Mortgaging the future?
In the six decades following World War II, bank lending measured as a ratio to GDP has quadrupled in advanced economies. To a great extent, this unprecedented expansion of credit was driven by a dramatic growth in mortgage loans. Lending backed by real estate has allowed households to leverage up and has changed the traditional business of banking in fundamental ways. This ?Great Mortgaging? has had a profound influence on the dynamics of business cycles.
Macrofinancial History and the New Business Cycle Facts
In advanced economies, a century-long near-stable ratio of credit to GDP gave way to rapid financialization and surging leverage in the last forty years. This ?financial hockey stick? coincides with shifts in foundational macroeconomic relationships beyond the widely-noted return of macroeconomic fragility and crisis risk. Leverage is correlated with central business cycle moments, which we can document thanks to a decade-long international and historical data collection effort. More financialized economies exhibit somewhat less real volatility, but also lower growth, more tail risk, as well ...
The Great Mortgaging: Housing Finance, Crises, and Business Cycles
This paper unveils a new resource for macroeconomic research: a long-run dataset covering disaggregated bank credit for 17 advanced economies since 1870. The new data show that the share of mortgages on banks? balance sheets doubled in the course of the 20th century, driven by a sharp rise of mortgage lending to households. Household debt to asset ratios have risen substantially in many countries. Financial stability risks have been increasingly linked to real estate lending booms which are typically followed by deeper recessions and slower recoveries. Housing finance has come to play a ...
Bubbles, Credit, and Their Consequences
The collapse of an asset price bubble usually creates a great deal of economic disruption. But bubbles are hard to anticipate and costly to deflate. As a result, policymakers struggle to determine how they should respond, if at all. Evaluating the economic costs of past equity and real estate bubbles?with particular attention to how much credit grew during boom phases?can provide valuable insights for this debate. A recent study finds that equity bubbles are relatively benign. More danger comes from housing bubbles in which credit grows rapidly.
Collateral damage: trade disruption and the economic impact of war
Conventional wisdom in economic history suggests that conflict between countries can be enormously disruptive of economic activity, especially international trade. Yet nothing is known empirically about these effects in large samples. We study the effects of war on bilateral trade for almost all countries with available data extending back to 1870. Using the gravity model, we estimate the contemporaneous and lagged effects of wars on the trade of belligerent nations and neutrals, controlling for other determinants of trade. We find large and persistent impacts of wars on trade, and hence on ...
Gaucho banking redux
Argentina's economic crisis has strong similarities with previous crises stretching back to the nineteenth century. A common thread runs through all these crises: the interaction of a weak, undisciplined, or corruptible banking sector, and some other group of conspirators from the public or private sector that hasten its collapse. This pampean propensity for crony finance was dubbed "gaucho banking" more than one hundred years ago. What happens when such a rotten structure interacts with a convertibility plan? We compare the 1929 and 2001 crises-the two instances where rigid convertibility ...
Effects of Quasi-Random Monetary Experiments
The trilemma of international finance explains why interest rates in countries that fix their exchange rates and allow unfettered cross-border capital flows are largely outside the monetary authority’s control. Using historical panel-data since 1870 and using the trilemma mechanism to construct an external instrument for exogenous monetary policy fluctuations, we show that monetary interventions have very different causal impacts, and hence implied inflation-output trade-offs, according to whether: (1) the economy is operating above or below potential; (2) inflation is low, thereby bringing ...
What risks do asset price bubbles pose for the economy? This paper studies bubbles in housing and equity markets in 17 countries over the past 140 years. History shows that not all bubbles are alike. Some have enormous costs for the economy, while others blow over. We demonstrate that what makes some bubbles more dangerous than others is credit. When fueled by credit booms,asset price bubbles increase financial crisis risks; upon collapse they tend to be followed by deeper recessions and slower recoveries. Credit-financed housing price bubbles have emerged as a particularly dangerous ...
Decomposing the Fiscal Multiplier
Unusual circumstances often coincide with unusual fiscal policy actions. Much attention has been paid to estimates of how fiscal policy affects the macroeconomy, but these are typically average treatment effects. In practice, the fiscal “multiplier” at any point in time depends on the monetary policy response. Using the IMF fiscal consolidations dataset for identification and a new decomposition-based approach, we show how to evaluate these monetary-fiscal effects. In the data, the fiscal multiplier varies considerably with monetary policy: it can be zero, or as large as 2 depending on ...
Zombies at Large? Corporate Debt Overhang and the Macroeconomy
With business leverage at record levels, the effects of corporate debt overhang on growth and investment have become a prominent concern. In this paper, we study the effects of corporate debt overhang based on long-run cross-country data covering the near universe modern business cycles. We show that business credit booms typically do not leave a lasting imprint on the macroeconomy. Quantile local projections indicate that business credit booms do not affect the economy’s tail risks either. Yet in line with theory, we find that the economic costs of corporate debt booms rise when ...