Eco Notepad publishes educational posts showcasing BdF research and economic expertise. The Blog is aimed at students, professionals, journalists, academics, and economists. The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Banque de France, the Eurosystem, or the authors’ respective employers.
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The banking sector assesses the credit risks associated with borrowers. What are the consequences to be expected from the production of information by a third party? Exploiting a change in the rating methodology of the Banque de France, this post shows how the disclosure of more detailed information on companies can increase the supply of credit for their benefit.
Chart: Companies with a fine-tuned rating obtain more credit
To mark International Women’s Day, the Banque de France organised a roundtable on 7 March on the economic impact of gender inequalities, with the participation of Sylvie Goulard, Deputy Governor of the Banque de France, Isabelle Hudon, Ambassador of Canada in France, and Peter Praet, member of the Executive Board of the European Central Bank. This post echoes these discussions, and concludes that there is urgency to act at all levels.
By Grâce Constant, Elisabeth Fonteny and Meghann Puloc’h
The blue economy encompasses all economic activities related to oceans, seas and coasts. Thanks to its overseas territories, France has the second largest marine zone in the world. World population growth and trade contribute to the development of the blue economy, which can be a driver of sustainable and innovative growth for Overseas France provided certain structural constraints are overcome.
Chart 1: Variations in the weight of the blue economy in Overseas France in 2015(*) Sources: Insee, ISPF, ISEE, Acoss (**)
A federal unemployment insurance scheme has been in place in the United States for more than 80 years. It has helped to cushion the effects of successive crises without the need for large fiscal transfers between American states. It provides an example of an unemployment insurance model based on temporary transfers and subsidiarity between federal and state governments.
Chart 1. Permanent federal transfers are limited outside periods of exceptional crisis Note: Net annual transfers as a % of GDP. Exceptional crisis: increase of more than 5 percentage points in the jobless rate over 3 years. Sources: authors’ calculations based on NBER, Department of Labor and Bureau of Economic Analysis.
For several decades, the wedge between the return on capital and risk-free rates has been growing in the euro area and the United States. We examine the drivers of this wedge and find that while the risk premium is the main driver, mark-ups also play a role. More recently, the contribution from mark-ups has decreased in the euro area and increased in the United States.
Chart 1: Growing wedge between the return on capital and risk-free rates in the euro area and the United States Source: AMECO, FRED, AWM, and authors’ calculations.
The European Union’s exchanges with the United States generate a significant trade surplus but are also characterised by a substantial foreign direct investment deficit. This deficit reflects certain choices made by multinational firms with regard to their activities’ locations, particularly the placing of US subsidiaries in Europe. We propose an interpretation of these transatlantic exchanges using an aggregate that is broader than the balance of goods and services alone.
Chart 1: An expanded EU-US balance almost in equilibrium (2012 to 2017) Sources: Eurostat (customs data on exports of goods, non-financial services) and BEA (customs data on imports of goods, financial services, foreign direct investment flows). Authors' calculations.
Household mortgage debt can jeopardise financial stability, as the 2008 crisis showed. This risk is often assessed using the ratio of the loan amount to the value of the financed property, or loan-to-value ratio (LTV). Yet, very high LTVs cover in large part the property purchases, excluding primary residences, of households with the highest incomes, which are not necessarily the most risky. Therefore, this ratio by itself is insufficient to provide the full picture.
Chart 1: Lower LTVs for primary residences (% of the 2014 value of the property) Sources: INSEE Household Wealth Survey 2014-2015 and authors’ calculations.
G7 countries activated several economic policy levers to respond to the 2008 crisis, in particular monetary and fiscal policy. As a result, their ability to stimulate the economy or deal with future crises has been reduced. Consequently, the temptation to conduct beggar-thy-neighbour policies, despite their harmful effects, could be exacerbated. Even though its weight in global GDP has declined significantly since the late 1980s, the G7—whose presidency is held by France in 2019—remains the appropriate forum for curbing this temptation.
Chart 1: Reduction of the weight of the G7 in global nominal GDP Source: Datastream and IMF-World Economic Outlook (WEO).
Financial conditions are not fully captured by the short-term interest rate, especially when it is stuck at its lower bound. As a result, financial institutions and central banks turn to other indicators richer in information such as financial condition indices (FCI). We provide a new FCI with time-varying component weights which pinpoints the sources of changes in financial conditions.
Chart 1: Dynamics of the Banque de France FCI for the euro area Sources: Bloomberg and the authors’ calculations
Excess liquidity in the euro area has risen by less than the liquidity created by unconventional monetary policy measures. This is because much liquidity has been absorbed by non-monetary deposit accounts held by national central banks. As monetary policy normalises, liquidity will become scarcer. At what point this scarcity will cause interbank rates to drift above the deposit facility rate will depend on whether this “autonomous” demand remains high.
Chart 1: Excess liquidity at extraordinary high levels due to unconventional monetary policy Source: ECB Statistical Data Warehouse. Broken lines correspond to the period in which the Eurosystem switched to 8 from 12 maintenance periods per year. EAPP: Expanded Asset Purchase Programme
After the ECB’s Governing Council Monetary policy meetings, market uncertainty has systematically fallen. It has done so even more in the past years. In particular, announcements related to asset purchases had a strong dampening impact on market uncertainty. This suggests that, despite the increasing complexity of unconventional policies, the ECB has been successful in communication.
Figure 1: Market uncertainty drops on ECB’s Governing Council Days
Eco Notepad celebrated its second anniversary in December 2018. This is an opportunity to look back on this rich period in which we published almost 100 blog posts analysing economic and monetary developments. The posts on inflation, monetary policy and financial stability attracted a great deal of interest from our readers, as did those on growth and global trade, the deindustrialisation of the French economy and the increase in the number of monopolies in the United States. Let’s take a closer look.
The share of inheritance in aggregate wealth has varied significantly over time. Indeed, it depends on economic and demographic conditions that are not constant. The share was very high during the 19th century and until the First World War. After an abrupt decline, it is now rising in several countries.
Chart 1. Share of inherited wealth in Europe and the USA, 1900-2010
At its meeting of 13 December 2018, the ECB Governing Council confirmed that it would stop the net asset purchase programme begun in late 2014 at the end of this year. Quantitative easing nonetheless remains in place: it depends primarily on the stock of assets held by the Eurosystem rather than on the flow of purchases. This stock will remain unchanged for as long as the Eurosystem continues to reinvest the proceeds from maturing securities.
Chart 1: Eurosystem asset purchases and reinvestments since March 2015 Source: BDF, ECB. Note: Flow of purchases under all the APP programmes, in EUR billions. The dotted line shows the notional purchase target set by the Governing Council. March 2015: start of the public sector purchase programme.
By Clément Mazet-Sonilhac and Clément Malgouyres (with Juan Carluccio and Thierry Mayer)
The diffusion of information and communication technology (ICT) is considered to be a factor for economic growth, notably in developed countries. In particular, the diffusion of broadband internet could improve firms’ ability to find trading partners abroad as well as products suited to their needs. In France, the roll-out of broadband between 1998 and 2008 corresponds to a substantial improvement in firms’ imports.
Chart 1: A decade of gradual broadband roll-out Source: Banque de France and authors’ calculations
The Eurosystem’s non-standard monetary policy has led to a significant build-up of excess liquidity in the euro area banking system, concentrated among a few countries. Since 2015, this concentration can mainly be explained by the Eurosystem’s asset purchase programme (APP) and the geographical location of the accounts and settlement circuits used in its implementation.
Chart 1: High concentration of excess liquidity among a few countries Sources: ECB, Banque de France
Between 2011 and the announcement of Outright Monetary Transactions (OMTs), high rates of non-performing exposures to peripheral countries hindered banks’ access to the interbank market. Sizeable holdings of peripheral countries’ sovereign bonds also increased the price paid for interbank funding. The introduction of OMTs in 2012 and Targeted Longer-Term Refinancing Operations (TLTROs) in 2014 successfully curbed these channels of fragmentation risk.
Figure 1: Average interest rates in the euro area interbank market for GIIPS Source: Gabrieli and Labonne (2018)
The diffusion of information and communication technology (ICT) and the associated benefits in terms of growth appear to have petered out at the start of the 2000s in advanced countries. This suggests we are experiencing a pause in the third industrial revolution, ahead of the incipient shock linked to the digital economy.
Chart 1 – Stabilisation of the nominal ICT capital coefficient since 2000 Source: authors' calculations using ICT investment data from the OECD.
The Economic Modernisation Act has reduced payment periods, by capping them, for the most part, at 60 days. Today, average payment times are stable, but late payments continue to weigh on the cash flow of businesses, which seem unwilling to pay their suppliers faster so as not to weaken their solvency. Yet reconciling these two goals is possible.
Chart 1: Sharp fall in days payable outstandings (DPOs) and days sales outstandings (DSOs) as a result of the Economic Modernisation Act Source: Banque de France –FIBEN database, data to October 2017.
Despite full employment, Japan is struggling with wage stagnation. Although this "enigma" can in part be explained by cyclical factors - subdued productivity and inflation expectations - it is also being exacerbated by structural factors linked to the country’s social model, notably the duality of its labour market. As a result, the prospects for a rise in wages and hence inflation remain limited.
Chart1 – Wage growth and unemployment in Japan Source: OECD
Women are underrepresented in central bank governance. In 2018, only 11 out of 173 central banks are headed by a woman. The ethical case for gender rebalancing in central bank governance is a sufficient reason alone, but we could go further and provokingly ask whether women have a different leaning to monetary policy objectives than men? An investigation of former and present US Fed policymakers suggests that this is not necessarily the case.
Figure 1. Women are poorly represented in monetary policy decision committees Note: GC, the Governing Council of the ECB (1998-2018), FOMC, the Federal Open Market Committee of the Fed (1960-2015), MPC, the Monetary Policy Committee of the BoE (1997-2018).
Several prominent experts in US central banking have recently advocated a new policy framework: price-level targeting. What is it and what advantages and disadvantages does it offer over the current inflation targeting framework? Its main benefit would be to bring the policy of keeping interest rates low for some time after a recession – an unconventional policy tool used in fighting the last recession – into a conventional policy framework.
Chart 1. Price levels in the United States and the euro area since 1998. The blue and orange lines give the realised evolution of consumer prices in the US and euro area, normalising the 1998 level at 100. The black line gives the counterfactual evolution if inflation had been exactly 2% every year since 1998
What role does the international environment play in shaping US monetary policy decisions? To measure its influence, we construct an international indicator extracted from minutes of Fed monetary policy committee meetings. In a Taylor rule model, we show that the indicator has a significant and negative impact on the fed funds rate. Discussions centred more on the international environment may thus be associated with greater monetary policy easing.
Chart: International environment indicator and major events affecting the global economy Note: The grey areas correspond to major international economic events. Indicator constructed from a textual analysis of FOMC minutes (1993-2017), authors’ calculations
According to the May 2018 revised national accounts, the net borrowing of non-financial corporations improved slightly over the previous 10 years to 0.4 pp of GDP in 2017. This mainly reflects the sharp reduction in net financial expenses, while the share of compensation of employees and gross investment in value added increased.
Chart 1: More favourable results for the net borrowing of NFCs using a 2014 base (% of GDP) Source: Insee national accounts.
Foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows are often considered a complement to domestic savings that facilitate the financing of local investment projects. However, as a result of increased competition, they tend to crowd out domestic investment in transition countries in the short term. This effect is mitigated if local financial markets are sufficiently developed.
Chart 1: Domestic investment is crowded out as a result of FDI entry. Note: Dark blue curve: effect of FDI inflows on domestic investment; red curve: greenfield FDI (creation of a new company ex nihilo); dashed blue line: mergers and acquisitions.
By Stéphane Lhuissier
The 2008 financial crisis and the sovereign debt crisis in the euro area led to major recessions. By contrast, the macroeconomic impact of the bursting of the technology bubble in 2000 was mild. The reason behind these all-or-nothing effects is amplification: a fragile financial system makes economic agents more sensitive to changes in financial conditions.
Chart 1 – Differences in the impact of an adverse financial shock on euro area industrial production between financial states Note: Impulse responses of industrial production to the financial shock in healthy and fragile financial states. The size of the financial shock is the same in both cases. The dotted line shows the median and solid lines are 68% probability intervals.
Growth in advanced economies has slowed in successive stages since the 1970s. Are we likely to see a return to the growth rates observed in the 20th century? The main uncertainty lies in the pace and diffusion of technological progress. Under a secular stagnation scenario, growth is expected to remain below 1.5% in advanced economies in the period up to 2060, compared with close to 3% in the case of a new technology shock.
Chart 1: Scenarios for GDP growth up to 2060: Contributions to GDP growth Source: Cette, Lecat, Ly-Marin (2017) Note: Secular stagnation = Sec. stag.; Technology shock = Tech shock. Annual average % growth 2018-60; contributions in percentage points. The contribution of labour is the total number of hours worked.
By December 2018, the Eurosystem will have bought more than EUR 2,500 billion of securities as part of its Asset Purchase Programmes (APP). These purchases are governed by a number of principles, one of which is "market neutrality". This is intended to minimise the potentially distortive effects of purchases on the functioning of the financial markets, while enabling the transmission of monetary policy stimulus to the economy. We demonstrate this in this blog by comparing the Eurosystem's purchasing techniques with those of other central banks.
Chart 1: Structure of French sovereign debt and APP purchases by maturity (March 2018) Sources: Bloomberg, Arrata and Nguyen (2017).
Given their inflation objectives, the ECB and the Federal Reserve System closely monitor measures of inflation expectations. But what are the available sources of inflation expectations and how is their anchoring measured? This post addresses these questions and focuses on a novel approach to gauging the anchoring of inflation expectations, namely by computing the probability of future inflation being in a range that is consistent with inflation targets.
Figure 1: Euro area and US measures of the anchoring of inflation expectations (1999-2016) Source: Grishchenko, Mouabbi and Renne (2017).
The public debt ratios of France and Germany (as a % of GDP) were similar in the early 2000s. Since 2010, the ratio has fallen sharply in Germany, but has continued to rise in France. Using a simple model, we show that the economic and financial context is now favourable to triggering a lasting reduction in France's public debt, provided that efforts to curb public spending are stepped up.
Chart 1: Public debt as a % of GDP in France and Germany under different scenarios Sources: Eurostat for the past, BdF calculations for the future
The contribution of foreign trade to French growth was strongly negative between 2014 and 2016. Although, on average, the contribution from sectoral specialisation is more positive in France than for its European partners, it also implies a dependence on a limited number of sectors. The difficulties experienced by France's stronghold export sectors explain a large part of the downturn in the French trade balance between 2014 and 2016.
Chart 1 – Cumulative contributions to growth in the foreign trade coverage ratio for non-energy goods (in %) Sources: Customs authorities and authors’ calculations.
No one wins a trade war. Based on a multi-region dynamic general equilibrium model (GIMF), we show that a global and generalised 10 percentage point increase in import tariffs could reduce global GDP by 1% after two years. This effect could be amplified by a fall in productivity, a rise in the financing cost of capital and a decline in investment demand. Taking all these factors into account could result in lowering global real GDP by up to 3% after two years.
Chart 1: Impact of a generalised 10 percentage point increase in tariffs on global real GDP Source: author’s calculations.
Current trade disputes focus on import tariffs. However non-tariff barriers still constitute a large share of barriers to trade. Cross-country harmonisation of product standards reduces these barriers. The trade-enhancing effects of such harmonisation efforts are equivalent to a reduction in import tariffs of 1.8 percentage points, compared to an average applied tariff rate of 2.0% for the European Union.
Chart 1: Trade Restrictiveness Index Source: Overall Trade Restrictiveness Index by Kee et al. (2009). The data used were computed for the year 2009.
Financial cycles can be broken down into four phases in which the intensity of financial risks changes. The crisis that follows the downturn is all the more pronounced as risks have accumulated during the upturn. Macroprudential policy aims to limit the impact of financial crises on the real economy: the decision to activate the countercyclical capital buffer in France meets this imperative.
Despite persistent high unemployment, recruitment difficulties have already started to arise in France. The current unemployment rate is approaching its structural level, but wages have been relatively sluggish. These pressures partly reflect temporary effects that are common during periods of intense job creation. In the medium term, more effective vocational training would help to lower the level of unemployment at which these pressures begin to emerge.
Chart 1: Downward unemployment rigidity in France? Minimum, maximum and average unemployment rates for the 1985-2017 period Source: Eurostat.
The intensification of competition in Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries has had an ambivalent impact on credit risk. The resulting improvement in management and bank intermediation may, beyond a certain threshold, be offset by greater risk-taking. Strengthening prudential frameworks would make it possible to harness the opportunities offered by bank competition.
Chart 1: Does bank competition reduce or increase credit risk in SSA? Source: Brei et al., 2018. Relationship between the degree of bank competition (the Lerner index, between 0 and 1, measures banks’ market power) and credit risk (NPL, non-performing loans / gross loans)
Countries that adopt a strict inflation target experience stronger growth and lower inflation after large natural disaster shocks. Inflation targeting can hence serve as an important shock absorber thanks mainly to a different policy mix. The results indicate that relaxing the inflation targeting regime might generate potential costs, since the stabilisation of future recessions might become more difficult.
Figure 1. Benefits of inflation targeting (=dark green) in the presence of large disasters Note. Effects of a natural disaster that leads to reported insurance claims of 1% of GDP at quarter t=0. Inflation targeting countries=dark grey, non –inflation targeting countries= light green. Source: Fratzscher, Grosse Steffen and Rieth (2017)
By Emmanuelle Politronacci, Elodie Ninlias, Enda Palazzeschi, Ghjuvanni Torre
Within a monetary area, the quantity of banknotes circulating in a given Member State is unknown as banknotes move back and forth across borders and cannot be tracked. There are various estimates but these have the drawback of varying by up to a factor of three. But the issuance of the new series of euro banknotes, combined with surveys, enable these figures to be more specific. Only 10% of the banknotes issued in France are apparently used for transaction purposes in the country.
Chart 1: Widely differing estimates of the value of banknotes in circulation, all denominations included (2015) Source: BdF, based on Eurosystem’s Currency Information System data
In 2016-2017, corporate bankruptcies saw their sharpest drop since 2000. Public discussions often view the impact of corporate bankruptcies purely in terms of their negative short-term consequences, in particular on employment and creditors. However, we show that there may also be more positive medium to long-term effects stemming from resources being reallocated to more productive firms.
Chart 1: A confirmed decline in the number of corporate bankruptcies in France in 2017 Note: Number of bankruptcies in the year, except for 2018, where the aggregate over the past 12 months at end-February 2018 is used. Source: Banque de France – FIBEN database.
Reducing current account imbalances is often equated with curbing excessive exports or imports. However, legacies of the past can develop their own dynamics due to accruing income flows. Indeed, in some countries that have accumulated large foreign liabilities, current account adjustment has been impeded by large negative income flows despite substantial improvements in the trade balance.
Figure 1 Current account dynamics Source: IMF BoPS
By Pierre-Henri Bono, Quentin David, Rodolphe Desbordes, and Loriane Py
Attracting international capital flows and understanding their determinants are major challenges for public policy. The analysis of 140,000 foreign direct investment (FDI) projects carried out between 2003 and 2014 in 3,500 cities worldwide suggests that investing in subway transport infrastructures may be a means to attract more FDI. In this respect, the Grand Paris Express could therefore contribute to bolstering the international attractiveness of the French capital.
Chart 1: The number of FDI projects received and size of subways: a positive relationship Source: Bono, David, Desbordes, and Py (2017)
Monetary policy nowadays is usually decided by a committee. A narrative approach of the history of the U.S Federal Open Market Committee suggests that the Fed Chair’s economic beliefs and the Committee’s center of gravity of policy preferences matter for decision making.
Figure 1. Hawks and Doves at the FOMC (1960-2015) Notes: The Hawk – Dove Balance is the share of Hawks minus the share of Doves in a given meeting of the FOMC (excluding the chair). The shade of the chart indicates the type of the Fed chair, red for Hawk and blue for Dove. Source: Istrefi (2018)
Central banks have adopted new unprecedented strategies to fight recent financial crises. In the euro area in 2012, one such tool allowed banks to use a wider set of corporate loans as guarantees when they borrow from the Eurosystem. Two recent studies show that this policy has been critical in fostering banks’ lending to firms during the crisis.
Chart 1: Comparative trends in credit for newly eligible firms Source: Cahn, Duquerroy and Mullins (2017).
Changes in the value added sharing are the focus of considerable debate. In France, the assessment depends largely on the scope of analysis chosen and the degree to which it is aggregated, and it differs depending on the sector: since the crisis, the labour share has increased in market services but has declined in industry.
Chart 1: Labour share in value added (% of the cost of labour in gross value added at factor costs) Source: Insee, authors’ calculations
In France, the gross investment rate of non-financial corporations is trending upwards, and was half a percentage point higher in 2016 than its previous peak of 2007-2008. However, after deducting capital depreciation, the net investment rate, which corresponds to the increase in productive capital, was one percentage point lower than its 2008 peak and equivalent to its mid-2000s level. The acceleration in depreciation stems from the increase in both capital per unit produced and in the average depreciation rate, which is itself linked to the greater share of intangible assets in investment.
Chart 1: Real gross and net investment rate in France (NFCs-IEs approximation) Sources: National Accounts tables 6.302 and 6.462. The nominal investment rate of NFCs was 23.3% in 2008 and 2016, table 7.101.
Short-time work schemes have been implemented in many OECD countries with a view to protecting jobs in companies experiencing temporary difficulties. While such schemes made it possible to save jobs during the Great Recession of 2008-2009, they may also have adverse effects on the economy. However, these effects would be minimised by sensible reforms.
In countries with very high public debt, a major shock could prevent the implementation of countercyclical fiscal policies and increase default risk. GDP-indexed bonds would help to mitigate these risks and avoid a costly and disruptive restructuring. A counterfactual analysis of the Greek case illustrates this idea.
Chart 1. Greek public debt: observed data and scenario without restructuring with GDP-indexed bonds (% of GDP). Source: IMF and authors’ calculations. * In 2012, Greek public debt was restructured through private sector involvement requiring a EUR 107 billion haircut.
The share of imports from low-wage countries in French households’ consumption increased threefold from 1994 to 2014. These less expensive imports lowered inflation in France by 0.17 pp per year on average. This direct effect of imports since 1994 represented a gain of about EUR 1,000 in terms of average household consumption in 2014. However, the indirect effects of opening up to international trade on households’ purchasing power, via wages and employment, were not taken into account.
Chart 1: Share of imports in households’ consumption (in %) Source: Carluccio et al. (2018) based on Customs and INSEE data Note: Only imports of final goods that are included in household consumption are taken into account.
Since 2008, the over-50s are the only age group in the euro area to have seen a steady rise in employment, as a result of population ageing and the increase in the effective pension age. In contrast, the number of those under 50 in work has fallen markedly over the same period, despite a recent stabilisation in the trend. The over-60s are the only group not to have seen an improvement in gross hourly wages between 2010 and 2014.
Chart 1: Number of people in work in the euro area by age group and for the entire population aged 15-74. Difference relative to the first quarter of 2008 (thousands). Source: Eurostat
In France in 2016, the gross margin rate of non-financial corporations (NFCs) returned to its early 2000s level, at 32%, while the net margin rate was 15%, compared with 18% in the 2000s. Thus, using aggregates "net" of capital depreciation gives a different picture of the NFCs account. Furthermore, the NFCs' net saving rate would be close to zero, and their stock of fixed capital could only increase through external financing.
Chart 1: gross and net margin rates of French NFCs Source: Insee, table 7.101 – non-financial corporations account (S11).
This study shows that budget-neutral measures – i.e. changes in the composition of fiscal revenue and spending that leave the ex-ante total government budget unchanged – can boost economic growth. However, not all households are equally affected by these measures. In addition, measures implemented when monetary policy is accommodative have larger macro effects.
Figure 1: GDP and private investment Figure taken from Bussière et al (2017)
Less than two months after the adoption of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which cut individual income tax and corporate tax, US Congress passed a budget agreement that increases public spending for 2018 and 2019. The effects on the US economy represent a two-edged sword: an additional 1.4 percentage point of GDP over two years, but a widening of the trade and budget deficits to 4% and 6% of GDP respectively. The recent dollar depreciation may reflect the growing concerns of international investors
Chart1 – United States: federal budget balance and economic cycle since 1960 Sources: Data from the Bureau of Fiscal Service, Bureau of Labor Statistics and CBO; authors' calculations.
Were it easy to predict financial crises, it would be just as easy for the macroprudential authorities to prevent them. The statistical methods used for forecasting financial crises are greatly improving but have to contend with the fact that such events are (fortunately) rare and occur suddenly. In this article, we discuss the usefulness of early warning systems as well as their limitations on the grounds that the financial system is constantly evolving.
The weakness of wage inflation may result in part from the increasing participation of older workers in the labour market. Over the last two decades, the participation rate of workers aged 55 to 64 has increased from 33% to 55% on average across OECD countries. We observe that, since 2013, the countries where this increase in labour supply has been the largest have also experienced slower wage inflation.
Figure 1: Wage inflation and the participation of older workers in the G7
Certain critics feel that the Eurosystem took excessive risks to fight the crisis by accepting poor quality collateral for its refinancing operations. Exhaustive analysis of the collateral pledged with the central bank disproves these claims. Their quality followed that of assets available on the market and improved significantly after Quantitative Easing was announced.
Chart 1. Average quality of assets pledged as collateral with the Eurosystem and assets available on the market (eligible for the central bank). Sources: Eurosystem, authors' calculations. Note: GIIPS refers to Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain. For the purpose of this article, only marketable securities are considered.
The US term premium (TP) has been very low by historical standards. Would its sudden rise affect the euro area (EA)? Lower US demand and tighter financial conditions would slow down EA activity. A surprise 1pp increase in US TP could reduce US and EA GDP growth by 0.4pp and 0.25pp respectively. Such effects would be smaller if the monetary authorities were to counteract the fall in inflation.
Figure 1: 10-year Term Premia in the United States, Germany and the euro area Note: The term premia of 10-year government bonds are estimated by NIESR. The euro area term premium is here calculated as ECB capital key weighted average of the term premia of the member countries.
The difference in core inflation between the United States and the euro area is mainly due to housing rents. Since last year’s blogpost on the issue, this feature has become even more blatant: core inflation excluding housing rents is currently lower in the United States than in the euro area, whereas US core inflation is still much higher.
Chart 1: Core inflation vs. core inflation excluding housing rents (quarterly data). Sources: CPI (BLS) for the United States and HICP (Eurostat) for the euro area
In 2017, several studies revived the debate in the United States on the place of female economists in the profession and on the barriers to progress that had to be lifted. In most countries, women are poorly represented in all fields of economics (19% on average worldwide) and the situation is stagnating over time. However, significant differences exist between countries. In France, for example, women are a little more present, particularly among assistant professors.
Map 1: Proportion of female economists by country Source: Female representation in Economics, RePEc, January 2018.
A EUR 10 rise in the price of oil results in a 0.4% increase in consumer prices in France and the euro area. A significant part of this rise can be attributed to the non-energy components of the consumer price index. This indirect effect amounts to 0.1 percentage point in the euro area and 0.15 percentage point in France.
Actual inflation and inflation simulated with a constant oil price in the euro area (% change, yoy) Source: Eurostat, authors' calculations. Note: at each date, the oil price is assumed to be constant over the two previous years.
Since 2008, growth in nominal industry-level wage floors in France has slowed progressively. In a near-zero inflation environment, wage floors have risen by less than 1% per year since 2014. Increases in negotiated wages are largely determined by past inflation and by changes in the national minimum wage (NMW). As a result, the upturn in inflation observed in 2017 could lead to slightly stronger growth in nominal negotiated wages in 2018.
In 2017, the French real estate market continued its recovery. It was fueled by households’ borrowing capacity: household income increased and lending conditions remained favourable. This situation can be explained by low interest rates and long loan terms. After rising by 20% between 2014 and 2016, households’ borrowing capacity stabilised in 2017.
Chart 1: the real estate market recovery continued in 2017 - Year-on-year % change Sources: Insee-Notaires; Ministry of the Environment, Energy and the Sea
Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon are giant companies that reflect the more general phenomenon of concentration which is intensifying in most sectors in the United States. This trend is contributing to an increase in the share of profits and to a decrease in the share of labour in domestic income, as well as to a deepening of inequalities. It is also associated with a decline in the creation rate of new firms and jobs, which could in the longer term weigh on US growth.
According to administrative sources based on employer returns, salaried employment in France rose by more than 40 thousand in 2017Q3. Conversely, according to the household Labour Force Survey, the unemployment rate increased from 9.2% to 9.4% in metropolitan France. In principal, this divergence may be related to changes in the labour force. In practice, it is also the result of differences in the methods applied to measure quarterly employment variations.
The risk of currency wars is a recurrent theme, given an extra twist with unconventional monetary policy. The US Fed has begun normalising its balance sheet, raising concerns about cross-border spillovers. But the effects of conventional and unconventional policies are too similar for the spillovers to be very different. Greater international coordination is therefore no more or less appropriate with two instruments than one.
The Eurosystem provided long-term loans to banks to fight financial fragmentation during the sovereign debt crisis (2011/2012). Some critics have argued that such interventions had adverse side effects for fiscal sustainability by removing market discipline. This criticism misses a critical mitigating effect: the associated stabilisation of credit to the economy improves public debt sustainability by cushioning the drop in GDP. We show with a calibrated model that fiscal solvency is fostered through temporary access to non-standard central bank liquidity.
A large proportion of economic growth remains unexplained by labour and capital factors. When the quality of these factors and the diffusion of innovation are taken into account, the unexplained share is reduced by roughly half. We thus remain ignorant as to the sources of a significant share of growth.
According to the latest Eurosystem projections, inflation is expected to be substantially below 2 % by 2018. Some commentators contend that the Eurosystem should adjust to the “lowflation” environment and lower its inflation target. In this post, we argue that this would not be a good idea. A lower inflation target would increase the incidence of depressed output in the future, thereby dragging inflation further below this new ‘target’.
In France, flexibility in the labour market relies mainly on fixed-term and temporary workers. These workers are less well paid, receive less training and find it difficult to obtain permanent employment. This two-tier labour market creates social and economic problems. Public policies can be envisaged to favour transition to permanent contracts.
Since the start of 2016, French core inflation has been far below the euro area average. This gap can be attributed to the differences in economic fundamentals, such as the slower improvement in the labour market in France compared with that of the euro area as a whole, and, more recently, temporary shocks, such as the decline in the communications prices.
New cross-country evidence shows that VAT compliance is pro-cyclical, and its response to tax-rate hikes is sizeable and negative. Countries with highly sensitive tax compliance have a low ability to reimburse their debt, thus facing higher default risk. Issuing GDP linked bonds may protect such countries from the combined, cyclical risk of growing debt-to-GDP ratios and declining tax revenues.
The effects of the exchange rate on the exports of European firms depend to a large extent on their productivity. The exports of the most productive firms are less affected by exchange rate variations than those of the less productive firms. At the macroeconomic level, this tends to reduce the effects of the exchange rate on trade.
The share of the manufacturing industry in French GDP has fallen by 9 percentage points over the past forty years. This decline is mainly due to technical progress and consumer preferences. Foreign trade has only played a minor role.
The upturn in economic activity in France has been accompanied by an acceleration in imports. This dynamism reflects the opening up of economies and the cyclical nature of components of demand. Over the medium term, a one-euro increase in demand generates no more than 0.33 euro of imports (their share in GDP); but import growth of two to three percentage points of GDP since mid-2016 remains difficult to explain.
The Fed attributes the current disconnect between a tight labour market and low inflation to transitory factors, while also acknowledging an unusual level of uncertainty. It is not the first time such disconnect appears. In the late 1990s already such configuration had triggered a debate on a structural downward shift in inflation. It later transpired that this assessment was based on erroneous data.
The public spending debate merits precise comparisons. The public sector payroll has been higher in France than in Germany by five percentage points of GDP for over 20 years. However it is overestimated by almost two percentage points as a result of hospital work that is not accounted for in Germany as public sector employment. With regard to education, more than one percentage point can be explained by demographics and organisational differences. Nevertheless, for the other government functions, there is still a significant difference, with France spending two percentage points of GDP more than Germany.
In France, at the beginning of 2015, interest rates on new bank loans to businesses fell sharply; this lasting decline, which was more pronounced for high-rate loans, followed the ECB's announcement of quantitative easing. Without any significant change in the characteristics of borrowing companies, it attests to an improvement in financing conditions.
In France, the cost of equity (CoE) faced by non-financial corporations increased sharply during the 2007-2009 and 2011-2012 crises, driven by a surge in the equity risk premium. The COE indeed measures the return required by an investor to acquire or retain a share given its risk. It has often exceeded the return on equity (RoE) since 2007. Since 2016, the CoE has been lower than the RoE for the large listed French non-financial corporations; this encourages productive investment.
Uncertainty about the future path of interest rates is harmful to the economy. A new measure of interest rate uncertainty is constructed for G7 countries, Spain and Sweden, during 1993-2015. Interest rate uncertainty, of the size observed during the recent crisis, decreases industrial production by up to 3.8% and CPI inflation by up to 1 percentage point (pp) while increasing unemployment by up to 1.2 pp.
Deeper financial integration through capital markets can support European growth and resilience to shocks by spurring cross-border equity investment. Completing the banking union requires parallel progress in credit risk reduction and risk-sharing, while keeping systemic risks in check. These priorities should be seen as part of the same agenda and are all the more critical in a post-Brexit EU.
In France, there has been a marked deterioration since the 1970s in the ability of young low-income households to get on to the property ladder. Aside from the problem of house prices and borrowing conditions, this can in part be attributed to demographic changes, notably an increase in single-parent families and in urban migration. Financial assistance, such as cash gifts or inheritance, is widening the gap between the poorest and wealthiest young households.
Since the vote on Brexit, the UK economy has shown resilience. However, due to the historically low level of savings rates, investment uncertainty and inflationary risk, we can ask ourselves whether the current growth model of the UK economy is sustainable over the short term.
The boom of the 2000s in France stimulated investment by firms with significant real estate holdings (positive collateral channel). Conversely, it was unfavourable to investment by younger firms, with fewer holdings, because of the induced cost (negative profit channel), which justifies the current attention given to the financing of SMEs.
This blog post summarises a study covering the 1995-2007 period focusing on the local effects of Chinese import competition on the French labour market: the competition displaced jobs in the manufacturing sector; it also placed downward pressure on average hourly wages, and modified the wage distribution, with limited impacts on the lowest wages, probably as a result of the lower limit set by the statutory minimum wage.
In 2017, French growth is expected to accelerate to around 1.6%. In addition to support from monetary policy, ambitious structural reforms are necessary to raise the current potential growth rate, which is only just below 1.25%. These reforms need to focus on education, vocational training, and labour and competition law.
Financial markets confirm that, since autumn 2016, deflationary risks in the euro area have dissipated. Market indicators – which are admittedly susceptible to a number of biases – nevertheless continue to reflect medium-term inflation expectations which are below the Eurosystem’s target (inflation rates of below, but close to, 2% over the medium run).
The surge in Chinese corporate debt, against the backdrop of declining industrial profitability, is worrying for financial stability in China and beyond its borders. However, the risk of a banking crisis appears to be contained at this stage, although we should remain vigilant.
The Capital Markets Union project (CMU) recommends diversifying the financing of companies, in particular through debt securities in addition to bank loans. Is the choice of debt instrument important in economic recoveries? In fact, companies replace bank financing by bond financing in a recovery phase. In addition, recoveries are more robust when the share of bond financing is high.
The Taylor rules provide guideline recommendations for policy interest rates based on the deviation between macroeconomic variables and their target or potential levels. They can be calculated for each of the euro area countries. Although significantly divergent at the height of the sovereign debt crisis, there has been a clear convergence since 2014, reflecting the resynchronisation of business cycles in the euro area.
Economic history and wine may contribute to understanding contemporaneous economic issues. The wine crisis caused by phylloxera in the late 19th century helps identify the causal impact of refinancing operations of central banks (CBs) on firms’ defaults. The geographical distribution of the branches of the French CB meant that varying ease of access to discounting bills of exchanges varied when the crisis struck. Regions that benefitted from easier access to central bank refinancing exhibited a lower increase in default rates during the crisis.
Risk-free rates have been falling since the 1980s while the return on capital has not (Figure 1). In the framework of an overlapping-generation model, Marx, Mojon, Velde (2017) show that these contrasted developments can be mainly explained by an increase in the (perceived) risk on productivity growth. This implies that real rates are likely to stay low for several years.
The G20 has called for greater investment in infrastructure projects in order to boost growth. One such project, the Train à Grande Vitesse (the TGV – France's high-speed train) allows for corporate productivity gains through reorganisations and increased site specialisation in their areas of expertise. For companies in operation in 2011, this could have represented a positive impact on profit margins of between 0.6 and 1.9 percentage points depending on the industry.
Inflation in the euro area (EA) is recovering. This recovery is explained by the sharp rise in import prices since the beginning of the year and by the steady improvement in the economic situation. In the absence of major shocks, inflation is expected to be around 1.8% in 2019 according to a Phillips curve augmented with import prices.
The relationship between the rather volatile capital flows and domestic credit has become a major challenge from a financial stability point of view. It is at the origin of the implementation, in some economies, of capital flow management measures. Domestic credit sensitivity to cross-border inflows is amplified by the fixed exchange rate arrangements and the strong presence of foreign banks. The implications for countercyclical policies are significant.
As the world economic growth is experiencing its first synchronized recovery since the 2007-2008 financial crisis, it is time to investigate again the links between business cycle synchronization and financial openness. Would decreasing international capital movements attenuate co-movements between national cycles? An historical perspective on the matter shows that, contrary to the common wisdom, the periods of lower global financial integration were not associated with lower business cycle synchronization.
Game theory provides examples and a few valuable lessons for negotiators, whether hawks or doves, such as the risk of “falling off a cliff” in the “game of chicken”. Investment bank strategists and academics have already started toying with such tools to analyse the Brexit “game”. Surely the negotiators’ war rooms have been paying attention.
Brexit negotiations: the clock is ticking Photo: T. Depenbusch (via wikicommons)
By Sanvi Avouyi-Dovi with Vladimir Borgy, Christian Pfister and Franck Sédillot
In the household portfolio in France, the weight of life insurance stabilised at a high level in late 2015. Its previous growth came at the expense of regulated savings and money market mutual funds. This distribution appears to be mainly linked to supply effects, such as financial innovation and tax incentives, beyond the crises, even though there are some breaks in trends around 2008.
Services price inflation in France stood at 1.0% in 2016, well below its average from 1999 to 2015 (around 2%). This paper looks at the mechanisms through which the fall in oil prices and lower headline inflation have contributed to slowing services prices since mid-2014. An analysis of these interactions suggests that services price inflation will begin to recover as of 2017, to around 2%.
The natural rate of interest is the theoretical real rate at which inflation neither rises nor falls. Determined independently of monetary policy, it is a benchmark to assess whether policy is accommodative or restrictive. It is unobservable but estimated to be negative in the euro area over recent years. With modest inflation expectations and the effective lower bound on nominal interest rates, conventional monetary policy struggled to raise inflation, explaining the ECB’s recourse to non-conventional instruments.
According to model simulations, the dollar appreciation in effective terms would have choked 0.2 percentage point (pp) off US growth since mid-2014. Meanwhile, the euro depreciation would have added 0.5pp to Euro Area (EA) growth. But since mid-2015 the euro has been appreciating, dampening growth by 0.2pp. Higher openness of the EA, as well as a larger exposure to emerging economies, could be an explanation.
Firms in difficulty benefiting from loans at very low rates, known as "zombies firms", remain rather scarce in France. The share of these firms according to size has been broadly stable over the past decade. In 2014 they accounted for about 2.5% of SMEs and slightly more than 1% of the others (Large Enterprises, Mid-Tier Enterprises and Holdings). One deduction is that zombie loans should not be viewed as one of the key factors impairing labor productivity in France.
According to the Banque de France nowcasting model, global economic growth is likely to increase moderately in 2017: it would expand by 3.3% after 3.0% in 2016. This is in line with the consensus of major international organizations. Since 2011, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had to revise downwards its global growth projections, but the mid-January update of forecasts brings optimism for global growth this year.
Figure 1: Former global growth forecasts systematically revised downwards Source : IMF
Euro area inflation would have been negative in 2015 and 2016 absent the ECB action since 2014. The impact of this action on inflation, measured by the HICP (Harmonized Index of Consumer Prices), is around +0.3 percentage point (pp) as early as 2015 and +0.8 pp in 2016 according to staff’s estimates of the Eurosystem (the ECB and the 19 national central banks). The cumulated effect on 2015-18 of measures taken in 2014-16 reaches almost +1.6 pp.
Figure 1. Euro area inflation and the estimated effect of monetary policy Note: Inflation is year-on-year percentage change in HICP. The green line represents the realized annual average of inflation. The pink area represents the inflation gain brought by monetary policy.
The ECB unconventional monetary policy has largely succeeded in decoupling nominal interest rates in the euro area from those in the United States since 2014, as warranted by their respective macroeconomic conditions. This has been especially true since the rise in US interest rates after the election of Donald Trump, particularly for rates up to 5 years.
Figure 1: 5 year interest rates (Euro area AAA, US, UK and French treasuries, in %) Sources: Bloomberg and ECB
Over the past five years, global trade and global production have grown at similar rates, whereas before 2008, global trade grew at twice the rate. This slowdown in global trade is largely due to China’s rebalancing towards its domestic demand and its services sector. If we exclude the decline in trade related to increasing protectionism, near-parallel growth for global trade and production is the new “normal.”
Standard of living has slowed continuously over the past decades in most developed economies, mainly due to a productivity slowdown. Have we entered a period of secular stagnation? In fact, many countries still have a significant catch-up potential, even in Europe, but to achieve this catch-up, the implementation of structural reforms is required.