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.
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’.
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.
Kristina Bluwstein, Michal Brzoza-Brzezina, Paolo Gelain and Marcin Kolasa.
Mortgages matter. For the individual, borrowing to buy a house can be the biggest debt decision of a lifetime. For the economy, mortgages make up a large fraction of total debt and are a main driver of the financial cycle. Mortgage debt exceeds 80% of UK household debt (see Figure 1), so it is important to understand mortgage market trends, how they link to the macroeconomy and the implications for monetary policy. This post uses a novel model to do just that. In particular, it introduces a rich description of the housing sector into an otherwise standard ‘DSGE’ Model. It focusses on the role of fixed rate mortgages, the mortgage cycle, and how they affect monetary policy transmission.
Following the onset of the financial crisis, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) cut interest rates to historically low levels and launched a programme of quantitative easing (QE) to support the UK economy. How did this exceptional period of monetary policy affect different households in the UK? Did it increase or decrease inequality? Although existing differences in income and wealth means that the impact in cash terms varied substantially between households, in a recent staff working paper we find that monetary policy had very little impact on relative measures of inequality. Compared to what would have otherwise happened, younger households are estimated to have benefited most from higher income in cash terms, while older households gained more from higher wealth.
In the first age of financial globalisation, from around 1880 to 1913, many countries tied their currencies to the mast of gold. The Bank of England’s unparalleled influence over this period is depicted by the Lady of the Bank, seated on the globe with a shower of gold coins to one side, which is carved into the Bank’s pediment. There was an old saying in the City that the Bank’s rate could draw gold from the moon. But could it?
Ben Bernanke famously remarked that “the trouble with QE is that it works in practice but not in theory”. And ahead of its adoption, many academics were sceptical that QE would have any effects at all. Yet despite QE being a part of the monetary policy landscape for nearly a decade, the bulk of academic research on QE has been on its empirical effect, with relatively little on theory and less still on normative policy questions. In a recent Staff Working Paper I develop a model which can provide answers to questions such as: “How should monetary policymakers return their instruments to more normal levels?” and “Should QE be part of the regular monetary policy toolkit?”