International finance

Emmanuel Farhi, Francois Gourio, 10 March 2019

Most developed economies have experienced large declines in risk-free interest rates and lacklustre investment over the past 30 years, while the profitability of private capital has increased slightly. Using an extension of the neoclassical growth model, this column identifies what accounts for these developments. It finds that rising market power, rising unmeasured intangibles, and rising risk premia play a crucial role, over and above the traditional culprits of increasing savings supply and technological growth slowdown.

Olivier Dessaint, Thierry Foucault, Laurent Frésard, Adrien Matray, 05 March 2019

Stock prices respond to fundamental shocks (i.e. news) and non-fundamental shocks (noise). Using US data from 1996 to 2011, this column argues that stock prices are a ‘faulty informant’ for corporate managers because managers have limited ability to separate information from noise when using prices as signals about their prospects. The ensuing losses of capital investment and shareholders’ wealth are large and even affect firms that are not facing severe financing constraints or agency problems.

Maik Schmeling, Christian Wagner, 22 February 2019

According to Ben Bernanke, “monetary policy is 98% talk and 2% action”.Using data on policy rate announcements and press conferences by the ECB between 1999 and 2017, this column shows that central bank tone affects asset prices, even after controlling for policy actions and economic fundamentals. The results are consistent with the idea that communication tone is a monetary policy tool that allows central banks to affect the risk appetite of market participants and the risk premia they require.

Matt Lowe, Chris Papageorgiou, Fidel Pérez Sebastián, 20 February 2019

Capital doesn’t flow to developing countries as much as economic theory suggests it should, and this might imply that capital is misallocated across nations. This column argues that once public capital is removed from the equation, the evidence shows that private capital is allocated remarkably efficiently across nations. It also suggests that the inefficiencies related to the allocation of public capital across countries can be significant and much larger than those related to private capital. 

Anil Kashyap , Natalia Kovrijnykh, Jian Li, Anna Pavlova, 18 February 2019

A well-known puzzle in economics is that when stocks are added to the S&P 500 index, their prices rise. Using a theoretical framework and empirical evidence, this column shows that this ‘benchmark inclusion subsidy’ arises because asset managers have incentives to hold some of the equity of firms in the benchmark regardless of the risk characteristics of these firms. As a result, asset managers effectively subsidise investments by benchmark firms. As the asset management industry continues to grow, the benchmark inclusion subsidy will only get bigger. 

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