How to climb a mountain with both hands tied
Jean Pisani-Ferry 07 November 2014
A triple-dip recession in the Eurozone is now a distinct possibility. This column argues that additional monetary stimulus is unlikely to be effective, that the scope for further fiscal stimulus is limited, and that some structural reforms may actually hurt growth in the short run by adding to disinflationary pressures in a liquidity trap. The author advocates using tax incentives and tighter regulations to encourage firms to replace environmentally inefficient capital.
Against the background of lacklustre global demand, economic growth in Europe has weakened again. In the Eurozone, a third recession in less than seven years is a distinct possibility. Yet economic policy looks powerless. On the monetary side, although the ECB may still embark on a genuine programme of quantitative easing, such action is unlikely to deliver a major boost because the benchmark 10-year government bonds already yield just 1%.
Environment EU policies Macroeconomic policy Microeconomic regulation
Europe, eurozone, recession, stimulus, monetary policy, quantitative easing, fiscal policy, structural reforms, labour market reforms, liquidity trap, investment, Cash for clunkers, scrapping subsidies, environment, regulation, emissions standards
Demography and economics: Look past the past
Charles A.E. Goodhart, Philipp Erfurth 04 November 2014
Most of the world is now at the point where the support ratio is becoming adverse, and the growth of the global workforce is slowing. This column argues that these changes will have profound and negative effects on economic growth. This implies that negative real interest rates are not the new normal, but rather an extreme artefact of a series of trends, several of which are coming to an end. By 2025, real interest rates should have returned to their historical equilibrium value of around 2.5–3%.
Our history is our database. When seeking to peer dimly into the future, our normal response is to examine what happened in (similar) past episodes and then to extrapolate those outcomes into the future. This assumption, that the future will mimic the past, is hard-wired into almost all our forecasting exercises, from the most simple to the econometrically and technically most complex.
Global economy Labour markets
forecasting, demographics, Ageing, fertility, globalisation, savings, consumption, life cycle, old age, healthcare, Retirement, investment, interest rates, labour productivity, technology, technology transfer
Monetary policy and long-term trends
Charles A.E. Goodhart, Philipp Erfurth 03 November 2014
There has been a long-term downward trend in labour’s share of national income, depressing both demand and inflation, and thus prompting ever more expansionary monetary policies. This column argues that, while understandable in a short-term business cycle context, this has exacerbated longer-term trends, increasing inequality and financial distortions. Perhaps the most fundamental problem has been over-reliance on debt finance. The authors propose policies to raise the share of equity finance in housing markets; such reforms could be extended to other sectors of the economy.
There has been a long-term downward trend in the share and strength of labour in national income, which is depressing both demand and inflation. This has prompted ever more expansionary monetary policies. While understandable, indeed appropriate, within a short-term business cycle context, this has exacerbated longer-term trends, increasing inequality and financial distortions. Perhaps the most fundamental problem has been over-reliance on debt finance (leverage).
Financial markets Macroeconomic policy Monetary policy
monetary policy, Inequality, debt, leverage, wages, labour share, globalisation, consumption, propensity to consume, fiscal policy, Ageing, interest rates, investment, asset prices, housing, house prices, exchange rates, global crisis, mortgages, sub-prime crisis, Macroprudential policy, structural reforms, balance sheets, deleveraging, equity, shared-equity mortgages, Help to Buy
The British origins of the US endowment model
David Chambers, Elroy Dimson 20 October 2014
Yale University has generated annual returns of 13.9% over the last 20 years on its endowment – well in excess of the 9.2% average return on US university endowments. Keynes’ writings were a considerable influence on the investment philosophy of David Swensen, Yale’s CIO. This column traces how Keynes’ experiences managing his Cambridge college endowment influenced his ideas, and sheds light on how some of the lessons he learnt are still relevant to endowments and foundations today.
In recent years much attention has been given to the so-called ‘Yale model’, an approach to investing practised by the Yale University Investments Office in managing its $24 billion endowment. The core of this model is an emphasis on diversification and on active management of equity-orientated, illiquid assets (Yale 2014). Yale has generated returns of 13.9% per annum over the last 20 years – well in excess of the 9.2% average return on US college and university endowments. Other leading US university endowments have followed this model (Lerner et al. 2008).
investment, endowments, university endowments, college endowments, Universities, Keynes, asset management, diversification, Great Depression, Great Recession, buy-and-hold, equity investing, portfolio management, Yale, Cambridge
How insurers differ from banks: Implications for systemic regulation
Christian Thimann 17 October 2014
Having completed the regulatory framework for systemically important banks, the Financial Stability Board is turning to insurance companies. The emerging framework for insurers closely resembles that for banks, culminating in the design and calibration of capital surcharges. This column argues that the contrasting business models and balance sheet structures of insurers and banks – and the different roles of capital, leverage, and risk absorption in the two sectors – mean that the banking model of capital cannot be applied to insurance. Tools other than capital surcharges may be more appropriate to address possible concerns of systemic risk.
Regulation of the insurance industry is entering a new era. The global regulatory community under the auspices of the Financial Stability Board (FSB) is contemplating regulatory standards for insurance groups that it deems to be of systemic importance. Nine insurance groups received this FSB classification in 2013, and the design of systemic regulation for these groups is now in progress.
insurance, reinsurance, banking, financial intermediation, regulation, systemic risk, maturity transformation, BASEL III, investment, capital, capital requirements, bail-in, loss absorption
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 10 September 2014
The CEPR Press eBook on secular stagnation has been viewed over 80,000 times since it was published on 15 August 2014. The PDF remains freely downloadable, but as the European debate on secular stagnation is moving into policy circles, we decided to also make it a Kindle book. This is available from Amazon; all proceeds will help defray VoxEU expenses.
Teaser from original column posted on 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.
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