The decline in real interest rates over the past several decades has been the subject of intense policy debate. This column argues that, with the current demographic profile of large older cohorts leading to a population that is disproportionately biased towards saving, we can expect real interest rates to remain low or negative for another 10 to 15 years. The only way for the Eurozone, in particular, to accommodate these excess savings may be to raise its sovereign debt levels.
Jason Lu, Coen Teulings, 21 October 2016
Bruno Biais, Jean-Charles Rochet, Paul Woolley, 21 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.
Alberto Martin, Jaume Ventura, 05 July 2014
There is a widespread view among macroeconomists that fluctuations in collateral are an important driver of credit booms and busts. This column distinguishes between ‘fundamental’ collateral – backed by expectations of future profits – and ‘bubbly’ collateral – backed by expectations of future credit. Markets are generically unable to provide the optimal amount of bubbly collateral, which creates a natural role for stabilisation policies. A lender of last resort with the ability to tax and subsidise credit can design a ‘leaning against the wind’ policy that replicates the ‘optimal’ bubble allocation.
Eduardo Olaberría, 07 December 2013
Policymakers have long been concerned that large capital inflows are associated with asset-price booms. This column presents recent research showing that the composition of capital inflows also matters. The association between capital inflows and asset-price booms is about twice as strong for debt-related than for equity-related investment. Policymakers should therefore pay attention to the composition of capital inflows, since debt-related inflows may still undermine financial stability even if they do not result in an overall current-account deficit.
Jesús Fernández-Villaverde, Luis Garicano, Tano Santos, 24 March 2013
This paper studies the mechanisms through which the adoption of the euro delayed, rather than advanced, economic reforms in the Eurozone periphery and led to the deterioration of important institutions in these countries. The authors show that the abandonment of the reform process and the institutional deterioration, in turn, not only reduced their growth prospects but also fed back into financial conditions, prolonging the credit boom and delaying the response to the bubble when the speculative nature of the cycle was already evident.
Jaume Ventura, Vasco Carvalho, Alberto Martin, 09 September 2012
Over the last two decades, US aggregate wealth has fluctuated substantially. This column presents research that takes a first step towards measuring the reasons why. It finds that most recent fluctuations are driven by bubbles and argues that models of rational bubbles with financial frictions can improve our understanding of recent macroeconomic history.
Roger Farmer, 18 August 2011
One explanation for the 2007-09 global crisis is that consumers, markets, and politicians were gripped by “irrational exuberance” that led them to believe the record-high house prices and stock prices were sustainable. This column proposes a new explanation based on rational behaviour and microeconomic theory. It argues that however high stock prices rise, there is always an equilibrium in which they can rise further.
Daniel Gros, Stefano Micossi, Jacopo Carmassi, 13 August 2009
Why is there so much disagreement about the causes of the crisis? This column says that lax monetary policy and excessive leverage are to blame. It argues that many alleged causes are simply symptoms of these policy errors. If that is correct, then the recommended corrective is remarkably simple – there is no need for intrusive regulatory measures constraining non-bank intermediaries and innovative financial instruments.