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  • Author: Steven B. Kamin, Laurie Pounder DeMarco
  • Publication Date: 01-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
  • Abstract: The global financial crisis clearly started with problems in the U.S. subprime sector and spread across the world from there. But was the direct exposure of foreigners to the U.S. financial system a key driver of the crisis, or did other factors account for its rapid contagion across the world? To answer this question, we assessed whether countries that held large amounts of U.S. mortgage-backed securities (MBS) and were highly dependent on dollar funding experienced a greater degree of financial distress during the crisis. We found little evidence of such “direct contagion” from the United States to abroad. Although CDS spreads generally rose higher and bank stocks generally fell lower in countries with more exposure to U.S. MBS and greater dollar funding needs, these correlations were not robust, and they fail to explain the lion’s share of the deterioration in asset prices that took place during the crisis. Accordingly, channels of “indirect contagion” may have played a more important role in the global spread of the crisis: a generalized run on global financial institutions, given the opacity of their balance sheets; excessive dependence on short-term funding; vicious cycles of mark-to-market losses driving fire sales of MBS; the realization that financial firms around the world were pursuing similar (flawed) business models; and global swings in risk aversion. The U.S. subprime crisis, rather than being a fundamental driver of the global crisis, may have been merely a trigger for a global bank run and for disillusionment with a risky business model that already had spread around the world.
  • Topic: Financial Crisis, Global Financial Crisis, Housing
  • Political Geography: United States, North America
  • Author: Scott Baier, Mark Clements, Jane Ihrig
  • Publication Date: 03-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
  • Abstract: This paper examines the effect that biofuels production has had on commodity and global food prices. The innovative contribution of this paper is the interactive spreadsheet that allows the reader to choose the assumptions behind the estimates. By allowing the reader to choose the country, time period, supply and demand elasticities, and the size of indirect effects we explicitly illustrate the sensitivity of the estimated effect of biofuels production on prices. Our best estimates suggest that the increase in biofuels production over the past two years has had a sizeable impact on corn, sugar, barley and soybean prices, but a much smaller impact on global food prices. Over the past two years (ending June 2008), we estimate that the increase in worldwide biofuels production pushed up corn, soybean and sugar prices by 27, 21 and 12 percentage points respectively. The countries that account for most of the upward pressure on these prices are the United States and Brazil. Our best estimates suggest that the increase in U.S. biofuels production (ethanol and biodiesel) pushed up corn prices by more than 22 percentage points and soybean prices (soybeans and soybean oil) by more than 15 percentage points, while the increase in EU biofuels production pushed corn and soybean prices up around 3 percentage points. Brazil’s increase in sugar-based ethanol production accounts for the entire rise in the price of sugar. Although biofuels had a noticeable impact on individual crop prices, they had a much smaller impact on global food prices. Our best estimate suggests that the increase in worldwide biofuels production over the past two years accounts for just over 12 percent of the rise in the IMF’s food price index. The increase in U.S. biofuels production accounts for roughly 60 percent of this effect, while Brazil accounts for 14 percent and the EU accounts for 15 percent. The key take- away point is that nearly 90 percent of the rise in global food prices comes from factors other than biofuels.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Food, Biofuels, Ethanol
  • Political Geography: United States, Brazil, South America, North America
  • Author: Christopher Erceg, Luca Guerrieri, Steven B. Kamin
  • Publication Date: 08-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
  • Abstract: Among the various explanations for the runup in oil and commodity prices of recent years, one story focuses on the role of monetary policy in the United States and in developing economies. In this view, developing countries that peg their currencies to the dollar were forced to ease their monetary policies after reductions in U.S. interest rates, leading to economic overheating, excess demand for oil and other commodities, and rising commodity prices. We assess that hypothesis using the Federal Reserve staff’s forward-looking, multi- country, dynamic general equilibrium model, SIGMA. We find that even if many developing country currencies were pegged to the dollar, an easing of U.S. monetary policy would lead to only a transitory runup in oil prices. Instead, strong economic growth in many developing economies, as well as shortfalls in oil production, better explain the sustained runup in oil prices observed until earlier this year. Moreover, a closer look at exchange rates and interest rates around the world suggests that the monetary policies of many developing economies, including in East Asia, are less closely influenced by U.S. policies than is frequently assumed.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Oil, Commodities, Interest Rates
  • Political Geography: United States, North America
  • Author: Davide Debortoli, Ricardo Nunes
  • Publication Date: 07-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
  • Abstract: We analyze how public debt evolves when successive policymakers have different policy goals and cannot make credible commitments about their future policies. We consider several cases to be able to disentangle and quantify the respective effects of imperfect commitment and political disagreement. Absent political turnover, imperfect commitment drives the long-run level of debt to zero. With political disagreement, debt is a sizeable fraction of GDP and increasing in the degree of polarization among parties, no matter the degree of commitment. The frequency of political turnover does not produce quantitatively relevant effects. These results are consistent with much of the existing empirical evidence. Finally, we find that in the presence of political disagreement the welfare gains of building commitment are lower.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: David M. Arseneau, Sanjay K. Chugh
  • Publication Date: 01-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
  • Abstract: A growing body of evidence suggests that ongoing relationships between consumers and firms may be important for understanding price dynamics. We investigate whether the existence of such customer relationships has important consequences for the conduct of both long-run and short-run policy. Our central result is that when consumers and firms are engaged in long-term relationships, the optimal rate of price inflation volatility is very low even though all prices are completely flexible. This finding is in contrast to those obtained in first-generation Ramsey models of optimal fiscal and monetary policy, which are based on Walrasian markets. Echoing the basic intuition of models based on sticky prices, unanticipated inflation in our environment causes a type of relative price distortion across markets. Such distortions stem from fundamental trading frictions that give rise to long-lived customer relationships and makes pursuing inflation stability optimal.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Houtan Bastani, Luca Guerrieri
  • Publication Date: 02-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
  • Abstract: A key application of automatic differentiation (AD) is to facilitate numerical optimization problems. Such problems are at the core of many estimation techniques, including maximum likelihood. As one of the first applications of AD in the field of economics, we used Tapenade to construct derivatives for the likelihood function of any linear or linearized general equilibrium model solved under the assumption of rational expectations. We view our main contribution as providing an important check on finite-difference (FD) numerical derivatives. We also construct Monte Carlo experiments to compare maximum-likelihood estimates obtained with and without the aid of automatic derivatives. We find that the convergence rate of our optimization algorithm can increase substantially when we use AD derivatives.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Stephanie E. Curcuru, Tomas Dvorak, Francis E. Warnock
  • Publication Date: 02-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
  • Abstract: Were the U.S. to persistently earn substantially more on its foreign investments ("U.S. claims") than foreigners earn on their U.S. investments ("U.S. liabilities"), the likelihood that the current environment of sizeable global imbalances will evolve in a benign manner increases. However, using a monthly dataset on the foreign equity and bond portfolios of U.S. investors and the U.S. equity and bond portfolios of foreign investors, we find that the returns differential for portfolio securities is near zero, far smaller than previously reported. Examining all U.S. claims and liabilities (portfolio securities as well as direct investment and banking), we find that previous estimates of large differentials are biased upward. The bias owes to computing implied returns from an internally inconsistent dataset of revised data; original data produce a much smaller differential. We also attempt to reconcile our finding of a near zero returns differential with observed patterns of cumulated current account deficits, the net international investment position, and the net income balance. Overall, we find no evidence that the U.S. can count on earning substantially more on its claims than it pays on its liabilities.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Joseph W. Gruber, Steven B. Kamin
  • Publication Date: 03-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
  • Abstract: This paper addresses the popular view that differences in financial development explain the pattern of global current account imbalances. One strain of thinking explains the net flow of capital from developing to industrial economies on the basis of the industrial economies' more advanced financial systems and correspondingly more attractive assets. A related view addresses why the United States has attracted the lion's share of capital flows from developing to industrial economies; it stresses the exceptional depth, breadth, and safety of U.S. financial markets.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Ricardo Correa
  • Publication Date: 03-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
  • Abstract: This paper uses data on publicly-traded firms in the U.S. to analyze the effect of interstate bank integration on the financial constraints borrowers face. A firm-level investment equation is estimated in order to test if bank integration reduces the sensitivity of capital expenditures to the level of internal funds. The staggered deregulation of cross-state bank acquisitions that took place in the U.S. between 1978 and 1994 helps estimate the model. Integration decreases financing constraints for bank-dependent firms. The change in firms' access to external finance is explained by an increase in the share of locally headquartered geographically diversified banks.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Francis E. Warnock, John Ammer, Sara B. Holland, David C. Smith
  • Publication Date: 05-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
  • Abstract: This paper investigates the underlying determinants of home bias using a comprehensive sample of U.S. investor holdings of foreign stocks. We document that U.S. cross-listings are economically important, as U.S. ownership in a foreign firm roughly doubles upon cross-listing in the United States. We explore the cross-sectional variation in this "cross-listing effect" and show that increases in U.S. investment are largest in firms from weak accounting backgrounds and in firms that are otherwise informationally opaque, indicating that U.S. investors value the improvements in disclosure associated with cross-listing. We confirm that relative equity valuations rise for cross-listed stocks, and provide evidence suggesting that valuation increases are due in part to increases in U.S. shareholder demand and in part to the fact that the equities become more attractive to non-U.S. shareholders.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States