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  • IMF Working Papers x
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Mr. Yunhui Zhao
Using zip code-level data and nonparametric estimation, I present eight stylized facts on the US housing market in the COVID-19 era. Some aggregate results are: (1) growth rate of median housing price during the four months (April-August 2020) since the Federal Reserve’s unprecedented monetary easing has accelerated faster than any four-month period in the lead-up to the 2007-09 global financial crisis; (2) the increase in housing demand in response to lower mortgage interest rates displays a structural break since March 2020 (housing demand has increased by much more than before). These results indicate either the existence of “fear of missing out” or COVID-induced fundamental changes in household behavior. In terms of distributional evidence, I find that the increase of housing demand seems more pronounced among the two ends of the income distribution, possibly reflecting relaxed liquidity constraints at the lower end and speculative demand at the higher end. I also find that the developments in housing price, demand, and supply since April 2020 are similar across urban, suburban, and rural areas. The paper highlights some potential unintended consequences of COVID-fighting policies and calls for further studies of the driving forces of the empirical findings.
Jihad Dagher
Financial crises are traditionally analyzed as purely economic phenomena. The political economy of financial booms and busts remains both under-emphasized and limited to isolated episodes. This paper examines the political economy of financial policy during ten of the most infamous financial booms and busts since the 18th century, and presents consistent evidence of pro-cyclical regulatory policies by governments. Financial booms, and risk-taking during these episodes, were often amplified by political regulatory stimuli, credit subsidies, and an increasing light-touch approach to financial supervision. The regulatory backlash that ensues from financial crises can only be understood in the context of the deep political ramifications of these crises. Post-crisis regulations do not always survive the following boom. The interplay between politics and financial policy over these cycles deserves further attention. History suggests that politics can be the undoing of macro-prudential regulations.
Ms. Sonali Jain-Chandra, Min Jung Kim, Sung Ho Park, and Jerome Shin
Korea was hit hard by the 2008 global financial crisis, with the foreign bank deleveraging channel coming prominently into play. The global financial crisis demonstrated that a sharp deleveraging can be transmitted to emerging markets through the bank lending channel to a slowdown in credit growth. The analysis finds that a sharp decline in external funding led to relatively modest decline in domestic credit by Korean banks, due to concerted policy efforts by the government in 2008. Impulse responses from a Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium (DSGE) model calibrated to Korea shows that it appears better prepared to handle such shocks relative to 2008. Indeed, Korea is much more resilient to such shocks due to the efforts by the authorities, which has led to the strengthening of external buffers, such as higher foreign exchange reserves and bilateral and multilateral currency swap arrangements.
Jihad Dagher and Mr. Ning Fu
We show that the lightly regulated non-bank mortgage originators contributed disproportionately to the recent boom-bust housing cycle. Using comprehensive data on mortgage originations, which we aggregate at the county level, we first establish that the market share of these independent non-bank lenders increased in virtually all US counties during the boom. We then exploit the heterogeneity in the market share of independent lenders across counties as of 2005 and show that higher market participation by these lenders is associated with increased foreclosure filing rates at the onset of the housing downturn. We carefully control for counties' economic, demographic, and housing market characteristics using both parametric and semi-nonparametric methods. We show that this relation between the pre-crisis market share of independents and the rise in foreclosure is more pronounced in less regulated states. The macroeconomic consequences of our findings are significant: we show that the market share of these lenders as of 2005 is also a strong predictor of the severity of the housing downturn and subsequent rise in unemployment. Overall our findings lend support to the view that more stringent regulation could have averted some of the volatility on the housing market during the recent boom-bust episode.
Mr. G. Terrier, Mr. Rodrigo O. Valdes, Mr. Camilo E Tovar Mora, Mr. Jorge A Chan-Lau, Carlos Fernandez Valdovinos, Ms. Mercedes Garcia-Escribano, Mr. Carlos I. Medeiros, Man-Keung Tang, Miss Mercedes Vera Martin, and W. Christopher Walker

This paper reviews policy tools that have been used and/or are available for policy makers in the region to lean against the wind and review relevant country experiences using them. The instruments examined include: (i) capital requirements, dynamic provisioning, and leverage ratios; (ii) liquidity requirements; (iii) debt-to-income ratios; (iv) loan-to-value ratios; (v) reserve requirements on bank liabilities (deposits and nondeposits); (vi) instruments to manage and limit systemic foreign exchange risk; and, finally, (vii) reserve requirements or taxes on capital inflows. Although the instruments analyzed are mainly microprudential in nature, appropriately calibrated over the financial cycle they may serve for macroprudential purposes.

Mr. Christopher W. Crowe
The recent housing bust has reignited interest in psychological theories of speculative excess (Shiller, 2007). I investigate this issue by identifying a segment of the U.S. population-evangelical protestants-that may be less prone to speculative motives, and uncover a significant negative relationship between their population share and house price volatility. Evangelicals' focus on Biblical prophecy could account for this difference, since it may enable them to interpret otherwise negative events as containing positive news, dampening the response of house prices to shocks. I provide evidence for this channel using a popular internet measure of "prophetic activity" and a 9/11 event study. I also analyze survey data covering religious beliefs and asset holding, and find that 'end times' beliefs are associated with a one-third decline in net worth, consistent with these beliefs providing a form of psychic insurance (Scheve and Stasavage, 2006a and 2006b) that reduces asset demand.
Mr. Christoph Duenwald
This paper examines the determinants of residential property prices in Hong Kong SAR during 1980–98. It uses time-series analysis techniques to characterize price developments, establish empirical regularities, and provide measures of the deviations of actual price changes from “trend.” The analysis suggests that at the peak of the boom, in mid-1997, the level of property prices may have been 40–45 percent above levels suggested by developments in “fundamentals.” The analysis highlights the role of demand-side factors, and the data are not inconsistent with the notion that the property market may be subject to speculative bubbles.