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International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
Switzerland has navigated the COVID-19 pandemic well. The pandemic has had major social and economic impacts, but an early, strong, and sustained health and economic policy response helped contain the contraction of activity. Coordinated efforts targeting households and firms stemmed a loss of purchasing power and a rise of unemployment and bankruptcies. Recovery has commenced, but uncertainty and risks remain high, dominated by pandemic dynamics. The rebound should deepen, as vaccination proceeds, containment is eased, and domestic and global demand picks up. Fiscal support has been rightly extended in 2021, and monetary policy remains accommodative. Policies should remain supportive until there are clear signs of sustained recovery; the authorities should expand support if needed. Redirection to fostering green, digital transformation with attention to low-income earners will be needed, including to ensure that prolonged emergency support does not hinder structural changes in the economy.
Mr. Fabian Valencia, Richard Varghese, Weijia Yao, and Juan Yepez
The policy response to the COVID-19 shock included regulatory easing across many jurisdictions to facilitate the flow of credit to the economy and mitigate a further ampli-fication of the shock through tighter financial conditions. Using an intraday event study,this paper examines how stock prices—a key driver in financial conditions—reacted to regulatory easing announcements in a sample of 18 advanced economies and 8 emerging markets. The paper finds that overall, regulatory easing announcements contributed to looser financial conditions, but effects varied across sectors and tools. Financial regulatory easing led to lower valuations for financial sector stocks, and higher valuations for non-financial sector stocks, particularly for industries that are more dependent on bank financing. Furthermore, valuations declined and financial conditions tightened following announcements related to easier bank capital regulation while equity valuation rose and financial conditions loosened after those about liquidity regulation. Effects from non-regulatory financial measures appear to be generally more muted.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
The UK entered 2020 negotiating a new economic relationship with the EU and facing other challenges, including meeting climate targets, dealing with an aging population, and reinvigorating tepid productivity growth. Growth and investment had been weak since the 2016 referendum, and the current account deficit elevated, but unemployment was low, inflation on target, and balance sheets strong. The global pandemic hit the UK hard in March, and the country now faces a second wave. The economic impact has been severe, but helped by an aggressive policy response, jobs have been preserved, businesses kept afloat, and banking sector losses contained. Still, the outlook for the near term is weak, as the economy works through the second wave, Brexit, rising unemployment, and corporate distress. Risks are overall to the downside, centering on the degree of balance sheet damage sustained by households and small and medium enterprises. The pace at which vaccines are able to bring the pandemic under control could be an important mitigating factor.
Lucyna Gornicka and Ms. Laura Valderrama
We present a semi-structural model of default risk, which is a function of loan and borrower characteristics, economic conditions, and the regulatory environment. We use this model to simulate bank credit losses for stress-testing purposes and to calibrate borrower-based macroprudential tools. The proposed approach is very flexible and is particularly useful when there is limited history of crisis episodes, when crises bring unanticipated shocks where past tail events offer little guidance and when structural shocks or changes in financial regulations have altered the loan default process. We apply the model to quantify mortgage lending risk in two distinct mortgage markets. For each application, we show a range of modeling adjustments that can be made to capture country-specific institutional features. The model uses bank portfolio data broken down by risk bucket and vintage, which enables us to take explicit account of the loan life cycle and to incorporate the housing and economic cycles. This feature facilitates a timely assessment of banks’ loss-absorbing capacity and the buildup of systemic risk conditional on policy. It also enables counterfactual analysis and the evaluation of macroprudential policy interventions.
Vizhdan Boranova, Raju Huidrom, Sylwia Nowak, Petia Topalova, Mr. Volodymyr Tulin, and Richard Varghese
Wages have been rising faster than productivity in many European countries for the past few years, yet signs of underlying consumer price pressures remain limited. To shed light on this puzzle, this paper examines the historical link between wage growth and inflation in Europe and factors that influence the strength of the passthrough from labor costs to prices. Historically, wage growth has led to higher inflation, but the impact has weakened since 2009. Empirical analysis suggests that the passthrough from wage growth to inflation is significantly lower in periods of subdued inflation and inflation expectations, greater competitive pressures, and robust corporate profitability. Thus the recent pickup in wage growth is likely to have a more muted impact on inflation than in the past.
Mariusz Jarmuzek and Mr. Tonny Lybek
This paper argues that better governance practices can reduce the costs, risks and uncertainty of financial intermediation. Our sample covers high-, middle- and low-income countries before and after the global financial crisis (GFC). We find that net interest margins of banks are lower if various governance indicators are better. More cross-border lending also appears conducive to lower intermediation costs, while the level of capital market development is not significant. The GFC seems not to have had a strong impact except via credit risk. Finally, we estimate the size of potential gains from improved governance.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
This 2018 Article IV Consultation highlights that the Swiss economy has adjusted to the large cumulative exchange rate appreciation that took place since the global financial crisis. After a subdued start to 2017, GDP growth accelerated to 1.1 percent in 2017, and the positive momentum continued in Q1:2018, although at a slightly reduced pace. The improved external outlook, together with the depreciation since mid-2017, are expected to energize the economy and lift GDP growth to 2.25 percent in 2018, before it gradually moderates to 1.75 percent over the medium term. Inflation is expected to increase to the upper half of the target band in 2018–19, and to subsequently revert to the mid-point.