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
The great mortgaging
Òscar Jordà, Alan Taylor, Moritz Schularick 12 October 2014
The Global Crisis prompted Lord Adair Turner to ask if the growth of the financial sector has been socially useful, catalysing an ongoing debate. This column turns to economic history to investigate whether the financial sector is too big. New long-run, disaggregated data on banks’ balance sheets show that mortgage lending by banks has been the driving force behind the financialisation of advanced economies. Real estate lending booms are chiefly responsible for financial crises and weak recoveries.
Understanding the causes and consequences of the rise of finance is a first order concern for macroeconomists and policymakers. The increasing size and leverage of the financial sector has been interpreted as an indicator of excessive risk taking1 and has been linked to the increase in income inequality in advanced economies,2 as well as to the growing political influence of the financial industry (Johnson and Kwak 2010). Yet surprisingly little is known about the driving forces behind these trends.
Economic history Financial markets Global crisis
household debt, household leverage ratios, Macroprudential policy
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