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  • Author: Maria Demertzis, Nicola Viegi
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Bruegel
  • Abstract: In both Europe and the United States, interest rates have been declining for more than fifteen years. For much of this period, real interest rates have been negative and they are expected to remain negative for at least another decade. The literature associates this decline in interest rates with a similarly protracted decline in productivity. But the decline in productivity appears paradoxical given major technological advances. The decline in the price of capital is underpinned by the factors that have caused a decline in demand for capital, as well as a relative increase in its supply. On the supply side, aging and an increase in overall macroeconomic risk since the financial crisis have both led to increased savings. On the demand side, the increase in the importance of intangible capital in production has reduced the demand for physical capital. Nevertheless, for the US, the literature has identified the increase in market concentration as the biggest factor responsible for the reduction in the overall demand for capital. Digital innovation has led to the creation of champion firms that have captured big market shares and have been able to prevent others from entering not only the US market, but markets globally. This has dampened investment. Europe is affected by US digital dominance, but other factors, including aging and increased risk, are more prominent in sustaining the downward pressure on interest rates. In particular, the lack of risk capital, in the context of capital markets, contributes to this downward pressure in the EU. As the knowledge economy relies increasingly on intangible capital, a bank-based system that requires collateral is not well suited to finance investments. A lack of suitable finance will remain an important factor in the downward pressure on interest rates. The structural factors behind the downward pressure on interest rates imply that macroeconomic policy will have a reduced role in managing aggregate demand. Monetary policy in the euro area will be more about preventing financial fragmentation and less about stimulating demand. Equally, fiscal policy will have more of a supporting rather than stimulating role. Tackling the structural decline in market dynamism and therefore in real rates will require structural policies to reduce market power globally and ensure the creation of capital markets in the EU.
  • Topic: Monetary Policy, Governance, European Union, Finance, Macroeconomics
  • Political Geography: Europe, North America, United States of America
  • Author: John A. Allison
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The Covid‐​19 pandemic greatly increased the scope and power of the Federal Reserve. The Fed created a number of new emergency lending facilities, which allowed it to make off‐​balance sheet loans and buy the debt of corporations and municipalities through special purpose vehicles backstopped by the Treasury under the CARES Act. Meanwhile, the Fed’s large‐​scale asset purchase program, known as quantitative easing (QE), was put on steroids after the pandemic struck in March 2020. The Fed has been purchasing longer‐​term Treasuries and mortgage‐​backed securities amounting to $120 billion per month, pushing the size of its balance sheet to an astonishing $7 trillion.
  • Topic: Economics, Monetary Policy, Federal Reserve, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Caitlin Long
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Stablecoins are financial obligations issued on a blockchain. They are generally fully collateralized with either fiat currency deposits at a bank, or with short‐​term government bonds held at a custodian. They’re issued only by nonbanks, although FINMA in Switzerland does allow Swiss banks to issue Swiss franc–denominated stablecoins. Usually stablecoins do not pay interest, and they are designed to trade at par with the fiat currency. Because they are issued on a blockchain, they usually settle in minutes, with irreversibility, and — critically — they are “programmable,” which means users can build their own software applications to interact with them.
  • Topic: Monetary Policy, Banks, Digital Currency
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Jeb Hensarling, Phil Gramm, John B. Taylor
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The Fed’s huge balance sheet allows it to engage in credit policy (the composition of the balance sheet is by definition credit policy), which inherently auto‐​resides in fiscal policy — but should auto‐​reside with Congress. This discussion, moderated by John B. Taylor, took place at the Cato Institute’s 38th Annual Monetary Conference on November 19, 2020. The transcript has been edited for publication.
  • Topic: Economics, Monetary Policy, Federal Reserve, Credit
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America