The Riksbank is wrong about the debt: Higher policy rates increase rather than decrease the household-debt ratio
Lars E.O. Svensson 04 September 2013
The Riksbank maintains high policy rates since it fears that a lower rate would increase the household-debt ratio. This column argues that a higher rate in fact leads to a higher debt ratio, not a lower one. The higher rate reduces nominal housing prices and new mortgages, but since the new mortgages are such a small share of total mortgages, the total nominal debt falls very slowly. Yet nominal GDP falls much faster, so the debt-to-GDP ratio rises.
In the last few years, the Riksbank has conducted a monetary policy that has led to substantially lower inflation than the inflation target and unnecessarily high unemployment. The Riksbank has more recently justified this policy by maintaining that a lower policy rate would increase the household-debt ratio (the ratio of debt to disposable income) and thereby any risks associated with the debt.
Sweden, Riksbank, household debt
Has US household deleveraging ended? A model-based estimate of equilibrium debt
Bruno Albuquerque, Ursel Baumann, Georgi Krustev 18 April 2014
Household deleveraging in the US has impeded consumption and market activity in recent years, holding back the recovery. Despite substantial progress in balance sheet repair, a key question is whether deleveraging has ended or whether further adjustment is needed. This column presents time-varying equilibrium estimates of the household debt-to-income ratio determined by economic fundamentals. Taking into account the latest available data, the estimates suggest that the household deleveraging process may have ended at the end of 2013.
The balance sheet adjustment in the household sector has been a prominent feature of the last US recession and subsequent recovery. The beginning of the economic downturn in late 2007 broadly coincided with a sustained reduction in household liabilities relative to income – that is, household deleveraging – which contrasted with the strong build-up of debt before the crisis. From a peak of around 129% in the fourth quarter of 2007, the household debt-to-income ratio fell by 26 percentage points to around 104% in the fourth quarter of 2013, led by sustained declines in mortgage debt.
Great Recession, household debt, household deleveraging
How did household balance sheets affect consumption during the Great Recession?
Scott Ross Baker 19 January 2014
The dramatic fall in consumption during the Great Recession was accompanied by an equally dramatic increase in household debt in the years preceding it. This column examines the relationship between household debt and consumption behaviour, and the channels through which this link operates. The column concludes that the relationship is driven almost entirely by the presence of financial constraints, such as liquidity or borrowing limits.
The presence of substantial amounts of household debt in 2007 has prompted many economists and policymakers to link debt to the depth of the recession in the following years. The possibility that higher levels of household debt induce deeper or longer recessions has important implications for both financial regulation and the size of the social safety net. More broadly, a better understanding of the dynamic relationship between a household's spending decisions, income process, and balance sheet is imperative to accurately describe microeconomic drivers of business cycles.
consumption, Great Recession, household debt