Eurozone inflation has been persistently declining for almost a year, and constantly undershooting forecasts. Building on existing research, this column explores the conjecture that low inflation in the Eurozone results from an excess demand for safe assets. If true, this conjecture would have definite policy implications. Getting out of such a ‘safety trap’ would necessitate fiscal or non-conventional monetary policies tailored to temporarily take risk away from private balance sheets.
Inflation in the Eurozone stood at 0.4% (year on year) in November. It has been persistently declining for almost a year, and constantly undershooting forecasts. The Eurozone is now clearly diverging from many advanced economies, where inflation is either on the rise – albeit at moderate levels – as in the US, or, when falling, still remaining close to target, as the UK.
Last week, the ECB announced that it would begin purchasing securities backed by bank lending to households and firms. Whereas markets and the media have generally greeted this announcement with enthusiasm, this column identifies reasons for caution. Other central banks’ quantitative easing programmes have involved purchasing fixed amounts of securities according to a published schedule. In contrast, the ECB’s new policy is demand-driven, and will only be effective if it breaks the vicious circle of recession and negative credit growth.
The 4 September announcement by Chairman Mario Draghi has been greeted with enthusiasm by the markets and the media. It has been long awaited, and many believe that the ECB has finally delivered. This is not sure. The ECB intends to buy large amounts of securities backed by bank lending to households (mortgages) and to firms.
Bruno Biais, Jean-Charles Rochet, Paul Woolley21 August 2014
The Global Crisis has intensified debates over the merits of financial innovation and the optimal size of the financial sector. This column presents a model in which the growth of finance is driven by the development of a financial innovation. The model can help explain the securitised mortgage debacle that triggered the latest crisis, the tech bubble in the late 1990s, and junk bonds in the 1980s. A striking implication of the model is that regulation should be toughest when finance seems most robust and when innovations are waxing strongly.
One of the curiosities of the modern economy is why the finance sector is so large. Economists have only recently sought to document and ponder this phenomenon. Empirically, Greenwood and Scharfstein (2013) find that, in the US, financial services, which accounted for 2.8% of GDP in 1950, made up 8.3% of GDP in 2006.
Repairing the transmission of monetary policy through asset-backed securitisation
Markus K Brunnermeier, Yuliy Sannikov03 June 2014
Eurozone monetary policy transmission is broken. A key aspect of this is the failure of credit to get to small and medium enterprises, and consumers. This column uses the ‘I theory of money’ to diagnosis the problem and propose ‘prudently designed’ asset-backed securitisation as the cure. This would transform illiquid SME and consumer loans into a liquid asset class that would broaden the transmission mechanism while providing a lasting intermediation market for this segment in the Eurozone.
Recent data show a decline in credit to small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) and private loans. Lack of credit growth to productive firms is one of the main obstacles to reignite the European growth engine.
The role of the equity tranche in the private-label RMBS markets
Taylor Begley, Amiyatosh Purnanandam01 April 2014
The recent financial crisis was followed by discussions about that went wrong in the securitisation markets. This column describes some empirical work in the area of informational problems in the securitisation markets. In particular, it examines the tranche structure of deals in the private-label residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) markets. The role the equity tranche played in mitigating the information problems in the period up to the crisis is discussed. A larger equity tranche is related to superior ex-post default performance, as predicted by some models of contracting under asymmetric information.
Following the financial crisis, there has been a lot of discussion about what went wrong in securitisation markets. Much of this work has focused on the conflicts of interests and moral hazard problems that occur at the various links in the securitisation chain (see Keys et al. 2012, Gorton and Metrick 2012). In response, academics, policymakers and practitioners alike have debated potential reforms. Some key elements of the Dodd-Frank reforms involve requirements of the level and type of credit risk retention by the deal sponsors.
Stijn Claessens, Zoltan Pozsar, Lev Ratnovski, Manmohan Singh12 January 2013
The risks associated with shadow banking are at the forefront of the regulatory debate. Yet, this column argues that there is as yet no established analytical approach to shadow banking. This means that policy priorities are not clearly motivated. But if we analyse securitisation and collateral intermediation – the two shadow banking functions most important for financial stability – a solid framework that includes existing policy recommendations, as well as some alternative ones, begins to emerge.
This paper studies whether the involvedness of a firm’s main bank into different types of securitisation activity influences credit supply before and during the 2007-8 financial crisis. The authors find that, in general, a relationship with a bank that is more involved in securitisation activities relaxes credit constraints in normal periods. In contrast, while a relationship with a firm’s main bank that issues covered bonds reduces credit rationing during crisis periods, the issuance of asset-backed securities by a firm’s main bank aggravates these firms' credit rationing in crisis periods.
Securitisation: Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater
Ugo Albertazzi, Leonardo Gambacorta, Carmelo Salleo25 May 2011
Before the global crisis, securitisation was hailed as a major breakthrough for the safe functioning of financial markets. Now it is suffering from seriously bad public relations. This column presents evidence from 50 Italian banks between 1995 and 2006 and argues that securitisation, by itself, does not deserve such a nasty reputation.
Before the crisis, securitisation was hailed as a major improvement to the functioning of financial markets. By allowing risk to be held more widely and banks’ balance sheets to be more liquid, securitisation had increased the supply of credit and was thought to have improved financial stability (Duffie 2007).
Understanding the global turmoil: It’s the general equilibrium, stupid
Ricardo Caballero21 May 2010
Are policymakers on track to prevent a repeat global crisis? This column says the answer is probably “no”. It argues that the current financial reform efforts are mostly aimed at the symptoms rather than the underlying illness. The fundamental problem in the current global macroeconomic and financial equilibrium is one of a shortage of safe assets.
Here we go again. Financial volatility is re-emerging, this time from the other side of the ocean. But in the current globalised environment the ocean isn’t wide enough to contain the contagion and fear.
Will this rollercoaster ride end any time soon?
Do policymakers (and Congress in particular) have the right diagnosis so we can hope that a cure is around the corner?
Hyun Song Shin of Princeton University talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about the role of securitisation, mark-to-market accounting and banks’ incentives in the current financial crisis, making an analogy between the feedback mechanisms that made London’s Millennium Bridge wobble dramatically when it was first opened and those that operate within the modern financial system. The interview was recorded in Princeton in August 2009.