Research

Working Paper
Brunnermeier, Markus K, and Yuliy Sannikov. “The I Theory of Money”. Working Paper: n. pag. Print.Abstract

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.

The I Theory of Money
Brunnermeier, Markus K., and Lunyang Huang. “A Global Safe Asset From and For Emerging Economies”. Working Paper: n. pag. Print.Abstract
This paper examines international capital flows induced by flight-to-safety and proposes a new global safe asset. In the model domestic investors have to co-invest in a safe asset along with their physical capital. At times of crisis, investors replace the initially safe domestic government bonds with safe US Treasuries and fire-sell part of their capital. The reduction in physical capital lowers GDP and tax revenue, leading to increased default risk justifying the loss of the government bond's safe-asset status. We compare two ways to mitigate this self-fulfilling scenario. In the ``buffer approach” international reserve holding reduces the severity of a crisis. In the ``rechannelling approach'' flight-to-safety capital flows are rechannelled from international cross-border flows to flows across two EME asset classes. The two asset classes are the senior and junior bond of tranched portfolio of EME sovereign bonds.
globalsafeasset_34r.pdf 05d_globalsafeasset_slides.pdf
Brunnermeier, Markus K., and Dirk Niepelt. “On the Equivalence of Private and Public Money”. Working Paper: n. pag. Print.Abstract
We propose a generic model of money and liquidity. We provide sufficient conditions under which a swap of private (inside) against public (outside) money leaves the equilibrium allocation and price system unchanged. We apply the results to Central Bank Digital Currency, the "Chicago Plan", and the Indian de-monetization experiment.
equivalenceprivatepublicmoney.01jan2019.pdf
Abadi, Joseph, and Markus K. Brunnermeier. “Blockchain Economics”. Working Paper: n. pag. Print.Abstract

When is record-keeping better arranged through a blockchain than through a traditional centralized intermediary? The ideal qualities of any record-keeping system are (i) correctness, (ii) decentralization, and (iii) cost efficiency. We point out a \textit{blockchain trilemma}: no ledger can satisfy all three properties simultaneously. A centralized record-keeper extracts rents due to its monopoly on the ledger. Its franchise value dynamically incentivizes correct reporting. Blockchains drive down rents by allowing for free entry of  record-keepers and portability of information to competing ``forks.'' Blockchains must therefore provide static incentives for correctness through computationally expensive proof-of-work algorithms and permit record-keepers to roll back history in order to undo fraudulent reports. While blockchains can keep track of ownership transfers, enforcement of possession rights is often better complemented by centralized record-keeping.

blockchain_paper_v6j.pdf blockchaineconomics_slides_15a.pdf
Brunnermeier, Markus K., Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, and Oleg Itskhoki. “Consumption-led Growth”. (Working Paper). Web. Publisher's Version growth_ca_slides_bdf.pdf
Brunnermeier, Markus K., et al.Feedbacks: Financial Markets and Economic Activity”. Working Paper: n. pag. Print.Abstract

We examine the relation among measures of credit expansion, measures of financial market stress, and standard macroeconomic aggregates. We use a form of structural VAR with monthly data on 10 variables. The model explains observed variation as driven by 10 mutually independent structural disturbances. We identify the shocks from variation across time in their relative variability. One of them emerges as representing monetary policy. We find two distinct financial stress shocks, suggesting that attempts to create a one-dimensional index of financial stress may be misguided. While our results are consistent with the finding by others of a negative reduced form relation between credit expansion and future output growth at certain frequencies, we find the output decline to be explained by the monetary policy response to the inflation that accompanies the credit expansion. In pseudo-out-of-sample forecasting tests, neither bond spreads, interbank spreads, nor credit aggregates had much predictive value far in advance of the 2008-9 downturn, though spreads (but not credit aggregates) were helpful in recognizing the downturn once it had begun.

Feedbacks: Financial Markets and Economic Activity.pdf
Brunnermeier, Markus K., Michael Sockin, and Wei Xiong. “China's Model of Managing its Financial System”. China's Model of Managing its Financial System Working Paper: n. pag. Print.Abstract

China's economic model involves active government intervention in financial markets. We develop a theoretical framework that anchors government intervention on a mission to prevent market breakdown and volatility explosion caused by the reluctance of short-term investors to trade against noise traders. In the presence of information frictions the
government can alter market dynamics by making noise in its intervention program an additional factor driving asset prices, and can divert investor attention toward acquiring information about this noise factor rather than fundamentals (as a result of complementarity in investors' information acquisition). Through this latter channel, the widely-adopted objective of government intervention to reduce asset price volatility may exacerbate,
rather than improve, information efficiency of asset prices.

ChinaFinancialSystem10e.pdf
Brunnermeier, Markus K., and Yann Koby. “The Reversal Interest Rate”. (Working Paper). Print.Abstract

The reversal interest rate is the rate at which accommodative monetary policy reverses and becomes contractionary for lending. Its determinants are (i) banks' fixed-income holdings, (ii) the strictness of capital constraints, (iii) the degree of pass-through to deposit rates, and (iv) the initial capitalization of banks. Quantitative easing increases the reversal interest rate and should only be employed after interest rate cuts are exhausted. Over time the reversal interest rate creeps up since asset revaluation fades out as fixed-income holdings mature while net interest income stays low. We calibrate a New Keynesian model that embeds our banking frictions.

 

 

26d_rir_slides.pdf 25b_reversalrate.pdf
In Preparation
Brunnermeier, Markus K, and Valentin Haddad. “Safe Assets”. (In Preparation). Print.
Brunnermeier, Markus K, and Ricardo Reis. “A Crash Course on the Euro Crisis”. (In Preparation). Print.Abstract

This paper provides a template for teaching the Euro crisis. It starts by stressing the importance of international capital flows that primarily fueled sectors with low productivity in the periphery. A key element of the crisis is that international capital flows were intermediated by banks and that most European banks rely heavily on less stable short-term wholesale funding. A sudden stop of this funding flows leads to fire-sales and a credit crunch. This is worsened by the ''diabolic loop'' between sovereign and banking risk. The paper addresses various liquidity policy measures and argues that insolvency issues are not addressed since fiscal authorities and monetary authority play a game of chicken about who should absorb the losses.

01b EuroCrashCourse_slides.pdf
Submitted
Brunnermeier, Markus K., Gang Dong, and Darius Palia. “Banks' Non-Interest Income and Systemic Risk”. Submitted: n. pag. Print.Abstract

This paper finds non-interest income to be positively correlated with total systemic risk for a large sample of U.S. banks.  Decomposing total systemic risk into three components, we find that non-interest income has a positive relationship with a bank’s tail risk, a positive relationship with a bank’s interconnectedness risk, and an insignificant or positive relationship with a bank’s exposure to macroeconomic and finance factors. These results are generally robust to endogenizing for non-interest income and for trading and other non-interest income activities.

Banks Non-Interest Income and Systemic Risk.pdf
Brunnermeier, Markus K, and Patrick Cheridito. “Measuring and Allocating Systemic Risk”. Submitted: n. pag. Print.Abstract

This paper develops a framework for measuring, allocating and managing systemic risk. SystRisk, our measure of total systemic risk captures the a priori cost to society for providing tail-risk insurance to the financial system. Our allocation principle distributes the total systemic risk among individual institutions according to their size-shifted marginal contributions. To describe economic shocks and systemic feedback effects we propose a reduced form stochastic model that can be calibrated to historical data. We also discuss systemic risk limits, systemic risk charges and a cap and trade system for systemic risk.

Systrisk.pdf
Arora, Sanjeev, et al.Computational Complexity and Information Asymmetry in Financial Products”. Submitted: n. pag. Print.Abstract

Traditional economics argues that financial derivatives, like CDOs and CDSs, ameliorate the negative costs imposed by asymmetric information. This is because securitization via derivatives allows the informed party to find buyers for less information-sensitive part of the cash flow stream of an asset (e.g., a mortgage) and retain the remainder. In this paper we show that this viewpoint may need to be revised once computational complexity is brought into the picture. Using methods from theoretical computer science this paper shows that derivatives can actually amplify the costs of asymmetric information instead of reducing them. Note that computational complexity is only a small departure from full rationality since even highly sophisticated investors are boundedly rational due to a lack of requisite computational resources.

Complexity and Derivatives.pdf
2017
Brunnermeier, Markus K., Michael Sockin, and Wei Xiong. “China's Gradual Economics Approach and Financial Markets”. American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings 107.5 (2017). Print.Abstract

China’s gradualistic approach allowed the government to learn how the economy reacts to small policy changes, and to adjust its reforms before implementing them in full. With fully developed financial markets, however, private actors’ may front-run future policy changes making it impossible for the implement policies gradually. With financial markets the government faces a time-inconsistency problem. The government would like to commit to a gradualistic approach, but after it observes the economy’s quick reaction, it has no incentive to implement its policies in small steps.

China's Gradualistic Economic Approach.pdf
Brunnermeier, Markus K., et al.ESBies: Safety in the Tranches”. Economic Policy (2017). Print.Abstract

The euro crisis was fueled by the diabolic loop between sovereign risk and bank risk, coupled with cross-border flight-to-safety capital flows. European Safe Bonds (ESBies), a union-wide safe asset without joint liability, would help to resolve these problems. We make three contributions. First, numerical simulations show that ESBies would be at least as safe as German bunds and approximately double the supply of euro safe assets when protected by a 30%-thick junior tranche. Second, a model shows how, when and why the two features of ESBies---diversification and seniority---can weaken the diabolic loop and its diffusion across countries. Third, we propose a step-by-step guide on how to create ESBies, starting with limited issuance by public or private-sector entities.

10e_european-safe-bonds_ep.pdf
Macro, Money and Finance: A Continuous-Time Approach
Brunnermeier, Markus K., and Yuliy Sannikov. “Macro, Money and Finance: A Continuous-Time Approach”. Handbook of Macroeconomics. North-Holland, 2017. 1497-1546. Print.Abstract

This paper puts forward a manual for how to set up and solve a continuous time model that allows to analyze endogenous (1) level and risk dynamics. The latter includes (2) tail risk and crisis probability as well as (3) the Volatility Paradox. Concepts such as (4) illiquidity and liquidity mismatch, (5) endogenous leverage, (6) the Paradox of Prudence, (7) undercapitalized sectors (8) time-varying risk premia, and (9) the external funding premium are part of the analysis. Financial frictions also give rise to an endogenous (10) value of money.

_macrohandbook_brusan.pdf
Brunnermeier, Markus K., Filippos Papakonstantinou, and Jonathan A. Parker. “Optimal Time-Inconsistent Beliefs: Misplanning, Procrastination, and Commitment”. Management Science 63.5 (2017): , 63, 5, 1318-1314. Web. Publisher's VersionAbstract

We develop a structural theory of beliefs and behavior, that relaxes the assumption of time-consistency in beliefs. Our theory is based on the trade-off between optimism, which raises anticipatory utility, and objectivity, which promotes efficient actions. We present it in the context of allocating work on a project over time, develop testable implications to contrast it with models assuming time-inconsistent preferences, and compare its predictions to existing evidence on behavior and beliefs. Our predictions are: (i) optimal beliefs are optimistic and time-inconsistent; (ii) people optimally exhibit the planning fallacy; (iii) incentives for rapid task completion make beliefs more optimistic and worsen work smoothing, while incentives for accurate duration prediction make beliefs less optimistic and improve work smoothing; (iv) without a commitment device, beliefs become less optimistic over time; (v) in the presence of a commitment device, beliefs may become more optimistic over time, and people optimally exhibit preference for commitment.

Time-inconsistent Beliefs.pdf
2016
Brunnermeier, Markus K, and Yuliy Sannikov. “On the Optimal Inflation Rate”. American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings 106.5 (2016): , 106, 5, 484-489. Print.Abstract

In our incomplete markets economy households choose portfolios consisting of risky (uninsurable) capital and money. Money is a bubble, it has positive value even though it yields no payoff. The market outcome is constrained Pareto inefficient due to a pecuniary externality. Each individual agent takes the real interest rate as given, while in the aggregate it is driven by the economic growth rate, which in turn depends on individual portfolio decisions. Higher inflation due to higher money growth lowers the real interest rate (on money) and tilts the portfolio choice towards physical capital investment. Modest inflation boosts growth rate and welfare.

OptimalInflationRate.pdf OptimalInflationRate slides.pdf
Brunnermeier, Markus K., et al.The Sovereign-Banking Diabolic Loop and ESBies”. American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings 106.5 (2016): , 106, 5, 508-512. Print.Abstract

We propose a simple model of the sovereign-bank diabolic loop, and establish four results. First, the diabolic loop can be avoided by restricting banks’ domestic sovereign exposures relative to their equity. Second, equity requirements can be lowered if banks only hold senior domestic sovereign debt. Third, such requirements shrink even further if banks only hold the senior tranche of an internationally diversified sovereign portfolio – known as ESBies in the euro-area context. Finally, ESBies generate more safe assets than domestic debt tranching alone; and, insofar as the diabolic loop is defused, the junior tranche generated by the securitization is itself risk-free.

DiabolicLoop.pdf DiabolicLoop slides.pdf
The Euro and the Battle of Ideas
Brunnermeier, Markus K, Harold James, and Jean-Pierre Landau. The Euro and the Battle of Ideas. Princeton, NJ, USA: Princeton University Press, 2016. Web. Chapter 1:

Endorsements by Larry Summers (former US Treasury Secretary), Ben Bernanke (former Chairman of the US Fed), Wolfgang Schäuble (German Finance Minister) and Jean Tirole (Nobel Prize Laureate)

Bubbles and Central Banks: Historical Perspectives
Brunnermeier, Markus K, and Isabel Schnabel. “Bubbles and Central Banks: Historical Perspectives”. Central Banks at a Crossroads: What Can We Learn from History? . Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2016. Web. Publisher's VersionAbstract

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.

Bubbles_CentralBanks_Historical.pdf Bubbles_CentralBanks slides.pdf
Adrian, Tobias, and Markus K. Brunnermeier. “CoVaR”. American Economic Review 106.7 (2016): , 106, 7, 1705-1741. Web. Publisher's VersionAbstract

We propose a measure for systemic risk, \Delta-CoVaR, defined as the conditional value at risk CoVaR of the financial system conditional on institutions being under distress in excess of the CoVaR of the system conditional on the median state of the institution. From our estimates of Delta-CoVaR for the universe of publicly traded financial institutions, we quantify the extent to which characteristics such as leverage, size, maturity mismatch, and asset price booms predict systemic risk contribution. We also provide out-of-sample forecasts of a countercyclical, forward-looking measure of systemic risk and show that the 2006Q4 value of this measure would have predicted more than one third of realized \Delta-CoVaR during the financial crisis.

CoVaR Slides.pdf CoVaR.pdf Code&Data.zip

Predicting and measuring a financial institution's contribution to systemic risk that internalizes externalities and avoids procyclicality.

2015
Brunnermeier, Markus K, and Yuliy Sannikov. “International Credit Flows and Pecuniary Externalities”. American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics 71 (2015): , 7, 1, 297-338. Print.Abstract

This paper develops a dynamic two-country neoclassical stochastic growth model with incomplete markets. Short-term credit flows can be excessive and reverse suddenly. The equilibrium outcome is constrained inefficient. First, an undercapitalized country borrows too much since each individual firm does not internalize that an increase in production capacity undermines their output price and thereby worsens their terms of trade. From an ex-ante perspective each firm undermines the natural \lq\lq{}terms of trade hedge.\rq\rq{} Second, sudden stops and fire sales lead to sharp price drops of illiquid physical capital, another pecuniary externality. The analysis also provides a full characterization of the endogenous volatility dynamics and welfare. Imposing capital controls or other domestic macro-prudential policy measures that limit short-term borrowing can improve welfare.

InternationalCreditFlows.pdf InternationalCreditFlows_slides.pdf
2014
Brunnermeier, Markus K, and Yuliy Sannikov. “Monetary Analysis: Price and Financial Stability”. ECB Forum on Central Banking. Sintra, Portugal, 2014. Print.Abstract

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.

05c ECB Sintra BruSan.pdf
Brunnermeier, Markus K., and Martin Oehmke. “Predatory Short Selling”. Review of Finance 18.6 (2014): , 18, 6, 2153-2195. Web. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Financial institutions may be vulnerable to predatory short selling. When the stock of a financial institution is shorted aggressively, leverage constraints imposed by short-term creditors can force the institution to liquidate long-term investments at fire sale prices. For financial institutions that are sufficiently close to their leverage constraints, predatory short selling equilibria co-exist with no-liquidation equilibria (the vulnerability region) or may even be the unique equilibrium outcome (the doomed region). Increased coordination among short sellers expands the doomed region, where liquidation is the unique equilibrium. Our model provides a potential justification for temporary restrictions on short selling of vulnerable institutions and can be used to assess recent empirical evidence on short-sale bans.

Predatory Short Selling.pdf

Winner of Pagano-Zechner Prize

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