In recent years, the life insurance sector has become more systemically important across advanced economies. This increase is largely due to growing common exposures and to insurers’ rising interest rate sensitivity. This column analyses the evolution of the insurance sector’s contribution to systemic risk. Overall, life insurers do not seem to have markedly changed their asset portfolios toward riskier assets, although smaller and weaker insurers in some countries have taken on more risk. The findings suggest that supervisors and regulators should take a more macroprudential approach to the sector.
Gaston Gelos, Nico Valckx, 27 July 2016
Vitor Constâncio, 25 April 2016
Since the Crisis, macroprudential policy has become a necessary complement to monetary policy. The ECB is striving to be a major contributor to the growing body of thought about the role and instruments of this new policy area. In this column, Vice-President Vítor Constâncio introduces the new bi-annual ECB Macroprudential Bulletin aimed at widening awareness about the Bank's macroprudential policy mandate, enhancing transparency, and informing about current ECB discussions and approaches in the field.
Jon Danielsson, Andreas Tsanakas, 18 March 2016
Macroprudential policy has become increasingly popular in the aftermath of the Global Crisis, but it remains controversial. This column argues that vigorous disagreement is both inevitable and healthy, reflecting differing fundamental views of how the financial system really works. By embracing the divergence of views instead of seeing it as problematic, macroprudential policymaking will be made easier and more effective.
Thomas Hintermaier, Winfried Koeniger, 09 January 2016
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.
Xavier Freixas, Luc Laeven, José-Luis Peydró, 05 August 2015
There has been much talk about using macroprudential policy to manage systemic risk and reduce negative spillovers, but there is little agreement on how it could be operationalised. This column highlights the findings of a new book on the topic and offers a framework for operationalising macroprudential policy. Macroprudential measures, together with higher capital requirements, could be used to tame the build-up of leverage and credit booms in order to prevent financial crises.
Jon Danielsson, Jean-Pierre Zigrand, 05 August 2015
Some financial authorities have proposed designating asset managers as systemically important financial institutions (SIFIs). This column argues that this would be premature and probably ill conceived. The motivation for such a step comes from an inappropriate application of macroprudential thought from banking, rather than the underlying externalities that might cause asset managers to contribute to systemic risk. Further, policy authorities are silent on the question of what SIFI designation should mean in practice, despite the inherent link between identification and remedy.
Niklas Gadatsch, Tobias Körner, Isabel Schnabel, Benjamin Weigert, 03 June 2015
There is a broad consensus that financial supervision ought to include a macroprudential perspective that focuses on the stability of the entire financial system. This column presents and critically evaluates the newly-created macroprudential framework in the Eurozone, with a particular focus on Germany. It argues that, while based on the right principles, the EU framework grants supervisors a high degree of discretion that entails the risk of limited commitment and excessive fine-tuning. Further, monetary policy should not ignore financial stability considerations and expect macroprudential policy to do the job alone.
Benjamin Nelson, Gabor Pinter, Konstantinos Theodoridis, 16 March 2015
There has been an extensive debate over whether central banks should raise interest rates to ‘lean against’ the build-up of leverage in the financial system. This column reports on empirical evidence showing that, in contrast to the conventional view, surprise monetary contractions have tended to increase shadow bank asset growth, rather than reduce it in the US. Monetary policy had the opposite effect on commercial bank asset growth. These findings cast some doubt on the idea that monetary policy could be used to “get in all the cracks” of the financial system in a uniform way.
Daniel Hardy, Philipp Hochreiter, 26 February 2015
A minor adverse shock to financial markets can be propagated by liquidity strains, leading to a major crisis. This column suggests a novel measure to address systemic liquidity risk – a Macroprudential Liquidity Buffer, which would require financial institutions to hold systemically liquid assets in proportion to their liabilities less regulatory capital. This proportion varies positively with growth in system-wide funding needs, so the liquidity buffer increases when non-equity funding is growing.
Stephen Cecchetti, 17 December 2014
Regulators forced up capital requirements after the Global Crisis – triggering fears in the banking industry of dire effects. This column – by former BIS Chief Economist Steve Cecchetti – introduces a new CEPR Policy Insight that argues that the capital increases had little impact on anything but bank profitability. Lending spreads and interest margins are nearly unchanged, while credit growth remains robust everywhere but in Europe. Perhaps the requirements should be raised further.
Stephen Cecchetti, 17 December 2014
Regulators forced up capital requirements up after the Global Crisis – triggering fears in the industry of dire effects. CEPR Policy Insight 76 – by former BIS Chief Economist Steve Cecchetti – argues that the capital increases had little impact on anything but bank profitability. Lending spreads and interest margins are nearly unchanged, while credit growth remains robust everywhere but in Europe. Perhaps the requirements should be raised further.
Dirk Schoenmaker, 15 December 2014
Macroprudentialism is now part of the standard macroeconomic toolkit but it involves a set of relatively untested policies. This column introduces a new VoX eBook that collects the thinking of a broad range of leading US and European economists on the matter. A consensus emerges on broad objectives of macroprudential supervision, but important disagreements remain among the authors.
Philippe Martin, Thomas Philippon, 11 November 2014
Economists disagree over the origin of the Eurozone Crisis. This column uses a quantitative framework to sort through the various channels and policy impacts. It argues that fiscal and macroprudential policies are complements, not substitutes. Prudent fiscal policy is helpful but cannot by itself undo private leverage booms. Both prudent fiscal policies and macroprudential policies are required to stabilise the economy and make the Eurozone a viable monetary union.
Charles 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.
Òscar Jordà, Alan Taylor, Moritz Schularick, 12 October 2014
The Global Crisis prompted Lord Adair Turner to ask if the growth of the financial sector has been socially useful, catalysing an ongoing debate. This column turns to economic history to investigate whether the financial sector is too big. New long-run, disaggregated data on banks’ balance sheets show that mortgage lending by banks has been the driving force behind the financialisation of advanced economies. Real estate lending booms are chiefly responsible for financial crises and weak recoveries.
Jonathan Bridges, David Gregory, Mette Nielsen, Silvia Pezzini, Amar Radia, Marco Spaltro, 02 September 2014
Since the Global Crisis, support has grown for the use of time-varying capital requirements as a macroprudential policy tool. This column examines the effect of bank-specific, time-varying capital requirements in the UK between 1990 and 2011. In response to increased capital requirements, banks gradually increase their capital ratios to restore their original buffers above the regulatory minimum, reducing lending temporarily as they do so. The largest effects are on commercial real estate lending, followed by lending to other corporates and then secured lending to households.
Anil Kashyap , Dimitri Tsomocos, Alexandros Vardoulakis, 18 July 2014
Do the extant workhorse models used in policy analysis support macroprudential and macrofinancial policies? This column argues that this is not the case and describes a new macroprudential model that stresses the special role played by banks. The model also accounts for two, often neglected, key principles of the financial systems. Some of the findings of the model could carry over to other, more general settings that satisfy these two principles.
Angus Armstrong, Francesco Caselli, Jagjit Chadha, Wouter den Haan, 08 July 2014
How should UK policy-makers respond to potential dangers to the economy from the housing market? As this column reports, a majority of respondents to the fourth monthly survey of the Centre for Macroeconomics (CFM) think that house price dynamics do pose a risk to the UK’s recovery; and that macroprudential tools rather than traditional interest rate policy should be deployed to deal with this risk.
Jon Danielsson, Kevin James, Marcela Valenzuela, Ilknur Zer, 08 June 2014
Risk forecasting is central to financial regulations, risk management, and macroprudential policy. This column raises concerns about the reliance on risk forecasting, since risk forecast models have high levels of model risk – especially when the models are needed the most, during crises. Policymakers should be wary of relying solely on such models. Formal model-risk analysis should be a part of the regulatory design process.
Barry Eichengreen, Andrew Rose, 05 June 2014
Since the global financial crisis of 2008–2009, opposition to the use of capital controls has weakened, and some economists have advocated their use as a macroprudential policy instrument. This column shows that capital controls have rarely been used in this way in the past. Rather than moving with short-term macroeconomic variables, capital controls have tended to vary with financial, political, and institutional development. This may be because governments have other macroeconomic policy instruments at their disposal, or because suddenly imposing capital controls would send a bad signal.