A balancing act: the case for macroprudential margin requirements

Cian O’Neill and Nicholas Vause.

Certain policy actions require a high level of precision to be successful. In a recent paper, we find that using margins on derivative trades as a macroprudential tool would require such precision. Such a policy could force derivative users to hold more liquid assets. This would help them to meet larger margin calls and avoid fire-selling their derivatives, which could affect other market participants by moving prices. We find that perfect calibration of such a policy would completely eliminate this fire-sale externality and achieve the best possible outcome, while simple rules are almost as effective. However, calibration errors in any rule could amplify fire-sales and leave the financial system worse off than if there had been no policy at all.

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Our top five posts of 2018

As the year draws to a close and the blog prepares for a couple of weeks’ downtime over the festive period, we recap on the five most viewed posts for the year.  They span a wide range of topics including the reason for weak productivity growth, the macroeconomic effects of demographic change, what steeper yield curves mean for bank profitability, the future prospects for digital currencies, and drivers of consumer credit growth.

If you missed any of them first time round, this is a good chance to catch up on the posts that your fellow readers liked (or at least read) the most:

  1. The seven deadly paradoxes of cryptocurrency
  2. Population ageing and the macroeconomy
  3. Is a steeper yield curve good news for banks? A challenge to conventional wisdom
  4. The UK’s productivity puzzle is in the top tail of distribution
  5. Who’s driving consumer credit growth

We hope you enjoyed the blog in 2018. Happy Christmas and we look forward to you reading our posts in 2019!

John Lewis, Managing Editor

Simply is best: enhancing trust and understanding of central banks through better communications

David Bholat, Nida Broughton, Janna Ter Meer and Eryk Walczak

Clear communications are important for central banks at a time when their responsibilities have increased but trust in public institutions has declined. Using an online experiment with a representative sample of the UK population, our recent paper measured how differently styled summaries of the Inflation Report impacted public comprehension and trust in its policy messages. We find that a new ‘Visual Summary’ of the Inflation Report, which makes use of graphics and simpler language, increases understanding of policy messages. And making more changes using insights from behavioural science can further increase public understanding. These changes also somewhat increase people’s trust in the information.    Continue reading “Simply is best: enhancing trust and understanding of central banks through better communications”

A Closer Look at the BoC-BoE Sovereign Default Database

David Beers and Jamshid Mavalwalla

Defaults on sovereign debt – the term commonly used to denote debt issued by national governments and other fiscally autonomous territories – are a recurring feature of public finance. They are more widespread than is often appreciated, since 1960 involving 145 governments, over half the current sovereign universe. Examples include the many governments ensnared in the Latin American and Eastern European debt crises of the 1980s. More recently, there have been big bond defaults by Russia (1998), Argentina (2001), Greece (2012), and Puerto Rico (2015). On a smaller scale, scores of sovereign defaults can occur each year on one or more types of debt. Some, such as Sudan’s, have dragged on for decades and remain unresolved (Chart 1).

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The seven deadly paradoxes of cryptocurrency

John Lewis

Will people in 2030 buy goods, get mortgages or hold their pension pots in bitcoin, ethereum or ripple rather than central bank issued currencies? I doubt it.  Existing private cryptocurrencies do not seriously threaten traditional monies because they are afflicted by multiple internal contradictions. They are hard to scale, are expensive to store, cumbersome to maintain, tricky for holders to liquidate, almost worthless in theory, and boxed in by their anonymity. And if newer cryptocurrencies ever emerge to solve these problems, that’s additional downside news for the value of existing ones.

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Reflections on the Bank’s History

David Kynaston

Last May, the Bank organised an economic history workshop at the St Clere Estate, home of former governor Montagu Norman. In this guest post, one of the speakers David Kynaston, visiting Professor at Kingston University, reflects on more than three centuries of Bank history…

It was a huge honour to be asked by Mervyn King to write a history of the Bank. The eventual book, Till Time’s Last Sand, was published last autumn. It covers 1694 to 2013 and is based heavily on the Bank’s own archive. Fitting more than 300 years of history into a single volume was a difficult task, and condensing that into a short blog post is harder still. Here I will try to bring out a handful of key lessons from my research into the Bank’s history that might be useful for the policymakers, economists and other interested observers of today – and their successors…

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How did organisations adapt to change in the 18th and 19th century: Lessons from the Bank of England Archives…

Anne Murphy

Last May, the Bank organised an economic history workshop at the St Clere Estate, home of former governor Montagu Norman. In this guest post, one of the speakers Anne Murphy from the University of Hertfordshire, looks at what the Bank’s archives can tell historians about how business dealt with rapid organisational change at the start of the industrial revolution…

Industrialisation was not the only driver of change during the eighteenth century. Recent historiography has revealed more about the financial and organisational revolutions that helped to shape the British state and the country’s economic development. The Bank of England was at the forefront of these revolutions and a pioneer of new modes of business organisation. A business that started out in a small rented space with only seventeen clerks in 1694 was, by 1815, employing nearly 1,000 workers and occupying most of the Threadneedle Street block. Yet it has been sadly neglected as a case study. What might we find in the Bank’s archives to understand how business adapted to rapid and radical change during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries?

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Montagu Norman: The View from St Clere

Barry Eichengreen

Last May, the Bank organised an economic history workshop at the St Clere Estate, home of former governor Montagu Norman. In this guest post, one of the speakers, Barry Eichengreen from the University of California Berkeley, looks back at Montagu Norman’s time as governor.

Montagu Norman’s aura is palpable at St. Clere. It is said that Norman spent many of his weekends and holidays at his estate in Kent, overseeing improvements and admiring the vistas. His legacy is, if anything, even more prominent at the Bank of England. Norman supervised the design of the present Bank building. His portrait, along with those of the other members of his Court, was displayed on the first-floor landing in the Bank’s main atrium; he is only a handful of governors so honored. The Bank’s recent St. Clere workshop thus provided an opportunity to ponder some of the enduring themes and legacies of Norman’s quarter-century as governor.

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Car insurance telematics: why the black box should become more transparent

Fergus Cumming

Imagine you have just passed your driving test. After many hours of careful instruction, you are keen to put your good driving habits to the test on the open road. You phone up your insurance company but discover that your insurance premiums will cost you hundreds of pounds more than you can afford because “newly-qualified drivers are worse than average”. This post is about how developments in the car insurance market have the potential to revolutionise the way we drive and how we guard against the risks of bangs, scrapes and scratches. The increased use of telematics (also known as black boxes) has important implications for anyone who might consider driving, policymakers and for society as a whole.

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