International finance

David Miles, 22 October 2014

Many central banks embrace forward guidance by announcing expected interest rate paths. But how likely it is that actual rates will be close to expected ones? This column argues that quantifying such uncertainty poses great difficulties. Precise probability statements in a world of uncertainty (not just risk) can be misleading. It might be better to rely on qualitative guidance such as: “Interest rate rises will probably be gradual and likely to be to a level below the old normal”.

Carmen M Reinhart, Christoph Trebesch, 21 October 2014

To work towards resolving Europe’s ongoing debt crisis this column looks to the past. From the recent emerging market debt crisis (1980s-2000s) and the interwar episode of the 1920s-1930s we learn that debt write-downs and defaults are able to be postponed but not prevented. Punishment for default is temporary, sometimes followed by a renewed surge in borrowing that leads to another crisis.

David Chambers, Elroy Dimson, 20 October 2014

Yale University has generated annual returns of 13.9% over the last 20 years on its endowment – well in excess of the 9.2% average return on US university endowments. Keynes’ writings were a considerable influence on the investment philosophy of David Swensen, Yale’s CIO. This column traces how Keynes’ experiences managing his Cambridge college endowment influenced his ideas, and sheds light on how some of the lessons he learnt are still relevant to endowments and foundations today.

Zheng Song, Kjetil Storesletten, Fabrizio Zilibotti, Yikai Wang, 19 October 2014

The design of the pension system is a hot policy issue in China, given its fast-ageing population. This column discusses how different pension systems could allow different generations to share the benefits of high growth. The authors argue that a reform of the current system is necessary to achieve financial sustainability. However, delaying its implementation is advisable on the grounds of its effect on income inequality.

Lucian Cernat, 18 October 2014

Recent findings suggest that a small proportion of EU firms accounts for a disproportionate share of aggregate exports. This column argues, however, that a large number of EU exporting firms are small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and they have a non-negligible part in EU exports. Identifying the trade barriers SMEs face should, therefore, be among the EU trade priorities.

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