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It is common during recessions to observe significant slowdowns in credit flows to consumers. It is more difficult to establish how much of these declines are the consequence of a decrease in credit demand versus a tightening in supply. In this post, we draw on survey data to examine how consumer credit demand and supply have changed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The evidence reveals a clear initial decline and recent rebound in consumer credit demand. We also observe a modest but persistent tightening in credit supply during the pandemic, especially for credit cards. Mortgage refinance applications are the main exception to this general pattern, showing a steep increase in demand and some easing in availability. Despite tightened standards, we find no evidence of a meaningful increase in unmet credit need.
Andrew Haughwout, Donghoon Lee, Joelle Scally, and Wilbert van der Klaauw
Federal government actions in response to the pandemic have taken many forms. One set of policies is intended to reduce the risk that the pandemic will result in a housing market crash and a wave of foreclosures like the one that accompanied the Great Financial Crisis. An important and novel tool employed as part of these policies is mortgage forbearance, which provides borrowers the option to pause or reduce debt service payments during periods of hardship, without marking the loan delinquent on the borrower’s credit report. Widespread take-up of forbearance over the past year has significantly changed the housing finance system in the United States, in different ways for different borrowers. This post is the first of four focusing attention on the effects of mortgage forbearance and the outlook for the mortgage market. Here we use data from the New York Fed’s Consumer Credit Panel (CCP) to examine the effects of these changes on households during the pandemic.
The question of how U.S. monetary policy affects foreign economies has received renewed interest in recent years. The bulk of the empirical evidence points to sizable effects, especially on emerging market economies (EMEs). A key theme in the literature is that these spillovers operate largely through financial channels—that is, the effects of a U.S. policy tightening manifest themselves abroad via declines in international risky asset prices, tighter financial conditions, and capital outflows. This so-called Global Financial Cycle has been shown to affect EMEs more forcefully than advanced economies. It is because higher U.S. policy rates have a disproportionately larger impact on rates in EMEs. In our recent research, we develop a model with cross-border financial linkages that provides theoretical foundations for these empirical findings. In this Liberty Street Economics post, we use the model to illustrate the spillovers from a tightening of U.S. monetary policy on credit spreads and on the uncovered interest rate parity (UIP) premium in EMEs with dollar-denominated debt.
Andrew Haughwout, Donghoon Lee, Joelle Scally, and Wilbert van der Klaauw
Total household debt rose by $85 billion in the first quarter of 2021, according to the latest Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit from the New York Fed’s Center for Microeconomic Data. Since the start of the pandemic, household debt balances have increased in every quarter but one—the second quarter of 2020, when lockdowns were in full effect. The Quarterly Report and this analysis are based on the New York Fed's Consumer Credit Panel, which is drawn from anonymized Equifax credit data.
Efforts in the spring of 2020 to contain the spread of COVID-19 resulted in a sharp contraction in U.S. economic growth and an unprecedented, rapid rise in unemployment. While the first wave of the pandemic slowed the spring housing market, home sales rebounded sharply over the rest of the year, with strong gains in house prices. Given the rising house prices and continuing high unemployment, concerns arose that COVID-19 may have negatively affected first-time homebuyers. Using a new and more accurate measure of first-time homebuyers, we find that these buyers have not been adversely affected by the pandemic. At the same time, gains from lower mortgage rates have gone to existing homeowners and not to households purchasing their first home.
Claudia M. Buch, Matthieu Bussière, and Linda S. Goldberg
While policymakers around the world have aggressively and swiftly reacted to the common negative economic shock from COVID-19, the timing and forms of policy responses in the economic recovery stage may be more geographically differentiated. The range in policy responses, along with variations in the financial health of banks, likely will affect the flow of international credit through global banks. In this post, we ask whether, based on historical precedent, global banks are likely to provide additional support to the economic recovery in the locations they serve.
Andrew F. Haughwout, Donghoon Lee, Joelle Scally, and Wilbert van der Klaauw
Today, the New York Fed’s
Center for Microeconomic Data reported that household debt balances increased by $206 billion in the fourth quarter of 2020, marking a $414 billion increase since the end of 2019. But the COVID pandemic and ensuing recession have marked an end to the dynamics in household borrowing that have characterized the expansion since the Great Recession, which included robust growth in auto and student loans, while mortgage and credit card balances grew more slowly. As the pandemic took hold, these dynamics were altered. One shift in 2020 was a larger bump up in mortgage balances. Mortgage balances grew by $182 billion, the biggest quarterly uptick since 2007, boosted by historically high volumes of originations. Here, we take a close look at the composition of mortgage originations, which neared $1.2 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2020, the highest single-quarter volume seen since our series begins in 2000. The Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit and this analysis are based on the New York Fed’s Consumer Credit Panel, which is itself based on anonymized Equifax credit data.
Business activity increased in the region’s manufacturing sector in recent weeks but continued to decline in the region’s service sector, continuing a divergent trend seen over the past several months, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s February regional business surveys. Looking ahead, however, businesses expressed widespread optimism about the near-term outlook, with service firms increasingly confident that the business climate will be better in six months. The surveys also found that supply disruptions were widespread, with manufacturing firms reporting longer delivery times and rising input costs, a likely consequence of such disruptions. Many firms also noted that minimum wage hikes implemented in January in both New York and New Jersey had affected their employment or compensation decisions.
The Main Street Lending Program was the last of the facilities launched by the Fed and Treasury to support the flow of credit during the COVID-19 pandemic. The others primarily targeted Wall Street borrowers; Main Street was for smaller firms that rely more on banks for credit. It was a complicated program that worked by purchasing loans and sharing risk with lenders. Despite its delayed launch, Main Street purchased more debt than any other facility and was accelerating when it closed in January 2021. This post first locates Main Street in the constellation of COVID-19 credit programs, then looks in detail at its design and usage with an eye toward any future programs.
Viral V. Acharya, Matteo Crosignani, Tim Eisert, and Christian Eufinger
Even after the unprecedented stimulus by central banks in Europe following the global financial crisis, Europe’s economic growth and inflation have remained depressed, consistently undershooting projections. In a striking resemblance to Japan’s “lost decades,” the European economy has been recently characterized by persistently low interest rates and the provision of cheap bank credit to impaired firms, or “zombie credit.” In this post, based on a recent staff report, we propose a “zombie credit channel” that links the rise of zombie credit to dis-inflationary pressures.
Liberty Street Economics features insight and analysis from New York Fed economists working at the intersection of research and policy. Launched in 2011, the blog takes its name from the Bank’s headquarters at 33 Liberty Street in Manhattan’s Financial District.
The editors are Michael Fleming, Andrew Haughwout, Thomas Klitgaard, and Asani Sarkar, all economists in the Bank’s Research Group.
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