Liberty Street Economics
August 14, 2014

Just Released: Looking under the Hood of the Subprime Auto Lending Market

Andrew Haughwout, Donghoon Lee, Joelle W. Scally, and
Wilbert van der Klaauw

Today, the New York Fed released the Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit for the second quarter of 2014. Aggregate debt was relatively flat in the second quarter as housing-related debt shrank, held down by sluggish mortgage originations. But non-housing debt balances increased across the board, with especially strong gains in auto loans. Auto loan balances, which include leases, have increased for thirteen straight quarters, and originations have not been this high since the third quarter of 2006. The Quarterly Report and the following analysis are based on data from the New York Fed’s Consumer Credit Panel, a nationally representative sample drawn from anonymized Equifax credit data.

August 13, 2014

Why Didn’t Inflation Collapse in the Great Recession?

GDP contracted 4 percent from 2008:Q2 to 2009:Q2, and the unemployment rate peaked at 10 percent in October 2010. Traditional backward-looking Phillips curve models of inflation, which relate inflation to measures of “slack” in activity and past measures of inflation, would have predicted a substantial drop in inflation. However, core inflation declined by only one percentage point, from 2.2 percent in 2007 to 1.2 percent in 2009, giving rise to the “missing deflation” puzzle. Based on this evidence, some authors have argued that slack must have been smaller than suggested by indicators such as the unemployment rate or deviations of GDP from its long-run trend. On the contrary, in Monday’s post, we showed that a New Keynesian DSGE model can explain the behavior of inflation in the aftermath of the Great Recession, despite large and persistent output gaps. An implication of this model is that information about the future stance of monetary policy is very important in determining current inflation, in contrast to backward-looking Phillips curve models where all that matters is the current and past stance of policy.

August 11, 2014

Inflation in the Great Recession and New Keynesian Models

Since the financial crisis of 2007-08 and the Great Recession, many commentators have been baffled by the “missing deflation” in the face of a large and persistent amount of slack in the economy. Some prominent academics have argued that existing models cannot properly account for the evolution of inflation during and following the crisis. For example, in his American Economic Association presidential address, Robert E. Hall called for a fundamental reconsideration of Phillips curve models and their modern incarnation—so-called dynamic stochastic general equilibrium (DSGE) models—in which inflation depends on a measure of slack in economic activity. The argument is that such theories should have predicted more and more disinflation as long as the unemployment rate remained above a natural rate of, say, 6 percent. Since inflation declined somewhat in 2009, and then remained positive, Hall concludes that such theories based on a concept of slack must be wrong.

August 08, 2014

Crisis Chronicles: The Hamburg Crisis of 1799 and How Extreme Winter Weather Still Disrupts the Economy

James Narron, David Skeie, and Don Morgan

With intermittent war raging across much of Western Europe near the end of the eighteenth century, by about 1795, Hamburg had replaced Amsterdam as an important hub for commodities trade. And from 1795 to 1799, Hamburg boomed. Prices for goods increased, the harbor was full, and warehouses were bulging. But when a harsh winter iced over the harbor, excess demand and speculation drove up prices. By spring, demand proved lower than supply, and prices started falling, credit tightened, and the decline in prices accelerated. So when a ship bound for Hamburg laden with gold sunk off the coast, an act meant to avert a crisis failed to do so. In this issue of Crisis Chronicles, we use some diverse sources from the American Machinist and Mary Lindemann’s Patriots and Paupers to explore the Hamburg crisis of 1799 and describe how harsh winter weather still impacts the economy today.

Posted by Blog Author at 7:00 AM in Crisis Chronicles | Permalink | Comments ( 0 )

August 06, 2014

The Slow Recovery in Consumer Spending

Jonathan McCarthy

One contributor to the subdued pace of economic growth in this expansion has been consumer spending. Even though consumption growth has been somewhat stronger in the past couple of quarters, it has still been weak in this expansion relative to previous expansions. This post concentrates on consumer spending on discretionary and nondiscretionary services, which has been a subject of earlier posts in this blog. (See this post for the definition of discretionary versus nondiscretionary services expenditures and this post for a subsequent update.) Discretionary expenditures have picked up noticeably over recent quarters but, unlike spending on nondiscretionary services, they remain well below their pre-recession peak. Even so, the pace of recovery for both discretionary and nondiscretionary services in this expansion is well below that of previous cycles. One explanation is that weak income expectations continue to constrain household spending.

Posted by Blog Author at 7:00 AM in Macroecon | Permalink | Comments ( 3 )

August 04, 2014

Financial Stability Monitoring

In a recently released New York Fed staff report, we present a forward-looking monitoring program to identify and track time-varying sources of systemic risk. Our program distinguishes between shocks, which are difficult to prevent, and the vulnerabilities that amplify shocks, which can be addressed. Drawing on a substantial body of research, we identify leverage, maturity transformation, interconnectedness, complexity, and the pricing of risk as the primary vulnerabilities in the financial system. The monitoring program tracks these vulnerabilities in four sectors of the economy: asset markets, the banking sector, shadow banking, and the nonfinancial sector. The framework also highlights the policy trade-off between reducing systemic risk and raising the cost of financial intermediation by taking pre-emptive actions to reduce vulnerabilities.

July 31, 2014

Just Released: Updated Study of the Competitiveness of Puerto Rico’s Economy Proposes Steps to Address the Island’s Fiscal Stress

James Orr

An Update on the Competitiveness of Puerto Rico’s Economy, released today, offers six steps that the Island’s government should consider taking to restore its fiscal health. Puerto Rico faces interrelated economic and fiscal challenges. The report characterizes economic activity in Puerto Rico as flat at a depressed level and shows that public debt has risen to about 100 percent of GNP, a high ratio compared with the ratios for U.S. mainland states and a number of foreign economies. Besides the weak economy, the main sources of the debt buildup have been increasing general government deficits; debt incurred by COFINA, a special-purpose bond issuing entity; and rising deficits in a group of public-sector corporations that provide a variety of services on the Island, including electricity, water, and transportation. A series of ratings downgrades eventually pushed the credit ratings on the Island’s debt below investment grade in early 2014, and it has become increasingly evident that fiscal and economic reforms will be needed in order to maintain access to capital markets on a sustainable basis.

Posted by Blog Author at 12:00 PM in Regional Analysis | Permalink | Comments ( 0 )

July 21, 2014

Becoming More Alike? Comparing Bank and Federal Reserve Stress Test Results

Beverly Hirtle, Anna Kovner, and Eric McKay

Stress tests have become an important method of assessing whether financial institutions have enough capital to operate in bad economic conditions. Under the provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act, both the Federal Reserve and large U.S. bank holding companies (BHCs) are required to do annual stress tests and to disclose these results to the public. While the BHCs’ and the Federal Reserve’s projections are made under the same macroeconomic scenario, the results differ, primarily because of differences in the models used to make the projections. In this post, we look at the 2014 stress test projections made by the eighteen largest U.S. BHCs and by the Federal Reserve and compare them to similar numbers from 2013. We are particularly interested in the question of whether the BHCs’ and the Federal Reserve’s results are converging over time, since such convergence could indicate decreased diversity of stress testing approaches in the banking industry.

Posted by Blog Author at 7:00 AM in Financial Institutions | Permalink | Comments ( 2 )

July 18, 2014

Historical Echoes: The Worst Bank Robbers in Mendham, New Jersey

Megan Cohen

There are many methods by which financial institutions can ready themselves for worst-case scenarios: they participate in the federal deposit insurance system, they follow a variety of banking regulations, and they prepare for natural disasters, for starters. But what about bank robberies, which typically strike their targets with little or no warning?

Posted by Blog Author at 7:00 AM in Historical Echoes | Permalink | Comments ( 0 )

July 16, 2014

Risk Aversion and the Natural Interest Rate

Bianca De Paoli and Pawel Zabczyk

One way to assess the stance of monetary policy is to assert that there is a natural interest rate (NIR), defined as the rate consistent with output being at its potential. Broadly speaking, monetary policy can be seen as expansionary if the policy rate is below the NIR with the gap between the rates measuring the extent of the policy stimulus. Of course, there are many challenges in defining and measuring the NIR, with various factors driving its value over time. A key factor that needs to be considered is the effect of uncertainty and risk aversion on households’ savings decisions. Households’ tolerance for risk tends to be lower during downturns, putting upward pressure on precautionary savings, and thereby downward pressure on the natural interest rate. In addition, uncertainty dictates how much precautionary savings responds to changes in risk aversion. So policymakers need to be aware that rate moves to offset adverse economic conditions that are appropriate in tranquil times may not be sufficient in times of high uncertainty.

Posted by Blog Author at 7:00 AM in Macroecon , Monetary Policy | Permalink | Comments ( 1 )

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Liberty Street Economics features insight and analysis from economists working at the intersection of research and Fed policymaking.

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