August 2020

Erten, Korinek, Ocampo, 11 August 2020

Recent market volatility has underlined how fickle international capital flows can be, and how important it is for emerging economies to have an adequate system of macroprudential policies in place. Capital controls that protect recipient countries from excessively risky types of flows are a crucial ingredient of such a system. This column motivates capital controls theoretically based on the existence of externalities from capital flows, describes recent empirical evidence on their use, and summarises the surrounding policy debate.

Martínez Turégano, Marschinski, 11 August 2020

The EU’s falling share in global manufacturing has fuelled concerns about an overall loss of competitiveness. However, sectoral idiosyncrasies are strong and advise against a ‘one-size-fits-all’ policy intervention. This column uses the World Input-Output Tables to decompose the value added for manufacturing value chains and study the drivers of EU’s relative decline. Competitiveness concerns are most warranted for electronics, a key sector for productivity and innovation. The EU’s global share in electronics has fallen even more than in total manufacturing, without evidence that specialisation in other segments of this value chain could significantly mitigate the trend.

McLaren, 11 August 2020

In the US, COVID-19 tends to magnify inequalities by disproportionately hitting minorities, particularly African Americans, who suffer from higher COVID-19 mortality rates. Higher rates of infection appear to be the cause rather than factors related to treatment. Using an indirect approach, this column uses census data to identify the socioeconomic factors that cause different racial groups to be differentially exposed to the virus. Very strong racial disparities in COVID-19 mortality rates are seen for African-American and First Nations populations. Occupation, income, poverty rates, or access to healthcare insurance appears to matter little. Pre-COVID-19 use of public transport, however, may be a significant factor.

Brown, Ravallion, 10 August 2020

Income is linked to COVID-19 risk factors: poorer people are less likely to be able to socially distance or telework. However, higher-income areas tend to have more in-person interactions. This column disentangles the socioeconomic influences on COVID-19 behaviour and outcomes across the 3,000 counties of the US. Counties with higher overall income inequality tend to have higher infection rates. A higher population share of Black Americans and Hispanics is associated with higher infection rates. These effects do not fade over time from the first infection.

Ivaldi, Zhang, 10 August 2020

Television channels face a trade-off between the quality service (and number of viewers) and the revenue generated by advertisements. The market is said to be two-sided, with TV channels providing a platform through which advertisers and consumers are brought together during commercial breaks. This column examines the effects of the merge between two digital TV channels in France, and the regulatory intervention, on the quality of programming for viewers and the availability and cost of advertising space for commercial advertisers. 

Acharya, Borchert, Jager, Steffen, 10 August 2020

During the 2008/09 global financial crisis, European governments bailed out a large number of banks that were severely affected by the crisis. This column documents how the design of the bailout policy was determined by the fiscal capacity of the respective country. Fiscally weak countries recapitalised banks insufficiently, causing undercapitalised banks to shift their assets from loans to risky sovereign debt and engage in zombie lending, resulting in weaker overall credit supply, elevated risk in the banking sector, and, eventually, greater reliance on liquidity support from the ECB. Kicking the can down the road in 2008/09 thus sowed the seeds of the future banking crisis. These results have potential implications for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as, if the economic situation further deterioriates, banking sector stability is likely to be adversely affected.

Amore, Schwenen, 09 August 2020

Do CEOs always earn their pay? Using data on executive compensation along with accounting data for S&P 1500 firms,this column explores how swings in firm value that are unrelated to CEO actions (i.e. ‘luck’) affect CEOs’ opportunities in the labour market and the performance of firms that hire lucky CEOs. It finds that luck makes CEOs more likely to move to a new firm subject to low analyst coverage and in less competitive industries, where they receive a higher pay compared to industry peers. Hiring lucky CEOs harms firm performance due to a surge in operating costs and a poorer usage of corporate assets.

Aucejo, French, Ugalde Araya, Zafar, 09 August 2020

New research is emerging which evaluates how COVID-19 has already impacted a generation of students. This column uses a survey of students at one of the largest public universities in the US to show that while pandemic has been broadly disruptive to students, this disruption has been much larger for lower-income students. This seems to be primarily driven by lower-income students being more likely to have been financially impacted by COVID-19 and more worried about the direct health risks from the virus.

Horvath, Kay, Wix, 08 August 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing public health interventions have disrupted economic activity in the US. This column examines the impact of the COVID-19 shock on the use and availability of consumer credit through March 2020. In counties affected by the pandemic, creditworthy borrowers reduced their credit use, but riskier borrowers increased their outstanding credit card balances. While both pandemic severity and non-pharmaceutical interventions negatively affected credit use, the pandemic itself was the main driver. Banks reduced the credit limits and increased the APR spreads of newly issued cards to riskier borrowers, consistent with a flight-to-safety response.

Ewens, Malenko, 08 August 2020

Corporate governance of privately held firms is becoming increasingly important given the rise in the number of private firms and recent governance scandals at such firms. This column examines the structure of the board of directors at venture-capital-backed startups and documents new facts about private-firm board size, the allocation of control, and board-composition dynamics. Within firms, board control shifts over time from venture capitalists to entrepreneurs. Independent directors play a previously under-explored ‘mediation’ role, mediating and resolving disputes between venture capitals and entrepreneurs.

Mamaysky, 08 August 2020

The COVID-19 crisis has been characterised by extremely volatile markets and extremely negative news coverage. Using all relevant Reuters news articles from January to June 2020, this column shows that a 12-topic model effectively tracks the evolution of crisis news flow. In the early stages of the crisis, markets frequently reacted to uninformative news. This dynamic underwent a structural break in mid-March, likely due to Fed interventions, after which markets became more ‘normal’. Investors, lacking early hard evidence on the effects of the crisis, interpreted many news stories as being informative about future pandemic outcomes, even though they were not.

Corsetti, Duarte, Mann, 07 August 2020

A persistent challenge for the ECB has been meeting the various needs and demands of euro area member states. This column provides empirical and quantitative evidence suggesting that the transmission of the ECB’s monetary policy varies significantly across member states. For variables such as those related to housing and labour markets, the dispersion of responses to a monetary shock is twice as large as the average response. The results also suggest that the disruption to market integration brought about by the COVID-19 crisis may create further challenges to conducting monetary policy in the euro area.

Gropp, Ongena, Rocholl, Saadi, 07 August 2020

Recessions are periods of low opportunity costs for time and resources, and hence can facilitate a productivity-enhancing reallocation of resources and improve productivity growth. However, recessions can also slow productivity growth by intensifying credit frictions, for instance, through the accumulation of legacy assets in the banking sector. This column investigates the interaction between these two channels in the recent banking crisis and shows that US regions with more restructuring of inefficient banks during the post-Global Crisis recession experienced higher productivity growth in the real sector in subsequent years.

Aizenman, Ito, 07 August 2020

The political-economy trilemma, introduced by Dani Rodrik (2000), asserts that the three policy goals of national sovereignty, democracy, and globalisation, cannot all be achieved to the full extent simultaneously. This column investigates this trilemma by developing indexes that measure the extent of attainment of the three factors during 1975-2016. It finds that there is a linear relationship between globalisation and national sovereignty (i.e. a dilemma) for industrialised countries, while all three indexes are linearly correlated (i.e. a trilemma) for developing countries.

Goodhart, Tsomocos, Wang, 07 August 2020

A sizeable proportion of enterprises, especially SMEs, in receipt of financial assistance from the government will fail to repay. This column asks whether, and to what extent, it may be beneficial to apply a screening mechanism to deter those mostly likely to fail to repay from seeking financial assistance in the first place. The answer largely turns on the relative weights attached for the objectives of stabilisation as compared with allocative efficiency.

Acharya, 07 August 2020

Viral Acharya tell Tim Phillips that the action to save Europe's financial sector after 2008 has delayed reform in the banking sector - creating a decade of lending to zombie firms that has stifled economic growth.

Ahammer, Halla, Lackner, 06 August 2020

Social distancing is important to slow the community spread of COVID-19. This column studies the banning of mass gatherings, a comparably low-cost intervention. Exploiting exogenous variation in top-flight basketball and ice hockey games in the US, which arise due to the leagues' predetermined schedules, and the suspension of the 2019-20 seasons, it estimates the impact of indoor mass gatherings on COVID-19 mortality in affected US counties. The findings suggest that one additional mass gathering increased the cumulative number of COVID-19 deaths in affected counties by 9%.

Li, Ponticelli, 06 August 2020

The lack of an efficient and independent judicial system can impede economic development by negatively affecting firms’ ability to invest, innovate, and reallocate capital towards more productive projects. This is indeed a concern for China. This column exploits the introduction of specialised bankruptcy courts in different Chinese cities between 2007 and 2017 to examine its effects on the local economy. Specialisation leads to faster resolution of bankruptcy cases, especially for state-owned firms. It also increased local firms’ average product of capital and decreased the share of labour employed in zombie-intensive industries compared to cities where insolvency is still resolved exclusively by civil courts.

Martinez-Miera, Repullo, 06 August 2020

The question of whether low interest rates foster or hamper financial stability has recently received ample attention both from policy as well as the academic circles,  leading to the development of a large, mostly empirical, literature on the topic. This column presents a framework to analyse the relevance of the financial sector’s market structure in answering this question. It shows that in markets with low competition lower safe rates result in less risk-taking by financial intermediaries, while in highly competitive markets lower safe rates result in higher risk-taking.

Ilzetzki, 05 August 2020

Pupils in schools across the UK have lost up to 105 days of education due to school closures during the COVID-19 lockdown and a second wave of the pandemic, likely in the autumn, may disrupt education further. This column discusses the latest Centre for Macroeconomics survey, in which the panel predicted that the cost to UK economic growth in the will be minor to moderate. However, the panel was unanimous that school closures will increase inequality, with a large majority of the panel predicting a persistent increase in inequality. The panel also predicted harm to gender equality, with many predicting persistent increases in inequality along gender lines.

Presbitero, Wiriadinata, 05 August 2020

As interest rate-growth differentials (r-g) have turned negative in many countries, now could be the time for governments to pursue fiscal expansions. However, the downside risks of such policies should not be disregarded. Using a large sample of economies, this column finds that high and increasing public debts, especially when denominated in foreign currencies, can lead to more volatile r-g dynamics. In particular, this is associated with higher probabilities of r-g reversals, tail risks, and an increased exposure to domestic and global shocks. Policymakers should take note of these risks when designing future fiscal expansions.

Meltzer, 05 August 2020

The Court of Justice of the European Union recently delivered its verdict in the Schrems II case, ruling that the EU-US Privacy Shield is invalid. This column addresses the implications for adequacy and standard contractual clauses as well as the broader issue of how to balance national security and privacy goals. It concludes with observations about the potential impact of the decisions for the US and beyond and suggests some ways forward.   

Wolski, Wruuck, 05 August 2020

The COVID-19 crisis has had a substantial impact on labour markets throughout Europe. This column uses new data sources based on Google Trends reports in order to investigate the speed of transmission of the crisis into individuals’ concerns about becoming unemployed. The results indicate that this transmission is linked to corporate resilience. A stronger financial position of firms to withstand liquidity shortfalls may have helped to cushion the deterioration in job market sentiment during the outbreak of the pandemic, suggesting the importance of bolstering liquidity as a way of sheltering jobs. 

Andrade, Gautier, Mengus, 04 August 2020

According to macroeconomic theory, managing inflation expectations is crucial for stabilising the economy. This is particularly true in times of crisis, when the nominal interest rate hits its lower bound. This column provides new evidence from France on how the inflation expectation channel operates in terms of consumer spending. The results suggest that households make consumption decisions based on the broad inflation regime that they expect, rather than with regards to the precise inflation forecast.

Felbermayr, Kirilakha, Syropoulos, Yalcin, Yotov, 04 August 2020

In recent years, economic sanctions have increasingly become ‘the tool of choice’ in responses to international political challenges related to geo-political conflicts. But are sanctions successful in achieving their purported objectives? And what are the economic costs of sanctions in a world that is increasingly interconnected with global value-chains and multinational enterprises?  This column introduces a new dataset of economic sanctions that covers all bilateral, multilateral, and plurilateral sanctions in the world from 1950 to 2016 that can be utilised to analyse sanctions policies.

Goodhart, Schulze, Tsomocos, 04 August 2020

A decade of near-zero, and even negative, interest rates in advanced economies has both encouraged the continued accumulation of debt and a search for yield in riskier assets, while at the same time eroding bank profitability in the retail business. This column discusses some of the palliative measures that central banks have taken to offset the erosion of bank profitability, and raises the question of whether, and how, the longer-term implications of the excessive accretion of debt will be handled.

Stiglitz, Rashid, 03 August 2020

From Latin America’s lost decade in the 1980s to the more recent Greek crisis, there are plenty of painful reminders of what happens when countries cannot service their debts. This column argues that a global debt crisis today would likely push millions of people into unemployment and fuel instability and violence around the world, and proposes a multilateral sovereign debt buyback facility which could be managed by the IMF.

Altavilla, Gürkaynak, Motto, Ragusa, 03 August 2020

Mapping the impact of central bank policy communications onto yield curve changes  is important but challenging. This column studies policy communications of the ECB and maps these communications onto yield curve changes by studying the information flow on days when a monetary policy decision is communicated. Using the now publicly available Euro Area Monetary Policy Event-Study Database,it finds that different monetary policy measures affect different segments of the interest rate term structure, with policy rate changes mostly influencing the short end of the curve, quantitative easing measures more the long end, and forward guidance policies affecting intermediate maturities. 

Basso, Rachedi, 03 August 2020

Advanced and developing economies are experiencing a swift process of population ageing that will shape both long-run macroeconomic trends, such as economic growth, as well as short-term business cycle fluctuations. Although the implications of population ageing on countries’ fiscal capacity have been extensively analysed, this column argues that secular shifts in demographics can also influence the effectiveness of fiscal policy as a demand-management tool. Using a New Keynesian model with a lifecycle structure,  it shows that output fiscal multipliers are larger in younger economies.

Campos, Eichenauer, Sturm, 03 August 2020

Economists have long assumed a virtuous cycle between integration and reforms. Implementing structural reforms helps maximise gains from integration, while the deepening of integration would foster reforms. This column discusses new research on European integration, its relationship with reforms and economic growth. It finds that integration triggered product market, but neither labour nor financial market, reforms. It also shows that, to understand the effects of reforms on economic growth, sectoral differences are less important than country heterogeneity. 

Hanushek, Kinne, Lergetporer, Woessmann, 02 August 2020

Differences in student achievement are strongly related to both future individual earnings and national economic growth. Cultural traits that underlie intertemporal decision-making may affect how much students learn. Using data for close to two million students across 49 countries during 2000–2018, this column looks at levels of patience and risk-taking and its effect on student performance. A positive effect of patience and a negative effect of risk-taking can account for two-thirds of the cross-country variation in student achievement. Among migrant students, patience and risk-taking levels of the students’ countries of origin had remarkably similar effects on educational performance in the host country.

Pinotti, 01 August 2020

Understanding the economic incentives and consequences of crime is an important area of research with immense policy implications, but it is not without challenges. This column summarises new evidence from studies on the causes and consequences of crime in Italy, focusing on recent improvements that address challenges related to the measurement of crime and to the identification of a clear effect of crime on economic outcomes.

Le Moglie, Sorrenti, 01 August 2020

Criminal organisations invest vast sums of money within the legal economies of many countries worldwide. These investments provide criminal organisations with a powerful tool to raise forms of social consensus in some portions of the population. This column provides a characterisation of organised crime’s investment in Italy’s legal economy, a country historically plagued by the presence of criminal groups. The results indicate that during periods of economic and social downturn, organised crime may capitalise on the weaknesses of the institutional response to the crisis, consolidating and possibly expanding, its role as an investor in the legal economy.

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