Financial markets

Financial stability and monetary policy

Gabriel Chodorow-Reich, 27 July 2014

The monetary policies implemented by the Federal Reserve since late 2008 have raised concerns about the risk taking of financial institutions. This column discusses the effect of some of these policies on life insurance companies and market mutual funds. While the effect on life insurance companies has been stabilising, money market funds did not actively reach for yield.

New thinking on reserve-currency status

Linda Goldberg, Signe Krogstrup, John Lipsky, Hélène Rey, 26 July 2014

The dollar’s dominant role in international trade and finance has proved remarkably resilient. This column argues that financial stability – and the policy and institutional frameworks that underpin it – are important new determinants of currencies’ international roles. While old drivers still matter, progress achieved on financial-stability reforms in major currency areas will greatly influence the future roles of their currencies.

SMEs lending: ‘Relationship lending’ vs arm’s length

Thorsten Beck, Hans Degryse, Ralph De Haas, Neeltje van Horen, 25 July 2014

The small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) were among the most severely affected in the Global Crisis. This column discusses new evidence on how different lending techniques affect lending in bad and good times. Data from 21 countries in central and eastern Europe show that ‘relationship lending’ alleviates credit constraints during a cyclical downturn but not during a boom period. The positive impact of relationship lending in an economic downturn is strongest for smaller and more opaque firms and in regions where the downturn is more severe.

Partial corporate tax harmonisation in the EU

Agnès Benassy-Quéré, Alain Trannoy, Guntram Wolff, 22 July 2014

Tax harmonisation has been controversial since the establishment of the European Economic Community, and corporation tax proposals are currently on the table in the EU. Although tax competition can be beneficial, tax harmonisation could curb tax competition that leads to the under-provision of public goods or to burden-shifting from mobile to immobile tax bases. As yet, no agreement has been reached on any ambitious harmonisation plan for mobile tax bases. This column explores the possibility of implementing partial tax harmonisation for corporate taxation and the taxation of the banking sector.

Corporate governance of banks and financial stability

Luc Laeven, Lev Ratnovski, 21 July 2014

Bank distress during the recent crisis caused significant damage to the real economy. Appropriately, the policy response focused on stronger bank supervision and regulation. This column asks if there is a role for improvements in bank corporate governance. Based on the literature the authors suggest that better risk management, regulation of pay, and enhanced market discipline can help make banks safer. However, corporate governance cannot substitute for strong supervision: it can at best provide a helping hand.

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