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?”
Philip Bunn, Jeanne Le Roux, Kate Reinold and Paolo Surico.
If you unexpectedly received £1000 of extra income this year, how much of it would you spend? All? Half? None? Now, by how much would you cut your spending if it had been an unexpected fall in income? Standard economic theory (for example the ‘permanent income hypothesis’) suggests that your answers should be symmetric. But there are good reasons to think that they might not be, for example in the face of limits on borrowing or uncertainty about future income. That is backed up by new survey evidence, which finds that an unanticipated fall in income leads to consumption changes which are significantly larger than the consumption changes associated with an income rise of the same size.
Empirical identification of the effects of monetary policy requires isolating exogenous shifts in the policy instrument that are distinct from the systematic response of the central bank to actual or foreseen changes in the economic outlook. Because the same tools are used to both induce changes in the economy, and to react to them, distinguishing between cause and effect is a far from trivial matter. One popular way is to use surprises in financial markets to proxy for the shock. In a recent paper, we argue that markets are not able to distinguish the shocks from the systematic component of policy if their forecasts do not align with those of the central bank. We thus develop a new measure of monetary shocks, based on market surprises but free of anticipatory effects and unpredictable by past information.
A railway boom in America’s Midwest goes spectacularly bust. Sixty-two of New York’s commercial banks close – out of sixty-three. Meanwhile in Britain, a decade gilt-edged by gold discoveries in Australia and fuelled by the Crimean War was beginning to lose its lustre. Thus the scene was set for the first global financial crisis shaking markets in New York, London, Paris and across the world. A crisis so severe it forced the Bank of England to “break the law” to survive.
Dan Wales and Emil Iordanov.
Have FOMC discussions changed since the end of 2015? Are the committee more concerned about international risks now?
Over the last twenty years, the BOE has carried out a number of reforms to its operational framework which have been partly intended to reduce money market volatility. My analysis suggests that these have been successful. Overnight volatility fell by around 90% since the early 2000s and much of this can be explained by the BOE’s reforms. But I find little evidence that this affected the volatility of term rates, which are more important than overnight rates for monetary policy transmission. Therefore, central banks might consider giving less priority to money market volatility when designing their future operating frameworks.
Like in most advanced economies, output fell significantly in the UK in the aftermath of the financial crisis. There is an ongoing debate on to what extent this fall could be explained by output having grown above its sustainable level; in other words, was there a positive output gap before the crisis? I argue that using financial market indicators in addition to more traditional macroeconomic variables to explain output fluctuations helps in constructing a consistent real-time narrative of a positive pre-crisis output gap in the UK.
Riccardo M Masolo and Francesca Monti.
Newspapers and other media outlets regularly speculate about what the Bank of England might do in response to current economic conditions. Curiously, however, most of the models we use to carry out our economic and policy analysis completely disregard this type of uncertainty. Many of them consider how people would behave when uncertain about the state of the economy, yet everyone is assumed to know for sure the variables that the central bank will respond to, how aggressively and why. To try and fill this gap between the models we typically use and the reality we actually face, in our paper we explore the effects of Knightian uncertainty about the behaviour of the policymaker in an otherwise standard macro model. Continue reading
In many countries the great recession that followed the financial crisis led to sharp rises in not only the rate, but also the duration of unemployment. These were bad in themselves, but many were further worried that because lengthy unemployment spells are thought to erode workers’ human capital, productive potential would be damaged. The question I ask is whether this should affect the conduct of monetary policy. The short answer is no. But it may still be a question worth exploring further.
Nick Butt, Rohan Churm & Michael McMahon
When faced by a slowing economy and contracting credit what policy should be used? There is a body of evidence to suggest that QE is an effective means to boosting asset prices, aggregate demand and inflation, but it’s far less clear whether it improves the flow of credit to the economy. In theory, increases in deposit funding caused by such purchases might lead banks to increase lending. In this post we explore how this might occur. But we find no evidence that this happened in the UK. This may reflect the fact that QE worked instead through a so called ‘portfolio rebalancing channel’ and that the resulting churn in banks’ deposit funding stopped any such channel from operating. Continue reading