How Macroeconomics has evolved Before and After the Global Crisis by Professor Assaf Razin Tel Aviv University and Cornell University EBA Special Lecture July 11, 2011
Current Global Crisis: 4 Acts • Act I: Credit-fed Asset Bubble • Act II: Financial Collapse after the Burst of the bubble • Act III: spillovers to the real economy • Act IV: Sovereign Debt Crises
Proximate Causes • Financial innovation, globalization, and reduced transparency in the financial intermediation • Global imbalances: China excess lending flown into USA to finance excess borrowing • Panicky in the free fall of asset prices • Under capitalized banking system and credit crunch
Historical Precedents? • The great depression? • Japan in the 1990s? • Sweden in the 1980s? • The saving and loan crisis in the US in the 1980?
History Carmen Reinhart of Maryland and Ken Rogoff identify previous 18 banking crises in industrial countries since the second world war. They find what they call "stunning qualitative and quantitative parallels across a number of standard financial crisis indicators" - the common themes that translate these individual dramas into the big-picture story of financial boom and bust. Their study is focused on the US,
Banking Crises BANKING CRISES ARE PROTRACTED, THEY NOTE, WITH OUTPUT DECLINING, ON AVERAGE, FOR TWO YEARS. ASSET MARKET COLLAPSES ARE DEEP, WITH REAL HOUSE PRICES FALLING, AGAIN ON AVERAGE, BY 35 PER CENT OVER SIX YEARS AND EQUITY PRICES DECLINING BY 55 PER CENT OVER 3½ YEARS. THE RATE OF UNEMPLOYMENT RISES, ON AVERAGE, BY 7 PERCENTAGE POINTS OVER FOUR YEARS, WHILE OUTPUT FALLS BY 9 PER CENT.
Remarkable prediction to the Global Crisis • The current unemployment situation in the USA, 9.2 percent, bears a remarkable similarity to Reinhart-Roggof account of the prolonged bust that came after previous banking crises.
Monetary Policy and Asset Prices: Pre-crisis Prevailng View • During the past quarter century, monetary authorities in developed countries have remarkably successful in reducing and stabilizing inflation. • This phenomenon is coined” the great moderation”
Irrational exuberance • A common view was that asset prices are driven by exogenous shocks to investor beliefs or preferences that have little to do with underlying macro fundamentals. • Greenspan, famously used the phrase irrational exuberance
Asset prices reflect expectations about economic growth • An alternative view is that asset markets • They reflect evolving beliefs about the long term prospects for the economy, particularly trends about growth, rather than Irrational exuberance, which describe an exogenous shock to investor beliefs
Fluctuations in asset markets • The same period, however, has seen major fluctuations in asset markets. • The equity bull markets during the 1980s and the 1990s, • the boom and bust in technology stocks during the late 1990s and early 2000s, • And the dramatic rise in hose prices that busted into the “great recession “
Early Warning • In 2006 there were warning predictions: from a few studies : • Ceccheti, in an empirical study, finds strong linkages between housing markets and the macroeconomy. Housing booms predict strong economic growth in the near term, weak economic growth in the longer term, and relatively high inflation.
Financial accelerator and inflation targeting • Gilchrist and Saito , use in the model the financial accelerator model : high asset prices increase the collateral of entrepreneurs and lower the external cost of funds for investment. • They find, using standard loss function, that a policy of aggressive inflation targeting is less than ideal because, while stabilizing inflation, it allows the financial accelerator to destabilize output.
Pre-crisis monetary policy thinking Schools of thought had a remarkable convergence before the 2008 crisis. Backed by the New Keynesian paradigm Macroeconomists thought that: Monetary policy should have one target, inflation, and one instrument, the policy rate. As long as inflation was stable, the output gap was expected to be small and stable; and 1 target , 1 tool monetary policy did its job.
Fiscal policy as playing a secondary role, with political constraints limiting its usefulness. Financial regulation was mostly outside the macroeconomic policy framework.
The “Great Moderation” which supported a convergence in macroeconomics • The decline in the variability of output and inflation led to greater confidence that a coherent macro framework had been achieved. • In addition, the successful responses to the 1987 stock market crash, the LTCM collapse, and the bursting of the tech (dotcom) bubble reinforced the view that monetary policy was also well equipped to deal with asset price busts. • Thus, by the mid-2000s, it was not unreasonable to think that better macroeconomic policy could deliver, and had delivered, higher economic stability.
Business cycles theory before the 2008 crisis • Business cycle based on price rigidity, Lucas suggested, last only as long as price- and wage-setters can’t disentangle nominal from real shocks - and monetary or fiscal policy can’t stabilize the economy, at most they add noise. • Real business cycles are driven by productivity shocks. • The welfare cost of business cycles emanates essentially from breaks in the smoothed path of consumption of a representative consumer in normal times. The cCosts of such productivity shock related business cycle fluctuations are small.
Credit frictions were ignored in this welfare calculus of business cycles
Monetary policy--One target The one target: Inflation • Stable and low inflation was presented as the primary, if not exclusive, mandate of central banks. • This justified by the reputational need of central bankers to focus on inflation • no such reputation issues are associated with economic activity • An intellectual support for inflation targeting provided by the New Keynesian model.
benchmark version of the New Keynesian model • In the benchmark version of that model, constant inflation is indeed the optimal policy, delivering a zero output gap, which turns out to be the best possible outcome for activity given the imperfections present in the economy. Even if policymakers cared about activity, the best they could do was to maintain stable inflation. There was also consensus that inflation should be very low (most central banks targeted 2% inflation).
Stable inflation maintains stable activity • Even if policymakers cared about activity, the best they could do was to maintain stable inflation. There was also consensus that inflation should be very low (most central banks targeted 2% inflation).
Monetary policy: One instrument The policy rate • Monetary policy focused on one instrument, the policy interest rate. • Under the prevailing assumptions, one only needed to affect current and future expected short rates, and all other rates and prices would follow through arbitrage relations in a perfectly functioning capital market.
Arbitrage across time and assets • Arbitrage across time and assets means that the long term rate is a compounded sequence of expected policy rates -central bank control both short and long rates. • Arbitrage across assets means that fed rate can influence other assets rates.
A limited role assigned for fiscal policy • Following its glory days of the Keynesian 1950s and 1960s, and the high inflation of the 1970s, fiscal policy took a backseat in the past two-three decades. • The reasons included skepticism about the effects of fiscal policy, itself largely based on Ricardian equivalence arguments; concerns about lags and political influences in the design and implementation of fiscal policy; and the need to stabilize and reduce typically high debt levels. • Automatic stabilizers could be left to play when they did not conflict with fiscal sustainability.
The details of financial intermediation seen as irrelevant for monetary policy • An exception was made for commercial banks, with an emphasis on the “credit channel.” • The possibility of runs justified ofcourse deposit insurance and the traditional role of central banks as lenders of last resort. The resulting distortions were the main justification for bank regulation and supervision. Little attention was paid, however, to the rest of the financial system from a macro standpoint
The global crisis vs. the Great Depression: Similarly sized shocks but strikingly different policy reactions The Great D and the Great R Have one thing in common: A big financial shock; But the policy reaction was different: Balanced budget and tight liquidity vs. deficits, bank bailouts and credit easing
Central Bank is using new tools: Credit easing and quantitative easing • Quantitative easing: open market transactions in T bills to influence long rates • Credit easing: open market operations in non government securities to lend to illiquid sectors
And, the effectiveness of the expansionary fiscal policy is strengthened when monetary policy is constrained by the zero lower bound
Macroeconomics: The Post-Crisis Division • Take government budget deficits, which now exceed 10 per cent of gross domestic product in countries such as the US and the UK. • One camp of macroeconomists (The “Ricardians”), CAMP I, claims that, if not quickly reversed, such deficits will lead to rising interest rates and a crowding out of private investment..
Instead of stimulating the economy, the deficits will lead to a new recession coupled with a surge in inflation
Budget Deficits • Wrong, says the other camp, CAMP II. There is no danger of inflation. These large deficits are necessary to avoid deflation. A clampdown on deficits would intensify the deflationary forces in the economy and would lead to a new and more intense recession.
Second camp on fiscal policy • Camp II, the “Keynesians”, predict that the same 1 per cent of extra government spending multiplies into significantly more than 1 per cent of extra GDP each year until the end of 2012. This is the stuff of dreams for governments, because such multiplier effects are likely to generate additional tax income so that budget deficits decline.
Monetary Policy: Camp I • One camp warns that the build-up of massive amounts of liquidity is the surest road to hyperinflation and advises central banks to prepare an “exit strategy”.
Monetary Policy: Camp II • Camp II: The build-up of liquidity just reflects the fact that banks are hoarding funds to improve their balance sheets. They sit on this pile of cash but do not use it to increase credit. Once the economy picks up, central banks can withdraw the liquidity as fast as they injected it. The risk of inflation is zero; indeed, there is a risk of deflation.
Does the controversy between Camp I and Camp II matter? • Take the issue of government deficits. • If you want to forecast the long-term interest rate, it matters a great deal which of the two camps you believe. If you believe the first one, you will fear future inflation and you will sell long-term government bonds. As a result, bond prices will drop and rates will rise, prolonging the recession. You will have made a reality of the fears of the first camp.
An alternative self-fulfilling equilibrium • But if you believe the story told by the camp II, you will buy long-term government bonds, allowing the government to spend without a surge in rates, thereby contributing to a recovery.
Positions • Camp II declared that we were in a liquidity trap, which meant that some of the usual rules no longer applied: the expansion of the Fed’s balance sheet wouldn’t be inflationary — in fact the danger was a slide toward deflation; the government’s borrowing would not lead to a spike in interest rates. Camp I declared that we were in imminent danger of runaway inflation, and that federal borrowing would lead to very high interest rates.
Policy making under uncertainty • The two camps have also wildly different estimates of the effect of a 1 per cent permanent increase in government spending on real US GDP over the next four years. According to the first camp, the “Ricardians”, the multiplier is closer to zero than to one, i.e., 1 per cent extra spending generates much less than 1 per cent of extra GDP, producing little extra tax revenue. Thus budget deficits surge with fiscal stimulus and become unsustainable.
Fiscal multiplier when the policy rate is at the lowest bound • But, according to the camp II, the “Keynesians”, the multiplier is above one when the monetary policy rate is at its lower bound, , i.e., 1 per cent extra spending generates much more than 1 per cent of extra GDP, producing more extra tax revenue. Thus budget deficits become more sustainable.
Banking panic– missing from the conventional macro • In a banking panic, depositors run en masse to their banks and demand their money back. The bank system cannot honor these demands because they lent the money out or they hold long term bonds. To honor the demands of depositors, banks must sell assets, but only the central bank is large enough to be a significant buyer of these assets.
The Panic of 2007-2008 • The panic in 2007 was not like the previous panics in US history because they involved firms and institutional investors, not households. • The bank liabilities of interest were not deposits but repurchase agreement, called “repo”. The collateral for “repo” is securitized bonds. • These liabilities are not insured by the FDIC.
Some general lessons? • Beyond the division into the two camps, what are the more general lessons?
Macroeconomic fragilities may arise even when inflation is stable • Core inflation was stable in most advanced economies until the crisis started. Some have argued in retrospect that core inflation was not the right measure of inflation, and that the increase in oil or housing prices should have been taken into account. But no single index will do the trick. Moreover, core inflation may be stable and the output gap may nevertheless vary, leading to a trade-off between the two. Or, as in the case of the pre-crisis 2000s, both inflation and the output gap may be stable, but the behaviour of some asset prices and credit aggregates, or the composition of output, may be undesirable.
Low inflation limits the scope of monetary policy in deflationary recessions When the crisis started in earnest in 2008, and aggregate demand collapsed, most central banks quickly decreased their policy rate to close to zero. Had they been able to, they would have decreased the rate further. But the zero nominal interest rate bound prevented them from doing so. Had pre-crisis inflation (and consequently policy rates) been somewhat higher, the scope for reducing real interest rates would have been greater.
Financial intermediation matters Markets are segmented, with specialized investors operating in specific markets. Most of the time, they are well linked through arbitrage. However, when some investors withdraw (because of losses in other activities, cuts in access to funds, or internal agency issues) the effect on prices can be very large. When this happens, rates are no longer linked through arbitrage, and the policy rate is no longer a sufficient instrument. Interventions, either through the acceptance of assets as collateral, or through their straight purchase by the central bank, can affect the rates on different classes of assets, for a given policy rate. In this sense, wholesale funding is not fundamentally different from demand deposits, and the demand for liquidity extends far beyond banks.
Countercyclical fiscal policy The crisis has returned fiscal policy to centre stage for two main reasons. First, monetary policy had reached its limits. Second, from its early stages, the recession was expected to be long lasting, so that it was clear that fiscal stimulus would have ample time to yield a beneficial impact despite implementation lags. The aggressive fiscal response has been warranted given the exceptional circumstances, but it has further exposed some drawbacks of discretionary fiscal policy for more “normal” fluctuations – in particular lags in formulating, enacting, and implementing appropriate fiscal measures. The crisis has also shown the importance of having “fiscal space,” as some economies that entered the crisis with high levels of government debt had limited ability to use fiscal policy.
A Set of Monetary policy tools • Policy interest rate—the central policy tool • Foreign Reserve accumulation- to affect the exchange rate • Cyclical banks’ capital ratios-raise capital during bubbles; lower capital in normal times • Housing market loans to value ratios-maximum mortgage as a ratio of the acquisition cost • Capital Controls