Macroeconomic policy

Maarten Verwey, Björn Döhring, 07 July 2020

Forecasters agree that the economic fallout from COVID-19 has caused the sharpest drop in economic activity in Europe and globally since WWII. Just how deep the drop of activity was in the second quarter, which sectors were most strongly affected by containment measures, and how swift the rebound will be as they are gradually lifted is still very uncertain. This column describes how the European Commission’s Summer 2020 interim European Economic Forecast now estimates a deeper drop of output in the second quarter of the current year than was anticipated earlier. The recovery is also now expected to be less swift than was projected in Spring, with differences across Member States set to be more pronounced. Minimising hysteresis and avoiding persistent economic divergences within the EU and euro area requires the rapid agreement and deployment of common support measures at the EU level. The risk otherwise is of significant distortions to the internal market and of even deeper divergences between countries that could ultimately threaten the smooth functioning of the monetary union. 

Manuel A. Muñoz, 03 July 2020

According to the evidence, banks in the euro area are particularly reluctant to cut back on dividends during economic recessions. That is, the bulk of the adjustment in the face of negative shocks that hit bank profits is borne by undistributed net income. This column argue that this pattern can notably exacerbate the impact of a negative supply shock such as the COVID-19 pandemic on bank lending and economic activity. Using a macro-banking DSGE model calibrated to quarterly data of the euro area economy, it concludes that restricting dividend distributions has the potential to significantly improve the effectiveness of the countercyclical capital buffer release in ensuring that banks keep funding households and firms during the COVID-19 crisis.

David Baqaee, Emmanuel Farhi, 29 June 2020

Covid-19 is an unusual combination of supply and demand shocks. These shocks propagate through supply chains, causing different sectors to become demand-constrained or supply-constrained. This column uses a disaggregated Keynesian model to identify the shocks, classify the sectors, and draw implications for policy. Negative sectoral supply shocks and shocks to the sectoral composition of demand generate more than 7% inflation, and this inflation is kept in check by a large negative aggregate demand shock. There is considerable slack in economy, with 6% Keynesian unemployment, but it is concentrated in certain sectors. As a result, untargeted aggregate demand stimulus, while desirable, is less effective than in a typical recession. 

Gianluca Benigno, Jon Hartley, Alicia García-Herrero, Alessandro Rebucci, Elina Ribakova, 29 June 2020

Emerging economies are fighting COVID-19 and the economic sudden stop imposed by the containment and lockdown policies, in the same way as advanced economies. However, emerging markets also face large and rapid capital outflows as a result of the pandemic. This column argues that credible emerging market central banks could rely on purchases of local currency government bonds to support the needed health and welfare expenditures and fiscal stimulus. In countries with flexible exchange rate regimes and well-anchored inflation expectations, such quantitative easing would help ease financial conditions, while minimising the risks of large depreciations and spiralling inflation. 

Dirk Niepelt, 22 June 2020

Notoriously inconclusive policy recommendations and the failure to foresee the Great Recession have caused many commentators to voice doubts about the usefulness of macroeconomics. This column argues that macroeconomics can offer a coherent framework to understand and evaluate policy options, but macroeconomists need to explain the field’s subject matter and findings better to both policymakers and the general public. A new textbook aims at closing the gulf between macroeconomic research and widespread misconceptions about it by providing a concise and rigorous introduction to modern macroeconomic theory.

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