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.
Norbert Gaillard, 09 September 2013
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.
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.
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.
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bites, the instincts or ‘animal spirits’ of employers that were previously suppressed by prosperity or considered to be outdated resurface.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.
Dirk Schoenmaker, 25 August 2013
After the financial crisis, there was a shift from international to multinational banks due to supervisors’ increasingly national approach. This column provides an alternative solution that aims to keep international banking alive. What is key is that, first, national supervisors are internationally coordinated and, second, that the whole system is supported up by an appropriate fiscal backstop.
Pierre Pâris, Charles Wyplosz, 06 August 2013
The Eurozone’s debt crisis is getting worse despite appearances to the contrary. How can we end it? This column presents five major options for reducing crisis countries’ debt. Looking into the details, it seems the only option that is both realistic and effective is for countries to default by selling monetised debt to the ECB. Moral hazard aside, burying the debt seems to be the only way we can end the crisis.
Alexander Schäfer, Isabel Schnabel, Beatrice Weder di Mauro, 02 August 2013
Lax financial-sector regulation was the fulcrum of the Global Crisis and policymakers reacted by introducing sweeping reforms. But has it had any impact? This column reviews evidence from bank stock returns showing that four major reforms in the US and Europe have reduced bailout expectations – especially for systemic banks. The strongest effects were found for the Dodd-Frank Act (especially the Volcker rule); the German restructuring law had little effect.
Aerdt Houben, Jan Kakes, 30 July 2013
Financial cycles have increasingly diverged across members of the Eurozone. National macroprudential tools are thus key to managing financial imbalances and protecting Europe’s economic integration. This column discusses research suggesting that reasonable macroprudential policies by the GIIPS countries in the euro’s first decade would have helped avoid much pain in Italy, Portugal and Spain. Greece’s public debt problems were far too large and its banks could not have been shielded with macroprudential policies.
Kevin Hjortshøj O’Rourke, 24 July 2013
The current economic and financial crisis has given rise to a vigorous debate about what training graduate and undergraduate economics students are receiving. This column argues that we don't teach enough economic and financial history, even though it is crucial in thinking about the economy. It also offers a wealth of opportunities for teachers who wish to motivate their students.
Harald Benink, Harry Huizinga, 12 July 2013
How well has OMT done? This column attempts to temper Mario Draghi’s recent plaudits that “it’s really very hard not to state that OMT has been probably the most successful monetary policy measure undertaken in recent times”. Yes, OMT should provide unlimited liquidity to troubled countries, but not at the expense of necessary structural reforms. The ECB should cover Eurozone countries’ current expenditures, but should not pay off all long-term debt holders. That way, capital markets will be disciplined and incentives for implementing economic reforms will be maintained.
Almut Balleer, Britta Gehrke, Wolfgang Lechthaler, Christian Merkl, 12 July 2013
During the Great Recession, 25 of 33 OECD countries have used some version of short-time work, a form of publicly subsidised working-time reductions. This column argues that despite its popularity, knowledge of the macroeconomic effects of this measure is limited. Using Germany as a case study, it’s clear that the existence of a short-time work system stabilises the economy and reduces job losses by roughly 20% during a recession. However, short-time work is a lot less effective for Anglo-Saxon labour markets.
Viral Acharya, Richard Portes, Richard Reid, 03 July 2013
Many central banks have recently employed unprecedented expansionary monetary policy, keeping interest rates at near-zero levels for an extended period of time. Quantitative easing interventions have been employed to affect asset prices directly, most notably in government-bond and mortgage markets, in order to keep sovereign and mortgage borrowing costs low. CEPR recently organised a conference to discuss existing theory and empirical evidence on the implications of an extended phase of unconventional monetary policy. This short column outlines the key issues and also includes a Vox Views video summary of the event.
Giuseppe Bertola, 28 June 2013
How can we make the Eurozone work, and work for everyone? This column suggests that a lack of productivity convergence and the Eurozone’s inability to deal with asymmetric shocks are both rooted in the incompleteness and incoherence of the current Eurozone policy framework. A robust and coherent European market and policy-integration process would require implementation of the behavioural constraints and redistribution schemes that operate, not without difficulties, within established national socioeconomic systems.
Livio Stracca, 25 June 2013
Should the public care about financial imbalances? This column suggests that financial imbalances are, in fact, not a main and direct concern for citizens. Of course, this does not exonerate policymakers from trying to prevent booms and busts (because they have substantial costs in terms of macroeconomic stability). Policymakers should focus on preventing the fallout of booms and busts for macroeconomic stability rather than trying to stabilise the ‘financial cycle’ as an end in itself.
Gerald A. Carlino, Robert P Inman, 24 June 2013
How should macro-fiscal policy be coordinated in economic unions? This column argues that the received wisdom has it right, and presents new empirical evidence suggesting that there are important positive spillovers between an economic union’s lower-tier governments in the management of macro-stabilisation policies. We should pursue coordinated policies. Finding programmes and institutions that can best facilitate this coordination is the important next step, both for new and established economic unions.
Paolo Manasse, 19 June 2013
It’s currently very trendy in Italy to blame Angela Merkel, Mario Monti, and austerity measures for the current recession. This column argues that while the severity of the downturn is clearly a cyclical phenomenon, the inability of the country to grow out of it is the legacy of more than a decade of a lack of reforms in credit, product and labour markets. This lack of reform has suffocated innovation and productivity growth, resulting in wage dynamics that are completely decoupled from labour productivity and demand conditions.
Francesco Giavazzi, Richard Portes, Beatrice Weder di Mauro, Charles Wyplosz, 12 June 2013
An ongoing German Constitutional Court case threatens to make the Eurozone Crisis much worse. This column argues that a Eurozone breakup could well be self-fulfilling given the absence of large-scale fiscal backstopping. The ECB’s Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT) programme has so far blocked speculation that could lead to such a breakup. A German court ruling against the OMT would destroy the programme’s credibility. The court would be wise to dismiss the case, if it does not want to risk becoming a threat to Eurozone stability and to taxpayers in Germany and beyond.
Charles Wyplosz, 14 October 2013
Exiting from unconventional monetary policies is a key challenge facing policymakers in advanced nations and a key worry for everyone else. This column introduces the new 'Geneva Report' on the subject, Exit Strategies, by Alan Blinder, Thomas Jordan, Donald Kohn and Frederic Mishkin. The report considers what the post-exit world will look like, how we can get there and the long-run impact on central banking.
Sascha O. Becker, Peter Egger, Maximilian von Ehrlich, 06 June 2013
The EU encourages regional cohesion through transfers for structural changes and development. This column presents new research suggesting that some poorer countries don't benefit as well as we might expect. This is likely to be because of worse technological and institutional absorptive capacity. Structural transfers need reform, and policymakers would do well to focus on recipients’ absorptive capacity.