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Commodity prices, commodity currencies, and global economic developments

In this paper, we seek to produce forecasts of commodity price movements that can systematically improve on naive statistical benchmarks. We revisit how well changes in commodity currencies perform as potential efficient predictors of commodity prices, a view emphasized in the recent literature. In addition, we consider different types of factor-augmented models that use information from a large data set containing a variety of indicators of supply and demand conditions across major developed and developing countries. These factor-augmented models use either standard principal components or ...
Staff Reports , Paper 387

Report
Capital constraints, counterparty risk, and deviations from covered interest rate parity

We provide robust evidence of a deviation in the covered interest rate parity (CIP) relation since the onset of the financial crisis in August 2007. The CIP deviation exists with respect to several different dollar-denominated interest rates and exchange rate pairings of the dollar vis-a-vis other currencies. The results show that our proxies for margin conditions and for the cost of capital are significant determinants of the CIP deviations, especially during the crisis period. The supply of dollars by the Federal Reserve to foreign central banks via reciprocal currency arrangements (swap ...
Staff Reports , Paper 393

Report
Compositional dynamics and the performance of the U.S. banking industry

As the U.S. banking industry continuously evolves, changes in industry composition have a direct impact on the aggregate performance of the industry. This paper presents a new decomposition framework for commercial banks and shows that both firm-level changes and dynamic reallocation effects--due to increased market share of successful banks, exit of poor performers, and new entrants--made substantial contributions to changes in profitability and capitalization of the U.S. banking industry from 1976 to 1998. In periods of declining profits, these reallocations were particularly important, ...
Staff Reports , Paper 98

Report
Have amenities become relatively more important than firm productivity advantages in metropolitan areas?

We analyze patterns of compensating differentials to determine whether a region's bundle of site characteristics has a greater net effect on household location decisions relative to firm location decisions in U.S. metropolitan areas over time. We estimate skill-adjusted wages and attribute-adjusted rents using hedonic regressions for 238 metropolitan areas in 1990 and 2000. Within the framework of the standard Roback model, we classify each metropolitan area based on whether amenities or firm productivity advantages dominate and analyze the extent to which these classifications change between ...
Staff Reports , Paper 344

Report
Financial intermediation, asset prices, and macroeconomic dynamics

Fluctuations in the aggregate balance sheets of financial intermediaries provide a window on the joint determination of asset prices and macroeconomic aggregates. We document that financial intermediary balance sheets contain strong predictive power for future excess returns on a broad set of equity, corporate, and Treasury bond portfolios. We also show that the same intermediary variables that predict excess returns forecast real economic activity and various measures of inflation. Our findings point to the importance of financing frictions in macroeconomic dynamics and provide quantitative ...
Staff Reports , Paper 422

Report
The role of consumption substitutability in the international transmission of shocks

This paper develops a general framework to analyze the welfare consequences of monetary and fiscal shocks in an open economy, focusing on the role of the degree of substitutability between goods produced in different countries. We find that an expansionary shock that would be beneficial in a closed economy can have an adverse "beggar-thyself" effect in the country where it takes place, or an adverse "beggar-thy-neighbor" effect on its neighbor. Such effects depend significantly on the degree of substitutability between goods produced in different countries, as well as the exact nature ...
Staff Reports , Paper 67

Report
Social Security, benefit claiming, and labor force participation: a quantitative general equilibrium approach

We build a general equilibrium model of overlapping generations that incorporates endogenous saving, labor force participation, work hours, and Social Security benefit claims. Using this model, we study the impact of three Social Security reforms: 1) a reduction in benefits and payroll taxes; 2) an increase in the earliest retirement age, to sixty-four from sixty-two; and 3) an increase in the normal retirement age, to sixty-eight from sixty-six. We find that a 50 percent cut in the scope of the current system significantly raises asset holdings and the labor input, primarily through higher ...
Staff Reports , Paper 436

Report
Liquidity in U.S. fixed income markets: a comparison of the bid-ask spread in corporate, government and municipal bond markets

We examine the determinants of the realized bid-ask spread in the U.S. corporate, municipal and government bond markets for the years 1995 to 1997, based on newly available transactions data. Overall, we find that liquidity is an important determinant of the realized bid-ask spread in all three markets. Specifically, in all markets, the realized bid-ask spread decreases in the trading volume. Additionally, risk factors are important in the corporate and municipal markets. In these markets, the bid-ask spread increases in the remaining-time-to maturity of a bond. The corporate bond spread also ...
Staff Reports , Paper 73

Report
Housing busts and household mobility

Using two decades of American Housing Survey data from 1985 to 2005, we estimate the influence of negative home equity and rising mortgage interest rates on household mobility. We find that both factors lead to lower, not higher, mobility rates over time. The effects are economically large -- mobility is almost 50 percent lower for owners with negative equity in their homes. This finding does not imply that current concerns over defaults and homeowners having to relocate are entirely misplaced. It does indicate that, in the past, the mortgage lock-in effects of these two factors were dominant ...
Staff Reports , Paper 350

Report
How do college students form expectations?

This paper focuses on how college students form expectations about various major-specific outcomes. For this purpose, I collect a panel data set of Northwestern University undergraduates that contains their subjective expectations about major-specific outcomes. Although students tend to be overconfident about their future academic performance, they revised their expectations in expected ways. The updating process is found to be consistent with a Bayesian learning model. I show that learning plays a role in the decision to switch majors, and that major-switchers respond to information from ...
Staff Reports , Paper 378

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