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9 posts from June 2014

June 27, 2014

Historical Echoes: The United States’ First Credit Union–Run Out of a Gentleman Lawyer’s Front Parlor

Amy Farber

St. Mary’s Bank was the first credit union created in the United States, in Manchester, New Hampshire, in 1908. A website honors both the centennial of the institution and the credit union concept. A small museum (see article about its opening) was created near the site of the credit union, which is still functioning.

Continue reading "Historical Echoes: The United States’ First Credit Union–Run Out of a Gentleman Lawyer’s Front Parlor" »

Posted by Blog Author at 7:00 AM in Historical Echoes | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 26, 2014

From Our Archive: Student Debt in Perspective

The Editors

We read with interest a new Brookings Institution report, Is a Student Loan Crisis on the Horizon?, assessing the weight of the student debt burden. It was also pleasing to see the New York Times, several of our Twitter followers, and others citing work on this blog in counterpoint.

Continue reading "From Our Archive: Student Debt in Perspective" »

Posted by Blog Author at 3:00 PM in Education, Household Finance, Housing, Labor Economics | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 25, 2014

Do Currency Forwards Say Anything about the Future Value of the U.S. Dollar?

J. Benson Durham

Currency forwards do include useful information about the future value of the U.S. dollar, but any messages are hard to decipher without tools. Just as the yield curve reflects expected short rates as well as term premiums, foreign exchange forwards embed not only anticipated depreciation but also premiums for currency risk. This complicates life for both central bankers, who routinely tease information from asset prices, and portfolio managers, who need to estimate expected returns and beat benchmarks. Most analyses of market quotes suggest that forwards as well as interest rate differentials largely comprise noise rather than information about anticipated currency returns. However, drawing on my recent staff report, a new method, analogous to common arbitrage-free term structure models and based solely on observable prices, suggests that forwards provide lucid clues about the expected path of the U.S. dollar.

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Posted by Blog Author at 7:00 AM in Exchange Rates, Expectations, Financial Markets | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 23, 2014

The Capitol Since the Nineteenth Century: Political Polarization and Income Inequality in the United States

Rajashri Chakrabarti and Matthew Mazewski

Even the most casual observer of American politics knows that today’s Republican and Democratic parties seem to disagree with one another on just about every issue under the sun. Some assume that this divide is merely an inevitable feature of a two-party system, while others reminisce about a golden era of bipartisan cooperation and hold out hope that a spirit of compromise might one day return to Washington. In this post, we present evidence that political polarization—or the trend toward more ideologically distinct and internally homogeneous parties—is not a recent development in the United States, although it has reached unprecedented levels in the last several years. We also show that polarization is strongly correlated with the extent of income inequality, but only weakly associated with the rate of economic growth. We offer several tentative explanations for these relationships, and discuss whether all forms of polarization are created equal.

Continue reading "The Capitol Since the Nineteenth Century: Political Polarization and Income Inequality in the United States" »

Posted by Blog Author at 7:00 AM in Fiscal Policy, Inequality, Macroecon | Permalink | Comments (2)

June 09, 2014

What’s Your WAM? Taking Stock of Dealers’ Funding Durability

Adam Copeland, Isaac Davis, and Ira Selig

One of the lessons from the recent financial crisis is the need for securities dealers to have durable sources of funding. As evidenced by the demise of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, during times of stress, cash lenders may pull away from firms or funding markets more broadly. Lengthening the tenor of secured funding is one way for a dealer to mitigate the risk of losing funding when market conditions are strained. In this post, we use clearing bank tri-party repo data to examine the degree to which dealers are lengthening the maturities of their sources of funding. (Aggregate statistics using these data are available here.) We focus on less liquid securities because it is for these assets that the durability of funding matters the most. We find substantial progress overall, with the weighted-average maturity (WAM) of funding of the less liquid securities more than doubling from January 2011 to May 2014. Nevertheless, there is currently a wide dispersion in dealer-level WAM, raising questions as to whether all dealers have enough durability in their funding of risk assets.

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Posted by Blog Author at 7:00 AM in Financial Institutions, Financial Markets, Fire Sale | Permalink | Comments (4)

June 06, 2014

Crisis Chronicles: Canal Mania (1793)

James Narron and David Skeie

Today, a leisurely trip down a canal on a quiet Sunday afternoon is a reminder of an unhurried time away from the hectic pace of modern commerce. But this was not always so. From the late 1790s into the early 1800s, canal transport was a crucial element of the industrial revolution—a time when barges were loaded with raw materials and goods rather than tourists and holidaymakers. By the mid-1700s, manufacturing was evolving from a cottage industry to a factory system in which goods could be produced en masse. But mass production required heavy raw materials like coal and a way to ship sometimes fragile goods such as pottery to market. And while more roads were being built or improved, they weren’t very efficient—one horse could pull a ton on land, but up to thirty or even fifty tons on a boat. So when the Third Duke of Bridgewater built a canal to transport coal directly to Manchester and Liverpool, the price of coal was halved, but the Duke’s profits soared. In this edition of Crisis Chronicles, we explore England’s Canal Mania, drawing on studies from The Economic History Review on Manchester, the Thames, and British Public Finance.

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Posted by Blog Author at 7:00 AM in Crisis Chronicles , Inflation | Permalink | Comments (2)

June 05, 2014

What Americans (Don’t) Know about Student Loan Collections

Basit Zafar, Zachary Bleemer, Meta Brown, and Wilbert van der Klaauw

U.S. student debt has more than tripled since 2004, and at over $1 trillion is now substantially greater than both credit card and auto debt balances. There are substantial potential benefits to be gained from taking out a student loan to fund a college education, including higher earnings and lower unemployment rates for college grads. However, there are significant costs to having student debt: The loans frequently carry relatively high interest rates, delinquency is common and costly (involving potential late fees and collection fees), and the federal government has the power to garnish the wages of individuals with delinquent federally guaranteed student loans (in fact, reported federal recovery rates on defaulted direct student loans exceed 70 percent). The ability of U.S. households to make well-informed decisions regarding higher education and student loan take-up for themselves (or members of their households) depends on the extent to which they accurately perceive the costs and benefits of such choices. To what extent does the American public understand the implications of student loan indebtedness? To shed light on this question, we went out and surveyed U.S. households.

Continue reading "What Americans (Don’t) Know about Student Loan Collections" »

Posted by Blog Author at 7:00 AM in Education, Household Finance, Labor Economics | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 04, 2014

The CLASS Model: A Top-Down Assessment of the U.S. Banking System

Meru Bhanot, Beverly Hirtle, Anna Kovner, and James Vickery

Central banks and bank supervisors have increasingly relied on capital stress testing as a supervisory and macroprudential tool. Stress tests have been used by central banks and supervisors to assess the resilience of individual banking companies to adverse macroeconomic and financial market conditions as a way of gauging additional capital needs at individual firms and as a means of assessing the overall capital strength of the banking system. In this post, we describe a framework for assessing the impact of various macroeconomic scenarios on the capital and performance of the U.S. banking system—the Capital and Loss Assessment under Stress Scenarios (CLASS) model—and present some of its key outputs.

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

June 02, 2014

Do Expected, in addition to Spot, U.S. Treasury Term Premiums Matter?

J. Benson Durham

The spot term premium is the extra compensation investors require, today, to own long-term as opposed to short-term risk-free debt. The expected term premium is what they anticipate demanding later. Notably, the two don’t necessarily move in the same direction. Just as near-term expected short rates could decline with surprisingly easy monetary policy, while simultaneously more distant-horizon expected rates could increase if that action boosts expected longer-run inflation or growth, so too could investors require less duration compensation immediately, perhaps as the central bank announces plans to buy assets, yet build in greater risk premiums for later amid allowances for a bumpy withdrawal of the punchbowl. Why is this distinction relevant? Nearly everyone agrees that historically low term premiums coincided with unconventional measures, but we know less about how long investors expected low premiums to prevail. Drawing on my staff report, formal models suggest that expected term premiums did drop along with spot measures, but a survey-based estimate notably increased since 2007. This hardly means the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) didn’t provide extraordinary support beyond the standard short rate channel, but perhaps investors weren’t insouciant and instead fathomed a possibly tricky exit from prolonged policy accommodation.

Continue reading "Do Expected, in addition to Spot, U.S. Treasury Term Premiums Matter?" »

Posted by Blog Author at 7:00 AM in Financial Markets, Forecasting | Permalink | Comments (0)

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