We propose and test a new explanation for the rise and fall of the Great Inflation, a defining event in macroeconomics. We argue that its rise was due to the imposition of binding deposit rate ceilings under the law known as Regulation Q, and that its fall was due to the removal of these ceilings once the law was repealed. Deposits were the dominant form of saving at the time, hence Regulation Q suppressed the return to saving. This drove up aggregate demand, which pushed up inflation and further lowered the real return to saving, setting off an inflation spiral. The repeal of Regulation Q broke the spiral by sending deposit rates sharply higher. We document that the rise and fall of the Great Inflation lines up closely with the imposition and repeal of Regulation Q and the enormous changes in deposit rates and quantities it produced. We further test this explanation in the cross section using detailed data on local deposit markets and inflation. By exploiting four different sources of geographic variation, we show that the degree to which Regulation Q was binding has a large impact on local inflation, consistent with the hypothesis that Regulation Q explains the observed variation in aggregate inflation. We conclude that in the presence of financial frictions the Fed may be unable to control inflation regardless of its policy rule.
We document that finance companies and FinTech Lenders increased lending to small businesses after the 2008 financial crisis. We show that most of the increase substituted for a reduction in lending by banks. In counties where banks had a larger market share before the crisis, finance companies and FinTech lenders increased their lending more. By 2016, the increase in finance company and FinTech lending almost perfectly offset the decrease in bank lending. We control for firms' credit demand by examining lending by different lenders to the same firm, by comparing firms within the same narrow industry, and by comparing firms pledging the same collateral. Consistent with the substitution of bank lending with finance company and FinTech lending, we find limited long-term effects on employment, wages, new business creation, and business expansion. Our results show that finance companies and FinTech lenders are major suppliers of credit to small businesses and played an important role in the recovery from the 2008 financial crisis.
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Between 2003 and 2006, the Federal Reserve raised rates by 4.25%. Yet it was precisely during this period that the housing boom accelerated, fueled by rapid growth in mortgage lending. There is deep disagreement about how, or even if, monetary policy impacted the boom. Using heterogeneity in banks' exposures to the deposits channel of monetary policy, we show that Fed tightening induced a large reduction in banks' deposit funding, leading them to contract new on-balance-sheet lending for home purchases by 26%. However, an unprecedented expansion in privately-securitized loans, led by nonbanks, largely offset this contraction. Since privately-securitized loans are neither GSE-insured nor deposit-funded, they are run-prone, which made the mortgage market fragile. Consistent with our theory, the re-emergence of privately-securitized mortgages has closely tracked the recent increase in rates.
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We show that in stark contrast to conventional wisdom maturity transformation does not expose banks to significant interest rate risk. Aggregate net interest margins have been near-constant from 1955 to 2015, despite substantial maturity mismatch and wide variation in interest rates. We argue that this is due to banks' market power in deposit markets. Market power allows banks to pay deposit rates that are low and relatively insensitive to interest rate changes, but it also requires them to pay large operating costs. This makes deposits resemble fixed-rate liabilities. Banks hedge them by investing in long-term assets whose interest payments are also relatively insensitive to interest rate changes. Consistent with this view, we find that banks match the interest rate sensitivities of their expenses and income one for one. This relationship is robust to instrumenting for expense sensitivity using geographic variation in market power. Also consistent, we find that banks with lower expense sensitivity hold assets with substantially longer duration. Our results provide a novel explanation for the coexistence of deposit-taking and maturity transformation.
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We develop an empirical approach for identifying specialization in bank lending using granular data on borrower activities. We illustrate the approach by characterizing bank specialization by export market, combining bank, loan, and export data for all firms in Peru. We find that all banks specialize in at least one export market, that specialization affects a firm's choice of new lenders and how to finance exports, and that credit supply shocks disproportionately affect a firm's exports to markets where the lender specializes in. Thus, bank market-specific specialization makes credit difficult to substitute, with consequences for competition in credit markets and the transmission of credit shocks to the economy.
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Technology-based ("FinTech") lenders increased their market share of U.S. mortgage lending from 2% to 8% from 2010 to 2016.
Using loan-level data on mortgage applications and originations, we show that FinTech lenders process mortgage applications 20% faster than other lenders,
controlling for observable characteristics. Faster processing does not come at the cost of higher defaults. FinTech lenders adjust supply more elastically
than other lenders in response to exogenous mortgage demand shocks. In areas with more FinTech lending, borrowers refinance more, especially when it is in their interest to do so.
We find no evidence that FinTech lenders target
borrowers with low access to finance.
In recent years there has been a resurgence of research on the transmission of monetary policy through the financial system, fueled in part by empirical findings showing that monetary policy affects asset prices and the financial system in ways not explained by the New Keynesian paradigm. In particular, monetary policy appears to impact risk premia in stock and bond prices, and to effectively control the liquidity premium in the economy (the cost of holding liquid assets). We review these findings and recent theories proposed to explain them, and outline a conceptual framework that unifies them. The framework revolves around the central role of liquidity in risk sharing, and how monetary policy governs its production and use within the financial sector.
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We develop a dynamic asset pricing model in which monetary policy affects the risk premium component of the cost of capital. Risk-tolerant agents (banks) borrow from risk-averse agents (i.e. take deposits) to fund levered investments. Leverage exposes banks to funding risk, which they insure by holding liquidity buffers. By changing the nominal rate the central bank influences the liquidity premium in financial markets, and hence the cost of taking leverage. Lower nominal rates make liquidity cheaper and raise leverage, resulting in lower risk premia and higher asset prices, volatility, investment, and growth. We analyze forward guidance, a “Greenspan put”, and the yield curve.
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We present a new channel for the transmission of monetary policy, the deposits channel. We show that when the Fed funds rate rises, banks widen the spreads they charge on deposits, and deposits flow out of the banking system. We present a model where this is due to market power in deposit markets. Consistent with the market power mechanism, deposit spreads increase more and deposits flow out more in concentrated markets. This is true even when we control for lending opportunities by only comparing different branches of the same bank. Since deposits are the main source of liquid assets for households, the deposits channel can explain the observed strong relationship between the liquidity premium and the Fed funds rate. Since deposits are also a uniquely stable funding source for banks, the deposits channel impacts bank lending. When the Fed funds rate rises, banks that raise deposits in concentrated markets contract their lending by more than other banks. Our estimates imply that the deposits channel can account for the entire transmission of monetary policy through bank balance sheets.
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We analyze lender of last resort (LOLR) lending during the European sovereign debt crisis. Using a novel data set on all central bank lending and collateral, we show that weakly capitalized banks took out more LOLR loans and used riskier collateral than strongly capitalized banks. We also find that weakly capitalized banks used LOLR loans to buy risky assets such as distressed sovereign debt. This resulted in a reallocation of risky assets from strongly to weakly capitalized banks. Our findings cannot be explained by classical LOLR theory. Rather, they point to risk taking by banks, both independently and with the encouragement of governments, and highlight the benefit of unifying LOLR lending and bank supervision.
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We estimate the elasticity of exports to credit using matched customs and firm-level bank credit data from Peru. To account for non-credit determinants of exports, we compare changes in exports of the same product and to the same destination by firms borrowing from banks differentially affected by capital-flow reversals during the 2008 financial crisis. We find that credit shocks affect the intensive margin of exports, but have no significant impact on entry or exit of firms to new product and destination markets. Our results suggest that credit shortages reduce exports through raising the variable cost of production, rather than the cost of financing sunk entry investments.
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We model a loop between sovereign and bank credit risk. A distressed financial sector induces government bailouts, whose cost increases sovereign credit risk. Increased sovereign credit risk in turn weakens the financial sector by eroding the value of its government guarantees and bond holdings. Using credit default swap (CDS) rates on European sovereigns and banks, we show that bailouts triggered the rise of sovereign credit risk in 2008. We document that post-bailout changes in sovereign CDS explain changes in bank CDS even after controlling for aggregate and bank-level determinants of credit spreads, confirming the sovereign-bank loop.
We examine the risk-taking behavior of money market funds during the financial crisis of 2007 to 2010. We find that (1) money market funds experienced an unprecedented expansion in their risk-taking opportunities; (2) funds had strong incentives to take on risk because fund inflows were highly responsive to fund yields; (3) funds sponsored by financial intermediaries with more money fund business took on more risk; and (4) funds suffered runs as a result of their risk taking. This evidence suggests that money market funds lack safety because they have strong incentives to take on risk when the opportunity arises and are vulnerable to runs.
We analyze asset-backed commercial paper conduits, which experienced a shadowbanking run and played a central role in the early phase of the financial crisis of 2007 to 2009. We document that commercial banks set up conduits to securitize assets worth $1.3 trillion while insuring the newly securitized assets using explicit guarantees. We show that regulatory arbitrage was an important motive behind setting up conduits. In particular, the guarantees were structured so as to reduce regulatory capital requirements, more so by banks with less capital, and while still providing recourse to bank balance sheets for outside investors. Consistent with such recourse, we find that conduits provided little risk transfer during the run, as losses from conduits remained with banks instead of outside investors and banks with more exposure to conduits had lower stock returns.
We analyze government interventions to recapitalize a banking sector that restricts lending to firms because of debt overhang. We find that the efficient recapitalization program injects capital against preferred stock plus warrants and conditions implementation on sufficient bank participation. Preferred stock plus warrants reduces opportunistic participation by banks that do not require recapitalization, although conditional implementation limits free riding by banks that benefit from lower credit risk because of other banks' participation. Efficient recapitalization is profitable if the benefits of lower aggregate credit risk exceed the cost of implicit transfers to bank debt holders.
I exploit the 1998 Russian default as a negative liquidity shock to international banks and analyze its transmission to Peru. I find that after the shock international banks reduce bank-to-bank lending to Peruvian banks and Peruvian banks reduce lending to Peruvian firms. The effect is strongest for domestically owned banks that borrow internationally, intermediate for foreign-owned banks, and weakest for locally funded banks. I control for credit demand by examining firms that borrow from several banks. These results suggest that international banks transmit liquidity shocks across countries and that negative liquidity shocks reduce bank lending in affected countries.