Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Review

A quarterly research journal intended for an economically informed but broad readership—from the undergraduate student to the PhD. In print and online.


SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2006 88(5)

Recent Trends in Homeownership

The homeownership rate began to trend upward in 1995 after years of being relatively constant, near 64 percent. This article describes recent changes in the share of U.S. housing that is owner-occupied and explores the reasons for the surprising rise over the past decade. Explanations that have been offered include demographics, low mortgage rates, changes in housing policy, and innovations in the mortgage financial market. Of all these explanations, the most plausible one is that innovations in the financial markets increased access to mortgage finance, mainly by reducing downpayment constraints and allowing younger people to buy homes.

What Happens to Banks When House Prices Fall? U.S. Regional Housing Busts of the 1980s and 1990s

The recent rapid appreciation of house prices in many U.S. markets has prompted concern over the possible effects of a sharp decline in prices, especially for commercial banks and other real estate lenders. This article examines regional real estate booms and busts in the 1980s and 1990s: Only about half of state house price booms were followed by a severe decline in prices, but large declines occurred in several states that did not have a prior boom. Banks in states that had large house price declines experienced high loan default rates and, thus, low profit and high failure rates. Although U.S. banks may have become more exposed to residential real estate recently, they appear less vulnerable to a decline in house prices than banks in states with large price declines in the earlier period.

Do Inflation Targeters Outperform Non-targeters?

Ten years of empirical studies of inflation targeting have not uncovered clear evidence that monetary policy that incorporates formal targets imparts better inflation performance. The authors survey the literature and find that the “no difference” verdict concerning inflation targeting has been robust to a wide range of countries and methods of analysis, starting with a study by Dueker and Fischer (1996a). The authors present updated Markov-switching estimates from the original Dueker and Fischer (1996a) article and show that their early conclusions about inflation targeting among early adopters have not been overturned with an additional decade of data. These findings to date do not rule out the possibility, however, that formal inflation targets could prove pivotal if the global environment of disinflation were to reverse course.

A Close Look at Model-Dependent Monetary Policy Design

This article first explores the implications of model specification on the design of targeting rules in a world of model certainty. As a general prescription, a targeting rule must counterbalance the private-sector dynamics: The more backward-looking behavior is observed in either the output gap or inflation, the more forward-looking monetary policy should be. Likewise, a more forward-looking economy would require stronger backward-looking reactions of the nominal interest rate to the output gap or inflation. The article also analyzes the effects of implementing monetary policy in an environment with uncertainty. Our results indicate that a simple model-invariant rule of the style proposed by Taylor (1993) performs better than a model-dependent targeting rule in the presence of moderate parameter uncertainty.

 


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