also called gilts, may affect the shape of the yield curve. We find that demand shocks have persistent local effects on the yield curve, in particular at longer maturities and during volatile market conditions. These findings therefore indicate that investors in longer-term gilts tend to be less price-sensitive. Moreover, we find that demand shocks for one bond transmit to neighbouring bonds, while the transmission to other bonds declines with the difference in the residual maturity.
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’.