Crises of confidence turn booms into busts. Bloated household balance sheets and high debt offer the right ingredients for a confidence-driven housing bust. This column develops an analytic framework that accommodates the potential role of confidence fluctuations as a source of uncertainty in the economy. Current debt levels are shown to determine the exposure to crises of confidence. The results point to a clear role for macroprudential policy in the prevention of such crises.
Thomas Hintermaier, Winfried Koeniger, 09 January 2016
Marcus Miller, Sayantan Ghosal, 08 January 2016
Shylock's insistence in 'The Merchant of Venice' that his “pound of flesh” be paid as per the contract, regardless of the extreme and grotesque cost to the debtor, is an apt parallel with vulture funds holding out on Argentinian debt pay-outs. This column assesses the Argentinian debt situation and develops an accord that would create a compromise between the extremes on both sides.
Ángel Ubide, 09 December 2015
The diversity of European economic cycles, economic structures, and political dynamics is a strength of the Eurozone. However, sustainable arrangements are required to distribute risks and ensure that all countries can use fiscal policy to cushion economic downturns. This column proposes the creation of a system of stability bonds for the Eurozone. These could be structured to minimise moral hazard, improve governance, and ensure that fiscal policy can support growth during the next recession.
Viral Acharya, Stephen Cecchetti, José De Gregorio, Sebnem Kalemli-Ozcan, Philip R. Lane, Ugo Panizza, 05 October 2015
Emerging market firms have borrowed in foreign currency to take advantage of low interest rates. This column argues that when the Fed inevitably raises rates, such borrowing will be a threat to emerging economy financial systems. Yet so long as authorities use their existing prudential tools wisely, the risks appear manageable.
Philip R. Lane, 07 September 2015
In the lead up to the global financial crisis, there was a substantial credit boom in advanced economies. In the Eurozone, cross-border flows played an especially important role in the boom-bust cycle. This column examines how the common currency and linkages between member states contributed to the Eurozone crisis. A very strong relationship between pre-crisis levels of external imbalances and macroeconomic performance since 2008 is observed. The findings point to the importance of delinking banks and sovereigns, and the need for macro-financial policies that manage the risks associated with excessive international debt flows.
Timothy W. Guinnane, 13 August 2015
Greece’s crisis has invited comparisons to the 1953 London Debt Agreement, which ended a long period of German default on external debt. This column suggests that looking back, the 1953 agreement was unnecessarily generous given that Germany’s rapid growth lightened the debt repayment burden. Unfortunately for Greece, the motivations driving the 1953 agreement are nearly entirely absent today.
Alex Pienkowski, Pablo Anaya, 06 August 2015
During the Global Crisis, sovereign debt-to-GDP ratios grew substantially in the face of shocks to growth, increased fiscal deficits, bank recapitalisation costs, and rising borrowing costs. This column looks at how these various shocks interact with each other to exacerbate or mitigate the eventual impact on debt. Choice of monetary policy regime is an important determinant of how public debt reacts to these shocks.
Jaume Ventura, Hans-Joachim Voth, 27 July 2015
Is debt really that bad? This column looks at the towering debts, rapid tax hikes, and constant state of war that led to Britain’s Industrial Revolution, showing that the devil is in the detail when assessing sovereign debt. When we consider the dangers of debt in today’s world, we should keep an eye on its potential benefits as well.
Serkan Arslanalp, Reinout De Bock, Matthew Jones, 04 June 2015
Major advanced economies have made mixed progress in repairing the private sector’s balance sheets. This column explores private sector deleveraging trends and calls for a set of policies that will return debt to safer levels. Monetary policies should support private sector deleveraging and policymakers should not ignore the positive impact of debt restructuring and write-offs on non-performing loans.
Roger Backhouse, Mauro Boianovsky, 19 May 2015
The notion of secular stagnation – a state of negligible or zero economic growth – is back in the headlines. Questions naturally arise about its intellectual antecedents. This column discusses how the concept rose and fell with the economic fortunes of advanced industrialised nations. Political trends and trends in economic theory played a part in its trajectory, with the notion closely connected to the idea that the level of government debt should be allowed to rise.
Ana-Maria Fuertes, Elena Kalotychou, Orkun Saka, 26 March 2015
Recent debt crises have brought the fragility of the Eurozone into focus. It has been argued that members are vulnerable to sudden changes in market sentiment. This column examines how debt markets reacted to an ECB announcement that it would serve as a lender of last resort, finding that recent debt crises have strong self-fulfilling dynamics.
David Amiel, Paul-Adrien Hyppolite, 15 March 2015
As the Eurozone crisis lingers on, euro exit is now being debated in ‘core’ as well as ‘periphery’ countries. This column examines the potential costs of euro exit, using France as an example. The authors estimate that 30% of private marketable debt would be redenominated, but since only 36% of revenues would be redenominated, the aggregate currency mismatch is relatively modest. However, the immediate financial cost of exiting the euro would nevertheless be substantial if public authorities were to bail out systemic and highly exposed companies.
Lars P Feld, Christoph M Schmidt, Isabel Schnabel, Benjamin Weigert, Volker Wieland, 20 February 2015
Claims that ‘austerity has failed’ are popular, especially in the Anglo-Saxon world. This column argues that this narrative is factually wrong and ignores the reasons underlying the Greek crisis. The worst move for Greece would be to return to its old ways. Greece needs to realise that things could actually become much worse than they are now, particularly if membership in the Eurozone cannot be assured. Instead of looking back, Greece needs to continue building a functioning state and a functioning market economy.
Julio Escolano, Laura Jaramillo, Carlos Mulas-Granados, Gilbert Terrier, 27 February 2015
Fiscal consolidation is back at the top of the policy agenda. This column provides historical context by examining 91 episodes of fiscal consolidation in advanced and developing economies between 1945 and 2012. By focusing on cases in which the adjustment was necessary and desired in order to stabilise the debt-to-GDP ratio, the authors find larger average fiscal adjustments than previous studies. Most consolidation episodes resulted in stabilisation of the debt-to-GDP ratio, but at a new, higher level.
Irina Balteanu, Aitor Erce, 12 November 2014
The feedback loop between banking crises and sovereign debt crises has been at the heart of recent problems in the Eurozone. This column presents stylised facts on the mechanisms through which banking and sovereign crises combine and become ‘twin’ crises. The results point to systematic differences not only between ‘single’ and ‘twin’ crises, but also between different types of ‘twin’ episodes. The timing of ‘twin’ crises – which crisis comes first – is important for understanding their drivers, transmission channels, and economic consequences.
Charles A.E. Goodhart, Philipp Erfurth, 03 November 2014
There has been a long-term downward trend in labour’s share of national income, depressing both demand and inflation, and thus prompting ever more expansionary monetary policies. This column argues that, while understandable in a short-term business cycle context, this has exacerbated longer-term trends, increasing inequality and financial distortions. Perhaps the most fundamental problem has been over-reliance on debt finance. The authors propose policies to raise the share of equity finance in housing markets; such reforms could be extended to other sectors of the economy.
Fergal McCann, Tara McIndoe-Calder, 23 September 2014
The role of credit-fuelled property booms in the Global Crisis has received much high-profile attention in recent years. Using data on Irish small and medium enterprises, this column highlights an additional channel through which such booms can impact post-crisis growth. Firms having difficulty repaying their property-related debts divert resources away from hiring and investment. Property booms thereby induce misallocation of resources in both the boom and the bust.
Claudio Borio, Piti Disyatat, 25 June 2014
Real interest rates have fallen to historic lows, and some economists are concerned that an era of secular stagnation has begun. This column highlights the role of policy frameworks and financial factors – particularly debt – in linking low real interest rates and sluggish economic growth. Policies that do not lean against booms but ease aggressively and persistently in busts induce a downward bias in interest rates over time and an upward bias in debt levels – something akin to a debt trap. Low real interest rates may thus be self-reinforcing and not always ‘natural’.
Markus Eberhardt, 11 May 2014
The debt-growth link is essential to today's marcoeconomic policy choices. This Vox Talk discusses new evidence based on data on total public debt for 105 economies between 1972 and 2009 and two centuries of data for the UK, US, Sweden and Japan. There is no convincing proof that austerity works and that it is dangerous for policy makers to pretend otherwise.
Stijn Claessens, 18 April 2014
Stijn Claessens talks to Viv Davies about the recent IMF book titled 'Global Crises: Causes, Consequences and Policy Responses', co-edited with M Ayhan Kose, Luc Laeven, and Fabian Valencia. The book provides a comprehensive overview of current research into financial crises and the policy lessons learned. They discuss crisis prevention and management, and the crisis in the Eurozone. The interview was recorded in April 2014.