A theory of money needs a proper place for financial intermediaries. Intermediaries create money by taking deposits from savers and investing them in productive projects. The money multiplier depends on the size of intermediary balance sheets, and their ability to take risks. In downturns, as lending contracts and the money multiplier shrinks, the value of money rises. This leads to a Fisher deflation that hurts borrowers and amplifies shocks. An accommodative monetary policy in downturns, focused on the assets held by constrained agents, can mitigate these destabilizing adverse feedback effects. We devote particular attention to interest rate cuts, and study the potential for such policies to create moral hazard.
This paper reviews some of the most prominent asset price bubbles from the past 400 years and documents how central banks (or other institutions) reacted to those bubbles. The historical evidence suggests that the emergence of bubbles is often preceded or accompanied by an expansionary monetary policy, lending booms, capital inflows, and financial innovation or deregulation. We find that the severity of the economic crisis following the bursting of a bubble is less linked to the type of asset than to the financing of the bubble – crises are most severe when they are accompanied by a lending boom, high leverage of market players, and when financial institutions themselves are participating in the buying frenzy. Past experience also suggests that a purely passive “cleaning up the mess” stance towards inflating bubbles in many cases is costly. At the same time, while interest-rate leaning policies and macroprudential tools can and sometimes have helped to deflate bubbles and mitigate the associated economic crises, the correct implementation of such proactive policy approaches remains fraught with difficulties.
In a world with self-generated, endogenous risk and time-varying risk premia, price stability and financial stability are inseparable. A monetary analysis based on the distribution of liquidity mismatch across sectors provides valuable information about the build-up of vulnerabilities in tranquil times and helps to identify balance sheet impaired sectors in volatile times. When the monetary transmission mechanism becomes “sectorially impaired”, monetary policy action dis-proportionally favors issuers of government and large corporation debt over small and median enterprises (SMEs). Reviving a prudently designed asset backed securitization market for SME and consumer loans would alleviate this discrepancy and establish a pan European intermediation market.
The financial crises of the last twenty years brought new economic concepts into classrooms discussions. This article introduces undergraduate students and teachers to seven of these models: (i) misallocation of capital inflows, (ii) modern and shadow banks, (iii) strategic complementarities and amplification, (iv) debt contracts and the distinction between solvency and liquidity, (v) the diabolic loop, (vi) regional flights to safety, and (vii) unconventional monetary policy. We apply each of them to provide a full account of the euro crisis of 2010-12.
Liquidity and deflationary spirals self-generate endogenous risk and redistribute wealth. Monetary policy can mitigate these effects and help rebalance wealth after an adverse shock, thereby reducing endogenous risk, stabilizing the economy, and stimulating growth. The redistributive channel differs from the classic Keynesian interest rate channel in models with price stickiness. Central banks assume and redistribute tail risk when purchasing assets or relaxing their collateral requirements. Monetary policy (rules) can be seen as a social insurance scheme for an economy beset by financial frictions. As with any insurance, it carries the cost of moral hazard. Redistributive monetary policy should be strictly limited to undoing the redistribution caused by the amplification effects and by moral hazard considerations.
A reduction in inflation can fuel run-ups in housing prices if people suffer from money illusion. For example, investors who decide whether to rent or buy a house by simply comparing monthly rent and mortgage payments do not take into account the fact that inflation lowers future real mortgage costs. We decompose the price-rent ratio into a rational component-meant to capture the "proxy effect" and risk premia–and an implied mispricing. We find that inflation and nominal interest rates explain a large share of the time series variation of the mispricing, and that the tilt effect is very unlikely to rationalize this finding.
The confusion between changes in nominal and real interest rates boosts real house prices when inflation declines.