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How Does Zombie Credit Affect Inflation? Lessons from Europe
Even after the unprecedented stimulus by central banks in Europe following the global financial crisis, Europe’s economic growth and inflation have remained depressed, consistently undershooting projections. In a striking resemblance to Japan’s “lost decades,” the European economy has been recently characterized by persistently low interest rates and the provision of cheap bank credit to impaired firms, or “zombie credit.” In this post, based on a recent staff report, we propose a “zombie credit channel” that links the rise of zombie credit to dis-inflationary pressures.
Zombie Credit and (Dis-)Inflation: Evidence from Europe
We show that “zombie credit”—cheap credit to impaired firms—has a disinflationary effect. By helping distressed firms to stay afloat, such credit creates excess production capacity, thereby putting downward pressure on product prices. Granular European data on inflation, firms, and banks confirm this mechanism. Industry-country pairs affected by a rise of zombie credit show lower firm entry and exit rates, markups, and product prices, as well as a misallocation of capital and labor, which results in lower productivity, investment, and value added. Without a rise in zombie credit, ...