Does Drawing Down the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve Help Stabilize Oil Prices?
Lutz Kilian and Xiaoqing Zhou
Abstract: We study the efficacy of releases from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) within the context of fully specified models of the global oil market that explicitly allow for storage demand as well as unanticipated changes in the SPR. Using novel identifying strategies and evaluation methods, we examine seven questions. First, how much have exogenous shocks to the SPR contributed to the variability in the real price of oil? Second, how much would a one-time exogenous reduction in the SPR lower the real price of oil? Third, are exogenous SPR releases partially or fully offset by increases in private sector oil inventories and how does this response affect the transmission of SPR policy shocks? Fourth, how effective were actual SPR policy interventions, consisting of sequences of exogenous changes in the SPR, at lowering the real price of oil? Fifth, are there differences in the effectiveness of SPR emergency drawdowns and SPR exchanges? Sixth, how much did the creation and expansion of the SPR contribute to higher real oil prices? Finally, how much would selling half of the oil in the SPR, as recently proposed by the White House, lower the global price of oil (and hence the U.S. price of motor gasoline) and how much fiscal revenue would it generate?

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/wp1916


Rationally Inattentive Savers and Monetary Policy Changes: A Laboratory Experiment
Andrea Civelli, Cary Deck and Antonella Tutino
Abstract: We present a model where rationally inattentive agents decide how much to save while imperfectly tracking interest rate changes. Suitable assumptions on agents’ preferences and interest rate distribution allow us to derive testable theoretical predictions and their implications for monetary policy. We probe these predictions using a laboratory experiment with induced inattention that closely reflects the theoretical assumptions. We find that, empirically, the laboratory data corroborates the results of the theoretical model. In particular, we show that experimental subjects respond to changes in the interest rate policy environment with: (1) a decrease in savings when the utility gain from savings does not compensate for the cognitive cost of tracking the interest rate; (2) more informed and deliberate consumption/investment choices when the monetary authority stabilizes the economy by lowering the volatility of the policy rate, implementing a version of Delphic forward guidance; (3) a slight decrease in information processing but no behavioral changes in consumption when the monetary authority signals current monetary policy stance, implementing a version of Odyssean forward guidance; (4) a sizable decrease in investment when their perception of the outlook deteriorates. These experimental and theoretical findings agree with the empirical literature on the effect of monetary policy on households’ consumption behavior in U.S. data and abroad.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/wp1915

Globalization Institute No. 375

The Effect of Central Bank Credibility on Forward Guidance in an Estimated New Keynesian Model
Stephen J. Cole and Enrique Martínez-García (Revised May 2020)
Abstract: This paper examines the effectiveness of forward guidance in an estimated New Keynesian model with imperfect central bank credibility. We estimate credibility for the U.S. Federal Reserve with Bayesian methods exploiting survey data on interest rate expectations from the Survey of Professional Forecasters (SPF). The results provide important takeaways: (1) The estimate of Federal Reserve credibility in terms of forward guidance announcements is relatively high, which indicates a degree of forward guidance effectiveness, but still one that is below the fully credible case. Hence, anticipation effects are attenuated and, accordingly, output and inflation do not respond as favorably to forward guidance announcements. (2) Imperfect central bank credibility is an important feature to resolve the so-called “forward guidance puzzle,” which the literature shows arises from the unrealistically large responses of macroeconomic variables to forward guidance statements in structural models with perfect credibility. (3) Imperfect monetary authority credibility can also explain the evidence of forecasting error predictability based on forecasting disagreement found in the SPF data. Thus, accounting for imperfect credibility is important to model the formation of expectations in the economy and to understand the transmission mechanism of forward guidance announcements.
Original paper
DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/gwp375r1


Oil Prices, Exchange Rates and Interest Rates
Lutz Kilian and Xiaoqing Zhou
Abstract: There has been much interest in the relationship between the price of crude oil, the value of the U.S. dollar, and the U.S. interest rate since the 1980s. For example, the sustained surge in the real price of oil in the 2000s is often attributed to the declining real value of the U.S. dollar as well as low U.S. real interest rates, along with a surge in global real economic activity. Quantifying these effects one at a time is difficult not only because of the close relationship between the interest rate and the exchange rate, but also because demand and supply shocks in the oil market in turn may affect the real value of the dollar and real interest rates. We propose a novel identification strategy for disentangling the causal effects of traditional oil demand and oil supply shocks from the effects of exogenous variation in the U.S. real interest rate and in the real value of the U.S. dollar. We empirically evaluate popular views about the role of exogenous real exchange rate shocks in driving the real price of oil, and we examine the extent to which shocks in the global oil market drive the U.S. real exchange rate and U.S. real interest rates. Our evidence for the first time provides direct empirical support for theoretical models of the link between these variables.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/wp1914


The Rising Value of Time and the Origin of Urban Gentrification
Yichen Su
Abstract: In recent decades, gentrification has transformed American central city neighborhoods. I estimate a spatial equilibrium model to show that the rising value of high-skilled workers’ time contributes to the gentrification of American central cities. I show that the increasing value of time raises the cost of commuting and exogenously increases the demand for central locations by high-skilled workers. While change in the value of time has a modest direct effect on gentrification of central cities, the effect is substantially magnified by endogenous amenity improvement driven by the changes in local skill mix.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/wp1913


Monopsony in Spatial Equilibrium
Matthew E. Kahn and Joseph Tracy
Abstract: An emerging labor economics literature studies the consequences of firms exercising market power in local labor markets. These monopsony models have implications for trends in earnings inequality. The extent of this market power is likely to vary across local labor markets. In choosing what market to live and work in, workers trade off wages, rents and local amenities. Building on the Rosen/Roback spatial equilibrium model, we investigate how the existence of local monopsony power affects the cross-sectional spatial distribution of wages and rents across cities. We find an employment-weighted elasticity of land prices to concentration of –0.034—similar to Rinz (2018)’s reported elasticity of compensation to concentration. This finding has implications for who bears the economic incidence of labor market power. We present two extensions of the model focusing on the role of migration costs and worker skill heterogeneity.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/wp1912


Making Sense of Increased Synchronization in Global House Prices
John V. Duca
Forthcoming in: Duca, John V. (2020), “Making Sense of Increased Synchronization in Global House Prices,” Journal of European Real Estate Research.
Abstract: Evidence indicates that house prices have become somewhat more synchronized during this century, likely reflecting more correlated movements in long-term interest rates and macroeconomic cycles that are related to trends in globalization and international portfolio diversification. Nevertheless, the trend toward increased synchronization has not been continuous, reflecting that house prices depend on other fundamentals, which are not uniform across countries or cities. Theory and limited econometric evidence indicate that the more common are fundamentals, the more in-synch house price cycles will become and the more substitution effects may matter. In addition, real estate markets that are open to immigration and foreign investment have become more sensitive to shifts in the international demand for property by migrants or investors.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/wp1911

Globalization Institute No. 369

Drilling Down: The Impact of Oil Price Shocks on Housing Prices
Valerie Grossman, Enrique Martínez-García, Luis Bernardo Torres and Yongzhi Sun
Abstract: This paper investigates the impact of oil price shocks on house prices in the largest urban centers in Texas. We model their dynamic relationship taking into account demand- and supply-side housing fundamentals (personal disposable income per capita, long-term interest rates and rural land prices) as well as their varying dependence on oil activity. We show the following: 1) Oil price shocks have limited pass-through to house prices—the highest pass-through is found among the most oil-dependent cities where, after 20 quarters, the cumulative response of house prices is 21 percent of the cumulative effect on oil prices. Still, among less oil-dependent urban areas, the house price response to a one standard deviation oil price shock is economically significant and comparable in magnitude to the response to a one standard deviation income shock. 2) Omitting oil prices when looking at housing markets in oil-producing areas biases empirical inferences by substantially overestimating the effect of income shocks on house prices. 3) The empirical relationship linking oil price fluctuations to house prices has remained largely stable over time, in spite of the significant changes in Texas’ oil sector with the onset of the shale revolution in the 2000s.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/gwp369


Refining the Workhorse Oil Market Model
Xiaoqing Zhou
Abstract: The Kilian and Murphy (2014) structural vector autoregressive model has become the workhorse model for the analysis of oil markets. I explore various refinements and extensions of this model, including the effects of (1) correcting an error in the measure of global real economic activity, (2) explicitly incorporating narrative sign restrictions into the estimation, (3) relaxing the upper bound on the impact price elasticity of oil supply, (4) evaluating the implied posterior distribution of the structural models, and (5) extending the sample. I demonstrate that the substantive conclusions of Kilian and Murphy (2014) are largely unaffected by these changes.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/wp1910


The Propagation of Regional Shocks in Housing Markets: Evidence from Oil Price Shocks in Canada
Lutz Kilian and Xiaoqing Zhou
Abstract: Shocks to the demand for housing that originate in one region may seem important only for that regional housing market. We provide evidence that such shocks can also affect housing markets in other regions. Our analysis focuses on the response of Canadian housing markets to oil price shocks. Oil price shocks constitute an important source of exogenous regional variation in income in Canada because oil production is highly geographically concentrated. We document that, at the national level, real oil price shocks account for 11% of the variability in real house price growth over time. At the regional level, we find that unexpected increases in the real price of oil raise housing demand and real house prices not only in oil-producing regions, but also in other regions. We develop a theoretical model of the propagation of real oil price shocks across regions that helps understand this finding. The model differentiates between oil-producing and non-oil-producing regions and incorporates multiple sectors, trade between provinces, government redistribution, and consumer spending on fuel. We empirically confirm the model prediction that oil price shocks are propagated to housing markets in non-oil-producing regions by the government redistribution of oil revenue and by increased interprovincial trade.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/wp1909


The Uniform Validity of Impulse Response Inference in Autoregressions
Atsushi Inoue and Lutz Kilian
Abstract: Existing proofs of the asymptotic validity of conventional methods of impulse response inference based on higher-order autoregressions are pointwise only. In this paper, we establish the uniform asymptotic validity of conventional asymptotic and bootstrap inference about individual impulse responses and vectors of impulse responses when the horizon is fixed with respect to the sample size. For inference about vectors of impulse responses based on Wald test statistics to be uniformly valid, lag-augmented autoregressions are required, whereas inference about individual impulse responses is uniformly valid under weak conditions even without lag augmentation. We introduce a new rank condition that ensures the uniform validity of inference on impulse responses and show that this condition holds under weak conditions. Simulations show that the highest finite-sample accuracy is achieved when bootstrapping the lag-augmented autoregression using the bias adjustments of Kilian (1999). The conventional bootstrap percentile interval for impulse responses based on this approach remains accurate even at long horizons. We provide a formal asymptotic justification for this result.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/wp1908


Facts and Fiction in Oil Market Modeling
Lutz Kilian
Abstract: Baumeister and Hamilton (2019a) assert that every critique of their work on oil markets by Kilian and Zhou (2019a) is without merit. In addition, they make the case that key aspects of the economic and econometric analysis in the widely used oil market model of Kilian and Murphy (2014) and its precursors are incorrect. Their critiques are also directed at other researchers who have worked in this area and, more generally, extend to research using structural VAR models outside of energy economics. The purpose of this paper is to help the reader understand what the real issues are in this debate. The focus is not only on correcting important misunderstandings in the recent literature, but on the substantive and methodological insights generated by this exchange, which are of broader interest to applied researchers.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/wp1907


Do Monetary Policy Announcements Shift Household Expectations? (Revised January 2020)
Daniel J. Lewis, Christos Makridis and Karel Mertens
Abstract: We use a decade of daily survey data from Gallup to study how monetary policy influences households' beliefs about economic conditions. We first document that public confidence in the state of the economy reacts instantaneously to certain types of macroeconomic news. Next, we show that surprises to the Federal Funds target rate are among the news that have statistically significant and instantaneous effects on economic confidence. Specifically, we find that a surprise increase in the target rate robustly leads to an immediate decline in household confidence, at odds with previous findings that suggest consumers are largely inattentive to economic developments. Monetary policy news about forward guidance and asset purchases does not have similarly clear and robust immediate effects on household beliefs. We document heterogeneity across demographics in the responsiveness of macroeconomic beliefs to aggregate news, and we relate our findings to existing evidence on informational rigidities.
Original paper
DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/wp1906r1


Do Immigrants Threaten U.S. Public Safety?
Pia Orrenius and Madeline Zavodny
Abstract: Opponents of immigration often claim that immigrants, particularly those who are unauthorized, are more likely than U.S. natives to commit crimes and that they pose a threat to public safety. There is little evidence to support these claims. In fact, research overwhelmingly indicates that immigrants are less likely than similar U.S. natives to commit violent and property crimes, and that areas with more immigrants have similar or lower rates of violent and property crimes than areas with fewer immigrants. There are relatively few studies specifically of criminal behavior among unauthorized immigrants, but the limited research suggests that these immigrants also have a lower propensity to commit crime than their native-born peers, although possibly a higher propensity than legal immigrants. Evidence about legalization programs is consistent with these findings, indicating that a legalization program reduces crime rates. Meanwhile, increased border enforcement, which reduces unauthorized immigrant inflows, has mixed effects on crime rates. A large-scale legalization program, which is not currently under serious consideration, has more potential to improve public safety and security than several other policies that have recently been proposed or implemented.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/wp1905


Uncertainty and Labor Market Fluctuations
Soojin Jo and Justin J. Lee
Abstract: We investigate how a macroeconomic uncertainty shock affects the labor market. We focus on the uncertainty transmission mechanism, for which we employ a set of worker flow indicators in addition to labor stock variables. We incorporate common factors from such indicators into a framework that can simultaneously estimate historical macroeconomic uncertainty and its impacts on the macroeconomy and labor market. We find firms defer hiring as the real option value of waiting increases. Moreover, significantly more workers are laid off while voluntary quits drop, suggesting other mechanisms such as the aggregate demand channel play a crucial role.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/wp1904


Two Measures of Core Inflation: A Comparison
Jim Dolmas and Evan F. Koenig
Abstract: Trimmed-mean Personal Consumption Expenditure (PCE) inflation does not clearly dominate ex-food-and-energy PCE inflation in real-time forecasting of headline PCE inflation. However, trimmed-mean inflation is the superior communications and policy tool because it is a less-biased real-time estimator of headline inflation and because it more successfully filters out headline inflation’s transitory variation, leaving only cyclical and trend components.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/wp1903

Globalization Institute No. 360

Upstream, Downstream & Common Firm Shocks
Everett Grant and Julieta Yung
Abstract: We develop a multi-sector DSGE model to calculate upstream and downstream industry exposure networks from U.S. input-output tables and test the relative importance of shocks from each direction by comparing these with estimated networks of firms’ equity return responses to one another. The correlations between the upstream exposure and equity return networks are large and statistically significant, while the downstream exposure networks have lower — but still positive — correlations that are not statistically significant. These results suggest a low short-term elasticity of substitution across inputs transmitting shocks from suppliers, but more flexible ties with downstream firms. Additionally, both the DSGE model and simulations of our empirical approach highlight the importance of accounting for common factors in network estimation, which become more important over our 1989-2017 sample period, explaining 11.7% of equity return variation over the first ten years and 35.0% over the final ten.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/gwp360

Globalization Institute No. 359

Ties That Bind: Estimating the Natural Rate of Interest for Small Open Economies
Valerie Grossman, Enrique Martínez-García, Mark A. Wynne and Ren Zhang
Abstract: This paper estimates the natural interest rate for six small open economies (Australia, Canada, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.K.) with a structural New Keynesian model using Bayesian techniques. Our empirical analysis establishes the following four novel findings: First, we show that the open-economy framework provides a better fit of the data than its closed-economy counterpart for the six countries we investigate. Second, we also show that, in all six countries, a monetary policy rule in which the domestic real policy rate tracks the Wicksellian domestic short-term natural rate fits the data better than an otherwise standard Taylor (1993) rule. Third, we show that over the past 35 years, the natural interest rates in all six countries have shifted downwards and strongly comoved with each other. Fourth, our findings illustrate that foreign output shocks (spillovers from the rest of the world) are a major contributor to the dynamics of the natural rate in these six small open economies, and that natural rates comove strongly with estimated U.S. natural rates.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/gwp359


The Contribution of Jump Activity and Sign to Forecasting Stock Price Volatility (Revised November 2020, new title)
Ruijan Bu, Rodrigo Hizmeri, Marwan Izzeldin, Anthony Murphy and Mike G. Tsionas
Abstract: This paper proposes a novel approach to decompose realized jump measures by type of activity (finite/infinite) and by sign. We also provide noise-robust versions of the ABD jump test (Andersen et al. 2007) and realized semivariance measures for use at high frequency sampling intervals. The volatility forecasting exercise involves the use of different types of jumps, forecast horizons, sampling frequencies, calendar and transaction time-based sampling schemes, as well as standard and noise-robust volatility measures. We find that infinite (finite) jumps improve the forecasts at shorter (longer) horizons; but the contribution of signed jumps is limited. Noise-robust estimators, that identify jumps in the presence of microstructure noise, deliver substantial forecast improvements at higher sampling frequencies. However, standard volatility measures at the 300-second frequency generate the smallest MSPEs. Since no single model dominates across sampling frequency and forecast horizon, we show that model averaged volatility forecasts - using time-varying weights and models from the model confidence set - generally outperform forecasts from both the benchmark and single best extended HAR model.
Original paper
DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/wp1902r1

Globalization Institute No. 358

Capital Controls as Macro-prudential Policy in a Large Open Economy
J. Scott Davis and Michael B. Devereux
Abstract: The literature on optimal capital controls for macro-prudential policy has focused on capital controls in a small open economy. This ignores the spillover effects to the rest of the world. This paper re-examines the case for capital controls in a large open economy, where domestic financial constraints may bind following a large negative shock. There is a tension between the desire to tax inflows to manipulate the terms of trade and tax outflows for macro-prudential purposes. Non-cooperative capital controls are ineffective as macro-prudential policy. Cooperative policy will ignore terms-of-trade manipulation and thus cooperative capital controls yield more effective macro-prudential policy.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/gwp358

Globalization Institute No. 357

Global Drivers of Gross and Net Capital Flows
J. Scott Davis, Giorgio Valente and Eric van Wincoop
Abstract: While prior to the global financial crisis, the empirical international capital flow literature has focused on net capital flows (the current account), since the crisis there has been an increased focus on gross flows. In this paper we jointly analyze global drivers of gross flows (outflows plus inflows) and net flows (outflows minus inflows) by estimating a latent factor model. We find evidence of two global factors, which we call the GFC (global financial cycle) factor and a commodity price factor as they closely track respectively the Miranda-Agrippino and Rey asset price factor and an average of oil and gas prices. These factors together account for half the variance of gross flows in advanced countries and forty percent of the variance of gross flows in emerging markets. But remarkably, they also account for forty percent of the variance of net capital flows in both groups of countries. We also analyze the heterogeneity across countries in the impact of the two factors. One of the key findings is that the impact of the GFC factor on both gross and net capital flows is stronger in countries that have larger net debt liabilities. Other asset classes (FDI and portfolio equity) do not significantly impact the exposure to the GFC factor.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/gwp357

Globalization Institute No. 356

Estimation of Impulse Response Functions When Shocks are Observed at a Higher Frequency than Outcome Variables
Alexander Chudik and Georgios Georgiadis
Abstract: This paper proposes mixed-frequency distributed-lag (MFDL) estimators of impulse response functions (IRFs) in a setup where (i) the shock of interest is observed, (ii) the impact variable of interest is observed at a lower frequency (as a temporally aggregated or sequentially sampled variable), (iii) the data-generating process (DGP) is given by a VAR model at the frequency of the shock, and (iv) the full set of relevant endogenous variables entering the DGP is unknown or unobserved. Consistency and asymptotic normality of the proposed MFDL estimators is established, and their small-sample performance is documented by a set of Monte Carlo experiments. The proposed approach is then applied to estimate the daily pass-through of changes in crude oil prices observed at a daily frequency to U.S. gasoline consumer prices observed at a weekly frequency. We find that the pass-through is fast, with about 28% of the crude oil price changes passed through to retail gasoline prices within five working days, and that the speed of the pass-through has increased over time.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/gwp356

Globalization Institute No. 353

Estimating Impulse Response Functions When the Shock Series Is Observed
Chi-Young Choi and Alexander Chudik
Abstract: We compare the finite sample performance of a variety of consistent approaches to estimating Impulse Response Functions (IRFs) in a linear setup when the shock of interest is observed. Although there is no uniformly superior approach, iterated approaches turn out to perform well in terms of root mean-squared error (RMSE) in diverse environments and sample sizes. For smaller sample sizes, parsimonious specifications are preferred over full specifications with all ‘relevant’ variables.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/gwp353

Globalization Institute No. 352

Foreign Exchange Reserves as a Tool for Capital Account Management
J. Scott Davis, Ippei Fujiwara, Kevin X.D. Huang and Jiao Wang
Abstract: Many recent theoretical papers have argued that countries can insulate themselves from volatile world capital flows by using a variable tax on foreign capital as an instrument of monetary policy. But at the same time many empirical papers have argued that only rarely do we observe these cyclical capital taxes used in practice. In this paper we construct a small open economy model where the central bank can engage in sterilized foreign exchange intervention. When private agents can freely buy and sell foreign bonds, sterilized foreign exchange intervention has no effect. But we analytically prove that when private agents cannot freely buy and sell foreign bonds, that is, under acyclical capital controls, optimal sterilized foreign exchange intervention is equivalent to an optimally chosen tax on foreign capital. Numerical simulations of the model show that a variable capital tax is a reasonable approximation for sterilized foreign exchange intervention under the levels of capital controls observed in many emerging markets.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/gwp352


Closer to One Great Pool? Evidence from Structural Breaks in Oil Price Differentials
Michael Plante and Grant Strickler
Abstract: We show that the oil market has become closer to “one great pool,” in the sense that price differentials between crude oils of different qualities have generally become smaller over time. We document, in particular, that many of these quality-related differentials experienced a major structural break in or around 2008, after which there was a marked reduction in their means and, in many cases, volatilities. Several factors explain these shifts, including a growing ability of the global refinery sector to process lower-quality crude oil and the U.S. shale boom, which has unexpectedly boosted the supply of high-quality crude oil. Differentials between crude oils of similar quality in general did not experience breaks in or around 2008, although we do find evidence of breaks at other times. We also show that these structural breaks can affect tests of stationarity for many price differentials.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/wp1901