The feedback loop between banking crises and sovereign debt crises has been at the heart of recent problems in the Eurozone. This column presents stylised facts on the mechanisms through which banking and sovereign crises combine and become ‘twin’ crises. The results point to systematic differences not only between ‘single’ and ‘twin’ crises, but also between different types of ‘twin’ episodes. The timing of ‘twin’ crises – which crisis comes first – is important for understanding their drivers, transmission channels, and economic consequences.
Irina Balteanu, Aitor Erce, 12 November 2014
Pierluigi Bologna, Arianna Miglietta, Marianna Caccavaio, 14 October 2014
Following the financial crisis, European banks have taken steps to revise unsustainable business models by deleveraging. By this metric they have made substantial progress – but this column argues that improper management of the deleveraging process may threaten the recovery. The authors find that equity increases played a much larger role than asset decreases, and recommend increasing the disposal of bad assets.
Ramon Xifré, 12 September 2014
As the most acute phase of the Eurozone crisis is over, the current-account balances of France, Italy, and Spain have improved. This column warns against complacency about this improvement, pointing at some structural factors that impede growth and damage competitiveness. Resources should be relocated towards the tradeable sectors and to those firms most prepared to grow and compete. If not, these three countries are likely to aggravate the dysfunctional duality of their economies.
Edoardo Campanella, 12 August 2014
Separatism is on the rise in Europe. This column argues that, while the Eurozone Crisis is certainly reinforcing regional tensions, the underlying causes are globalisation and the deepening of the European project. Independence campaigners want access to the larger European market, while unfettering their regions from the centralised control of national governments. Renegotiating the terms of the relationship between national and regional governments is preferable to resorting to political threats or the use of force.
Fernando Broner, Aitor Erce, Alberto Martin, Jaume Ventura, 23 July 2014
Since 2010, Eurozone periphery countries have faced severe debt problems and falling credit to the private sector. This column interprets these events with a theory that has three main ingredients. First governments can favour domestic creditors. Second, public debt trades in secondary markets so debt holdings shift from foreign to domestic residents. Third, due to private financial frictions, this shift crowds out private investment and growth.
Joshua Aizenman, 03 July 2014
After a promising first decade, the Eurozone faced a severe crisis. This column looks at the Eurozone’s short history through the lens of an evolutionary approach to forming new institutions. German dominance has allowed the euro to achieve a number of design objectives, and this may continue if Germany does not shirk its responsibilities. Germany’s resilience and dominant size within the EU may explain its ‘muddling through’ approach to the Eurozone crisis. Greater mobility of labour and lower mobility of under-regulated capital may be the costly ‘second best’ adjustment until the arrival of more mature Eurozone institutions.
Marco Buti, Philipp Mohl, 04 June 2014
Investment in the Eurozone is forecast to remain below trend until 2015, with a particularly large shortfall in the periphery. Low investment reduces aggregate demand, thus lowering short-term growth, and it also hampers medium-term growth through its effect on the capital stock. This column highlights three causes of low Eurozone investment – reduced public investment, financial fragmentation, and heightened uncertainty – and proposes a series of remedies.
Susan Schadler, 28 April 2014
The IMF has had a preferred creditor status throughout the history of its lending. This implies that borrowing countries are expected to give priority to meeting their obligations to the IMF over other creditors. This column reviews the onset of this preferred status, its purpose, and the way it changed after the recent Eurozone crisis. By lending €30 billion to Greece in 2010, the IMF introduced the option to permanently waive the requirement that a borrowing country is on the path to stability. This option increases the chance of moral hazard and undermines the strong framework for the preferred creditor status.
Anne-Laure Delatte, Julien Fouquau, Richard Portes, 17 April 2014
In retrospect, it is striking that the sovereign bond spreads of peripheral Eurozone countries surged while the economic conditions were gradually deteriorating. This column provides a new explanation for this phenomenon. It suggests that the markets in credit default swap indices have exacerbated shocks to economic fundamentals. The same change in fundamentals had a higher impact on the spread during the crisis period than it had previously.
Raphael Auer, 11 April 2014
Some view the improvements in current accounts for Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain as short-lived – the result of a temporary compression of import demand that is likely to be reversed as the recession eases. This column argues the contrary, based on the fact that their improving trade balances reflect better export performance. This development points toward a fundamental stabilisation of the competitiveness of these economies.
Marco Buti, Maria Demertzis, João Nogueira Martins, 30 March 2014
Although progress has been made on resolving the Eurozone crisis – vulnerable countries have reduced their current-account deficits and implemented some reforms – more still needs to be done. This column argues for a ‘consistent trinity’ of policies: structural reforms within countries, more symmetric macroeconomic adjustment across countries, and a banking union for the Eurozone.
Agnès Bénassy-Quéré, Shahin Vallee, 27 March 2014
The recent crisis has highlighted some problems in the current structure of the Eurozone, such as the lack of political integration. This column introduces the Eiffel group – a group of French experts – and its call for a ‘political community of the euro’. The economic and political rationales behind the proposal are discussed in detail. This proposal (also shared by experts in other countries) calls for a debate about the architecture and institutions underpinning the European Monetary Union.
Charles Calomiris, 21 March 2014
Charles Calomiris talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about his recent book, co-authored with Stephen Haber, ‘Fragile by Design: The Political Origins of Banking Crises and Scarce Credit’. They discuss how politics inevitably intrudes into bank regulation and why banking systems are unstable in some countries but not in others. Calomiris also presents his analysis of the political and banking history of the UK and how the well-being of banking systems depends on complex bargains and coalitions between politicians, bankers and other stakeholders. The interview was recorded in London in February 2014.
Michael Bordo, 21 March 2014
Since 2007, there has been a buildup of TARGET imbalances within the Eurosystem – growing liabilities of national central banks in the periphery matched by growing claims of central banks in the core. This column argues that, rather than signalling the collapse of the monetary system – as was the case for Bretton Woods between 1968 and 1971 – these TARGET imbalances represent a successful institutional innovation that prevented a repeat of the US payments crisis of 1933.
Daniel Gros, 19 March 2014
Since the onset of the sovereign debt crisis, the argument for a system of fiscal transfers to offset idiosyncratic shocks in the Eurozone has gained adherents. This column argues that what the Eurozone really needs is not a system which offsets all shocks by some small fraction, but a system which protects against shocks which are rare, but potentially catastrophic. A system of fiscal insurance with a fixed deductible would therefore be preferable to a fiscal shock absorber that offsets a certain percentage of all fiscal shocks.
Viral Acharya, 14 March 2014
Viral Acharya talks to Viv Davies about his recent work with Sascha Steffen that, using publicly available data and a series of shortfall measures, estimates the capital shortfalls of EZ banks that will be stress-tested under the proposed Asset Quality Review. They also discuss the difference in accounting rules between US and EZ banks and the future potential for banking union in the Eurozone. The interview was recorded by phone on 25 February 2014.
Viral Acharya, Sascha Steffen, 17 January 2014
The Single Supervisory Mechanism – a key pillar of the Eurozone banking union – will transfer supervision of Europe’s largest banks to the ECB. Before taking over this role, the ECB will conduct an Asset Quality Review to identify these banks’ capital shortfalls. This column discusses recent estimates of these shortfalls based on publicly available data. Estimates such as these can defend against political efforts to blunt the AQR’s effectiveness. The results suggest that many banks’ capital needs can be met with common equity issuance and bail-ins, but that public backstops might still be necessary in some cases.
Willem Buiter, 10 January 2014
Fiscal sustainability has become a hot topic as a result of the European sovereign debt crisis, but it matters in normal times, too. This column argues that financial sector reforms are essential to ensure fiscal sustainability in the future. Although emerging market reforms undertaken in the aftermath of the financial crises of the 1990s were beneficial, complacency is not warranted. In the US, political gridlock must be overcome to reform entitlements and the tax system. In the Eurozone, creating a sovereign debt restructuring mechanism should be a priority.
Ashoka Mody, 07 January 2014
On 19 October 2010, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy agreed that in future, sovereign bailouts from the European Stability Mechanism would require that losses be imposed on private creditors. This agreement was blamed for the increase in sovereign spreads in late 2010 and early 2011. This column discusses recent research on the market reaction to the surprise announcement at Deauville. With the exception of Greece, the rise in spreads was within the range of variability established in the previous 20 days.
Kaushik Basu, Joseph Stiglitz, 02 January 2014
The Eurozone crisis exposed weaknesses in the Eurozone’s design. This column – by Nobelist Joe Stiglitz and World Bank Chief Economist Kaushik Basu – argues that the Eurozone’s financial architecture can be improved by amending the Treaty of Lisbon to permit appropriately structured cross-country liability for sovereign debt incurred by EZ members.