Banque nationale suisse

Christian Hott: Banks and Real Estate Prices


The willingness of banks to provide funding for real estate purchases depends on the creditworthiness of their borrowers. Beside other factors, the creditworthiness of borrowers depends on the development of real estate prices. Real estate prices, in turn, depend on the demand for homes which is influenced by the willingness of banks to provide funding for real estate purchases. In this paper I develop a theoretical model which describes and explains this circular relationship. Using this model, I show how different kinds of expectation formations can lead to fluctuations of real estate prices. Furthermore, I show that banks make above average profits in the upswing phase of the real estate cycle but suffer high losses when the market turns.

Philipp Haene and Andy Sturm: Optimal Central Counterparty Risk Management


In order to protect themselves against the potential losses in case of a participant's default and to contain systemic risk, central counterparties (CCPs) need to maintain sufficient financial resources. Typically, these financial resources consist of margin requirements and contributions to a collective default fund. Based on a stylized model of CCP risk management, this article analyzes the main factors affecting the trade-off between margins and default fund. The optimal balance between these two risk management instruments is found to depend on collateral costs, participants' default probability, and the extent to which margin requirements are associated with risk-mitigating incentives. Given the increasing role of CCPs in financial markets in general and for financial stability in particular, these considerations are not only important for CCPs themselves, but also for financial regulators.

Sarah Marit Lein and Eva Köberl: Capacity Utilisation, Constraintes and Price Adjustments under the Microscope


This paper analyses the interplay of capacity utilisation, capacity constraints, demand constraints and price adjustments, employing a unique firm-level data set for Swiss manufacturing firms. Theoretically, capacity constraints limit the ability of firms to expand production in the short run and lead to increases in prices. Our results show that, on the one hand, price increases are more likely during periods when firms are faced with capacity constraints. Constraints due to the shortage of labour, in particular, lead to price increases. On the other hand, we also find evidence that firms are not reluctant to reduce prices in response to demand constraints. At the macro level, the implied capacity-utilisation Phillips curve has a convex shape during periods of excess demand and a concave shape during periods of excess supply. Our results are robust to the inclusion of proxies for changes in costs and the competitive position of firms.

Christian Hott: Explaining House Price Fluctuations


A comparison of fundamental house prices with actual prices indicates that house prices fluctuate more than fundamentally justified. This fact is very hard to explain with standard rational agent models. This paper develops a housing market model that allows to examine the price effects of various kinds of agents' expectations. In this framework I we show that the consideration of behavioural aspects like herding behaviour, speculation and momentum trading can help to explain actual house price fluctuations. Following the different approaches, agents overreact to fundamentals and are influenced by past price movements and returns.

Paul Söderlind: Inflation Risk Premia and Survey Evidence on Macroeconomic Uncertainty


Nominal and real U.S. interest rates (1997Q1-2008Q2) are combined with inflation expectations from the Survey of Professional Forecasters to calculate time series of risk premia. It is shown that survey data on inflation and output growth uncertainty, as well as a proxy for liquidity premia can explain a large amount of the variation in these risk premia.

Matteo Bonato, Massimiliano Caporin and Angelo Ranaldo: Forecasting realized (co)variances with a block structure Wishart autoregressive model


In modelling and forecasting volatility, two main trade-offs emerge: mathematical tractability versus economic interpretation and accuracy versus speed. The authors attempt to reconcile, at least partially, both trade-offs. The former trade-off is crucial for many financial applications, including portfolio and risk management. The speed/accuracy trade-off is becoming more and more relevant in an environment of large portfolios, prolonged periods of high volatility (as in the current financial crisis), and the burgeoning phenomenon of algorithmic trading in which computer-based trading rules are automatically implemented. The increased availability of high-frequency data provides new tools for forecasting variances and covariances between assets. However, there is scant literature on forecasting more than one realised volatility. Following Gourieroux, Jasiak and Sufana (Journal of Econometrics, forthcoming), the authors propose a methodology to model and forecast realised covariances without any restriction on the parameters while maintaining economic interpretability. An empirical application based on variance forecasting and risk evaluation of a portfolio of two US treasury bills and two exchange rates is presented. The authors compare their model with several alternative specifications proposed in the literature. Empirical findings suggest that the model can be efficiently used in large portfolios.

Martin Brown, Steven Ongena and Pinar Yesin: Foreign Currency Borrowing by Small Firms


We examine the firm- and country-level determinants of the currency denomination of small business loans. We first model the choice of loan currency in a framework which features a trade-off between lower cost of debt and the risk of firm-level distress costs, and also examines the impact of information asymmetry between banks and firms. When foreign currency funds come at a lower interest rate, all foreign currency earners as well as those local currency earners with high revenues and low distress costs choose foreign currency loans. When the banks have imperfect information on the currency and level of firms revenues, even more local earners switch to foreign currency loans, as they do not bear the full cost of the corresponding credit risk. We then test the implications of our model by using a 2005 survey with responses from 9,655 firms in 26 transition countries. The survey contains details on 3,105 recent bank loans. At the firm level, our findings suggest that firms with foreign currency income and assets are more likely to borrow in a foreign currency. In contrast, firm-level distress costs and financial transparency affect the currency denomination only weakly. At the country level, the interest rate advantages of foreign currency funds and the exchange rate volatility do not explain the foreign currency borrowing in our sample. However, foreign bank presence, weak corporate governance and the absence of capital controls encourage foreign currency borrowing. All in all, we cannot confirm that "carry-trade behavior" is the key driver of foreign currency borrowing by small firms in transition economies. Our results do, however, support the conjecture that banking-sector structures and institutions that aggravate information asymmetries may facilitate foreign currency borrowing.

Thomas Bolli and Mathias Zurlinden: Measurement of labor quality growth caused by unobservable characteristics


The standard economy-wide indices of labor quality (or human capital) largely ignore the role of unobservable worker characteristics. In this paper, we develop a methodology for identifying the contributions of both observable and unobservable worker characteristics in the presence of the incidental parameter problem. Based on data for Switzerland over the period 1991-2006, we find that a large part of growth in labor quality is caused by shifts in the distribution of unobservable worker characteristics. The overall index differs little from the standard indices, but contributions to growth attributed to education and age are corrected downwards.

Christian Beer, Steven Ongena and Marcel Peter: Borrowing in Foreign Currency: Austrian Households as Carry Traders


Household borrowing in a foreign currency is a widespread phenomenon in Austria. Twelve percent of Austrian households report their housing loan to be denominated in either Swiss franc or Japanese yen for example. Yet, despite its importance, peculiar character, and immediate policy concerns, we know too little about the attitudes and characteristics of the households involved in this type of carry trade. We analyze a uniquely detailed financial wealth survey of 2,556 Austrian households to sketch a comprehensive profile of the attitudes and characteristics of the households involved. We employ both univariate tests and multivariate multinomial logit models. The survey data suggests that risk-loving, wealthy, and married households are more likely to take a housing loan in a foreign currency. High-income households are more likely to take a housing loan in general. These findings may partially assuage policy concerns about household default risk on foreign-currency housing loans.

Raphael Anton Auer and Andreas M. Fischer: The Effect of Low-Wage Import Competition on U.S. Inflationary Pressure


This paper develops a new methodology to estimate the effect of low-wage import competition on U.S. producer prices. We first document that when low-wage countries grow, their exports to the United States increase most in labor-intensive sectors. Second, we demonstrate that the temporary and relative component of imports induced by labor intensity and output growth in low-wage countries is orthogonal to U.S. supply and demand shocks and can, therefore, be utilized to identify the causal impact of import competition on prices. In a panel covering 325 manufacturing industries from 1997 to 2006, we find that imports from nine low-wage countries are associated with strong downward pressure on U.S. prices. When these nations capture 1% U.S. market share, producer prices decrease by 3.1%, which is nearly fully accounted by a 2.4% increase in labor productivity and a 0.4% decrease in markups. Overall, we find that imports from the examined countries have decreased U.S. manufacturing PPI inflation by around two percentage points each year.


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