Wednesday, 3 December 2014

IFDP1126: Cyclically Adjusted Current Account Balances

Otmane El Rhazi, Jane Haltmaier. The Great Financial Crisis coincided with a sizable reduction in global external imbalances, defined as the absolute value of the sum of individual country current account surpluses and deficits relative to global GDP. Although current account balances should not respond to a downturn that is uniform across countries, one that hits countries with current account deficits harder than those with surpluses might result in a decline in the global balance. This paper quantifies the cyclical portion of the current account balance for 35 countries using estimates of the severity of the cycle in each country relative to that of its trading partners in conjunction with three estimates of the sensitivity of the current account balance to changes in the output gap. Two of the estimates are derived from equations linking trade to income and the third is derived from the relationship between changes in current account balances and changes in output gap differentials. The main result is that the bulk of the reduction in the global current account imbalance since 2006 appears to have been structural. Cyclical forces are estimated to account for between 10 and 30 percent of the decline. In the aggregate, the cyclical effect is estimated to be currently holding down the global current account balance by about 1/2 percentage point. However, the size of the cyclical effect is more substantial for some countries. Both surplus and deficit countries have contributed to the decline in the absolute value of the global current account imbalance, but the contribution of the deficit countries is about twice as large as that of the surplus countries. Changes in oil prices have had largely offsetting effects on the global current account balance, but changes in real exchange rates in recent years have contributed to the reduction. Full Text



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Tuesday, 2 December 2014

IFDP1125: How Public Information Affects Asymmetrically Informed Lenders: Evidence from a Credit Registry Reform

Otmane El Rhazi, M. Ali Choudhary and Anil K. Jain. We exploit exogenous variation in the amount of public information available to banks about a firm to empirically evaluate the importance of adverse selection in the credit market. A 2006 reform introduced by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) reduced the amount of public information available to Pakistani banks about a firm's creditworthiness. Prior to 2006, the SBP published credit information not only about the firm in question but also (aggregate) credit information about the firm's group (where the group was defined as the set of all firms that shared one or more director with the firm in question). After the reform, the SBP stopped providing the aggregate group-level information. We propose a model with differentially informed banks and adverse selection, which generates predictions on how this reform is expected to affect a bank's willingness to lend. The model predicts that adverse selection leads less informed banks to reduce lending compared to more informed banks. We construct a measure for the amount of information each lender has about a firm's group using the set of firm-bank lending pairs prior to the reform. We empirically show those banks with private information about a firm lent relatively more to that firm than other, less-informed banks following the reform. Remarkably, this reduction in lending by less informed banks is true even for banks that had a pre-existing relationship with the firm, suggesting that the strength of prior relationships does not eliminate the problem of imperfect information. Full Text



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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

2014-103: Habit, Production, and the Cross-Section of Stock Returns

Otmane El Rhazi, Andrew Y. Chen. Solutions to the equity premium puzzle should inform us about the cross-section of stock returns. An external habit model with heterogeneous firms reproduces numerous stylized facts about both the equity premium and the value premium. The equity premium is large, time-varying, and linked with consumption volatility. The cross-section of expected returns is log-linear in B/M, and the slope matches the data. The explanation for the value premium lies in the interaction between the cross-section of cash flows and the time-varying risk premium. Value firms are temporarily low productivity firms, which will eventually experience high cash flows. The present value of these temporally distant cash flows is sensitive to risk premium movements. The value premium is the reward for bearing this sensitivity. Empirical evidence verifies that value firms have higher cash-flow growth. The data also show that value stock returns are more sensitive to risk premium movements, as measured by consumption volatility shocks. Full Text



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2014-102: The Demand for Short-Term, Safe Assets and Financial Stability: Some Evidence and Implications for Central Bank Policies

Otmane El Rhazi, Mark Carlson, Burcu Duygan-Bump, Fabio Natalucci, William R. Nelson, Marcelo Ochoa, Jeremy Stein, and Skander Van den Heuvel. A number of researchers have recently argued that the growth of the shadow banking system in the years preceding the recent U.S. financial crisis was driven by rising demand for "money-like" claims--short-term, safe instruments (STSI)--from institutional investors and nonfinancial firms. These instruments carry a money premium that lowers their yields. While government securities are an important part of the supply of STSI, financial intermediaries also take advantage of this money premium when they issue certain types of low-risk, short-term debt, such as asset-backed commercial paper or repo. In this paper, we take the demand for STSI as given and consider the extent to which central banks can improve financial stability and manage maturity transformation by the private sector through their ability to affect the public supply of STSI. The first part of the paper provides new evidence that complements the existing literature on two key ingredients that are necessary for there to be a role for policy: the extent to which public short-term debt and private short-term debt might be substitutes, and the relationship between the money premium and the supply of STSI. The second part of the paper then builds on this evidence and discusses potential ways a central bank could use its balance sheet and monetary policy implementation framework to affect the quantity and mix of short-term liquid assets that will be available to financial market participants. Full Text



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Friday, 21 November 2014

2014-100: Jumps in Bond Yields at Known Times

Otmane El Rhazi, Don H. Kim and Jonathan H. Wright. We construct a no-arbitrage term structure model with jumps in the entire state vector at deterministic times but of random magnitudes. Jump risk premia are allowed for. We show that the model implies a closed-form representation of yields as a time-inhomogeneous affine function of the state vector. We apply the model to the term structure of US Treasury rates, estimated at the daily frequency, allowing for jumps on days of employment report announcements. Our model can match the empirical fact that the term structure of interest rate volatility has a hump-shaped pattern on employment report days (but not on other days). The model also produces patterns in bond risk premia that are consistent with the empirical finding that much of the time-variation in excess bond returns accrues at times of important macroeconomic data releases. Full Text



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2014-99: Limited Deposit Insurance Coverage and Bank Competition

Otmane El Rhazi, Oz Shy, Rune Stenbacka, and Vladimir Yankov. Deposit insurance designs in many countries place a limit on the coverage of deposits in each bank. However, no limits are placed on the number of accounts held with different banks. Therefore, under limited deposit insurance, some consumers open accounts with different banks to achieve higher or full deposit insurance coverage. We compare three regimes of deposit insurance: No deposit insurance, unlimited deposit insurance, and limited deposit insurance. We show that limited deposit insurance weakens competition among banks and reduces total welfare relative to no or unlimited deposit insurance. Full Text



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2014-98: Homeowner Balance Sheets and Monetary Policy

Otmane El Rhazi, Aditya Aladangady. This paper empirically identifies an important channel through which monetary policy affects consumer spending: homeowner balance sheets. A monetary loosening increases home values, thereby strengthening homeowner balance sheets and stimulating household spending due to a combination of collateral and wealth effects. The magnitude of these effects on a given household depends on local housing market characteristics such as local geography and regulation. Cities with the largest geographic and regulatory barriers to new construction see 3-4% responses in real house prices compared with unconstrained, elastic-supply cities where construction holds prices in check. Using non-public geocoded microdata from the Consumer Expenditures Survey, house price and consumption responses are compared across areas differing in local land availability and zoning laws to identify a marginal propensity to consume out of housing of 0.07. Homeowners with debt service ratios in the highest quartile have MPCs as high as 0.14 compared with negligible responses for those with low debt service ratios. This indicates a strong role for collateral effects, as opposed to pure wealth effects, in driving the relationship between home values and spending. I discuss the implications of these results for the aggregate effects and regional heterogeneity in responses to monetary shocks. Full Text



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2014-97: Identifying the Stance of Monetary Policy at the Zero Lower Bound: A Markov-switching Estimation Exploiting Monetary-Fiscal Policy Interdependence

Otmane El Rhazi, Manuel Gonzalez-Astudillo. In this paper, I propose an econometric technique to estimate a Markov-switching Taylor rule subject to the zero lower bound of interest rates. I show that incorporating a Tobit-like specification allows to obtain consistent estimators. More importantly, I show that linking the switching of the Taylor rule coefficients to the switching of the coefficients of an auxiliary uncensored Markov-switching regression improves the identification of an otherwise unidentifiable prevalent monetary regime. To illustrate the proposed estimation technique, I use U.S. quarterly data spanning 1960:1-2013:4. The chosen auxiliary Markov-switching regression is a fiscal policy rule where federal revenues react to debt and the output gap. Results show that there is evidence of policy co-movements with debt-stabilizing fiscal policy more likely accompanying active monetary policy, and vice versa. Full Text



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2014-96: It Pays to Set the Menu: Mutual Fund Investment Options in 401(k) plans

Otmane El Rhazi, Veronika K. Pool, Clemens Sialm, and Irina Stefanescu. This paper investigates whether mutual fund families acting as service providers in 401(k) plans display favoritism toward their own funds. Using a hand-collected dataset on retirement investment options, we show that poorly-performing funds are less likely to be removed from and more likely to be added to a 401(k) menu if they are affiliated with the plan trustee. We find no evidence that plan participants undo this affiliation bias through their investment choices. Finally, the subsequent performance of poorly- performing affiliated funds indicates that these trustee decisions are not information driven. Full Text



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2014-95: Dealer Networks

Otmane El Rhazi, Dan Li and Norman Schurhoff. Dealers in over-the-counter securities form networks to mitigate search frictions. The audit trail for municipal bonds shows the dealer network has a core-periphery structure. Central dealers are more efficient at matching buyers and sellers than peripheral dealers, which shortens intermediation chains and speeds up trading. Investors face a tradeoff between execution speed and cost. Central dealers provide immediacy by pre-arranging fewer trades and holding larger inventory. However, trading costs increase strongly with dealer centrality. Investors with strong liquidity need trade with central dealers and at times of market-wide illiquidity. Central dealers thus serve as liquidity providers of last resort. Full Text



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Wednesday, 19 November 2014

2014-94: The Importance of Updating: Evidence from a Brazilian Nowcasting Model

Otmane El Rhazi, Daniela Bragoli, Luca Metelli, and Michele Modugno. How often should we update predictions for economic activity? Gross domestic product is a quarterly variable disseminated usually a couple of months after the end of the quarter, but many other macroeconomic indicators are released with a higher frequency, and financial markets react very strongly to them. However, most of the professional forecasters, including the IMF, the OECD, and most central banks, tend to update their forecasts of economic activity only two to four times a year. The main exception is the Central Bank of Brazil which is responsible for collecting and publishing a daily survey on GDP and other variables. The aim of this article is to evaluate the forecasting performance of the Central Bank of Brazil Survey and to compare it with the mechanical forecasts based on state-of-the-art nowcasting techniques. Results indicate that institutional forecasts perform as well as model-based forecasts. The latter finding suggests that, on the one hand, judgmental forecasters do not have computational limitations and are able to incorporate very quickly new information in a way that is as efficient as a machine. On the other hand, it confirms what has been found in other studies, namely that a linear time invariant model does a good job and hence that eventual nonlinearities, time variations and soft information (such as weather conditions or government decisions) that could be incorporated by judgment, do not provide new important information. Full Text



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IFDP1124: Gains from Offshoring? Evidence from U.S. Microdata

Otmane El Rhazi, Ryan Monarch, Jooyoun Park, Jagadeesh Sivadasan. We construct a new linked data set with over one thousand offshoring events by matching Trade Adjustment Assistance program petition data to confidential data on U.S. firm operations. We exploit these data to assess how offshoring affects domestic firm-level aggregate employment, output, wages and productivity. Consistent with heterogenous firm models where offshoring involves a fixed cost, we find that the average offshoring firm is larger and more productive than the average non-offshorer. After initiating offshoring, firms experience large declines in employment (46.2 per cent), output (38.5 per cent) and capital (28.8 per cent) relative to their industry peers. We find no significant change in average wages or in total factor productivity measures for offshoring firms. These results are consistent across two separate difference-in-differences (DID) approaches, an instrumental variables approach, and a number of robustness checks. Thus, we find offshoring to be a strong substitute for domestic activity in this large sample of offshoring events. Full Text



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Wednesday, 12 November 2014

IFDP1123: The Replacement of Safe Assets: Evidence from the U.S. Bond Portfolio

Otmane El Rhazi, Carol Bertaut, Alexandra Tabova, and Vivian Wong. The expansion in financial sector "safe" assets, largely in the form of structured products from the U.S. and the Caribbean, in the lead-up to the global financial crisis has by now been fairly well documented. Using a unique dataset derived from security-level data on U.S. portfolio holdings of foreign securities, we show that since the crisis, it is mostly the foreign financial sector that appears to have met U.S. demand for safe and liquid investment assets by expanding its supply of debt securities. We also find a strong negative correlation between the foreign share of the U.S. financial bond portfolio and measures of U.S. safe assets availability: providing evidence on the importance of foreign-issued financial sector debt as a substitute when U.S. issued "safe" assets are scarce. Furthermore, although U.S. investors continue to tap foreign financial markets for "safe" assets, we show that the type of foreign financial debt that fills this portfolio niche post-crisis is quite different than pre-crisis. Post-crisis, we find that U.S. investors have replaced offshore-issued structured securities with high-grade U.S. dollar-denominated financial debt issued from a small group of OECD countries (most notably Australia and Canada). Lastly, these developments have led to a decline in home bias in the U.S. financial bond portfolio that we are able to document for the first time. Full Text



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Friday, 7 November 2014

2014-93: Pricing decisions in an experimental dynamic stochastic general equilibrium economy

Otmane El Rhazi, Charles N. Noussair, Damjan Pfajfar, and Janos Zsiros. We construct experimental economies, populated with human subjects, with a structure based on a nonlinear version of the New Keynesian Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium (DSGE) model. We analyze the behavior of firms' pricing decisions in four different experimental economies. We consider how well the experimental data conform to a number of accepted empirical stylized facts. Pricing patterns mostly conform to these patterns. Most price changes are positive, and inflation is strongly correlated with average magnitude, but not the frequency, of price changes. Prices are affected negatively by the productivity shock and positively by the output gap. Lagged real interest rate has a negative effect on prices, unless human subjects choose the interest rate, or firms sell perfect substitutes in the output market. There is inertia in price setting, firms integrate wage increases into their prices, and there is evidence of adaptive behavior in price-setting in our laboratory economy. The hazard function for price changes, however, is upward-sloping, in contrast to most empirical studies. Full Text



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2014-92: Financing Constraints and Unemployment: Evidence from the Great Recession

Otmane El Rhazi, Burcu Duygan-Bump, Alexey Levkov, and Judit Montoriol-Garriga. Exploiting the differential financing needs across industrial sectors, this paper shows that financing constraints of small businesses in the United States are one of the drivers explaining the unemployment dynamics during the Great Recession. We show that workers in small firms are more likely to become unemployed during the 2007-09 financial crisis if they work in industries with high external financing needs. We find very similar results for the 1990-91 recession, but not for the 2001 recession, where only the former was associated with a reduction in loan supply. These findings further support the credit constraints hypothesis. Full Text



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