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The COVID-19 outbreak has sparked urgent questions about the impact of pandemics, and associated countermeasures, on the real economy. Policymakers are in uncharted territory, with little guidance on what the expected economic fallout will be and how the crisis should be managed. In this blog post, we use insights from a recent research paper to discuss two sets of questions. First, what are the real economic effects of a pandemic—and are these effects temporary or persistent? Second, how does the local public health response affect the economic severity of the pandemic? In particular, do non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) such as social distancing have economic costs, or do policies that slow the spread of the pandemic also reduce its economic severity?
James Conklin, W. Scott Frame, Kristopher Gerardi, and Haoyang Liu
Editor’s note: When this post was first published, the chart labels for “Non-Boom Counties” were incorrect; the labels have been corrected. (February 26, 12:00 pm)
The role of subprime mortgage lending in the U.S. housing boom of the 2000s is hotly debated in academic literature. One prevailing
narrative ascribes the unprecedented home price growth during the mid-2000s to an expansion in mortgage lending to subprime borrowers. This post, based on our recent working paper, “Villains or Scapegoats? The Role of Subprime Borrowers in Driving the U.S. Housing Boom,” presents evidence that is inconsistent with conventional wisdom. In particular, we show that the housing boom and the subprime boom occurred in different places.
How does competition among banks affect credit growth and real economic growth? In addition, how does it affect financial stability? In this blog post, we derive insights into this important set of questions from novel data on the U.S. banking system during the nineteenth century.
In a previous post, we argued that double liability for bank owners might not limit their risk taking, despite the extra “skin in the game,” if it also weakens depositor discipline of banks. This post, drawing on our recent working paper, looks at the interplay of those opposing forces in the late 1920s when bank liability differed across states. We find that double liability may have reduced the outflow of deposits during the crisis, but wasn’t successful in mitigating bank risk during the boom.
It is widely said that a lack of “skin in the game” would distort lenders’ incentives and cause a moral hazard problem, that is, excessive risk‑taking. If so, does more skin in the game—in the form of extended liability—reduce bankers’ risk‑taking? In order to examine this question, we investigate historical data prior to the Great Depression, when bank owners’ liability for losses in the event of bank failure differed by state and primary regulator. This post describes our preliminary findings.
The panic of 1907 was among the most severe we’ve covered in our series and also the most transformative, as it led to the creation of the Federal Reserve System. Also known as the “Knickerbocker Crisis,” the panic of 1907 shares features with the 2007-08 crisis, including “shadow banks” in the form high-flying, less-regulated trusts operating beyond the safety net of the time, and a pivotal “Lehman moment” when Knickerbocker Trust, the second-largest trust in the country, was allowed to fail after J.P. Morgan refused to save it.
Few people know the Treasury market from as many angles as Ken Garbade, a senior vice president in the Money and Payments Studies area of the New York Fed’s Research Group. Ken taught financial markets at NYU’s graduate school of business for many years before heading to Wall Street to assume a position in the research department of the primary dealer division of Bankers Trust Company. At Bankers, Ken conducted relative-value research on the Treasury market, assessing how return varies relative to risk for particular Treasury securities. For a time, he also traded single-payment Treasury obligations known as STRIPS—although not especially successfully, he notes.
In the late 1800s, a surge in silver production made a shift toward a monetary standard based on gold and silver rather than gold alone increasingly attractive to debtors seeking relief through higher prices. The U.S. government made a tentative step in this direction with the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, an 1890 law requiring the Treasury to significantly increase its purchases of silver. Concern about the United States abandoning the gold standard, however, drove up the demand for gold, which drained the Treasury’s holdings and created strains on the financial system’s liquidity. News in April 1893 that the government was running low on gold was followed by the Panic in May and a severe depression involving widespread commercial and bank failures.
Tobias Adrian, Michael J. Fleming, Erik Vogt, and Zachary Wojtowicz
The announced liquidation of Third Avenue’s high-yield Focused Credit Fund (FCF) on December 9, 2015, drew widespread attention and reportedly sent ripples through asset markets. Events of this kind have the potential to increase the demand for market liquidity, as investors revise expectations, reassess risk exposures, and fulfill the need to trade. Moreover, portfolio effects and general fears of contagion may increase the demand for liquidity in assets only remotely related to a liquidating firm’s direct holdings. In this post, we examine whether FCF’s announced liquidation affected liquidity and returns in broader corporate bond markets.
It always seemed to come down to railroads in the 1800s. Railroads fueled much of the economic growth in the United States at that time, but they required that a great deal of upfront capital be devoted to risky projects. The panics of 1837 and 1857 can both be pinned on railroad investments that went awry, creating enough doubt about the banking system to cause pervasive bank runs. The fatal spark for the Panic of 1873 was also tied to railroad investments—a major bank financing a railroad venture announced that it would suspend withdrawals. As other banks started failing, consumers and businesses pulled back and America entered what is recorded as the country’s longest depression.
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.
The views expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the position of the New York Fed or the Federal Reserve System.
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