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Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis working papers are preliminary materials circulated to stimulate discussion and critial comment.

Financial Frictions and Export Dynamics in Large Devaluations

We study the role of financial frictions and balance-sheet effects in accounting for the dynamics of aggregate exports in large devaluations. We investigate a small open economy with heterogeneous firms, where firms face financing constraints and debt can be denominated in foreign units. We find that these channels can explain only a small fraction of the dynamics of exports observed in the data. While these frictions distort production and investment decisions, they affect exports significantly less since firms reallocate sales across markets in response to real exchange rate changes. We document the importance of this mechanism using plant-level data.

Estimation of the discontinuous leverage effect: Evidence from the NASDAQ order book

An extensive empirical literature documents a generally negative correlation, named the “leverage effect,” between asset returns and changes of volatility. It is more challenging to establish such a return-volatility relationship for jumps in high-frequency data. We propose new nonparametric methods to assess and test for a discontinuous leverage effect — i.e. a relation between contemporaneous jumps in prices and volatility. The methods are robust to market microstructure noise and build on a newly developed price-jump localization and estimation procedure. Our empirical investigation of six years of transaction data from 320 NASDAQ firms displays no unconditional negative correlation between price and volatility cojumps. We show, however, that there is a strong relation between price-volatility cojumps if one conditions on the sign of price jumps and whether the price jumps are market-wide or idiosyncratic. Firms’ volatility levels strongly explain the cross-section of discontinuous leverage while debt-to-equity ratios have no significant explanatory power.

Systematic Cojumps, Market Component Portfolios and Scheduled Macroeconomic Announcements,

This study provides evidence of common bivariate jumps (i.e., systematic cojumps) between the market index and style-sorted portfolios. Systematic cojumps are prevalent in book-to-market portfolios and hence, their risk cannot easily be diversified away by investing in growth or value stocks. Nonetheless, large-cap firms have less exposure to systematic cojumps than small-cap firms. Probit regression reveals that systematic cojump occurrences are significantly associated with worse-than-expected scheduled macroeconomic announcements, especially those pertaining to the Federal Funds target rate. Tobit regression shows that Federal Funds news surprises are also significantly related to the magnitude of systematic cojumps.

Low Real Interest Rates and the Zero Lower Bound

How do low real interest rates constrain monetary policy? Is the zero lower bound optimal if the real interest rate is sufficiently low? What is the role of forward guidance? A model is constructed that can in- corporate sticky price frictions, collateral constraints, and conventional monetary distortions. The model has neo-Fisherian properties. Forward guidance in a liquidity trap works through the promise of higher future in‡flation, generated by a higher future nominal interest rate. With very tight collateral constraints, the real interest rate can be very low, but the zero lower bound need not be optimal.

Bank panics and scale economies

A bank panic is an expectation-driven redemption event that results in a self-fulfilling prophecy of losses on demand deposits. From the standpoint of theory in the tradition of Diamond and Dybvig (1983) and Green and Lin (2003), it is surprisingly difficult to generate bank panic equilibria if one allows for a plausible degree of contractual flexibility. A common assumption employed in the standard banking model is that returns are linear in the scale of investment. Instead, we assume the existence of a fixed investment cost, so that a higher risk-adjusted rate of return is available only if investment exceeds a minimum scale requirement. With this simple and empirically-plausible modification to the standard model, we find that bank panic equilibria emerge easily and naturally, even under highly flexible contractual arrangements. While bank panics can be eliminated through an appropriate policy, it is not always desirable to do so. We use our model to examine a number of issues, including the likely effectiveness of recent financial market regulations. Our model also lends some support for the claim that low-interest rate policy induces a “reach-for-yield” phenomenon resulting in a more panic-prone financial system.

Liquidity Premiums on Government Debt and the Fiscal Theory of the Price Level

We construct a dynamic general equilibrium model where agents use nominal government bonds as collateral in secured lending arrangements. If the collateral constraint binds, agents price in a liquidity premium on bonds that lowers the real rate on bonds. In equilibrium, the price level is determined according to the …fiscal theory of the price level. However, the market value of government debt exceeds its fundamental value. We then examine the dynamic properties of the model and show that the market value of the government debt can ‡fluctuate even though there are no changes to current or future taxes or spending. The price dynamics are driven solely by the liquidity premium on the debt.

Sticky Wages, Monetary Policy and Fiscal Policy Multipliers

This paper demonstrates how adding nominal wage rigidity to a standard sticky price model can create a mechanism by which increases in government spending cause increases in consumption. The increase in output arising from government purchases puts upward pressure on the price level. At a fixed short-run nominal wage, this bids down the real wage, which leads producers to increase labor demand. Increased labor demand allows households to both finance the tax bill associated with the government spending as well as increase their own consumption. Our approach does not rely upon existing ingredients for generating large fiscal multipliers, such as the zero lower bound, borrowing constrained households or an interaction between consumption and government purchases in the utility function.

Capital Goods Trade, Relative Prices, and Economic Development

International trade in capital goods has quantitatively important effects on economic development through capital formation and TFP. Capital goods trade enables poor countries to access more efficient technologies, leading to lower relative prices of capital goods and higher capital-output ratios. Moreover, poor countries can use their comparative advantage and allocate their resources more efficiently, and increase their TFP. We quantify these channels using a multisector, multicountry, Ricardian model of trade with capital accumulation. The model matches several trade and development facts within a unified framework. Frictionless trade in capital goods reduces the income gap between rich and poor countries by 40 percent. More than half of the reduction in the income gap is due to the TFP channel.

Capital Accumulation and Dynamic Gains from Trade

We compute welfare gains from trade in a dynamic, multicountry model with capital accumulation and trade imbalances. We develop a gradient-free method to compute the exact transition paths following a trade liberalization. We find that (i) larger countries accumulate a current account surplus, and financial resources flow from larger countries to smaller countries, boosting consumption in the latter, (ii) countries with larger short-run trade deficits accumulate capital faster, (iii) the gains are nonlinear in the reduction in trade costs, and (iv) capital accumulation accounts for substantial gains. The net foreign asset position before the liberalization is positively correlated with the gains. The tradables intensity in consumption goods production determines the static gains, and the tradables intensity in investment goods production determines the dynamic gains that include capital accumulation.

International Trade and Intertemporal Substitution

This paper quantitatively investigates the extent to which variation in the intertemporal marginal rate of substitution can help account for puzzling features of cyclical fluctuations of international trade volumes. Our insight is that, because international trade is time-intensive, variation in the rate at which agents are willing to substitute across time affects how trade volumes respond to changes in output and prices. We use a standard small open economy model with time-intensive international trade, calibrated to match key features of U.S. data and disciplining the variation in the intertemporal marginal rate of substitution using asset price data. We find that variation in the intertemporal marginal rate of substitution helps rationalize puzzling features of import fluctuations and that this mechanism is quantitatively important during both normal and crisis times.

Implementing the Modified Golden Rule? Optimal Ramsey Capital Taxation with Incomplete Markets Revisited

What is the prescription of Ramsey capital taxes for heterogeneous-agent incomplete-market economy in the long run? Aiyagari (1995) addressed the question and showed that a positive capital tax should be imposed to implement the steady-state allocation that satisfies the so-called modified golden rule. In his analysis of the Ramsey problem, a critical assumption made is the existence of optimal steady-state allocations. This paper revisits the issue and finds sharply different results. We demonstrate the optimal Ramsey allocation may feature no steady state. The key to our results is embedded in the hallmark of incomplete-market model that the risk-free rate is lower than the time discount rate in the steady state of competitive equilibrium.

The Effects of Terror on International Air Passenger Transport: An Empirical Invstigation

This paper presents a theoretical model (adapted from the structural gravity model by Anderson and van Wincoop, 2003) to capture the effects of terrorism on air passenger traffic between nations affected by terrorism. We then use equations derived from this model, in conjunction with alternative functional forms for trade costs, to estimate the effects of terrorism on bilateral air passenger flows from 57 source countries to 25 destination countries for the period of 2000 to 2014. We find that an additional terrorist incident results in approximately a 1.2% decrease in the bilateral air passenger transport per unit distance while doubling of the accumulated terrorist incidents during the past 5 years reduces it by 18%. Terrorism adversely impacts the bilateral air passenger transport per unit distance both by reducing national output and especially by increasing psychological distress, which could be an important contributing factor in perceived travel costs. Last but not the least, we show that the responsiveness of international air travel to terrorism critically depends on the nature of the terrorist attacks. Specifically, international air passenger transport is found to be extremely sensitive to fatal terrorist attacks and terrorist attacks of targets such as airports, transportation or tourists.

Chinese Foreign Exchange Reserves, Policy Choices and the U.S. Economy

China is both a major trading partner of the United States and the largest official holder of U.S. assets in the world. The value of Chinese foreign exchange reserves peaked at just over $4 trillion in June 2014, but has since declined to $3.19 trillion as of August 2016. This very large decline is in foreign exchange reserves is unprecedented and some analysts have speculated that continued sales of these (mostly U.S.) assets might significantly impact the U.S. and global economies. This article explains the reasons for this large decline in official assets, what China’s policy choices are, and how these choices could affect the U.S. economy.

The Inverted Leading Indicator Property and Redistribution Effect of the Interest Rate

The interest rate at which US firms borrow funds has two features: (i) it moves in a countercyclical fashion and (ii) it is an inverted leading indicator of real economic activity: low interest rates today forecast future booms in GDP, consumption, investment, and employment. We show that a Kiyotaki-Moore model accounts for both properties when interest-rate movements are driven, in a significant way, by self-fulfilling belief shocks that redistribute income away from lenders and to borrowers during booms. The credit-based nature of such self-fulfilling equilibria is shown to be essential: the dynamic correlation between current loanable funds rate and future aggregate economic activity depends critically on the property that the interest rate is state-contingent. Bayesian estimation of our benchmark DSGE model on US data shows that the model driven by redistribution shocks results in a better fit to the data than both standard RBC models and Kiyotaki-Moore type models with unique equilibrium.

Family Economics Writ Large

Powerful currents have reshaped the structure of families over the last century. There has been (i) a dramatic drop in fertility and greater parental investment in children; (ii) a rise in married female labor-force participation; (iii) a significant decline in marriage and a rise in divorce; (iv) a higher degree of positive assortative mating; (v) more children living with a single mother; (vi) shifts in social norms governing premarital sex and married women''s roles in the workplace. Macroeconomic models explaining these aggregate trends are surveyed. The relentless flow of technological progress and its role in shaping family life are stressed.

Training and Search On the Job

The paper studies human capital accumulation over workers’ careers in an on the job search setting with heterogenous firms. In renegotiation proof employment con- tracts, more productive firms provide more training. Both general and specific training induce higher wages within jobs, and with future employers, even conditional on the future employer type. Because matches do not internalize the specific capital loss from employer changes, specific human capital can be over-accumulated, more so in low type firms. While validating the Acemoglu and Pischke (1999) mechanisms, the analysis nevertheless arrives at the opposite conclusion: That increased labor market friction reduces training in equilibrium.

The Aggregate Implications of Size Dependent Distortions

This paper examines the aggregate implications of size-dependent distortions. These regulations misallocate labor across firms and hence reduce aggregate productivity. It then considers a case-study of labor laws in France where firms that have 50 employees or more face substantially more regulation than firms that have less than 50. The size distribution of firms is visibly distorted by these regulations: there are many firms with exactly 49 employees. A quantitative model is developed with a payroll tax of 0.15% that only applies to firm above 50 employees. Removing the regulation improves labor allocation across firms, leading in steady state to an increase in output per worker slightly less than 0.3%.

Markets, Externalities, and the Dynamic Gains of Openness

Inflows of foreign knowledge are the key for developing countries to catch up with the world technology frontier. In this paper, I construct a simple tractable model to analyze (a) the incentives of foreign firms to bring their know-how to a developing country and (b) the incentives of domestic firms to invest in their own know-how, given the exposure to foreign ideas and competition. The model embeds two diffusion mechanisms typically considered separately in the literature: externalities and markets. The dynamic gains of openness can be substantial under either mechanism, but their relative preponderance significantly changes the dynamic implications of openness. Notably, openness allows developing countries to fully catch up only when market transactions fully dominate the diffusion of ideas. While externalities can also push domestic firms to upgrade their productivity, the equilibrium exposure to ideas in the country remains below the frontier and domestic firms never catch up.

Of Cities and Slums

The emergence of slums is a common feature in a country''s path towards urbanization, structural transformation and development. Based on salient micro and macro evidence of Brazilian labor, housing and education markets, we construct a simple model to examine the conditions for slums to emerge. We then use the model to examine whether slums are barriers or stepping stones for lower skilled households and for the development of the country as a whole. We calibrate our model to explore the dynamic interaction between skill formation, income inequality and structural transformation with the rise (and potential fall) of slums in Brazil. We then conduct policy counterfactuals. For instance, we find that cracking down on slums could slow down the acquisition of human capital, the growth of cities (outside slums) and non-agricultural employment. The impact of reducing housing barriers to entry into cities and of different forms of school integration between the city and the slums is also explored.

An Analysis of the Literature on International Unconventional Monetary Policy

This paper critically evaluates the literature on international unconventional monetary policies. We begin by reviewing the theories of how such heterogeneous policies could work. Empirically, event studies provide compelling evidence that international asset purchase announcements have strongly influenced international bond yields, exchange rates, and equity prices in the desired manner and curtailed market perceptions of extreme events. Calibrated modeling and vector autoregressive (VAR) exercises imply that these policies significantly improved macroeconomic outcomes, raising output and prices. Central bankers give a measured, positive assessment to most unconventional monetary policy. Despite qualified successes, we recommend that central banks reserve these policies for financial crises and/or times when the zero bound constrains conventional monetary policy.

Openness and the Optimal Taxation of Foreign Know-How

Developing countries frequently offer tax incentives and even subsidize the entry and operation of foreign firms. I examine the optimality of such policies in an economy where growth is driven by entrepreneurial know-how, a skill that is continuously updated on the basis of the productive ideas implemented in the country. Openness allows foreign ideas to disseminate inside a country and can foster the country’'s domestic accumulation of know- how. With externalities, however, laissez-faire openness is suboptimal and can be growth-and even welfare-reducing. I examine the gains from openness under an optimal taxation program –the self-funding taxes on domestic and foreign …firms that maximize the welfare of the recipient country, subject to the equilibrium behavior of national and foreign firms. Under optimal taxation, openness is always welfare enhancing and leads lagging countries to catch up with the world frontier. Yet, a country may want to subsidize the entry of foreign …firms only if it can also subsidize the domestic accumulation of know-how. I also consider the optimal tax program under a number of restrictions that developing countries typically face. For instance, a country must not subsidize entry of foreign firms if doing so requires taxing the concurrent cohort of domestic firms. Similarly, an international agreement that requires equal taxation of domestic and foreign firms can be welfare reducing for a country close to the knowledge frontier.

The Value of Constraints on Discretionary Government Policy

Societies often rely on simple monetary and fiscal rules to restrict the size and behavior of governments. I study the merit of these constraints in a dynamic stochastic model in which fiscal and monetary policies are jointly determined. For all types of shocks considered, the best rule is a limit on the primary deficit. Most welfare gains arise from constraining government behavior during normal times, which to a large extent is sufficient to discipline policy in adverse times. Monetary policy rules are not generally desirable as they severely hinder distortion-smoothing. Debt ceilings are generally benign, but always dominated by deficit rules. For an economy calibrated to the postwar U.S., the optimal rule is a primary surplus of roughly half a percent of output.

Vocational Considerations and Trends in Social Security Disability

Along with health, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) evaluates work-limiting disability by considering vocational factors including age, education, and past work experience. As the number of SSDI applicants and awards has increased, these vocational criteria are increasingly important to acceptances and denials. A unique state-level dataset allows us to estimate how these factors relate to the SSDI award process. These estimates are used to asses how changes to the demographic and occupational composition have contributed to awards trends. In our results, the prevalence of workers in their 50s are especially important. Further, increasing educational attainment lowers applications and vocational awards.

Nominal rigidities in debt and product markets

Standard models used for monetary policy analysis rely on sticky prices. Recently, the literature started to explore also nominal debt contracts. Focusing on mortgages, this paper compares the two channels of transmission within a common framework. The sticky price channel is dominant when shocks to the policy interest rate are temporary, the mortgage channel is important when the shocks are persistent. The first channel has significant aggregate effects but small redistributive effects. The opposite holds for the second channel. Using yield curve data decomposed into temporary and persistent components, the redistributive and aggregate consequences are found to be quantitatively comparable.

The Visible Hand: The Role of Government in China’s Long-Awaited Industrial Revolution

China is undergoing its long-awaited industrial revolution. There is no shortage of commentary and opinion on this dramatic period, but few have attempted to provide a coherent, in-depth, political economic framework that explains the fundamental mechanisms behind China’s rapid industrialization. This article reviews the New Stage Theory of economic development put forth by Wen (2016a). It illuminates the critical sequence of developmental stages since the reforms enacted by Deng Xiaoping in 1978: namely, small-scale commercialized agricultural production, proto-industrialization in the countryside, a formal industrial revolution based on mass production of labor-intensive light consumer goods, a sustainable “industrial trinity” boom in energy/motive power/infrastructure, and a second industrial revolution involving the mass production of heavy industrial goods. This developmental sequence follows essentially the same pattern as Great Britain’s Industrial Revolution, despite sharp differences in political and institutional conditions. One of the key conclusions exemplified by China’s economic rise is that the extent of industrialization is limited by the extent of the market. One of the key strategies behind the creation and nurturing of a continually growing market in China is based on this premise: The free market is a public good that is very costly for nations to create and support. Market creation requires a powerful “mercantilist” state and the correct sequence of developmental stages; China has been successfully accomplishing its industrialization through these stages, backed by measured, targeted reforms and direct participation from its central and local governments.

Near-Money Premiums, Monetary Policy, and the Integration of Money Markets: Lessons from Deregulation

The 1960s and 1970s witnessed rapid growth in the markets for new money market instruments, such as negotiable certificates of deposit (CDs) and Eurodollar deposits, as banks and investors sought ways around various regulations affecting funding markets. In this paper, we investigate the impacts of the deregulation and integration of the money markets. We find that the pricing and volume of negotiable CDs and Eurodollars issued were influenced by the availability of other short-term safe assets, especially Treasury bills. Banks appear to have issued these money market instruments as substitutes for other types of funding. The integration of money markets and ability of banks to raise funds using a greater variety of substitutable instruments has implications for monetary policy. We find that, when deregulation reduced money market segmentation, larger open market operations were required to produce a given change in the federal funds rate, but that the pass through of changes in the funds rate to other market rates was also greater.

Persistence of Shocks and the Reallocation of Labor

This paper proposes a theoretical and quantitative analysis of the reallocation of labor across firms in response to idiosyncratic shocks of different persistence. Creating and destroying jobs is costly and workers are paid a share of the value of the marginal worker. The model predicts that employment and labor costs react differently to transitory shocks and permanent shocks. Quantitative evaluation of the model on a panel of French firms shows the model’s performance. Modest adjustment costs are needed to reproduce observed job reallocation and inaction rates. Removing adjustment costs leads to productivity gains of 1% at the steady state. These gains are 50% larger in a economy with only transitory shocks and an order of magnitude lower in an economy with only permanent shocks. Bargaining dampens the reallocation of labor across firms, leading to larger efficiency losses from adjustment costs.

Effects of Credit Supply on Unemployment and Inequality

The Great Recession, which was preceded by the financial crisis, resulted in higher unemployment and inequality. We propose a simple model where firms producing varieties face labor-market frictions and credit constraints. In the model, tighter credit leads to lower output, lower number of vacancies, and higher directed-search unemployment. Where workers are more productive at higher levels of firm output, lower credit supply increases firm capital intensity, raises inequality by increasing the rental of capital relative to the wage, and has an ambiguous effect on welfare. At initial high levels of labor share in total costs tighter credit lowers welfare. This pattern reverses during an expansionary phase caused by higher credit availability.

Did the Founding of the Federal Reserve Affect the Vulnerability of the Interbank System to Contagion Risk?

As a result of legal restrictions on branch banking, an extensive interbank system developed in the United States during the nineteenth century to facilitate interregional payments and flows of liquidity and credit. Vast sums moved through the interbank system to meet seasonal and other demands, but the system also transmitted shocks during banking panics. The Federal Reserve was established in 1914 to reduce reliance on the interbank system and to correct other defects that caused banking system instability. Drawing on recent theoretical work on interbank networks, we examine how the Fed’s establishment affected the system’s resilience to solvency and liquidity shocks and whether those shocks might have been contagious. We find that the interbank system became more resilient to solvency shocks but less resilient to liquidity shocks as banks sharply reduced their liquidity after the Fed’s founding.The industry’s response illustrates how the introduction of a lender of last resort can alter private behavior in ways that increase the likelihood that the lender will be needed.

Disentangling the Wage Impacts of Offshoring on a Developing Country: Theory and Policy

Does a reduction in offshoring cost benefit workers in the world''s factories in developing countries? Using a parsimonious two-country model of offshoring we find very nuanced results. These include cases where wages monotonically improve, worsen, as well as where wages exhibit an inverted U-shaped relationship with the offshoring cost. We identify qualitative conditions under which these relationships hold. Since global welfare always rises with an improvement in offshoring technology, we find that there is a role for a wage tax or a minimum wage in the developing country. We derive the optimal levels of such policies.


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