Efficient retail payments are associated not only with lower direct costs but also with indirect benefits, and ultimately – with enhanced economic growth. This column presents research on different retail payment habits in the Eurozone. A correlation exists between the forms of payment in a country and its recent economic fortune. There are a number of methods to promote more efficient payments. The biggest challenge to increase the efficiency of retail payments in Europe is the heavy regulation and barriers to entry of new payment methods.
Since China is growing rapidly, one might expect Chinese households to borrow against their future income. In fact, Chinese households save 30.5% of their income – compared to about 5% in OECD countries. This column discusses recent research linking the Chinese saving puzzle to China’s one-child policy. The savings rate of households with twins is about 6–7 percentage points lower than that of households with an only child. Demographic factors can explain an estimated 35–45% of the 20 percentage-point rise in China’s household saving rate between 1983 and 2011.
Recent research shows that capital requirements are only loosely related to a market measure of bank portfolio risk. Changes introduced under Basel II meant that banks with the riskiest portfolios were particularly likely to hold insufficient capital. Banks that relied on government support during the crisis appeared to be well-capitalised beforehand, suggesting they engaged in capital arbitrage. Until the regulatory concept of risk better reflects actual risk, the proposed increases in risk-weighted capital requirements under Basel III will have little effect.
There is widespread agreement that government protection of banks contributed to the financial crisis, leading to proposals to require banks to finance a larger share of their portfolios with equity instead of debt – thus forcing shareholders to absorb losses instead of taxpayers. This column argues that equity ratios relative to asset risk are what matter, not equity ratios per se. Although higher equity requirements for banks may be desirable, the costs of reduced loan supply should be taken into account.
The resale-pricing aspect adopted by Apple’s agency model is highly controversial. Competition authorities fear that it raises retail prices. In the app market, resale pricing reduces prices to stimulate innovation and entrepreneurship. Prices of eBooks, though, increased when Apple entered the industry. This column analyses why this is the case.
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