Research Programs

Monetary Policy and Financial Structure

Monetary Policy and Financial Structure

This program explores the structure of markets and institutions operating in the financial sector. Research builds on the work of the late Distinguished Scholar Hyman P. Minsky—notably, his financial instability hypothesis—and explores the institutional, regulatory, and market arrangements that contribute to financial instability. Research also examines policies—such as changes to the regulatory structure and the development of new types of institutions—necessary to contain instability.

Recent research has concentrated on the structure of financial markets and institutions, with the aim of determining whether financial systems are still subject to the risk of failing. Issues explored include the extent to which domestic and global economic events (such as the crises in Asia and Latin America) coincide with the types of instabilities Minsky describes, and involve analyses of his policy recommendations for alleviating instability and other economic problems.

Other subjects covered include the distributional effects of monetary policy, central banking and structural issues related to the European Monetary Union, and the role of finance in small business investment.

 



Program Publications

  • One-Pager No. 66 | April 2021
    According to Frank Veneroso, a broad subset of today’s US stock market has become what he calls a “pure price-chasing bubble.” Examination of the history of comparable pure price-chasing bubbles shows there has been a set of key causal factors that contributed to these rare market events. The most extreme such case was an over-the-counter market in Kuwait called the “Souk al-Manakh.” This exemplar of a pure price-chasing phenomenon may shed light—albeit unflattering—on the current US equity market, Veneroso contends.
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    Frank Veneroso
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  • Working Paper No. 887 | March 2021
    The Anatomy of a Pure Price-Chasing Bubble
    It is widely agreed that the Nasdaq during the dot-com era 20 years ago was a full-fledged stock market bubble. Recently, the US stock market according to many metrics has become significantly more speculative and overvalued than it was at the dot-com peak 20 years ago. In both instances, a very broad subset of stocks became so highly valued that speculation in them had to be untethered from all fundamentals: the essence of what we call a “pure price-chasing bubble.”
     
    This paper, drawn from a book in progress, examines the history of stock markets for comparable pure price-chasing bubbles, finding nine or so which have ever reached such a speculative extreme, with an over-the-counter market in Kuwait in the early 1980s called the “Souk al-Manakh” representing the most extreme example. Based on personal exposure to this Souk al-Manakh almost 40 years ago, we describe this anatomy and thereby make transparent the recurrent dynamics—on the way up and on the way down—of these greatest asset bubbles in human history. When one applies this framework to the current US stock market, one sees that the stock market in the US today will likely follow the disastrous path of the dot-com market.
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    Frank Veneroso Mark Pasquali
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  • Working Paper No. 986 | March 2021
    Evolution and Contemporary Relevance
    This paper traces the evolution of John Maynard Keynes’s theory of the business cycle from his early writings in 1913 to his policy prescriptions for the control of fluctuations in the early 1940s. The paper identifies six different “theories” of business fluctuations. With different theoretical frameworks in a 30-year span, the driver of fluctuations—namely cyclical changes in expectations about future returns—remained substantially the same. The banking system also played a pivotal role throughout the different versions, by financing and influencing the behavior of return expectations. There are four major changes in the evolution of Keynes’s business cycle theories: a) the saving–investment framework to understand changes in economic fluctuations; b) the capabilities of the banking system to moderate the business cycle; c) the effectiveness of monetary policy to fine tune the business cycle through the control of the short-term interest rate or credit conditions; and d) the role of a comprehensive fiscal policy and investment policy to attenuate fluctuations. Finally, some conclusions are drawn about the present relevance of the policy mix Keynes promoted for ensuring macroeconomic stability.

  • Working Paper No. 985 | February 2021
    No! And Yes.
    Modern Money Theory (MMT) economists have used Japan as an example of a country that demonstrates that high deficits and debt do not lead to insolvency, high interest rates, or inflation. MMT insists that governments that issue their own sovereign currency cannot be forced into insolvency, that they can make all payments as they come due, and that they do not really spend tax revenue or borrow in their own currency—with Japan serving as an example of a country that does not face financial budget constraints as normally defined. In this paper we evaluate whether Japan is the poster child of MMT and argue that policy-wise Japan is not following MMT recommendations; in fact, it is generally adopting policies that are precisely the opposite of those proposed by MMT, consistently adopting the path of stop-go fiscal measures and engaging in inadequate and temporary fiscal stimuli in the face of recessions, followed by austerity whenever the economy has seemed to recover.

  • Working Paper No. 984 | February 2021
    This paper presents empirical models of Mexican government bond (MGB) yields based on monthly macroeconomic data. The current short-term interest rate has a decisive influence on MGB yields, after controlling for inflation and growth in industrial production. John Maynard Keynes claimed that government bond yields move in lockstep with the short-term interest rate. The models presented in the paper show that Keynes’s claim holds for MGB yields. This has important policy implications for Mexico. The empirical findings of the paper are also relevant for ongoing debates in macroeconomics.

  • Public Policy Brief No. 154 | February 2021
    Let Us Look Seriously at the Clearing Union
    This policy brief explores a route to remaking the international financial system that would avoid the contradictions inherent in some of the prevailing reform proposals currently under discussion. Senior Scholar Jan Kregel argues that the willingness of central banks to consider electronic currency provides an opening to reconsider a truly innovative reform of the international financial system, and one that is more appropriate to a digital monetary world: John Maynard Keynes’s original clearing union proposal.
     
    Kregel investigates whether such a clearing system could be built up from an already-existing initiative that has emerged in the private sector. He analyzes the operations of a private, cross-border payment system that could serve as a real-world blueprint for a more politically palatable equivalent of Keynes’s international clearing union.

  • Working Paper No. 982 | January 2021
    The success of alternative payment systems has led to discussion of various proposals to replace money with a new technology-based system, though many lack a clear idea of what exactly is the “money” they seek to replace. We begin by presenting the explanation of money’s role in the economy embraced by most mainstream economists and policy analysts, based on the idea that money evolved out of the process of market exchange. An alternative explanation that looks on money as a part of the organization of production and distribution based on network clearing systems across balance sheets expressed in a common unit of account is then presented, distinguishing between a purely notional unit of account and means of settlement or discharge of debt. The final section addresses the possibility of a fundamentally different modern extension of this alternative approach that is not inspired by digital technology, distributed ledger accounting, or application operating on a mobile/cell phone system, but rather the actually existing system available from an internet telephone service provider that currently offers subsidiary domestic and international payment services whose operating procedures come close to replicating the alternative explanation of money mentioned above, with the potential to provide all the services of the existing payments system at lower costs and greater stability.

  • Policy Note 2021/1 | January 2021
    While governments may consider implementation of John Maynard Keynes’s original clearing union proposal for the international financial architecture too difficult or radical, Senior Scholar Jan Kregel notes that the private sector has already produced a virtual equivalent of an international global monetary system. Currently, this system is employed as an extension of the international mobile telephone services provided by a private company, rather than a financial institution. The clearing system he describes provides an example of a possible solution that retains national currencies without requiring the substitution of the dollar with another national currency or basket of national currencies.

  • Working Paper No. 977 | November 2020
    This paper relates Keynes’s discussions of money, the state theory of money, financial markets, investors’ expectations, uncertainty, and liquidity preference to the dynamics of government bond yields for countries with monetary sovereignty. Keynes argued that the central bank can influence the long-term interest rate on government bonds and the shape of the yield curve mainly through the short-term interest rate. Investors’ psychology, herding behavior in financial markets, and uncertainty about the future reinforce the effects of the short-term interest rate and the central bank’s monetary policy actions on the long-term interest rate. Several recent empirical studies that examine the dynamics of government bond yields substantiate the Keynesian perspective that the long-term interest rate responds markedly to the short-term interest rate. These empirical studies not only vindicate the Keynesian perspective but also have relevance for macroeconomic theory and policy.

  • Policy Note 2020/6 | October 2020
    As COVID-19 infection and test positivity rates rise in the United States and federal stimulus plans expire, Senior Scholar Jan Kregel articulates an alternative approach to analyzing the economic problems raised by the pandemic and organizing an appropriate policy response. In contrast to both the mainstream and some Keynesian-inspired approaches, Kregel advocates a central role for direct social provisioning as a means of equitably sharing the costs of quarantine under conditions of strict lockdown.
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