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Series:Public Policy Discussion Paper 

Discussion Paper
Alternative measures of the Federal Reserve banks' cost of equity capital
The Monetary Control Act of 1980 requires the Federal Reserve System to provide payment services to depository institutions through the twelve Federal Reserve Banks at prices that fully reflect the costs a private-sector provider would incur, including a cost of equity capital (COE). Although Fama and French (1997) conclude that COE estimates are ?woefully? and ?unavoidably? imprecise, the Reserve Banks require such an estimate every year. We examine several COE estimates based on the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) and compare them using econometric and materiality criteria. Our results suggest that the benchmark CAPM applied to a large peer group of competing firms provides a COE estimate that is not clearly improved upon by using a narrow peer group, introducing additional factors into the model, or taking account of additional firm-level data, such as leverage and line-of-business concentration. Thus, a standard implementation of the benchmark CAPM provides a reasonable COE estimate, which is needed to impute costs and set prices for the Reserve Banks? payments business.
AUTHORS: Barnes, Michelle L.; Lopez, Jose A.
DATE: 2005

Discussion Paper
The Boston Fed study of consumer behavior and payment choice: a survey of Federal Reserve System employees
The way people pay for goods and services is changing dramatically, but little data and research on consumer behavior and payment choice are publicly available. This paper describes the results of a survey of payment behavior and attitudes taken by Federal Reserve employees in 2004. Major contributions of the survey are that it asks: 1) why payment choices are made; 2) why individual payment behavior has changed; and 3) why individual-specific payment characteristics matter for payment choice. Although the survey is not statistically representative of U.S. consumers, and thus may not provide accurate estimates of aggregate U.S. payment trends, many results are consistent with data from more representative payment surveys. For example, the data show a trend away from check-writing and toward electronic and emerging payment methods, but the choice of payment method depends on the type of payment, amount of payment, and other complex factors. Also, cost, convenience, and control over timing are the most important characteristics determining respondents' adoption and use of payment methods. We find that payment characteristics vary widely across respondents, partly because of inherent heterogeneity but perhaps also because of measurement error, misperception, or inadequate information (lack of consumer education). Cross-sectional evidence shows that respondents tend to use payment methods in a manner broadly consistent with their reported assessments of the payment characteristics.
AUTHORS: Crowe, Marianne; Blair, Krista; Schuh, Scott; Benton, Marques
DATE: 2007

Discussion Paper
Lifestyle prices and production
Using scanner data and time diaries, we document how households substitute time for money through shopping and home production. We find evidence that there is substantial heterogeneity in prices paid across households for identical consumption goods in the same metro area at any given point in time. For identical goods, prices paid are highest for middle-aged, rich, and large households, consistent with the hypothesis that shopping intensity is low when the cost of time is high. The data suggest that a doubling of shopping frequency lowers the price paid for a given good by approximately 10 percent. From this elasticity and observed shopping intensity, we impute the shopper?s opportunity cost of time, which peaks in middle age at a level roughly 40 percent higher than that of retirees. Using this measure of the price of time and observed time spent in home production, we estimate the parameters of a home production function. We find an elasticity of substitution between time and market goods in home production of close to 2. Finally, we use the estimated elasticities for shopping and home production to calibrate an augmented lifecycle consumption model. The augmented model predicts the observed empirical patterns quite well. Taken together, our results highlight the danger of interpreting lifecycle expenditure without acknowledging the changing demands on time and the available margins of substituting time for money.
AUTHORS: Hurst, Erik; Aguiar, Mark
DATE: 2005

Discussion Paper
The taxation of equity, dividends, and stock prices
The Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 (JGTRRA) essentially halved the tax rate on dividends and reduced the top tax rate on capital gains. This paper explores the likely effect of JGTRRA on the composition of returns on corporations? common stock. Both larger corporations? past behavior and theory suggest that the recent tax cuts are not likely to increase dividend payouts significantly. Instead, in the short run, dividends will continue to rise in the customary way in response to the recovery in earnings. In the longer run, the tax cuts will principally reduce companies? cost of capital, fostering capital deepening, when the economy is at full employment. With constant returns to scale prevailing at full employment, capital deepening reduces corporations? average gross return on assets and equity. Because the tax cuts increase the value of each dollar of earnings for shareholders, they could raise price-earnings ratios by more than 10 percent and stock prices by more than 6 percent. By fostering capital deepening, the tax cuts also tend to increase the real compensation of labor at full employment.
AUTHORS: Kopcke, Richard W.
DATE: 2005

Discussion Paper
The theory of life-cycle saving and investing
How much should a family save for retirement and for the kids? college education? How much insurance should they buy? How should they allocate their portfolio across different assets? What should a company choose as the default asset allocation for a mandatory retirement saving plan? We believe that the life-cycle model developed by economists over the last fifty years provides guidance for making such decisions. The theory teaches us to view financial assets as vehicles for transferring resources across different times and outcomes over the life cycle, and that perspective allows households and planners to think about their decisions in a logical and rigorous way. This paper lays out and illustrates the basic analytical framework from the theory in nonmathematical terms, with the aim of providing guidance to financial service providers, consumers, and policymakers.
AUTHORS: Willen, Paul S.; Bodie, Zvi; Treussard, Jonathan
DATE: 2007

Discussion Paper
Optimal retirement asset decumulation strategies: the impact of housing wealth
A considerable literature examines the optimal decumulation of financial wealth in retirement. We extend this line of research to incorporate housing, which comprises the majority of most households? non-pension wealth. ; We estimate the relationship between the returns on housing, stocks, and bonds, and simulate a variety of decumulation strategies incorporating reverse mortgages. We show that homeowner?s reversionary interest, the amount that can be borrowed through a reverse mortgage, is a surprisingly risky asset. Under our baseline assumptions we find that the average household would be as much as 24 percent better off taking a reverse mortgage as a lifetime income relative to what appears to be the most common strategy: delaying tapping housing wealth until financial wealth is exhausted and then taking a line of credit. In addition, the results show that housing wealth displaces bonds in optimal portfolios, making the low rate of participation in the stock market even more of a puzzle.
AUTHORS: Webb, Anthony; Triest, Robert K.; Sun, Wei
DATE: 2007

Discussion Paper
Account-to-account electronic money transfers: recent developments in the United States
This paper reviews recent developments in online and mobile banking in the United States that provide bank account holders with low-cost interfaces to manage account-to-account electronic money transfers. The paper analyzes the emerging decentralized market in which A2A money transfers are becoming available in the United States and compares it with the A2A market in other countries. The paper constructs analytical examples to explain and evaluate the structure of the emerging U.S. market and discusses possible policy actions that may enhance the use of A2A money transfers in the United States.
AUTHORS: Shy, Oz
DATE: 2011

Discussion Paper
Deciding to distrust
We employ experiments to illustrate one factor contributing to the lack of distrust in the recent corporate scandals: Trust rather than no trust was the default. People are more trusting when the default is full trust than when it is no trust. We introduce a new game, the distrust game (DTG), where the default is full trust and find that in it, trust levels are higher than in the Berg, Dickhaut, and McCabe (1995) trust game (TG), where the default is no trust. At the same time, trustworthiness levels are lower in the DTG than in the TG. Agents (second movers) punish distrust more in the DTG than the lack of trust in the TG, but principals (first movers) do not correctly anticipate this. The distrust game produces more efficient outcomes than the trust game but also more inequality: Principals end up much worse than their agents in the DTG.
AUTHORS: Meier, Stephan; Bohnet, Iris
DATE: 2005

Discussion Paper
Impending U.S. spending bust?: the role of housing wealth as borrowing collateral
Using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, this paper considers the mechanism by which changing house values impact U.S. household spending. The results suggest that house values affect consumption by serving as collateral for households to borrow against to smooth their spending. The results show that the consumption of households who need to borrow against their home equity increases by roughly 11 cents per $1.00 increase in their housing wealth. Changing house values, however, have little effect on the expenditures of households who do not need to borrow to finance their consumption. Based on these results, the paper further finds that declining housing wealth has a relatively small implied negative impact on aggregate consumption expenditures.
AUTHORS: Cooper, Daniel H.
DATE: 2009

Discussion Paper
TIPS scorecard: are TIPS accomplishing what they were supposed to accomplish?: can they be improved?
In September 1997, the U.S. Treasury developed the TIPS market in order to achieve three important policy objectives: (1) to provide consumers with a class of assets that allows for hedging against real interest rate risk, (2) to provide holders of nominal contracts a means of hedging against inflation risk, and (3) to provide everyone with a reliable indicator of the term structure of expected inflation. This paper evaluates progress toward the achievement of these objectives and analyzes prospective ways to better meet these objectives in the future, by, for example, extending the maturity of TIPS and/or the use of inflation indexes suited to particular geographic regions or demographics. We conclude by arguing that while it is tempting to consider completing markets by introducing more TIPS-like securities indexed to inflation rates more tailored to particular demographics, our analysis suggests that TIPS indexed to CPI do, in fact, facilitate good synthetic hedges against unexpected changes in inflation for many different investors, since the various inflation measures are very highly correlated. We do, however, argue for extending the maturity of TIPS.
AUTHORS: Barnes, Michelle L.; Bodie, Zvi; Triest, Robert K.; Wang, J. Christina
DATE: 2009

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