With a little help from my friends: counter-cyclical capital buffers during the Covid-19 crisis

Dennis Reinhardt and Carlos van Hombeeck

Have post-crisis reforms of banking regulation made banks and lending more resilient to the shock from Covid-19 and if so by how much? This blog takes one specific example – countercyclical capital buffers (CCyBs) – and shows that policy makers in a range of countries were able to quickly release these capital requirements, enabling banks to use the cumulated buffers. This released capital may in turn potentially help banks to support lending. And it will likely benefit lending in the country releasing requirements on buffers as well as banks’ lending to other countries, leading to potential positive international spillovers (see e.g. discussion of spillovers due to macroprudential policies by the ECB and others).

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Global financial cycles since 1880

Galina Potjagailo and Maik H. Wolters

Global financial cycles: a long-term affair

Today’s financial system is global: credit and several financial asset classes show booms and busts across countries, sometimes with severe repercussions to the global economy. Yet it is debated to what extent common dynamics rather than domestic cycles lie behind financial fluctuations and whether the impact of global drivers is growing. In a recent Staff Working Paper, we observe various global financial cycles going as far back as the 19th century. We find that a volatile global equity price cycle is nowadays the main driver of stock prices across advanced economies. Global cycles in credit and house prices have become larger and longer over the last 30 years, having gained relevance in economies that are more financially open and developed.

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Covid-19 briefing: post-lockdown macro

Michael Kumhof

In the wake of Covid-19 lockdown, macroeconomic policymakers have to deal not only with the immediate contraction in the economy, but also with the medium and longer term macro-consequences. Over the past four months, the macroeconomic literature on these topics has expanded rapidly. This post reviews the literature that considers the channels via which the shock affects the economy, and the macroeconomic policy options for dealing with the aftermath, taking as given the shock caused by the virus and the lockdown.

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Housing consumption and investment: evidence from the Help to Buy scheme

Matteo Benetton, Philippe Bracke, João F Cocco and Nicola Garbarino

Academics have made the case for mortgage products with equity features, so that gains and losses due to fluctuations in house values are shared between the household and an outside investor. In theory, the equity component expands the set of affordable properties, without increasing household debt, and default risk. These products have not become mainstream, but in a recent paper, we study a large UK experiment with equity-based housing finance — the Help To Buy Equity Loan scheme. We find that equity loans are mainly used to overcome credit constraints, rather than to reduce investment risk. Unconstrained household prefer mortgage debt over equity loans, suggesting optimism about house price risk. Equity loans could still contribute to house price inflation: we don’t find evidence that houses purchased with equity loans are overpriced, but an assessment of the aggregate effects is beyond the scope of the paper.

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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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Modelling the Macroprudential Balancing Act

Angus Foulis and Jon Bridges

Macropru is new.  Although many countries have now used macroprudential tools, there is no well-established guidebook to help policymakers develop their reaction functions.  The principles behind macroprudential strategy are still being explored, with recent speeches by Alex Brazier, Vitor Constancio, and a review by the IMF,FSB & BIS.  This post illustrates how the balancing act at the heart of the macroprudential debate can be formalised – it is a call to arms for further research, rather than the definitive guide.

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Taking a long hard look in the mirror: should the leverage ratio reflect Pillar 2?

Mounir Kenaissi and Mariana Gimpelewicz.

A key feature of the post-crisis regulatory reform agenda has been the introduction of a leverage ratio to complement the risk-weighted framework. The FPC designed the UK leverage ratio to mirror risk-weighted capital requirements so the two frameworks move in lock-step over time and across firms. For the sake of simplicity however, the FPC did not reflect Pillar 2 capital charges, which aim to capture risks that cannot be modelled adequately in the risk-weighted framework, in the leverage ratio framework. In this post we explore what happens to leverage and risk-weighted requirements once Pillar 2 are taken into account.  We find that in keeping the leverage ratio simple, the perfect lock-step interaction with risk-weighted requirements no longer holds, which could prompt riskier banks to take on more risk.

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Macroprudential policy beyond banking

Jon Frost and Julia Giese.

A seismic shift is occurring in the European financial system. Since 2008, the aggregate size of bank balance sheets in the EU is essentially flat, while market-based financing has nearly doubled. This shift presents challenges for macroprudential policy, which has a mandate for the stability of the financial system as a whole, but is still focused mostly on banks. As such, macroprudential policymakers are focusing increasing attention on potential systemic risks beyond the banking sector. Drawing from a European Systemic Risk Board (ESRB) strategy paper which we helped write along with five others, we take a step back and set out a policy strategy to address risks to financial stability wherever they arise in the financial system.

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Capital Inflows: The Good, the Bad and the Bubbly

Glenn Hoggarth, Carsten Jung and Dennis Reinhardt.

Supporters of financial globalisation argue that global finance allows investors to diversify risks, it increases efficiency and fosters technology transfer. The critics point to the history of financial crises which were associated with booms and busts in capital inflows.  In our recent paper ‘Capital inflows – the good, the bad and the bubbly’, we argue that the risks depend on the type of capital inflow, the type of lender and also the currency denomination of the inflows. We find that equity inflows are more stable than debt, foreign banks are more flighty than non-bank creditors, and flows denominated in local currency are more stable than in foreign currency.  We also find evidence that macroprudential policies can make capital inflows more stable.

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Making Macroprudential Hay When the Sun Shines

Saleem Bahaj, Jonathan Bridges, Cian O’Neill & Frederic Malherbe.

It’s not just what you do; it’s when you do it – many decisions in life have “state contingent” costs and benefits. The payoffs from haymaking depend crucially upon the weather. Putting fodder away for a rainy day can be quick, cheap and prudent when skies are blue. But results may take a soggy and unproductive turn, if poorly timed. The financial climate is similarly important when assessing the costs and benefits of macroprudential policy changes. We argue that it is best to build the countercyclical capital buffer when the macroeconomic sun is shining. We find strong empirical evidence to support our claim.

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