Korea’s stars tell of an economy saddled with a real neutral rate (r-star) that has declined significantly in recent decades and is currently below zero. This reflects a significant decline in trend growth, and two large financial crises that triggered significant shifts in the saving-investment balance. Larger fiscal deficits and frothy financial conditions since 2012 have helped offset rising demand for safer assets, preventing the neutral rate from falling further. Nonetheless, the fall in the neutral rate, coupled with its effects on asset returns, has complicated the task of monetary policy stabilization. Korea’s neutral rate is likely to remain low over the medium-term and could fall further, reflecting a structural savings-investment imbalance owing to declining productivity and a rotation in demographics increasing the demand for precautionary saving and convenience yield, and widening the capital risk premia. The COVID pandemic risks magnifying these trends.
Weicheng Lian, Mr. Andrea F Presbitero, and Ursula Wiriadinata
As interest rate-growth differentials (r-g) turned negative in many countries, governments consider pursuing fiscal expansion and the potential risks involved. Using a large sample of advanced and emerging economies, our analysis suggests that high public debts can lead to adverse future r-g dynamics. Specifically, countries with higher initial public debt experience (i) a shorter duration of negative r-g episodes and a higher probability of reversal, (ii) higher average r-g, and (iii) a more right-skewed r-g distribution, that implies higher down-side risks. Furthermore, high-debt
countries experience larger increases in interest rates in response to (iv) an unexpected decline in domestic output and (v) an increase of global volatility. Results are stronger when public debts are denominated in foreign currencies.
Mr. Marco Arena, Gabriel Di Bella, Mr. Alfredo Cuevas, Mr. Borja Gracia, Vina Nguyen, and Alex Pienkowski
Estimates of the natural interest rate are often useful in the analysis of monetary and other macroeconomic policies. The topic gathered much attention following the great financial crisis and the Euro Area debt crisis due to the uncertainty regarding the timing of monetary policy normalization and the future path of interest rates. Using a sample of European countries (including several members of the Euro Area), this paper provides estimates of country-specific natural interest rates and some of their drivers between 2000 and 2019. In line with the literature, our findings suggest that natural interest rates declined during this period, and despite a rebound in the last few years of it, they have not recovered to their pre-crisis levels. The paper also discusses the implications of the decline in natural interest rates for monetary conditions and debt sustainability.