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Brian Graf

Abstract

The Consumer Price Index Manual: Concepts and Methods contains comprehensive information and explanations on compiling a consumer price index (CPI). The Manual provides an overview of the methods and practices national statistical offices (NSOs) should consider when making decisions on how to deal with the various problems in the compilation of a CPI. The chapters cover many topics. They elaborate on the different practices currently in use, propose alternatives whenever possible, and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each alternative. The primary purpose of the Manual is to assist countries in producing CPIs that reflect internationally recommended methods and practices.

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.
International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept
Hong Kong SAR’s economy benefitted from a strong cyclical upswing through the first half of 2018, supported by the continued global recovery, buoyant domestic sentiment, and the booming property market. However, near-term risks have significantly increased – including those from trade tensions, tighter global financial conditions, and capital outflows from emerging markets. Also, long-term challenges, including from aging, elevated inequality, and the persistent housing shortage, need to be tackled. Prudent macroeconomic policies and ample buffers are in place to help smoothen the transition and ensure continued stability.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
This Selected Issues paper analyzes the wage moderation in the Netherlands. Wage growth has been subdued in the Netherlands despite tighter labor market conditions in recent years. Besides various cyclical factors, rising labor market flexibility may have contributed to the wage moderation in the Netherlands. Like other advanced economies, slower productivity growth and lower expected inflation are important drivers to the wage moderation in the recent years. In addition to that, remaining slack in the labor market also weighed on wage growth. Going forward, wages are expected to grow faster given higher expected inflation, foreign wage spillovers, and tightening labor market.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
This 2017 Article IV Consultation highlights Ireland’ continued position among the euro area’s top growth performers. Real GDP expanded by 5.2 percent in 2016, supported by a healthy expansion of private consumption and buoyant investment, including construction. Strong broad-based job creation brought unemployment down to 6.4 percent in May, its lowest level in a decade, while inflation remained low as the recent pickup in energy prices and upward pressure from services were partly offset by the impact of weakness in the British pound. The outlook remains positive, but with substantial, mainly externally driven, downside risks. Real GDP is projected to grow at 3.9 percent in 2017, propelled by strong domestic demand.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
This Selected Issues paper examines the household debt situation in Denmark and factors that have contributed to the high level of household debt in the country. Various factors seem to account for the size of household debt, including large pension assets, a highly developed mortgage market, the availability of flexible mortgage products such as deferred amortization loans, indirect subsidies through tax preferences for home ownership, and a regulated rental market that limits mobility. The paper highlights that high household debt could pose direct risks to financial stability if the number of mortgage loan defaults rises sharply in the face of adverse shocks.
Ms. Yan M Sun, Ms. Pritha Mitra, and Mr. Alejandro Simone
This paper studies the factors behind pro-cyclical but widely varying construction shares (as a percent of GDP) across countries, with a strong focus on European countries. Using a dataset covering 48 countries (including advanced and emerging economies within and outside Europe) for 1990-2011, we find that country’s geography, demographics, and economic conditions are the key determinants of a norm around which actual construction shares revolve in a simple AR(1) and error-correction process. The empirical results show that in many European countries, construction shares overshoot relative to their norms before the recent global crisis, but they have fallen significantly since the crisis. Nevertheless, there is still room for further adjustment in construction shares in some countries which may weigh on economic recovery.
International Monetary Fund
Over the last few decades, the economy of Saudi Arabia has strengthened, as oil prices increased with the rebound in global economic activity. Despite this, vulnerabilities to a sustained decline in the oil price have increased. Executive Directors have commended the authorities for their continued stabilizing role in the oil markets. They have encouraged in creating more job opportunities for nationals and improving access to housing finance. They have encouraged the central bank to continue in strengthening the regulatory and supervisory framework.
Ms. Prachi Mishra, Rodney D. Ludema, and Anna Maria Mayda
This paper studies the political influence of individual firms on Congressional decisions to suspend tariffs on U.S. imports of intermediate goods. We develop a model in which firms influence the government by transmitting information about the value of protection, via costless messages (cheap-talk) and costly messages (lobbying). We estimate our model using firm-level data on tariff suspension bills and lobbying expenditures from 1999-2006, and find that indeed verbal opposition by import-competing firms, with no lobbying, significantly reduces the probability of a suspension being granted. In addition, lobbying expenditures by proponent and opponent firms sway this probability in opposite directions.