Kim Abildgren, Andreas Kuchler, 01 December 2020

The extent to which negative monetary policy interest rates stimulate the economy has a subject of recent discussion among academics and policymakers. Using new comprehensive Danish microdata, this column shows that firms exposed to negative deposit rates to a higher degree than other firms increase their fixed investments and employment – after due control for changes in the level of interest rates. These findings are suggestive of an additional monetary transmission channel operating as nominal interest rates cross zero and become negative.

Elena Durante, Annalisa Ferrando, Philip Vermeulen, 30 November 2020

Monetary policy affects firms’ investment behaviour through an interest rate channel and a balance sheet channel. This column uses investment data from over one million firms in Germany, Spain, France, and Italy to analyse the transmission of monetary policy shocks. It finds heterogeneity in the effects depending on firm size and industry – young firms and those producing durable goods react more strongly than the average firm. Embedding these findings into macroeconomic models used in policymaking would enhance the information available to decision makers. 

Stefano Micossi, 20 October 2020

As the world comes to terms with a post-Covid reality, the euro area must confront its growing fiscal and sovereign debts. This column argues that common euro area policies are justified in order to address sovereign debt externalities and risks to financial stability. It considers a mechanism involving large transfers of euro area sovereigns from the ECB to the ESM as a possible way forward.

Carlo Altavilla, Francesca Barbiero, Miguel Boucinha, Lorenzo Burlon, 03 October 2020

The spread of the COVID-19 virus and the associated economic downturn has prompted vast policy responses by governments. This column assesses the effectiveness of policies targeted at supporting bank lending conditions in the euro area. It finds that banks were largely able to accommodate the unprecedented credit demand due to the funding cost and capital relief of the pandemic response measures. The close coordination between monetary policy and prudential measures has contributed by generating a sizable amplification effect on lending. Consequently, an even larger decline in firms’ employment was averted. 

Johannes Fleck, Adrian Monninger, 02 October 2020

Household portfolios in the euro area differ systematically between countries. As a result, ECB policies have asymmetric effects and views on a potential EU financial transaction tax are divergent. This column argues that cross-country variation in portfolio structures is due to variation in country-specific beliefs on social and communal insurance. These beliefs lead to differences in subjective expectations regarding the availability of external support during financial distress. This means that they regulate the extent to which households use their portfolios for self-insurance, as well as their readiness to participate in debt markets.

Demosthenes Ioannou, Maria Sole Pagliari, Livio Stracca, 18 September 2020

The debate over the incomplete and fragile nature of Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union has been revived by the Covid-19 pandemic. This column shows that adverse shocks within EMU can be identified and are transmitted to the rest of the world, with implications for economic activity and trade in advanced and emerging economies. Despite the important steps taken during the pandemic by euro area authorities, the drive to complete EMU with a genuine fiscal and financial union needs to continue for the sake of both the euro area and the rest of the world.

Lorenzo Codogno, Giancarlo Corsetti, 18 September 2020

The EU Recovery Plan agreed upon in July 2020 supports investment activity through grants and loans to member states at close-to-zero interest rates. This column suggests that its implementation could give a substantial boost to the economy and fiscal revenues under very conservative assumptions on multipliers. In addition, as the ECB is keeping interest rates and government bond yields low, also through its asset purchase programmes, if it refrains from reacting forcefully to potential upward pressures on prices caused by the massive fiscal stimulus, even a gradual and delayed ‘normalisation’ of interest rates would not undermine debt sustainability. 

Márcia Pereira, José Tavares, 17 September 2020

Crises such as the sovereign debt crisis and the current Covid-19 crisis place significant pressure on European institutions, raising scepticism over policy decisions and speculation as to how member states’ differing needs are taken into account. This column uses estimated counter-factual country-specific interest rates to extract the country weights implicit in the ECB’s conventional monetary policy. Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands are associated with the largest weights, and Greece and Ireland with the smallest. Nonetheless, the weights of the larger economies are smaller than their output and population shares. The results change minimally when the crisis period is compared with the period before. In sum, while weights differ across countries, they do not seem to unduly weigh larger economies. Further, estimated country weights are positively correlated with the degree of co-movement between each country’s and Germany’s business cycles.

Charles Goodhart, Tatjana Schulze, Dimitri 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.

Maritta Paloviita, Markus Haavio, Pirkka Jalasjoki, Juha Kilponen, Ilona Vänni, 28 July 2020

The introductory statements made by the ECB are some of the most important sources of insight into the central banks’ policy goals. This column presents a textual analysis which seeks to measure the tone of the statements, with the aim of estimating the Governing Council's ‘loss function’. The results suggest that the ECB has been either more averse to inflation above the 2% ceiling, or that the de facto inflation target has been considerably below this threshold. The results also suggest that an inflation aim of 2%, combined with asymmetry, is a plausible specification of the ECB's wider preferences.

Anne-Laure Delatte, Alexis Guillaume, 17 July 2020

There was a risk of another euro crisis in Spring 2020. Yet, after a massive sell-off of peripheral bonds, the markets have stabilised. This column analyses the impact of events over the last months on euro area sovereign bond spreads. It finds that differences in healthcare capacity are reflected in bond prices, markets prefer fiscal transfers to loans-based financial assistance programs, and that ECB speeches have stronger effects than deeds during the crisis episode. Of all the euro area members, Italian spreads benefited most from the recent policy interventions.

Yothin Jinjarak, Rashad Ahmed, Sameer Nair-Desai, Weining Xin, Joshua Aizenman, 06 July 2020

There is an importance relationship between prevailing market factors and the dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic across the euro area. This column presents evidence to suggest that during the pandemic, adjustments in euro area credit default swap spreads diverge substantially from levels implied by theoretical models. Mortality outcomes and fiscal announcements account for a proportion of this divergence. Results also imply ‘COVID dominance’, whereby the widening spreads can lead to unconventional monetary policies that primarily aim to mitigate the short-run distress of the worst economic outcomes, temporarily pushing away concerns over fiscal risk.

Paul De Grauwe, Sebastian Diessner, 18 June 2020

There is growing acceptance that some form of monetary finance is needed, if not inevitable, in light of the severity of the downturn in the euro area. This column argues that while a monetisation of the deficits induced by the COVID-19 crisis would eventually increase the price level so that, after a return to economic normalcy, inflation would rise for a couple of years, this is a price worth paying to avoid future sovereign debt crises in the euro area. Moreover, the ECB, as the most independent central bank in the world, would be well equipped to prevent the inflationary upsurge from becoming permanent.

Ignazio Angeloni, 26 May 2020

In 2012, at the peak of the euro crisis, the leaders of the EU launched the banking union, involving the transfer of large parts of the banking regulatory and supervisory framework from the national domain to the euro area. This column introduces a new report which takes stock of this reform so far and proposes policy measures to improve its performance. It identifies three strategic goals for regulatory and supervisory action aimed at reviving the banking union: reduce overbanking among weaker players; favour consolidation and enhance efficiency among the stronger ones; strengthen balance sheets further, while encouraging area-wide diversification. The proposed measures cover, among other areas, the crisis management mechanism, with a revamp of the instruments and functions of the Single Resolution Board; banking supervision, to enhance the ECB’s action in the micro and macroprudential fields; and the state-aid controls in the banking sector.

Stephen Cecchetti, Kim Schoenholtz, 22 May 2020

Despite significant reforms over the last two decades, the euro area remains divided, both politically and financially. This column reviews the progress towards the completion of the European monetary union and highlights the remaining gaps. The euro area remains behind the US in terms of risk sharing, banking and capital markets union, and labour mobility. In addition, there is no common fiscal policy to provide support in response to regional shocks. The COVID-19 crisis is a severe test for the euro area, which should be met with renewed calls for solidarity and integration.

Olivier Darmouni, Oliver Giesecke, Alexander Rodnyansky, 20 May 2020

The share of firms’ borrowing from bond markets has been rising globally. This column argues that euro area companies with more bond debt are disproportionately affected by surprise monetary shocks, compared to firms with mostly bank debt. This finding stands in contrast to the predictions of a standard bank lending channel and points toward frictions in bond financing. This provides lessons for the conduct of monetary policy in times of hardship such as COVID-19, when the corporate sector suffers from liquidity shortages.

Chang Ma, John Rogers, Sili Zhou, 13 May 2020

Forecasting the progress and impact of COVID-19 is central to the planning of policymakers around the world. This column provides a historical perspective by examining the immediate and bounce-back effects from six post-war disease shocks. GDP growth contractions are immediate and sizeable, but vary across countries. Despite an immediate ‘bounce back’, GDP tends to remain below its pre-shock level for several years. The negative effect on GDP is felt less in countries with larger first-year responses in government spending, especially on health care, and the indirect effects on GDP growth from affected trading partners are also important.

Fredrik N G Andersson, Lars Jonung, 08 May 2020

Negative interest rates were once seen as impossible outside the realm of economic theory. However, recently several central banks have imposed such rates, with prominent economists supporting this move. This column investigates the actual effects of negative interest rates, taking evidence from the Swedish experience during 2015-2019. It is evident that the policy’s effect on the inflation rate was modest, and that it contributed to increased financial vulnerabilities. The lesson from the experiment is clear: Do not do it again.

Johannes Bubeck, Angela Maddaloni, José-Luis Peydró, 23 April 2020

The way that banks in the euro area react to negative central bank interest rates may be closely linked to their individual funding structure. This column suggests that they do not generally pass negative rates on to their depositors, and that they search for yield by investing in riskier securities. New evidence suggests that their investments are directed more towards securities issued by the private sector and securities denominated in dollars.

Daniel Baksa, Zsuzsa Munkacsi, Carolin Nerlich, 12 April 2020

Ageing populations can transform the composition of an economy’s labour force and threaten the stability of its pension system. This column examines the possible effects of reversing the recent pension reforms adopted since the early 2000s. It appears that reversing past pension reforms would be very costly and would put a disproportionate burden on current and future young generations. Even without reversals, further reforms are needed to address the adverse macroeconomic and fiscal impact of population ageing.

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