New-breed global investors and emerging-market financial stability
Gaston Gelos, Hiroko Oura 23 August 2014
The landscape of portfolio investment in emerging markets has evolved considerably over the past 15 years. Financial markets have deepened and become more internationally integrated. The mix of global investors has also changed, with more money intermediated by mutual funds. This column explains that these changes have made capital flows and asset prices in these economies more sensitive to global financial shocks. However, broad-based financial deepening and improved institutions can enhance the resilience of emerging-market economies.
The investor base matters since different investors behave differently. During the emerging-market sell-off episodes in 2013 and early 2014:
- Retail-oriented mutual funds withdrew aggressively, but investors from different regions also tended to behave differently;
- Institutional investors such as pension funds and insurance companies with long-term strategies broadly maintained their emerging-market investments.
Figure 1 shows the facts.
Figure 1. Bond flows to emerging-market economies
Financial markets International finance
Pension Funds, financial stability, capital flows, investment, emerging markets, financial deepening, herding, original sin, mutual funds, institutional investors
The unrecognised benefits of grade inflation
Raphael Boleslavsky, Christopher Cotton 16 August 2014
Grade inflation is widely viewed as detrimental, compromising the quality of education and reducing the information content of student transcripts for employers. This column argues that there may be benefits to allowing grade inflation when universities’ investment decisions are taken into account. With grade inflation, student transcripts convey less information, so employers rely less on transcripts and more on universities’ reputations. This incentivises universities to make costly investments to improve the quality of their education and the average ability of their graduates.
Since the early 1980s, the mean grade point average at American colleges and universities has risen at a rate of between 0.1 and 0.15 points per decade. Most of this increase can be attributed to an increase in the share of As assigned (which now comprise nearly half of all grades), with significant drops in the assignment of lower grades (Rojstaczer 2011 and Rojstaczer and Healy 2012).
Education Labour markets
education, human capital, investment, grade inflation
Secular stagnation: Facts, causes, and cures – a new Vox eBook
Coen Teulings, Richard Baldwin 15 August 2014
Six years after the Crisis and the recovery is still anaemic despite years of zero interest rates. Is ‘secular stagnation’ to blame? This column introduces an eBook that gathers the views of leading economists including Summers, Krugman, Gordon, Blanchard, Koo, Eichengreen, Caballero, Glaeser, and a dozen others. It is too early to tell whether secular stagnation is really secular, but if it is, current policy tools will be obsolete. Policymakers should start thinking about potential solutions.
Economic growth is still anaemic despite years of zero interest rates.
- Is ‘secular stagnation’ to blame? What does secular stagnation really mean? And if it’s for real, what must be done?
Today, VoxEU.org launches an eBook that gathers the views of leading economists including Summers, Krugman, Gordon, Blanchard, Koo, Eichengreen, Caballero, Glaeser and a dozen others (edited by Coen Teulings and me). Collectively, the chapters suggest that something historic is afoot.
Global crisis Macroeconomic policy Monetary policy
interest rates, US, Europe, Japan, investment, macroeconomics, Great Recession, zero lower bound, savings, secular stagnation, SecStag debate
Piketty’s laws with investment replacement and depreciation
Ton van Schaik 06 July 2014
Piketty’s book “Capital in the 21st century” has gained popularity with its finding of a growing gap between wage earners and capital owners. This column presents a test to the two main laws in Piketty’s book. The attractiveness of these two laws is in their simplicity, but so is their limitation. Piketty neglects investment replacement and depreciation.
Thomas Piketty has recently drawn worldwide attention with the proposition that the disparity between wage earners and capital owners is increasing, and that governments should intervene to bring this process to a standstill.
Frontiers of economic research Macroeconomic policy
investment, capital depreciation
Do all firms have equal access to external financing?
Neil Kay, Gavin Murphy, Conor O'Toole, Iulia Siedschlag, Brian O'Connell 29 June 2014
Small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) often report difficulties in obtaining external finance. Based on new research, this column argues that these difficulties are not due to greater financial risks associated with SMEs. Instead, they are the result of imperfections in the market for external finance that negatively affect smaller and younger enterprises. The same research has shown that these types of firms are also the most reliant on external finance to support their investment and growth.
The proportion of bank loan acceptances has fallen significantly following the crisis, along with the level of enterprise investment. The sharpest falls in both have been in countries hardest hit by the crisis. While in a number of countries – such as Finland, Malta, and Sweden – the declines have been modest, in others – such as in Bulgaria, Ireland, Denmark, Lithuania, Spain, and Greece – they have approached or exceeded 30%.
Figure 1. Percentage change in bank loan acceptances
EU policies Financial markets
investment, lending, credit, Finance, SMEs, credit rationing, borrowing, information asymmetries
Lacklustre investment in the Eurozone: Is there a puzzle?
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.
On the importance of investment for the Eurozone economy
According to the European Commission’s most recent forecast, real economic activity in the Eurozone is expected to recover at a moderate pace until 2015, and to remain significantly weaker than in the US (European Commission 2014a).
EU policies Macroeconomic policy
eurozone, growth, European Commission, investment, uncertainty, structural reforms, Bankruptcy, Eurozone crisis, public investment, banking union, financial fragmentation
US electrification in the 1930s
Carl Kitchens 29 January 2014
Economists have found that large-scale infrastructure investments tend to increase economic growth and reduce poverty. However, there has been relatively little research on the effects of smaller, more targeted investment projects. This column discusses recent research on the effects of the US Rural Electrification Administration, which provided subsidised loans for connecting farms to the electric grid. Counties that received electricity through the REA witnessed smaller declines in agricultural productivity, smaller declines in land values, and more retail activity than similar counties that did not.
In 1930, fewer than 10% of farms in the US had access to electricity. By the mid-1950s, almost every farm in the country had electricity. While the US was able to extend electricity to its rural locations rapidly over a 25-year period, much of the developing world still remains without electricity today. In 2012, 1.3 billion people lived without electricity worldwide.
Development Economic history
growth, Agriculture, technology, investment, subsidies, electricity, infrastructure, electrification
Why Asian firms hold cash
Charles Yuji Horioka, Akiko Terada-Hagiwara 25 January 2014
Corporate saving has sharply increased over the last two decades, but there has been relatively little research on its determinants. This column presents recent work that estimates Asian firms’ cash flow sensitivity of cash. The impact of cash flow on the increase in firms’ cash holdings is positive and statistically significant, and larger and more highly significant for smaller firms. Since smaller firms are more likely to be financially constrained, these results suggest that Asian firms – especially smaller ones – save more when their cash flow increases in order to finance future investments
In many, if not most, economies, sharp declines in household saving rates have been offset by sharp increases in corporate saving rates for the past two decades (see, for example, Karabarbounis and Neiman 2012). Even so, relatively little research has been done on the determinants of corporate saving.
investment, Asia, saving, financial frictions, savings, corporate saving, borrowing constraints
Dark side of housing-price appreciation
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.
Policymakers around the world often worry about decreases in real-estate prices and other asset prices, and take measures to prevent them. For example, in the aftermath of the financial crisis, the Federal Reserve has engaged in large-scale asset purchases – especially of mortgage-backed assets – to support the housing market and, in turn, the overall economy.
Financial markets Monetary policy
housing, Federal Reserve, investment, asset prices, banks, lending, real estate
How to get around credit constraints? The role of renting and leasing during financial crises
Peter N. Gal, Gabor Pinter 21 September 2013
Renting capital goods makes up 20% of total capital expenses by US companies and this type of capital spending increases in downturns. This column discusses research showing that the systematic pattern of corporate leasing can be linked to credit constraints. This means that a robust rental sector has the potential to mitigate the negative effects of financial disruptions when obtaining credit becomes difficult.
How does the ownership of capital affect the aggregate behaviour of the economy? Does it matter whether firms own or rent production capital such as machinery, equipment, offices, and structures? This question has been somewhat neglected by macroeconomists, mainly because in a frictionless world the question of capital ownership is irrelevant – firms are indifferent between renting and owning (Jorgenson 1963).
financial crises, investment, business cycles, credit constraints, rental markets