The anaemic recovery from the Global Crisis and the downward trend in real interest rates since 1980 have revived interest in the idea of secular stagnation. This column argues that if the US, UK, and Eurozone had not pursued contractionary fiscal policies from 2010 onwards, the recovery would not have been so slow and nominal interest rates would no longer be at the zero lower bound. Expanding the stock of government debt would have ameliorated, not worsened, the shortage of safe assets.
Simon Wren-Lewis, Friday, January 30, 2015
Kristina Morkunaite, Felix Huefner, Thursday, November 27, 2014
The post-Crisis G7 economies have suffered weak business investment despite record low interest rates and the favourable financial positions of corporates. Some consider this the ‘new normal’ arising from secular, supply-side forces that have contributed to declining potential growth rates. This column argues that structural factors alone are not sufficient to explain the current weakness in investment rates. There is thus room for positive surprise if companies realise the pent-up investment demand.
Jean Pisani-Ferry, Friday, November 7, 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.
Charles A.E. Goodhart, Philipp Erfurth, Tuesday, November 4, 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%.
Charles A.E. Goodhart, Philipp Erfurth, Monday, November 3, 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.
David Chambers, Elroy Dimson, Monday, October 20, 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.
Christian Thimann, Friday, October 17, 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.
Gaston Gelos, Hiroko Oura, Saturday, August 23, 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.
Raphael Boleslavsky, Christopher Cotton, Saturday, August 16, 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.
Coen Teulings, Richard Baldwin, Wednesday, September 10, 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.
Ton van Schaik, Sunday, July 6, 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.
Neil Kay, Gavin Murphy, Conor O'Toole, Iulia Siedschlag, Brian O'Connell, Sunday, June 29, 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.
Marco Buti, Philipp Mohl, Wednesday, June 4, 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.
Carl Kitchens, Wednesday, January 29, 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.
Charles Yuji Horioka, Akiko Terada-Hagiwara, Saturday, January 25, 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
Indraneel Chakraborty, Itay Goldstein, Andrew MacKinlay, Monday, November 25, 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.
Peter N. Gal, Gabor Pinter, Saturday, September 21, 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.
Hans Degryse, Liping Lu, Steven Ongena, Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Non-bank financing originating in the shadow banking system has increasingly become an issue for policymakers. This column argues that informal financing has, in fact, been an essential element of corporate performance in China. Through reviewing the interaction between informal and formal financing, evidence suggests that informal financing simultaneously granted with formal financing (co-funding) is helpful for growth, especially for small firms.
Eduardo Cavallo, Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Latin America and the Caribbean have less infrastructure than the rest of the world. What they have is also of much poorer quality. This column argues that to reap the rewards of good infrastructure, Latin American and Caribbean countries must increase both investment and saving over the long-term by creating institutional capacity, strengthening the rule of law, and building stable macroeconomic-policy frameworks. It won’t be easy.
Ron Alquist, Linda Tesar, Rahul Mukherjee, Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Is foreign direct investment different in times of crisis? This column tests the ‘fire-sale foreign direct investment hypothesis’, finding that acquisitions undertaken during crisis periods do not fundamentally differ from those undertaken during non-crisis periods. The fire-sale foreign direct investment notion may well be ‘all smoke, and no fire’.