How (Un-)Informed Are Depositors in a Banking Panic? A Lesson from History
How informed or uninformed are bank depositors in a banking crisis? Can depositors anticipate which banks will fail? Understanding the behavior of depositors in financial crises is key to evaluating the policy measures, such as deposit insurance, designed to prevent them. But this is difficult in modern settings. The fact that bank runs are rare and deposit insurance universal implies that it is rare to be able to observe how depositors would behave in absence of the policy. Hence, as empiricists, we are lacking the counterfactual of depositor behavior during a run that is undistorted by the policy. In this blog post and the staff report on which it is based, we go back in history and study a bank run that took place in Germany in 1931 in the absence of deposit insurance for insight.
The Omicron Wave Stalled Growth and Led to High Absenteeism in the Region
Even before the start of the new year, businesses in the tri-state region were hampered by supply disruptions, rising input costs, and difficulty finding adequate staff. On top of these challenges, the Omicron wave dealt another setback to the regional economy. With infections running high, many businesses were forced to deal with a combination of reduced demand from customers and renewed absenteeism among workers. Indeed, our regional business surveys indicate that economic growth stalled in early 2022 as firms continued to struggle to find workers. Moreover, employee absenteeism was reported to be nearly three times its normal level. While the path of recovery remains highly uncertain, firms generally expect conditions to improve in the months ahead and many are still adding or planning to add staff.
The Making of Fallen Angels—and What QE and Credit Rating Agencies Have to Do with It
Riskier firms typically borrow at higher rates than safer firms because investors require compensation for taking on more risk. However, since 2009 this relationship has been turned on its head in the massive BBB corporate bond market, with risky BBB-rated firms borrowing at lower rates than their safer BBB-rated peers. The resulting risk materialized in an unprecedented wave of “fallen angels” (or firms downgraded below the BBB investment-grade threshold) at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this post, based on a related Staff Report, we claim that this anomaly has been driven by a combination of factors: a boost in investor demand for investment-grade bonds associated with the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing (QE) and sluggish adjustment of credit ratings for risky BBB issuers.
What Are Consumers’ Inflation Expectations Telling Us Today?
The United States has experienced a considerable rise in inflation over the past year. In this post, we examine how consumers’ inflation expectations have responded to inflation during the pandemic period and to what extent this is different from the behavior of consumers’ expectations before the pandemic. We analyze two aspects of the response of consumers’ expectations to changing conditions. First, we examine by how much consumers revise their inflation expectations in response to inflation surprises. Second, we look at the pass-through of revisions in short-term inflation expectations to revisions in longer-term inflation expectations. We use data from the New York Fed’s Survey of Consumer Expectations (SCE) and from the Michigan Survey of Consumers to measure these responses. We find that over the past two years, consumers’ shorter-horizon expectations have been highly attuned to current inflation news: one-year-ahead inflation expectations are very responsive to inflation surprises, in a pattern similar to what we witnessed before the pandemic. In contrast, three-year-ahead inflation expectations are now far less responsive to inflation surprises than they were before the pandemic, indicating that consumers are taking less signal from the recent movements in inflation about inflation at longer horizons than they did before. We also find that the pass-through from revisions in one-year-ahead expectations to revisions in longer-term expectations has declined during the pandemic relative to the pre-pandemic period. Taken together, these findings show that consumers expect inflation to behave very differently than it did before the pandemic, with a smaller share of short-term movements in inflation expected to persist into the future.
Car Prices Drive Up Borrowing
Total household debt increased substantially during the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a $1.02 trillion increase in aggregate debt balances, according to the Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit for the fourth quarter of 2021 from the New York Fed’s Center for Microeconomic Data. The yearly increase was the largest seen since 2007 in nominal terms and was boosted by particularly robust growth in mortgage balances, which grew by nearly $900 billion through 2021. Credit card balances, which have followed an unusual path during the pandemic, saw a large seasonal increase in the fourth quarter but remain well below pre-pandemic levels. And student loan balances increased only modestly through 2021 due to lower enrollment and also due to administrative forbearance on federal student loans—the smallest annual increase we’ve seen since 2004. Outstanding auto loan balances grew in 2021 by $84 billion. The $734 billion in newly opened auto loans through the year was the largest volume we’ve seen in our data.
The Future of Payments Is Not Stablecoins
Stablecoins, which we define as digital assets used as a medium of exchange that are purported to be backed by assets held specifically for that purpose, have grown considerably in the last two years. They rose from a market capitalization of $5.7 billion on December 1, 2019, to $155.6 billion on January 21, 2022. Moreover, a market that was once dominated by a single stablecoin—Tether (USDT)—now boasts five stablecoins with valuations over $1 billion (as of January 21, 2022; data about the supply of stablecoins can be found here). Analysts have started to pay increased attention to the stablecoin market, and the President’s Working Group (PWG) on Financial Markets released a report on stablecoins on November 1, 2021. In this post, we explain why we believe stablecoins are unlikely to be the future of payments.
Housing Returns in Big and Small Cities
Houses are the largest asset for most households in the United States, as is the case in many other countries as well. Within countries, there is substantial regional variation in house prices—compare real estate values in Manhattan, New York City, with those in Manhattan, Kansas, for example. But what about returns on investment? Are long-run returns on real estate investment—the sum of price appreciation and rental income flows—higher in superstar cities like New York than in the rest of the country? In this blog post, we present new and potentially surprising insights from research comparing long-run returns on residential real estate in a nation’s largest cities to those experienced in the rest of the country (Amaral et al., 2021), covering the U.S. and fourteen other advanced economies over the past century.