Does policy uncertainty reduce economic activity? Insights and evidence from large trade reforms
Kyle Handley, Nuno Limão 23 November 2013
The impact of policy uncertainty on economic activity is potentially important, but controversial because it is hard to identify and quantify. Recent research provides a framework to identify the impacts of policy uncertainty on firm decisions, and finds it has strong effects in the context of international trade. China’s WTO accession secured its most-favoured nation status in the US, and the evidence shows this reduction in uncertainty can explain a significant fraction of its export boom to the US.
The impact of policy uncertainty on economic activity is an issue traditionally associated with developing countries. Since 2008, however, the spotlight has shifted. Governments’ responses to the Great Recession and the Eurozone crisis have raised considerable uncertainty about the future policies of advanced economies. Examples include the timing and size of financial bailouts, government expenditures, and the risk of sovereign-debt default. These crises have also heightened trade policy uncertainty.
US, China, WTO, trade, uncertainty, Great Recession, Eurozone crisis
What’s wrong with Europe?
Isabella Rota Baldini, Paolo Manasse,
Unlike the US, Europe is struggling to recover from the crisis. This is especially the case in certain European countries. This column discusses why the process of convergence in the Eurozone has slowed down. It proposes a way for European institutions to cope with the structural problems-- by individual country-level reforms and a federal budget. Otherwise, the alternative could be a disintegration of the Eurozone.
Show in Editors Choice Box?
CEPR Policy Insight No.67 is available to download free of charge here.
, Eurozone crisis
What’s wrong with Europe?
Isabella Rota Baldini, Paolo Manasse 04 November 2013
Unlike the US, Europe is struggling to recover from the crisis. This is especially the case in certain European countries. This column discusses why the process of convergence in the Eurozone has slowed down. It proposes a way for European institutions to cope with the structural problems – with individual country-level reforms and a federal budget. Otherwise, the alternative could be a disintegration of the Eurozone.
The US and Europe: a tale of two cities
US, productivity, Eurozone crisis
A fiscal perspective on EU sovereign credit ratings: Did the credit-rating agencies get them right?
Mike Wickens, Vito Polito 30 October 2013
A good credit rating has become a key fiscal objective, even if it requires austerity when unemployment is high. Recent experience has raised doubts about the sovereign ratings provided by the credit-rating agencies. This column suggests a new way to measure credit ratings based on a country’s ability to meet its liabilities using fiscal policy. This measure would have identified and signalled to market participants signs of the impending European sovereign-debt crisis well before 2010, when the rating agencies first reacted to the crisis.
The financial crisis has put EU and US sovereign credit ratings centre-stage in a way not seen before. Previously, it was taken for granted that all Eurozone governments could borrow at more or less the same risk-free rate as Germany, and that Germany, the UK, and the US would be rated triple-A.
Global crisis International finance
sovereign debt, Eurozone crisis, credit-rating agencies
International cooperation and central banks
Harold James 08 October 2013
The global nature of the recent financial crisis required a coordinated response from central banks. After the fall of Lehman Brothers, several of them simultaneously reduced their policy rates, and the Fed extended dollar swap lines to its overseas counterparts. However, the second phase of the crisis has put increasing strain on international cooperation. This column presents two explanations. First, the Eurozone crisis threatens the solvency of governments, thus creating conflict over who will pay the costs of maintaining financial stability. Second, unconventional monetary policy has had spillover effects in developing countries.
Tackling the aftermath of a major financial crisis, the origins of which lie in ‘global imbalances’ and whose transmission mechanisms are cross-national, seems prima facie to demand more substantial and institutionalised cooperation. However, in the five years since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, visions of what central banks can and should do have changed profoundly. In particular, the demand that they should play a much more vigorous and preemptive role in financial supervision has had made them more nationally focused and in consequence less prone to cooperate.
Global crisis International finance
monetary policy, global imbalances, Central Banks, global crisis, policy coordination, Eurozone crisis
Credit rating agencies and the Eurozone Crisis: What is the value of sovereign ratings?
Norbert Gaillard 09 September 2013
Credit rating agencies didn’t anticipate the Eurozone Crisis and their ratings have been procyclical ever since. This column discusses research on the agencies' recent performance. Since 2009, credit ratings have persistently lagged behind market spreads, suggesting that ratings have been more lenient with respect to Eurozone countries than generally believed. Bond spreads may be too volatile for regulatory purposes.
The inability of credit rating agencies to anticipate sovereign-debt crises and the tendency to overreact once financial difficulties have piled up are well-known phenomena. Ferri et al. (1999) show that the downgrades by Moody’s and S&P exacerbated the Asian crisis in 1997. Examining the Great Depression, Gaillard (2011) and Flandreau et al. (2011) find that major credit rating agencies did not lower sovereign credit ratings until 1931.
Europe's nations and regions Global crisis
Fiscal stimulus in times of high public debt: Reconsidering multipliers and twin deficits
Christiane Nickel, Andreas Tudyka 07 September 2013
Fiscal stimulus can either be a boon for an economy or its bane. This column discusses new empirical research on how the effects of fiscal stimuli interact with public debt-to-GDP ratios. Using data on real GDP, private investment and the trade balance, evidence suggests that the cumulative effect on real GDP is positive at moderate debt-to-GDP ratios but turns negative as the ratio increases. The evidence also suggests that the cumulative trade-balance effect is negative at first but switches sign at higher degrees of indebtedness.
The stimulus impact of a government-spending shocks varies with the economic environment (Ilzetzki, Mendoza, and Végh 2013). One important determinant is the level of government indebtedness – particularly when the nation’s fiscal sustainability may be in doubt. The economic logic of this is straightforward.
fiscal stimulus, Eurozone crisis
Sovereign default risk and banks in Europe’s monetary union
Harald Uhlig 05 September 2013
EZ banks are more exposed to their own nation’s government bonds than ever. This column argues that Eurozone members can now afford to tell their banks to diversify, but pressure from Germany, Austria, France and the ECB might be necessary. Defusing the pernicious entanglement between the Eurozone’s weak banks and weak sovereigns would reduce the cost of any new crisis and reduce the likelihood of such a crisis occurring.
With the one year anniversary of ECB President Draghi’s announcement to “do whatever it takes” and the announcement of the OMT (Outright Monetary Transactions) programme, bond yields have declined and fears of sovereign defaults have receded in countries such as Portugal, Spain and Italy. We all hope that this danger has passed!
But it may well be that we are just witnessing a brief calm before the storm returns. Right now, then, is a good opportunity to solidify what we have and to make the financial system in the Eurozone more robust against such risks in the future.
Global crisis International finance
External liabilities and crisis risk
Luis AV Catão, Gian Maria Milesi-Ferretti 04 September 2013
Debt seems to be a lightning rod for crises. This column presents new research showing that the ratio of net foreign liabilities to GDP, and in particular its net external debt component, is indeed a significant crisis predictor for both advanced economies and emerging markets. Large current-account deficits and real exchange rate appreciation – the standard predictors – still matter, but we should be thinking more about net external debt.
Much has been written about the causes of the global financial crisis of 2008 – the role of the US subprime crisis as a triggering event, the generalised period of easy credit and financial excesses fuelling growing economic and financial vulnerabilities, the failures to properly regulate large systemic financial institutions. Nevertheless, our understanding of the intensity with which the crisis has affected different countries remains modest (Rose and Spiegel 2009, 2011).
debt, Eurozone crisis, net external debt, liabilities
The downsizing dilemmas of European employers
Hendrik P van Dalen, Kène Henkens 28 August 2013
In times of economic crisis, managers often take drastic measures to survive. This column presents new research on the preferences of managers from across Europe when faced with ‘downsizing’. It seems that, when recession bites, the instincts or ‘animal spirits’ of employers that were previously suppressed by prosperity or considered to be outdated resurface. European employers predominantly resort to offering early retirement packages (and to a lesser extent buy-outs) in response to the threat of downsizing, exacerbating, in the long run, the problems associated with Europe’s ageing population. The only notable exception to this rule is the response of Danish employers, who prefer to tackle this problem by reducing the working hours of their employees.
Drastic measures are taken when managers formulate strategies to survive economic crises. Among these are downsizing, outsourcing, firing workers and cutting back on wages. But how do firms balance their interests against those of their workers?
unemployment, Eurozone crisis, downsizing, hiring, firing