European banks have not recovered from the Global Crisis, in part due to heavy provisions for non-performing loans. This column argues that a comprehensive approach to the issue in Europe could address market inefficiencies and reduce bad loans to bearable levels. The establishment of a European scheme to securitise non-performing loans should form one of the next steps towards recovery.
Marco Onado, 21 February 2017
Charles Wyplosz, 17 February 2017
The IMF has just released its self-evaluation of its Greek lending, in which it admits to many mistakes. This column and argues that the report misses one important error – reliance on the Debt Sustainability Analysis – but notes that the IMF’s candour should be a model for the other participants in the lending, namely, the European Commission and the ECB.
Felix Hufeld, Ralph Koijen, Christian Thimann, 30 January 2017
Despite the importance of insurance, discussions about the macroeconomic role and the risks of insurance markets have been surprisingly limited. This column explores some of the key theoretical and conceptual questions still unanswered in this field, and suggests that a two-fold approach combining a focus on individual firms and an activity-based approach across the sector is needed to tackle systemic risk within the insurance industry.
Ansgar Belke, Clemens Domnick, Daniel Gros, 19 January 2017
A high correlation of business cycles is usually seen as a key criterion for an optimum currency area. This column argues that the elasticity with which countries react to the common cycle is equally important. A country with a non-unitary growth elasticity relative to the common area will experience cyclical divergences at the peak and trough of the common cycle. Despite being characterised by highly-correlated business cycles, the Eurozone suffers from widely differing amplitudes.
Ian Bright, Senne Janssen, 13 January 2017
With growth and inflation in Europe remaining low, the idea of helicopter money is slowly gaining traction with politicians and economists alike. This column presents the results of a survey that asked people how, if they were to receive an extra €200 per month to do with as they chose, they would use the money. There was broad support for the policy among respondents, but only about one in four said they would spend most of the money. The findings suggest that a larger impact might be achieved if instead the money were given to the government to finance projects.
László Andor, Paolo Pasimeni, 13 December 2016
Since its inception, the Eurozone has had lower growth and higher unemployment rates than other regions, which suggests the need for new fiscal instruments. This column argues for a stabilisation instrument based on unemployment as the driving indicator. This unemployment benefit scheme coud take the form of a basic common European scheme, or a reinsurance fund supporting national systems. In either case, the instrument wouldn’t be a panacea, and the key obstacle to implementation would be political.
Elisa Gamberoni, Claire Giordano, Paloma Lopez-Garcia, 13 December 2016
An efficient allocation of inputs across firms is a necessary condition to boost TFP growth. This column presents evidence that in large Eurozone economies, capital misallocation trended upwards in the period 2002-2012 while labour misallocation dynamics were flatter. Uncertainty and credit market frictions were strongly associated with the observed developments in capital misallocation, whereas the overall deregulation in the product and labour markets contributed to dampening input misallocation dynamics.
Giorgio Barba Navaretti, Giacomo Calzolari, Alberto Pozzolo, 12 December 2016
In the years since the Global Crisis, there has been substantial public opposition to taxpayer-funded bailouts of financial institutions. Reflecting this sentiment, a cornerstone of the EU’s post-crisis resolution framework is that losses be borne by private investors and creditors. This column surveys some of the details that need to be worked out before such bail-in measures can work. Effective implementation requires clear identification of the limits to bail-in. In particular, for such measures to be successful, bailout cannot be ruled out by assumption.
Matthieu Chavaz, Marc Flandreau, 01 December 2016
Between 1870 and 1914, 68 countries – both sovereign and British colonies – used the London Stock Exchange to issue bonds. This column argues that bond prices and spreads in this period show that the colonies’ semi-sovereignty lowered credit risk at the price of higher illiquidity risk, and further worsened liquidity by attracting investors that rarely traded. Parallels between Eurozone and colonial bonds suggest that the pricing of liquidity and credit in government bond markets is an institutional phenomenon.
Marco Buti, Lucía Rodríguez Muñoz, 28 November 2016
With growth still weaker than is desirable and challenges originating from geopolitical developments further complicating the economic outlook, responsible growth-friendly fiscal policy needs to play a bigger role in supporting demand in the Eurozone today. This column presents a new European Commission Communication on Eurozone fiscal policy, which outlines what a “positive fiscal stance" for the Eurozone would look like.
Marco Buti, Nicolas Carnot, 28 November 2016
The European Commission has just called for a fiscal stance that is more supportive of the recovery and of monetary policy in the Eurozone. This column argues that the case is strong for spending now on investment and other targeted programmes supporting growth and employment. However, fiscal space is heterogeneously distributed across the Eurozone, with some countries able to exploit a clear margin, and others needing to pursue a more prudent approach of gradual debt unwinding. A common stabilisation capacity would help for managing shocks that cannot be absorbed by national stabilisers alone.
Luca Dedola, Luc Laeven, 15 November 2016
In September 2016, the ECB held its first Annual Research Conference. This column surveys the contributions to the conference, which brought together policymakers and academics from around the world to promote discussion of topics at the forefront of monetary and financial economic research. Nobel laureate Eric Maskin gave the keynote lecture, addressing whether fiscal policy should be set by politicians, and the conference included eight further presentations and a panel discussion on monetary policy and financial stability.
Felix Roth, Lars Jonung, Felicitas Nowak-Lehmann, 11 November 2016
The euro as a common currency has recently been the subject of harsh criticism by economists from both sides of the Atlantic, including claims that citizens in some Eurozone countries are turning against it. This column argues that, in fact, the euro currently enjoys comfortable popular support in each of the 12 original member states of the Eurozone and that potential upcoming referenda in any of these countries do not appear to pose a threat to the currency. In contrast, popular support for the euro has declined sharply in non-Eurozone EU member states since the recent crisis, with the UK standing out as the country with the most negative view.
Jason Lu, Coen Teulings, 21 October 2016
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.
Nauro Campos, Corrado Macchiarelli, 19 October 2016
Explanations for the Eurozone Crisis rely on the notion of cross-country asymmetries. The core-periphery pattern to the EU was first established by Bayoumi and Eichengreen in 1993, prior to the Eurozone. This column replicates their approach to explore whether the euro has strengthened or weakened this pattern. A new ‘coreness index’ indicates that the core-periphery pattern has weakened, and that a new, smaller periphery has emerged.
Andrew Rose, 19 October 2016
The pro-trade effects of the euro are a clear-cut benefit of Eurozone membership, but scholarly estimates of the size of this effect vary widely. This column uses meta-analysis to argue that the variation stems from inappropriate exclusion of nations and years. When all countries and years available in the data are included, the estimate of the euro trade effect is economically and statistically large, at about 50%.
Jan in 't Veld, 09 September 2016
The spillover effects of a fiscal stimulus in normal times are likely to be small, at best. This column argues, however, that when interest rates are stuck at the zero lower bound and monetary policy does not offset the expansion, public investment in surplus countries could have significant positive GDP spillovers to the rest of the Eurozone. Given current low borrowing costs, the increase in government debt for surplus countries would be modest, while debt ratios in the rest of the Eurozone could be improved.
Sylvester Eijffinger, 31 August 2016
The ECB is under fire from all sides for its inability to stimulate Europe's economies. This column puts the case for an informal European ‘praesidium’ within the Eurogroup to coordinate wider stimulus and reform measures. This will inevitably lead to the appointment of a European finance minister – the Eurozone's equivalent of Alexander Hamilton, the first Treasury Secretary in the history of the US.
Stefano Ugolini, 30 August 2016
When Mario Draghi famously declared that the ECB was “ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro”, he also specified “within our mandate”. This column examines the institutional limitations to central bankers’ actions. It argues that institutional constraints are essential in determining the sustainability of monetary policies, and hence central banks’ ability to pursue their targets. The weakness of the Bank of England in the heyday of the gold standard is a case in point.
Marco Buti, José Leandro, Plamen Nikolov, 25 August 2016
The fragmentation of financial systems along national borders was one of the main handicaps of the Eurozone both prior to and in the initial phase of the crisis, hindering the shock absorption capacity of individual member states. The EU has taken important steps towards the deeper integration of Eurozone financial markets, but this remains incomplete. This column argues that a fully-fledged financial union can be an efficient economic shock absorber. Compared to the US, there is significant potential in terms of private cross-border risk sharing through the financial channel, more so than through fiscal (i.e. public) means.