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’.
Carlo Favero, Sebastian Vismara and Iryna Kaminska
The slope of the yield curve has decreased in the US and the UK over the last few years (Chart 1). This development is attracting significant attention, because the yield curve slope (i.e. the difference between longer term government bond yields and shorter term government bond yields) is a popular business cycle indicator, and a fall of longer term yields below shorter term yields (i.e. an ‘inversion’ of the yield curve) has historically been considered as a powerful signal of recessions, particularly in the US.
Thomas Mathae, Stephen Millard, Tairi Room, Ladislav Wintr and Robert Wyszynski
How do firms respond to shocks? Do they first change the hours worked by their employees? Or the number of employees? Or wages? Or a combination? Does the shock matter? And the firm’s country? One way of answering these questions is to ask the managers within firms themselves. And this is exactly what the Wage Dynamics Network did, surveying firms in 25 European countries. Our research used this survey to answer these questions. We found that in response to negative shocks firms were most likely to reduce employment, then wages and then hours, regardless of the source of the shock. But, in response to positive shocks, firms were most likely to raise wages, then employment and then hours.
Cristiano Cantore, Filippo Ferroni and Miguel León-Ledesma.
How do monetary policy shocks affect the distribution of income between workers and owners of capital? Do workers benefit relatively more when policy changes? Tackling this question empirically requires technical econometric methods, but we are able to show that the share of output allocated to wages (the labor share) temporarily increases following a positive shock to the interest rate. This means that the slice of the pie enjoyed by those whose earnings are mostly made up of wages increases at the expense of profits and capital income. Strikingly, this redistribution channel that shows up in the data runs precisely in the opposite direction to the predictions of standard New Keynesian models commonly used to study the effects of monetary policy.
As the UK economy went into recession in 2008, the Monetary Policy Committee responded with a 400 basis point reduction in Bank Rate between October 2008 and March 2009. Although this easing lessened the impact of the recession across the whole economy, its cash-flow effect would have initially benefited some households more than others. Those holding large debt contracts with repayments closely linked to policy rates immediately received substantial boosts to their disposable income. Cheaper mortgage repayments meant more pounds in peoples’ pockets, and this supported both spending and employment in 2009. In this article I explore one element of the monetary transmission mechanism that works through cash-flow effects associated with the mortgage market, and show that it can vary across both time and space.