Global real rates, 1311–2018

Paul Schmelzing

Paul Schmelzing is an academic visitor to the Bank of England, currently based at Yale University. In this guest post, he summarises his research on the differential between real interest rates and real growth rates over the past seven centuries…

There is a lively academic and policy debate about whether a build-up of excess savings in advanced economies has created a drag on long-term interest rates. In a recent paper, I provide new context to these discussions. I construct a long-run advanced economy (DM) public real interest rate series geographically covering 78% of DM GDP since the 14th century. Using this series, I argue that current interest rate trends cannot be rationalized in a “secular stagnation” framework that has been “manifest for two decades”. Rather, historical data illustrates that advanced economy real rates have steadily declined for more than five centuries, despite important reversal periods. This post draws from long-run economic history to provide additional insights concerning the current interest rate environment.

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How do lenders adjust their property valuations after extreme weather events?

Nicola Garbarino and Benjamin Guin

Policymakers have put forward proposals to ensure that banks do not underestimate long-term risks from climate change. To examine how lenders account for extreme weather, we compare matched repeat mortgage and property transactions around a severe flood event in England in 2013-14. We find that lender valuations do not ‘mark-to-market’ against local price declines. As a result valuations are biased upwards. We also show that lenders do not offset this valuation bias by adjusting interest rates or loan amounts. Overall, these results suggest that lenders do not track closely the impact of extreme weather ex-post.

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UK productivity growth from 2008 to 2018: weakness was structural, not cyclical

Marko Melolinna

Monetary policy makers need to know whether the economy is operating above or below its supply capacity. If the economy is operating above its supply capacity, inflation is likely to rise, and vice versa. A crucial component of supply capacity is the labour productivity trend but we cannot observe this directly. We have to estimate it. Thankfully, there are ways of splitting observed macroeconomic time series into estimated trend and cyclical components. Using a variety of methods on UK data, I find that UK productivity growth over the period 1991 to 2018 has been structurally, rather than cyclically, weak since the financial crisis. And, UK trend productivity has been strongly correlated with trend productivity in other advanced economies.

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Playing with fire: banks’ distressed sales under solvency and liquidity constraints

Caterina Lepore and Jamie Coen

Many commentators on the global financial crisis identified ‘fire sales’ as one of the key mechanisms by which shocks to banks were amplified and transmitted across the wider financial system. When firms in distress sell assets held by other institutions at discounted prices, losses can spread through the financial system as prices fall, amplifying the initial stress. In a working paper published last year, we explored this mechanism by presenting a new model of fire sales. In doing so, we answer the following questions: Which types of financial shocks combine to produce fire sales? How can banks optimally liquidate their portfolios when forced to do so? How big a risk are bank fire sales?

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Why fragmentation of the global data supply chain poses risks to financial services

Matthew Osborne and David Bholat

Every minute of the day, Google returns over 3.5 million searches, Instagram users post nearly 50,000 photos, and Tinder matches about 7,000 times. We all produce and consume data, and financial firms are key contributors to this trend. Indeed, the global business models of many firms have amplified the data-intensity of the financial services industry. But potential fragmentation of the global data supply chain now poses a novel risk to financial services. In this blog post, we first discuss the importance of data flows for financial services, and then potential risks from blockages to these flows.

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Pricing GDP-linked bonds

Fernando Eguren-Martin

GDP-linked bonds are sovereign debt instruments with repayments linked to the evolution of a country’s GDP. Originally proposed by Shiller in the 90s, they have recently been re-invoked in the debate around the policy response to the Covid-19 pandemic. These instruments present an obvious attraction for issuers: repayments are lower at times when the economy is growing relatively slowly, which typically coincides with lower tax earnings. A greater share of the risk of weak growth is then transferred to investors, who will require a compensation given they are typically risk-averse. Therefore, while the design is attractive ex-ante, a relevant question facing sovereigns willing to issue this type of instrument is `at what cost?’. In this post (and in an underlying Staff Working Paper) we provide some tentative answers.

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Monetary policy and US housing expansions: what can we expect for the post-COVID-19 housing recovery?

Bruno Albuquerque, Martin Iseringhausen and Frédéric Opitz

The fall in aggregate demand due to the COVID-19 shock has brought the eight-year long US housing market expansion to a halt. At the same time, the Federal Reserve and the US Government have deployed significant resources to support households and businesses. These actions should help weather the ongoing crisis and lay the seeds for the next recovery. It is, however, highly uncertain how the post-COVID-19 housing recovery will look. Using a time-varying parameter (TVP) model on US aggregate data, our results suggest that the next housing recovery may exhibit similar features to the 2012-19 expansion: a sluggish response of housebuilding to rising demand, but a strong response of house prices.

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Covid-19 Briefing: International Trade and Supply Chains

Rebecca Freeman and Rana Sajedi

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to both a decline in economic activity that has been propagated across borders through global supply networks, and a rise in barriers to trade between countries. This has led to a rapidly emerging literature seeking to understand the effects of the pandemic on trade. This post surveys some of the key contributions of that literature. Key messages from early papers are that: i) The shock is a hit to both demand and supply, and is thus deeper than what was experienced during the 2008/09 Great Trade Collapse; ii) Global value chains have amplified cross-country spillovers; iii) When supply chains are highly integrated, protectionist measures can disrupt production of medical equipment and supplies; and, hence, iv) Keeping international trade open during the crisis can help to limit the economic cost of the pandemic and foster global growth during the recovery.

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Covid-19 Briefing: Corporate Balance Sheets

Neeltje van Horen

Faced with unprecedented declines in corporate revenue, the Covid-19 shock represents a loss of cash flow of indeterminate duration for many firms. It is too early to tell how exactly firms will be affected by this crisis and how scarring it will be, but the crisis will likely have a significant impact on most corporates. This post reviews the literature on factors affecting firms’ ability to withstand the Covid-19 shock and what large corporates did to shore up their finances.

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