Diffraction through debt: the cash-flow effect of monetary policy

Fergus Cumming.

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.

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Population ageing and the macroeconomy

Noëmie Lisack, Rana Sajedi and Gregory Thwaites

An unprecedented ageing process is unfolding in industrialised economies. The share of the population over 65 has gone from 8% in 1950 to almost 20% in 2015, and is projected to keep rising. What are the macroeconomic implications of this change? What should we expect in the coming years? In a recent staff working paper, we link population ageing to several key economic trends over the last half century: the decline in real interest rates, the rise in house prices and household debt, and the pattern of foreign asset holdings among advanced economies. The effects of demographic change are not expected to reverse so long as longevity, and in particular the average time spent in retirement, remains high.

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Is a steeper yield curve good news for banks? A challenge to the conventional wisdom

Oliver Brenman, Frank Eich, and Jumana Saleheen

The conventional wisdom amongst financial market observers, academics, and journalists is that a steeper yield curve should be good news for bank profitability.   The argument goes that because banks borrow short and lend long, a steeper yield curve would raise the wedge between rates paid on liabilities and received on assets – the so-called “net interest margin” (or NIM).  In this post, we present cross-country evidence that challenges this view.  Our results suggest that it is the level of long-term interest rates, rather than the slope of the yield curve, that drives banks’ NIMs.

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Pension fund deficit risk

Matt Roberts-Sklar

In recent years, the volatility of pension fund deficits has been dampened by pension fund assets behaving more similarly to pension fund liabilities. This is partly because bonds make up a bigger share of assets than a decade ago, and partly because bonds and equities are moving more closely than before. Both factors have increased the correlation of assets with pension funds’ liabilities which tend to be intrinsically bond-like. This matters because the volatility of pension deficits can affect pension fund investment decisions. Given their size, changes in pension fund asset allocation can materially affect asset prices.

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Bitesize: How do fees affect overdraft pricing?

Dom Tighe.

In recent years there has been a notable move to lenders charging a daily or monthly fee on overdrafts. Although not technically an interest rate, they are nonetheless a cost of borrowing. And in some cases, may have replaced interest charges entirely.  So are customers charged more than the interest-charging overdraft rate alone suggests?

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Bitesize: Which fixed-rate bond term is most popular?

Louise Johnston

How have falling retail deposit interest rates affected savers’ behaviour?  One place to look is the market for fixed-rate bonds, which give a guaranteed interest rate for a set period of time.  These rates tend to be higher than instant access accounts, because customers must tie up their deposits to receive the higher rate. Fixed-rate bonds represented around 40% of new time deposits in January 2017. Continue reading “Bitesize: Which fixed-rate bond term is most popular?”

Bitesize Special: Fascinating Rates and Where to Find them

Changes in Bank Rate and other monetary policy instruments feed through to the real economy by various channels – including the rates of interest for borrowers and savers.  But in practice, there are many of these “interest rates” depending on the type of product, who is borrowing/saving, and on what terms. The Bank has recently published a new range of interest rate statistics that help policymakers, researchers and the general public better understand how policy changes feed through to household and firms in the economy.  Over the next four days, we’ll publish a bitesize post a day highlighting a different interest rate series and thinking about what it might mean for monetary conditions.

How important are interest rates for exchange rates?

Fernando Eguren-Martin and Karen Mayhew.

Many would say that when domestic interest rates rise (relative to abroad) the domestic currency will appreciate. But is it right to think like this? In this blog we use exchange rate theory to inform this discussion and to assess the importance of relative interest rates in accounting for past exchange rate moves. We find that relative interest rates typically move in the same direction as exchange rates but most of the time they account for a small share of exchange rate variation. However, academics might question our use of such a theory as its failure to forecast exchange rates is well documented. We show that this is somewhat unfair, as even if the framework is not very useful in terms of forecasting it is still a useful tool for decomposing past moves in exchange rates.

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