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International Monetary Fund. European Dept.

In recent years, the IMF has released a growing number of reports and other documents covering economic and financial developments and trends in member countries. Each report, prepared by a staff team after discussions with government officials, is published at the option of the member country.

CARLO COTTARELLI and MARIO I. BLEIER

In countries like the former Soviet Union, where wealth is mainly stored in monetary assets, the behavior of the money–income ratio is a poor indicator of the growth of undesired monetary balances (monetary overhang). In those countries a monetary overhang is primarily a wealth overhang, which has to be analyzed by evaluating deviations of actual from desired wealth holdings; this requires an empirical analysis of consumption and saving decisions. In this paper, a consumption function for the Soviet Union is estimated, from which an evaluation of the monetary overhang existing at end–1990 is derived. [JEL D12, E21, E4I, P22]

International Monetary Fund. European Dept.

Austria is prosperous and stable. Nevertheless, it can still improve its economic performance to ensure a continuing rise in incomes and employment within a stable macroeconomic environment. To this end, a comprehensive package of structural and fiscal reforms can raise low GDP growth and ensure the steady decline of public debt. Financial system stability needs to be maintained in a challenging environment.

International Monetary Fund. Research Dept.
This paper highlights exchange rate movements and adjustment in financial markets. This paper develops a model of portfolio behavior in which it is assumed that market participants act as if they always expected exchange rates to move in line with expected inflation differentials. In the solution of this model, exchange rate movements are determined by real interest rate differentials and the cumulated balance of external payments. Two important empirical features distinguish this model from most other models based on the asset-market approach to exchange rate determination. The paper gives evidence that comparisons between these estimates and alternative models broadly support the model developed here. A principal conclusion is that interest rate differentials do have a clearer short-run relationship to exchange rate changes than to exchange rate levels.
Mr. Chris Wright and Mr. John Joisce
When new international statistical standards were published in 1993, one of the major changes to the recommended presentation of the system of national accounts and the balance of payments was the adoption of accruals reporting for income and expenditure. However, as countries have begun to implement these standards, questions have arisen about their exact interpretation in respect of interest flows associated with tradable debt, where the cash flow is fixed at the time of issue but where the price of the instrument fluctuates with market conditions. A clear consensus has yet to emerge. The paper explores the issues involved in using the alternative approaches, the so-called "debtor" and "creditor" approaches. The debtor approach uses the rate implicit at the time of issue, and the creditor approach, the current market rate. The paper concludes that the creditor approach is the only one consistent with accrual principles and market valuation for the debt outstanding. It reviews implications for national and sectoral saving from this approach.
Francisco Roldán
Sovereign debt crises coincide with deep recessions. I propose a model of sovereign debt that rationalizes large contractions in economic activity via an aggregate-demand amplification mechanism. The mechanism also sheds new light on the response of consumption to sovereign risk, which I document in the context of the Eurozone crisis. By explicitly separating the decisions of households and the government, I examine the interaction between sovereign risk and precautionary savings. When a default is likely, households anticipate its negative consequences and cut consumption for self-insurance reasons. Such shortages in aggregate spending worsen economic conditions through nominal wage rigidities and boost default incentives, restarting the vicious cycle. I calibrate the model to Spain in the 2000s and find that about half of the output contraction is caused by default risk. More generally, sovereign risk exacerbates volatility in consumption over time and across agents, creating large and unequal welfare costs even if default does not materialize.
Mr. Ashok Vir Bhatia, Ms. Srobona Mitra, Anke Weber, Mr. Shekhar Aiyar, Luiza Antoun de Almeida, Cristina Cuervo, Mr. Andre O Santos, and Tryggvi Gudmundsson
This note weighs the merits of a capital market union (CMU) for Europe, identifies major obstacles in its path, and recommends a set of carefully targeted policy actions. European capital markets are relatively small, resulting in strong bank-dependence, and are split sharply along national lines. Results include an uneven playing field in terms of corporate funding costs, the rationing out of collateral-constrained firms, and limited shock absorption. The benefits of integration center on expanding financial choice, ultimately to support capital formation and resilience. Capital market development and integration would support a healthy diversity in European finance. Proceeding methodically, the note identifies three key barriers to greater capital market integration in Europe: transparency, regulatory quality, and insolvency practices. Based on these findings, the note urges three policy priorities, focused on the three barriers. There is no roadblock—such steps should prove feasible without a new grand bargain.
International Monetary Fund

This report is focused on the impact of the financial crisis on the Austrian economy and the financial sector, the authorities’ policy responses, and macrofinancial linkages and spillovers. The financial sector has been expanding rapidly, mostly outside Austria. This has brought substantial benefits, but also increased risks and vulnerabilities. Maintaining financial stability will be essential for ensuring macroeconomic stability, fiscal sustainability, and a return to growth, while also having important spillovers to regional financial stability. Austria traditionally benefits from a low unemployment rate compared with the euro area.

International Monetary Fund

Austria has relatively strong macroeconomic fundamentals, but also deep ties with the rest of the euro area. The legacy of an overly ambitious eastward financial sector expansion has created substantial challenges to its policymakers. Policies have been designed to preserve market confidence, increase resilience against future adverse external spillovers, and boost potential growth. The Austrian supervisory authorities have also introduced a set of macroprudential guidelines to strengthen the resilience of the banking sector. However, improvements in the fiscal governance framework have not advanced as expected.

International Monetary Fund

Increasing integration to the East has benefited the Austrian economy, but also created vulnerabilities that came to a head with the global financial crisis. The crisis has highlighted old challenges and created new ones that need to be addressed. The banking sector’s return to more normal levels of profitability creates the conditions for a further build-up of high-quality capital and exit from government support. Policies to foster labor market participation by low-skill workers and human capital accumulation would increase long-term growth.