jeffrey frankel harvard kennedy school & nber nber conference on sovereign debt & financial crises,...
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- Jeffrey Frankel Harvard Kennedy School & NBER NBER Conference on Sovereign Debt & Financial Crises, Organized by Sebnem Kalemli-Ozcan, Carmen Reinhart & Ken Rogoff October 18-19, 2013
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- Large T I learned more from reading this paper than from most. In Oscar Jordas phrase: Economic history has a lot to offer: rare events. I like to say: The true value of the black swan metaphor is that one can estimate tail risk events if the data set includes enough countries & enough years. But as someone said yesterday: the research may require many days of going through dusty archives.
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- Financial boom-bust cycle Kaminsky & Vega-Garcia: 1 st financial globalization era, 1820-1931. 5 cycles experienced by Latin America I. 1820-25 lending boom (low U.K. interest rates after Napoleonic Wars). Ends in 1825 when BoE raises discount rate in London Panic. Followed by defaults of 1826-28. II. 1860s boom (esp. railroads) Ends in 1873 with Vienna market crash. Followed by 1873-1877 defaults. III. 1880s lending boom (esp. railroads). Ends in 1890 with Baring Brothers crash. Followed by 1890-94 defaults. IV. 1890s-1914 boom (electricity). Ends in 1914 with WWI. 1914-18 defaults. V. 1920s boom. Ends in 1929 with FRB tightening & US Wall Street crash. 1931-35 defaults. Mean frequency of wave: 26 years
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- Lets match it up with the 2 nd era of financial globalization, 1974-2013. 3 cycles: I. 1974-1981: lending boom, recycling petrodollars thru Euromarkets. Ends in 1982 with Volcker tightening. Followed by International Debt Crisis & Lost Decade of 1982-1989. II. 1990-97: Emerging Markets capital flow wave. Ends in 1997 with East Asia crisis. Followed by Russia, Brazil, Argentina, Turkey crises of 1997-2002. III. 2003-2008: Capital flows to EU periphery, BRICs & other EMs. Ends in 2008 or 2013? Mean frequency of wave: 15 years. (7 fat years, crisis, 7 lean years.)
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- h Kaminsky & Vega-Garcia: 1 st financial globalization era, 1820-1931 Lets match it up with the 2 nd financial globalization era, 1974-2013 Distinction regarding types of default Distinctions regarding Push/pull factors Defaults after crises in the periphery. 19 examples, including: Chile, 1879, War of the Pacific Brazil, 1898, coffee crisis (& Peru, 1876 after guano market collapse?) Local factors leading to crises. Examples: Mexico, 1994, political violence. Indonesia, 1997, succession doubts. Vs., defaults following crises in the financial center (London, Vienna, NY), e.g.: 1825, 1873, 1890, 1931. US 2008 financial crisis precipitated Iceland crisis of 2008, euro periphery crises of 2010-12, etc.
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- The role of global interest rates Kaminsky & Vega-Garcia: 1 st financial globalization era 1820-1931 2 nd financial globalization era 1974-2013 Finding: Most of the systemic sovereign crises occur in the midst of a sharp increase in real interest rates. (p.27) E.g.: BoE raised interest rates in 1825, 1873, 1890, and 1927-31. Low US real interest rates in late 1970s, 1991-93, 2001-06, contributed to flows, e.g., Calvo, Leiderman, Reinhart. Ended in Fed tightening of: 1980-82, precipitating Intl.Debt Crisis, 1994, followed by Mexico peso crisis, 2013 taper talk => BRIC outflows
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- Fragilities or shocks? The authors say global interest rates are indicators of global fragilities: International liquidity as captured by international issuance and real interest rates in the financial center. Similarly they say changes in export revenues & terms of trade are indicators of country-specific fragilities. adverse shocks to the permanent component of output -- Aguiar & Gopinath (2006). The empirical focus on all these indicators is fine. But classifying them as fragility or vulnerability is a wrong turn from the beginning. These are shocks. Fragility should refer to indicators such as Debt/Export ratio, which the authors use in their Insolvency index.
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- The case of commodity exporters A high dependence on commodity exports in GDP might be an indicator of vulnerability. If so, that could be one explanation for the Natural Resource Curse. E.g., Manzano & Rigobon (2008) argue that the negative effect of resource dependence on growth rates (NRC) observed during 1970-1990 was mediated through international debt, which was incurred when commodity prices were high. But a fall in the global price of the export commodity is an adverse shock. It can precipitate a debt crisis, especially if the country is vulnerable in various ways. The price fall is not an indicator of fragility.
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- Fragilities and shocks What Triggers a Default (section IV.2) is a better label. But it should be the interaction of vulnerability & shocks. Vulnerability could also include, in addition to debt/exports, such indicators from the 1994-2013 crisis literature as: Foreign exchange reserves Real exchange rate Domestic credit growth Short-term debt Currency mismatch
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- Explaining delays in debt renegotiations Sections IV.3.1. -V.3.2 examine whether the decision to renegotiate the debt is delayed until [there is a sufficient increase in] the probabilities that growth resumes and the debt/export ratio stabilizes (p.30-31). If the debt/export path looks unsustainable then they dont renegotiate the debt? That struck me as sounding backwards. Is the idea that the debtor has to grow its way out before restructuring?
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- What does debt/export sustainability determine? Maybe the authors mean that only if the write-down is big enough to bring debt back to a stable path will the two sides agree on restructuring plan; until they can agree on that, they are just in a state of default/suspended debt service/negotiation. Finding: zero probability of stabilizing debt/export path implies biggest haircuts (p.33). That makes sense. But implying longest delays in coming to agreement.
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- What does debt/export sustainability determine? continued The debt/export sustainability calculations should be a determinant of the beginning of the default period, not just the end. Indeed: at the time of the default, most countries cannot stabilize the debt/export ratio according to our metric. (p.32)
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- Abrupt improvements suggest partial haircuts before end of default period, not slowly growing out of debt trouble.
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- Consider two other theories of default period length, both of which should sound familiar. (1) So long as a country is still running a primary deficit, it cant solve its problems by telling its creditors to get lost; it still has to borrow to finance the deficit. As soon as it is able to eliminate the primary deficit (e.g., it has taken Greece 4 years to close its primary budget deficit), it is in a stronger bargaining position: If creditors wont agree to a write-down, the country can unilaterally default and save itself the interest payments. So then a write-down is agreed.
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- Other theories of default period length (2) So long as a write-down would wipe out the creditor banks capital, it cannot afford to admit that the loans are not worth their full face value. The creditor banks may be the ones who need time to grow their way out of the debt, rather than the debtors, who may be incapable of growing their way out of it (if they are like Latin America in 1982-89 or Greece in 2010-2013) It is why the Brady Plan was not adopted before 1989; only then had the banks balance sheets become strong enough that they could afford to write down the debts without jeopardizing their own solvency.
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- The literature on duration of default spells I am probably not sufficiently familiar with it. Can it be true that the literature looks exclusively at the debtors side & not at the creditors balance sheet? Why not look at debt (or write-down amount) as a percentage of UK or US bank assets, rather than just the countrys ability to pay (exports) ?
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- Default, delay, write-down Naturally, all the renegotiation of sovereign contracts will collapse in the midst of a liquidity crunch. (p.34). Why is this natural? Id say because creditors cant afford to admit formally that the loans are no longer worth full value, as came up in Cristina Arellano, et al, session yesterday. This explains not only the duration, but also the chronic pattern of official over-optimism in growth forecasts that are made after defaults (Latin America, 1982-89; euro periphery, 2010-12). In any case, it seems to me that you cant model the effects of such variables as Debt/X, growth, etc. on duration without simultaneously modeling their effects on (i) the default itself (ii) the magnitude of the write-down when it comes.
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