The major increase in the volume of non-performing loans as a result of the recent financial crisis was predictable, but the persistence of this bad debt is a cause for concern. Using a sample of 100 countries, this column compares economic outcomes in three different scenarios following a rise in non-performing loans. Reducing these loans has an unambiguously positive medium-term effect, with countries that experience an influx of fresh credit growing the fastest. Allowing high levels of non-performing loans to persist, on the other hand, can cost more than two percentage points of economic growth annually.
Maria Balgova, Alexander Plekhanov, 18 November 2016
Olympia Bover, Jose Maria Casado, Sónia Costa, Philip Du Caju, Yvonne McCarthy, Eva Sierminska, Panagiota Tzamourani, Ernesto Villanueva, Tibor Zavadil, 08 November 2016
Household micro-data reveal striking differences in secured debt holdings across Eurozone countries. This column presents new evidence on the role of household characteristics and country institutions in accounting for the cross-country patterns observed. In countries with lengthier asset repossession periods, young or low-income households face higher borrowing costs, leading to a lower probability of holding mortgages.
Julian Kozlowski, Laura Veldkamp, Venky Venkateswaran, 11 September 2016
The Great Recession has had long-lasting effects on credit markets, employment, and output. This column combines a model with macroeconomic data to measure how the recession has changed beliefs about the possibility of future crises. According to the model, the estimated change in sentiment correlates with economic activity. A short-lived financial crisis can trigger long-lived shifts in expectations, which in turn can trigger secular stagnation.
Stefano Micossi, 20 August 2016
Some economists are approaching a consensus that the Eurozone’s financial architecture is now resilient enough to withstand another shock similar to that of 2010-11. This column argues that such a view may be overly optimistic. Economic and financial instability persists in member states and the banking sector, and institutions to tackle a shock remain incomplete. While the Eurozone remains vulnerable to a bad shock, the blanket application of burden sharing without consideration of current economic and financial conditions is unwise.
Raju Huidrom, M Ayhan Kose, Franziska Ohnsorge, 13 August 2016
Fiscal multipliers tend to be larger when the fiscal position of governments is stronger. This column argues that the link between fiscal multipliers and fiscal positions is independent of the business cycle. Although multipliers are generally larger in recessions, they are smaller during times of high debt, even during recessions, relative to what they would be if government debt were lower.
Fabio Schiantarelli, Massimiliano Stacchini, Philip E. Strahan, 13 August 2016
The recession has left a legacy of non-performing loans on Italian banks’ balance sheets. Policymakers in Italy understand well the importance of correcting their banks’ problems to foster a healthy economic recovery. This column argues that reforming the judicial and extra judicial processes for recovering collateral offers the potential of improving banks’ balance sheets and enhancing financial stability, not only by increasing loan collections directly, but also by improving borrowers’ incentive to service their existing debt.
Paolo Mauro, 07 August 2016
Policymakers use a well established traditional accounting method to analyse past paths and predict future paths of debt ratios. But the traditional accounting exercises underemphasise the role of economic growth. This column proposes a simple, extended accounting framework to recognise the importance of growth more fully and explicitly. It quantifies the role of economic growth in debt-to-GDP measurement for Ireland and Italy, who were similarly placed in 2012 but whose paths diverged significantly in subsequent years.
Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, Thomas Philippon, Dimitri Vayanos, 05 August 2016
The Greek crisis is one of the worst in history, even in the context of recorded ‘trifecta’ crises – the combination of a sudden stop with output collapse, a sovereign debt crisis, and a lending boom/bust. This column quantifies the role of each of these factors to better understand the crisis and formulate appropriate policy responses. While fiscal consolidation was important in driving the drop in output, it accounted for only for half of that drop. Much of the remainder can be explained by the higher funding costs of the government and private sectors due to the sudden stop.
Jochen Andritzky, Lars Feld, Christoph Schmidt, Isabel Schnabel, Volker Wieland, 21 July 2016
To make the no-bailout clause credible and to enhance the effectiveness of crisis assistance, private creditors should contribute to crisis resolution in the Eurozone. This column proposes a mechanism to allow for orderly restructuring of sovereign debt as part of ESM programmes. If debt exceeds certain thresholds, the mechanism triggers an immediate maturity extension. In a second stage, a deeper debt restructuring could follow, depending on the solvency of a country. The mechanism could be easily implemented by amending ESM guidelines.
Juan José Cruces, Eduardo Levy Yeyati, 20 May 2016
As Argentina’s protracted and litigious restructuring saga comes to an end, it is natural to ask what lessons the world can draw from this contentious process. This column takes a close look at Argentina’s ordeal, revealing just how idiosyncratic it has been. While it is therefore less influential than most people think, the long script yields important and unexpected lessons.
Dennis Bams, Magdalena Pisa, Christian Wolff, 02 May 2016
In the absence of full information about small businesses’ risk of loan default, banks are unable to accurately calculate counterparty risk. This column suggests that banks can use industry and linked-industry data to better establish counterparty risk, because distress from one industry is transmitted to supplier and customer industries. A reliable and easily available signal for such distress is any failure reported by S&P.
Matthias Busse, Daniel Gros, 04 April 2016
Through the Eurozone rescue mechanisms, Germany provided the periphery with hundreds of billions in debt at very low rates. There is a widely held notion that these savings would have been better used at home. This column challenges this notion, presenting evidence that Germany’s net asset position held up well, remaining much higher than domestic returns. The main reason is that Germany’s part in the rescue operations was actually much smaller than its claims towards the periphery.
Alex Pienkowski, Joyce Saito, Suchanan Tambunlertchai, 28 March 2016
Initiatives to reduce public debt in low-income countries have made substantial progress over the past decade, but challenges remain and continue to evolve. This column presents the findings from a new IMF-World Bank report on these developments. Low-income countries have benefited from debt relief and favourable economic conditions, resulting in generally lower debt burdens and vulnerabilities. There has also been a shift in debt financing, with greater reliance on emerging market economies, international capital markets, and domestic sources. However, more recently, risks have begun to re-emerge necessitating fiscal prudence and improved debt management.
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.
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 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 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 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.