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Mr. Divya Kirti, Yang Liu, Soledad Martinez Peria, Ms. Prachi Mishra, and Jan Strasky
We introduce a new comprehensive announcement-level database tracking the extraordinary fiscal, monetary, prudential, and other policies that countries adopted in response to Covid-19. The database provides detailed information, including sizes where available, for 28 granular policies adopted by 74 countries during 2020. About 5,500 policy measures were announced during this period. Importantly, the database is organized and presented in a format easy for researchers to use in empirical analyses. Announcements were highly correlated across the broad fiscal, monetary, and prudential categories and at more granular levels. Advanced economies (AEs) introduced larger fiscal measures than emerging and developing economies (EMDEs) and relied primarily on large unconventional monetary policies. Bank capital requirements were relaxed widely in both AEs and EMs, while relaxation of provisioning requirements was more common among EMs. Supervisory expectations and reporting requirements were widely relaxed.
Mr. Nicolas E Magud and Samuel Pienknagura
We study the response of corporate investment in Emerging Markets to unexpected fiscal shocks. We find that, although firm-level investment decreases on impact following unexpected public expenditure adjustments (classical Keynesian multiplier effect), it quickly rises above pre-shock levels. The rebound in investment is facilitated by fiscal space, flexible exchange rates, and more predictable fiscal policy. We also show that the composition of fiscal adjustments matters for investment’s response—compared to public investment adjustments, reductions in public consumption lead to larger private investment contractions on impact, but drive private investment to above pre-shock levels. Finally, we exploit firm-level heterogeneity in several dimensions, including to show that corporate investment’s recovery is stronger in firms in the tradable sector and in larger and less indebted firms, and to show that the long-run benefits to economic activity of the fiscal shock appear to outweigh its short-run costs.
Mr. Heiko Hesse and Mr. Ken Miyajima
Globally, financial institutions have increased their holdings of domestic sovereign debt, tightening the linkage between the health of the financial system and the level of sovereign debt, or the “financial sector-sovereign nexus,” during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In South Africa, the nexus is still relatively moderate, albeit rising, and the increased focus of the Prudential Authority on the associated risks provide reassurance. Options to mitigate such risks through the use of regulatory measures can be explored. However, absent the necessary fiscal consolidation and structural reforms, risks from the nexus to both the financial system and the sovereign will increase.
Adrien Alvero, Mr. Sakai Ando, and Kairong Xiao
We show that distortion in the size distribution of banks around regulatory thresholds can be used to identify costs of bank regulation. We build a structural model in which banks can strategically bunch their assets below regulatory thresholds to avoid regulations. The resulting distortion in the size distribution of banks reveals the magnitude of regulatory costs. Using U.S. bank data, we estimate the regulatory costs imposed by the Dodd-Frank Act. Although the estimated regulatory costs are substantial, they are significatnly lower than those in self-reported estimates by banks.
José Abad
Following the COVID shock, supervisors encouraged banks to use capital buffers to support the recovery. However, banks have been reluctant to do so. Provided the market expects a bank to rebuild its buffers, any draw-down will open up a capital shortfall that will weigh on its share price. Therefore, a bank will only decide to use its buffers if the value creation from a larger loan book offsets the costs associated with a capital shortfall. Using market expectations, we calibrate a framework for assessing the usability of buffers. Our results suggest that the cases in which the use of buffers make economic sense are rare in practice.
Mr. Dimitri G Demekas and Pierpaolo Grippa
There are demands on central banks and financial regulators to take on new responsibilities for supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy. Regulators can indeed facilitate the reorientation of financial flows necessary for the transition. But their powers should not be overestimated. Their diagnostic and policy toolkits are still in their infancy. They cannot (and should not) expand their mandate unilaterally. Taking on these new responsibilities can also have potential pitfalls and unintended consequences. Ultimately, financial regulators cannot deliver a low-carbon economy by themselves and should not risk being caught again in the role of ‘the only game in town.’
Mr. Tanai Khiaonarong, Mr. Harry Leinonen, and Ryan Rizaldy
Major operational incidents in payment systems suggest the need to improve their resiliency. Meanwhile, as payment infrastructures become more digitalized, integrated, and interdependent, they require an even higher degree of resilience. Moreover, risks that could trigger major disruptions have become more acute given the rise in power outages, cyber incidents, and natural disasters. International experiences suggest the need to strengthen reliability objectives, redundancies, assessment of critical service providers, endpoint security, and alternative arrangements
Sharjil M. Haque and Mr. Richard Varghese
We study the impact of the COVID-19 recession on capital structure of publicly listed U.S. firms. Our estimates suggest leverage (Net Debt/Asset) decreased by 5.3 percentage points from the pre-shock mean of 19.6 percent, while debt maturity increased moderately. This de-leveraging effect is stronger for firms exposed to significant rollover risk, while firms whose businesses were most vulnerable to social distancing did not reduce leverage. We rationalize our evidence through a structural model of firm value that shows lower expected growth rate and higher volatility of cash flows following COVID-19 reduced optimal levels of corporate leverage. Model-implied optimal leverage indicates firms which did not de-lever became over-leveraged. We find default probability deteriorates most in large, over-leveraged firms and those that were stressed pre-COVID. Additional stress tests predict value of these firms will be less than one standard deviation away from default if cash flows decline by 20 percent.
Mr. Vikram Haksar, Mr. Yan Carriere-Swallow, Emran Islam, Andrew Giddings, Kathleen Kao, Emanuel Kopp, and Gabriel Quiros
The ongoing economic and financial digitalization is making individual data a key input and source of value for companies across sectors, from bigtechs and pharmaceuticals to manufacturers and financial services providers. Data on human behavior and choices—our “likes,” purchase patterns, locations, social activities, biometrics, and financing choices—are being generated, collected, stored, and processed at an unprecedented scale.