When the financial sector is constrained and monetary stimulus is needed the most, flattening the yield curve is not enough – quantitative easing affects the real economy through a direct-lending channel that depends crucially on the type of assets purchased. This column argues that the Fed’s decision to purchase mortgage-backed securities (rather than exclusively Treasuries) during its first phase of quantitative easing increased mortgage-refinancing activity by $600 billion and had significant effects on aggregate consumption. It also highlights an important complementarity between quantitative easing and countercyclical macroprudential policies such as loan-to-value ratio caps.
Marco Di Maggio, Amir Kermani, Christopher Palmer, 07 October 2016
Charles Calomiris, Marc Flandreau, Luc Laeven, 19 September 2016
The Global Crisis has raised concerns over how far ‘lender of last resort’ policies by central banks should go. This column examines the history of the development of these policies throughout the world. Last resort lending is a locus of political power, and as such, its creation should be viewed as the outcome of a political bargain. It is therefore not surprising that countries differed in their propensity to create such policies, and in the powers with which they chose to endow them.
Laurence Ball, 24 August 2016
Much of the damage from the Great Recession is attributed to the Federal Reserve’s failure to rescue Lehman Brothers when it hit troubled waters in September 2008. It has been argued that the Fed’s decision was based on legal constraints. This column questions that view, arguing that the Fed did have the legal authority to save Lehman, but it did not do so due to political considerations.
Maria Demertzis, Nicola Viegi, 28 June 2016
Both the Fed and the ECB have managed to remain credible since the Global Crisis, but their credibility levels have evolved differently. This column argues that since inflation in the US and the Eurozone has been similar in the past eight years, the difference in the way that credibility has evolved is the result of the different macroeconomic policy mixes applied.
James Hamilton, Ethan Harris, Jan Hatzius, Kenneth West, 15 November 2015
No-one is sure what the Fed’s long-delayed nominal interest rate hikes will bring, and there has been much speculation on what the equilibrium rate might look like when the Fed acts. This column argues that it would be foolish to attempt to pin down a precise value for the steady-state real rate. A better approach is to predict the plausible range of values, and evidence suggests that the equilibrium rate will range from a little above zero up to 2%.
Athanasios Orphanides, 11 November 2015
There is generally consensus among macroeconomists that monetary policy works best when it is systematic. Following the financial crisis, the US Federal Reserve shifted from long-term, systematic policy to short-term goals targeting unemployment. This column argues that, while these were appropriate in the aftermath of the downturn, such policy accommodations have been pursued for too long since. The need for a somewhat accommodative policy cannot be used to defend the current non-systematic policy and excessive emphasis on short-term employment gains.
Sebastian Edwards, 04 February 2015
The conventional ‘trilemma’ view is that countries that allow free capital flows can still pursue independent monetary policies as long as they allow flexible exchange rates. This column examines the pass-through of Federal Reserve interest rates to policy rates in Chile, Colombia, and Mexico. The author concludes that, to the extent that central banks take into account other central banks’ policies, there will be ‘policy contagion’ and that, even under flexible rates, monetary policy will not be fully independent.
Philippe Andrade, Richard Crump, Stefano Eusepi, Emanuel Moench, 23 December 2014
Expectations are critical for macroeconomics and financial markets. But the expectation-formation process is not well understood. This column discusses some empirical characteristics of forecast disagreement from professional forecasters in the US, and discusses the ‘information frictions’ that underlie the heterogeneity of expectations.
Kaushik Basu, Barry Eichengreen, Poonam Gupta, 05 November 2014
India was among the hardest hit by the Fed’s ‘taper talks’. This column argues that this impact was large for two reasons. First, India received huge capital flows before 2013. This had made it a convenient target for investors seeking to rebalance away from emerging markets. Second, macroeconomic conditions had worsened, which rendered the economy vulnerable. The measures adopted in response were ineffective in stabilising the financial markets. Implementing a medium-term framework that limits vulnerabilities and restricts spillovers could be more successful.
Jagjit Chadha, 02 November 2014
The impact of the stock and maturity of government debt on longer-term bond yields matters for monetary policy. This column assesses the magnitude and relative importance of overall bond supply and maturity effects on longer-term US Treasury interest rates using data from 1976 to 2008. Both factors have a significant impact on both forwards and term premia, but maturity of public debt appears to matter more. The results have implications for exit from unconventional policies, and also for the links between monetary and fiscal policy and debt management.
Karl Walentin, 11 September 2014
Central banks have resorted to various unconventional monetary policy tools since the onset of the Global Crisis. This column focuses on the macroeconomic effects of the Federal Reserve’s large-scale purchases of mortgage-backed securities – in particular, through reducing the ‘mortgage spread’ between interest rates on mortgages and government bonds at a given maturity. Although large-scale asset purchases are found to have substantial macroeconomic effects, they may not necessarily be the best policy tool at the zero lower bound.
Stephen Golub, Ayse Kaya, Michael Reay, 08 September 2014
Since the Global Crisis, critics have questioned why regulatory agencies failed to prevent it. This column argues that the US Federal Reserve was aware of potential problems brewing in the financial system, but was largely unconcerned by them. Both Greenspan and Bernanke subscribed to the view that identifying bubbles is very difficult, pre-emptive bursting may be harmful, and that central banks could limit the damage ex post. The scripted nature of FOMC meetings, the focus on the Greenbook, and a ‘silo’ mentality reduced the impact of dissenting views.
Martin Weale, Tomasz Wieladek, 10 June 2014
After reducing their policy rates close to zero in response to the global financial crisis, the Bank of England and the Federal Reserve began purchasing assets. This column assesses the effect of these asset purchases on output and inflation. In line with previous studies, the authors find that asset purchase announcements are associated with increases in both output and inflation in both countries. They also find that quantitative easing had a larger impact on UK inflation, which suggests that the UK Phillips curve is steeper.
Joshua Aizenman, Mahir Binici, Michael Hutchison, 04 April 2014
In 2013, policymakers began discussing when and how to ‘taper’ the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing policy. This column presents evidence on the effect of Fed officials’ public statements on emerging-market financial conditions. Statements by Chairman Bernanke had a large effect on asset prices, whereas the market largely ignored statements by Fed Presidents. Emerging markets with stronger fundamentals experienced larger stock-market declines, larger increases in credit default swap spreads, and larger currency depreciations than countries with weaker fundamentals.
Kristin Forbes, 05 February 2014
The Federal Reserve’s ‘taper talk’ in spring 2013 has been blamed for outflows of capital from emerging markets. This column argues that global growth prospects and uncertainty are more important drivers of emerging-market capital flows than US monetary policy. Although crises can affect very different countries simultaneously, over time investors begin to discriminate between countries according to their fundamentals. Domestic investors play an increasingly important – and potentially stabilising – role. During a financial crisis, ‘retrenchment’ by domestic investors can offset foreign investors’ withdrawals of capital.
Andrew Burns, Mizudo Kida, Jamus Lim, Sanket Mohapatra, Marc Stocker, 21 January 2014
The Federal Reserve has begun to ‘taper’ its programme of quantitative easing. The ‘taper tantrum’ that followed the announcement of tapering in May 2013 suggests that the normalisation of rich countries’ unconventional monetary policies may lead to capital outflows and currency depreciations in emerging markets. This column presents the results of recent World Bank research into these effects. In the baseline scenario, the unwinding of QE is predicted to reduce capital inflows by about 10%, or 0.6% of developing-country GDP by 2016. However, if markets react abruptly, capital flows could decline by as much as 80% for several months.
Barry Eichengreen, Poonam Gupta, 19 December 2013
Fed tapering has started. A revival of last summer’s emerging economy turmoil is a real concern. This column discusses new research into who was hit and why by the June 2013 taper-talk shock. Those hit hardest had relatively large and liquid financial markets, and had allowed large rises in their currency values and their trade deficits. Good macro fundamentals did not provide much insulation, nor did capital controls. The best insulation came from macroprudential policies that limited exchange rate appreciation and trade deficit widening in response to foreign capital inflows.
Indraneel Chakraborty, Itay Goldstein, Andrew MacKinlay, 25 November 2013
Higher asset prices increase the value of firms’ collateral, strengthen banks’ balance sheets, and increase households’ wealth. These considerations perhaps motivated the Federal Reserve’s intervention to support the housing market. However, higher housing prices may also lead banks to reallocate their portfolios from commercial and industrial loans to real-estate loans. This column presents the first evidence on this crowding-out effect. When housing prices increase, banks on average reduce commercial lending and increase interest rates, leading related firms to cut back on investment.
John Williams, 16 October 2013
The Federal Open Market Committee has used various forms of forward guidance to influence the views of businesses, investors and households about where monetary policy is likely to be headed. This column by the President of the San Francisco Fed presents his views on the benefits, limitations and future role of forward policy guidance.
Stephen Grenville, 22 June 2013
Chairman Bernanke’s hints about the end of quantitative easing (QE) have produced volatility in financial markets. This column argues that financial markets were startled because an end to QE is likely to cause capital losses for bond holders since term premium is substantially negative. Bank regulators should be alert to the possibility. This fundamental explanation is teamed with widespread confusion among market participants about how quantitative easing actually works.