Europe > Greece

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Jelle Barkema, Tryggvi Gudmundsson, and Mr. Mico Mrkaic
Estimates of output gaps continue to play a key role in assessments of the stance of business cycles. This paper uses three approaches to examine the historical record of output gap measurements and their use in surveillance within the IMF. Firstly, the historical record of global output gap estimates shows a firm negative skew, in line with previous regional studies, as well as frequent historical revisions to output gap estimates. Secondly, when looking at the co-movement of output gap estimates and realized measures of slack, a positive, but limited, association is found between the two. Thirdly, text analysis techniques are deployed to assess how estimates of output gaps are used in Fund surveillance. The results reveal no strong bearing of output gap estimates on the coverage of the concept or direction of policy advice. The results suggest the need for continued caution in relying on output gaps for real-time policymaking and policy assessment.
Mr. Bas B. Bakker, Marta Korczak, and Mr. Krzysztof Krogulski
In the last decade, over half of the EU countries in the euro area or with currencies pegged to the euro were hit by large risk premium shocks. Previous papers have focused on the impact of these shocks on demand. This paper, by contrast, focuses on the impact on supply. We show that risk premium shocks reduce the output level that maximizes profit. They also lead to unemployment surges, as firms are forced to cut costs when financing becomes expensive or is no longer available. As a result, all countries with risk premium shocks saw unemployment surge, even as euro area core countries managed to contain unemployment as firms hoarded labor during the downturn. Most striking, wage bills in euro area crisis countries and the Baltics declined even faster than GDP, whereas in core euro area countries wage shares actually increased.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
This paper discusses Greece’s First Post-Program Monitoring discussions. The economic recovery in Greece is accelerating and broadening. Growth and job creation in Greece are expected to accelerate further in 2019. However, vulnerabilities remain significant and downside risks are rising. Policies to promote stronger growth and strengthen the economy’s resilience were the focus of the discussions. The discussion report emphasises on the importance of enhancing labor market flexibility and boosting productivity and competitiveness. Greece should reconsider recent changes in collective bargaining policies and press ahead with its unfinished reform agenda. This would also help mitigate any negative effects on competitiveness and employment from rising wage pressures. Speeding up efforts to clean up bank balance sheets, restore lending, and improve Greece’s weak payment culture is also of prime importance. Medium-term public debt repayment capacity remains robust, but subject to rising risks amid still significant vulnerabilities.
Mr. Jeffrey R. Franks, Ms. Bergljot B Barkbu, Mr. Rodolphe Blavy, William Oman, and Hanni Schoelermann
We examine economic convergence among euro area countries on multiple dimensions. While there was nominal convergence of inflation and interest rates, real convergence of per capita income levels has not occurred among the original euro area members since the advent of the common currency. Income convergence stagnated in the early years of the common currency and has reversed in the wake of the global economic crisis. New euro area members, in contrast, have seen real income convergence. Business cycles became more synchronized, but the amplitude of those cycles diverged. Financial cycles showed a similar pattern: sychronizing more over time, but with divergent amplitudes. Income convergence requires reforms boosting productivity growth in lagging countries, while cyclical and financial convergence can be enhanced by measures to improve national and euro area fiscal policies, together with steps to deepen the single market.
Mr. Tamim Bayoumi and Mr. Barry J. Eichengreen
Once upon a time, in the 1990s, it was widely agreed that neither Europe nor the United States was an optimum currency area, although moderating this concern was the finding that it was possible to distinguish a regional core and periphery (Bayoumi and Eichengreen, 1993). Revisiting these issues, we find that the United States is remains closer to an optimum currency area than the Euro Area. More intriguingly, the Euro Area shows striking changes in correlations and responses which we interpret as reflecting hysteresis with a financial twist, in which the financial system causes aggregate supply and demand shocks to reinforce each other. An implication is that the Euro Area needs vigorous, coordinated regulation of its banking and financial systems by a single supervisor—that monetary union without banking union will not work.
Mr. Thierry Tressel and Ms. Yuanyan S Zhang
The crisis has highlighted the importance of setting up macro-prudential oversight frameworks, having effective macro-prudential instruments in place to be called upon to mitigate growing financial imbalances as needed. We develop a new approach using the euro area Bank Lending Survey to assess the effectiveness of macro-prudential policies in containing credit growth and house price appreciation in mortgage markets. We find instruments targeting the cost of bank capital most effective in slowing down mortgage credit growth, and that the impact is transmitted mainly through price margins, the same banking channel as monetary policy. Limits on loan-to-value ratios are also effective, especially when monetary policy is excessively loose.
Mr. Helge Berger, Mr. Thomas Dowling, Mr. Sergi Lanau, Mr. Mico Mrkaic, Mr. Pau Rabanal, and Marzie Taheri Sanjani
Potential output—in the sense of the GDP level or path an economy can sustain over the medium term—is a crucial benchmark for policymakers. However, it is difficult to estimate when financial “booms and busts” are driving the real economy. This paper uses a simple multivariate filtering approach to illustrate the role financial variables play in driving potential or sustainable output. The results suggest that it moves more steadily during financial “boom and bust” periods than implied by conventional HP filter estimates, which tend to more closely follow actual GDP. A two-region, multisector New Keynesian DSGE model with financial frictions sheds light on the economic forces that could be behind the results obtained from the filter. This has important implications for policymakers.
Mr. Jonathan F Manning and Maral Shamloo
We construct a Financial Conditions Index (FCI) for Greece as a surveillance tool to quantify the degree of the stress in the financial sector. We use principal component analysis to capture the information content of several financial indicators through a single index. We also construct an alternative FCI by purging the business cycle and monetary policy effects on the input variables, and argue that this alternative index is a better indicator of exogenous financial shocks, and thus could be interpreted as a measure of the efficacy of transmission mechanism. We replicate the index for the euro area (EA) as a whole and show that although the developments in the EA were qualitatively in line with those in Greece, they were quantitatively much milder. Our results confirm that monetary transmission was less effective in Greece compared to the EA as a whole. Finally, we argue that our index can be a potentially useful forecasting tool for credit growth.
Mr. Pau Rabanal and Marzie Taheri Sanjani
We suggest a new approach for analyzing the role of financial variables and shocks in computing the output gap. We estimate a two-region DSGE model for the euro area, with financial frictions at the household level, between 2000-2013. After joining the monetary union, a decline in some countries’ borrowing costs contributed to a credit, housing and real boom and bust cycle. We show that financial frictions amplified economic fluctuations and the measure of the output gap in those countries. On the contrary, in countries such as France and Germany, financial frictions played a minor role in output gap measures. We also present evidence of the trade-offs faced by the European Central Bank when trying to stabilize two regions in a currency union with unsynchronized economic cycles.
Philipp Engler, Mr. Giovanni Ganelli, Juha Tervala, and Simon Voigts
Using a DSGE model calibrated to the euro area, we analyze the international effects of a fiscal devaluation (FD) implemented as a revenue-neutral shift from employer's social contributions to the Value Added Tax. We find that a FD in ‘Southern European countries’ has a strong positive effect on output, but mild effects on the trade balance and the real exchange rate. Since the benefits of a FD are small relative to the divergence in competitiveness, it is best addressed through structural reforms.