International finance

[field_auth], 13 July 2016

Since the Global Crisis, sovereign debt levels have exploded in many OECD countries.  This column presents a new measure of government debt – maximum sustainable debt. This measure takes account of the fact that a shortfall in growth naturally increases the probability of default, while allowing for the possibility of rollover. Applications to recent data suggest that without sufficient institutional constraints, governments will generally borrow up to a level close to the maximum that can be sustained.

[field_auth], 11 June 2016

To mitigate the risks of international trade for firms, banks offer trade finance products – specifically, letters of credit and documentary collections. This column exploits new data from the SWIFT Institute to establish key facts on the use of these instruments in world trade. Letters of credit (documentary collections) cover 12.5% (1.7%) of world trade, or $2.3 trillion ($310 billion). 

[field_auth], 10 June 2016

The threat to the financial system posed by cyber risk is often claimed to be systemic. This column argues against this, pointing out that almost all cyber risk is microprudential. For a cyber attack to lead to a systemic crisis, it would need to be timed impeccably to coincide with other non-cyber events that undermine confidence in the financial system and the authorities. The only actors with enough resources to affect such an event are large sovereign states, and they could likely create the required uncertainty through simpler, financial means. 

[field_auth], 02 May 2016

Business cycles are generally viewed as having been less correlated during the Bretton Woods period, 1950-1971. This column discusses findings from a new database of quarterly industrial production for 21 countries from 1950 to 2014 based on IMF archival data. As it turns out, business cycle synchronisation was as strong before 1971 as it was after (up till the Global Crisis began in 2007). Moreover, deeper financial integration tends to de-synchronise national outputs from the world cycle, at least in non-crisis periods.

[field_auth], 05 March 2016

Economists continue to debate whether stock markets influence the real economy. This column takes a look at initial public offerings (IPOs) and finds that firms can increase the precision of the signals they get from the stock market by imitating each other. This effect has important implications for the structure of industries, innovation strategies, the diversity of product offerings for consumers, and the scope for diversification for investors.

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