Category Archives: Papers

Amortization Requirements, Distortions, and Household Resilience: Problems of Macroprudential Policy II

“Amortization Requirements, Distortions, and Household Resilience:  Problems of Macroprudential Policy II,” April 2019, paper.

Abstract

Mortgage lending standards have tightened in Sweden in recent years, in particular through mandatory amortization requirements introduced by the Swedish FSA. The stated purpose is to increase the resilience of mortgagors to shocks, but it is shown that the resilience actually falls and that the tightening causes or worsens many distortions. Households without high income or wealth face higher barriers to entry into owner-occupancy. The mobility within the market for owner-occupied housing is reduced. First-time buyers without high income or wealth are excluded from the owner-occupancy market in Stockholm Municipality and many outsiders have to resort to a high-rent secondary-rental market. To prevent such exclusions, housing prices may have to fall by almost 40%. Less-than-high-income outsiders have higher housing user cost than high-income insiders. A less wealthy outsider has a higher user cost than a high-wealth insider with similar income. Mortgagors are forced to oversave and underconsume relative to their disposable income, and their consumption becomes more sensitive to income shocks. They have to save in illiquid housing equity instead of more liquid and diversified assets. They become less resilient to shocks for many years, for a very small gain in resilience later. Secondary-rental outsiders are forced to overpay, undersave, and underconsume, and their consumption becomes more sensitive to income shocks. They face less resilient to shocks, without any gain in resilience later. By design the amortization requirements make the amortization countercyclical,  which makes consumption more procyclical and sensitive to income shocks. The tightening of lending standards reduces demand for and lowers the prices of housing. This in turn reduces already too-low housing construction and worsens the structural problem of excess demand for housing. The conclusion is that this example of macroprudential policy is counterproductive and harmful to social welfare and equity.

Housing Prices, Household Debt, and Macroeconomic Risk: Problems of Macroprudential Policy I

“Housing Prices, Household Debt, and Macroeconomic Risk: Problems of Macroprudential Policy I,” February 2019. Paper.

Abstract

This paper answers three questions about current Swedish housing prices and household debt: (1) Are housing prices too high? (2) Is household debt too high? (3) Does household debt pose an “elevated macroeconomic risk”? Finansinspektionen (the Swedish FSA) has argued that the answers to these questions are all yes  and that this has justified a substantial further tightening of already rather tight lending standards, achieved through mandatory amortization requirements and in other ways. This paper argues that the answers to the questions instead are all no, in the following sense: Regarding questions (1) and (2), there is no evidence that housing prices and household debt are higher than what is consistent with their fundamental determinants. Regarding question (3), the  “macroeconomic risk” refers to the risk of a larger fall in household consumption in a recession or crisis. There is indeed evidence from Denmark, the UK, and the US of a correlation between households’ pre-crisis indebtedness and subsequent negative consumption responses during the financial crisis 2008-2009. But there is no evidence that high household indebtedness caused a subsequent larger negative consumption response. The correlation is instead explained by an underlying common factor that caused both high pre-crisis indebtedness and a large negative consumption response during the crisis. For Denmark and the UK, the evidence is that the common factor is debt-financed household overconsumption relative to income, more precisely overconsumption financed by housing equity withdrawals. There is also evidence of debt-financed overconsumption for the US. But there is no evidence of debt-financed overconsumption of any macroeconomic significance in Sweden. Therefore, there is no evidence of Swedish household debt posing an elevated macroeconomic risk. In summary, Finansinspektionen’s tightening of lending standards lacks scientific support.

Leaning Against the Wind: Costs and Benefits, Effects on Debt, Leaning in DSGE Models, and a Framework for Comparison of Results

Leaning Against the Wind: Costs and Benefits, Effects on Debt, Leaning in DSGE Models, and a Framework for Comparison of Results,” International Journal of Central Banking 13 (September 2017) 385-408. CEPR DP 12226, NBER WP 23745.

Abstract:

The simple and transparent framework for cost-benefit analysis of leaning against the wind (LAW) in Svensson (JME 2017) and its main result are summarized. The analysis of the policy-rate effects on debt in Bauer and Granziera (IJCB 2017) does not seem to contradict that the effects may be small and of either sign. The analysis of LAW in DSGE models is complicated and the results of Gerdrup et al. (IJCB 2017) may not be robust. The Svensson (JME 2017) framework may allow comparison and evaluation of old and new approaches and their results. As an example, it is shown that these three papers result in very different marginal costs of LAW and that a realistic policy-rate effect on unemployment is crucial.

JEL Codes: E52, E58, G01

New publication: “Cost-Benefit Analysis of Leaning Against the Wind”

Update, August 2017: “Cost-Benefit Analysis of Leaning Against the Wind,” published in Journal of Monetary Economics 90 (2017) 193-213.

The first version, under the title “Cost-Benefit Analysis of Leaning Against the Wind: Are Costs Larger Also with Less Effective Macroprudential Policy?”, was published as IMF Working Paper WP/16/3, January 2016.

New revision: “Cost-Benefit Analysis of Leaning Against the Wind”

Update, August 2017: “Cost-Benefit Analysis of Leaning Against the Wind,” published in Journal of Monetary Economics 90 (2017) 193-213.

The first version, under the title “Cost-Benefit Analysis of Leaning Against the Wind: Are Costs Larger Also with Less Effective Macroprudential Policy?”, was published as IMF Working Paper WP/16/3, January 2016.

Commentary on Monetary Policy and Financial Stability

“Commentary on Monetary Policy and Financial Stability” (slides), presented at “Challenges to Financial Stability in a Low Interest Rate World,” Annual International Journal of Central Banking Research Conference, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, November 21-22, 2016.

Published as “Leaning Against the Wind: Costs and Benefits, Effects on Debt, Leaning in DSGE Models, and a Framework for Comparison of Results,” International Journal of Central Banking 13 (September 2017) 385-408.

Amortization Requirements May Increase Household Debt : A Simple Example

Amortization Requirements May Increase Household Debt : A Simple Example,” IMF Working Paper No. 16/83, April 2016.

The idea is very simple. If you like to have a mortgage of SEK 2 million the next 10 years, you would take out an interest-only mortgage of SEK 2 million now and keep it for 10 years. However, if you learn that new amortization requirements imply that you have to pay back 2 percent of the initial mortgage every year,  you would prefer to borrow SEK 2.5 million now, put the extra SEK 0.5 million in a savings account, and then use withdrawals from the savings account to amortize 2 percent of SEK 2.5 million each year, that is, SEK 50,000 each year and SEK 500,000 in 10 years. Thus, if an LTV cap is not binding you would borrow SEK 2.5 million, or as much as the LTV cap allows you to borrow.   Continue reading