The paper proposes a theory of ambiguous financial contracts. Leaving contractual contingencies unspecified may be optimal, even when stipulating them is costless. We show that an ambiguous contract has two advantages. First, it permits the guarantor to sacrifice reputational capital in order to preserve financial capital as well as information reusability in states where such tradeoff is optimal. Second, it fosters the development of reputation. This theory is then used to explain ambiguity in mutual fund contracts, bank loan commitments, bank holding company relationships, the investment banker's "highly confident" letter, non-recourse debt contracts in project financing, and other financial contracts.
There were three important changes in the United States economy during the 1980s. First, from 1982-90, the decade featured the longest consecutive stretch of positive quarterly output growth in United States history. Second, wage inequality expanded greatly as the wages of highly skilled workers grew markedly faster than the wages of less skilled workers (Katz and Murphy (1992)). Finally, consumption inequality also expanded as the consumption of highly skilled workers grew faster than that of less skilled workers (Attanasio and Davis (1994)). This paper argues that these three aspects of the United States economic experience can be interpreted as being part of an efficient response to a macroeconomic shock given the existence of a particular technological impediment to full insurance. I examine the properties of efficient allocations of risk in an economic environment in which the outside enforcement of risksharing arrangements is infinitely costly. In these allocations, relative productivity movements have effects on both the current and future distribution of consumption across individuals. If preferences over consumption and leisure are nonhomothetic, these changes in the allocation of consumption will generate persistent cycles in aggregate output that do not occur in efficient allocations when enforcement is costless.
Different monetary aggregates covary very differently with short term nominal interest rates. Broad monetary aggregates like Ml and the monetary base covary positively with current and future values of short term interest rates. In contrast, the nonborrowed reserves of banks covary negatively with current and future interest rates. Observations like this 'sign switch' lie at the core of recent debates about the effects of monetary policy actions on short term interest rates. This paper develops a general equilibrium monetary business cycle model which is consistent with these facts. Our basic explanation of the 'sign switch' is that movements in nonborrowed reserves are dominated by exogenous shocks to monetary policy, while movements in the base and Ml are dominated by endogenous responses to non-policy shocks.
As a network, a payment system is likely to exhibit network externalities and perhaps some public good characteristics. Such properties may be more pronounced in an electronic payment system, because of its greater reliance on communication infrastructures with high fixed and low variable costs, for instance. This paper presents the basic economics of network externalities and reviews some basic principles regarding public goods. It then asks what these phenomena imply about the role of the Federal Reserve in emerging payment systems. The general conclusion is that there is reason to be skeptical that network externalities and public goods will be significant sources of market failure in electronic payment systems. These phenomena, by themselves, give rise to no particular, essential central bank role in these markets.
We study the asset pricing implications of a multi-agent endowment economy where agents can default on debt. We build on the environment studied by Kocherlakota (1995) and Kehoe and Levine (1993). We present an equilibrium concept for an economy with complete markets and with endogenous solvency constraints. These solvency constraints prevent default, but at the cost of reduced risk sharing. We show that versions of the classical welfare theorems hold for this equilibrium definition. We characterize the pricing kernel, and compare it to the one for economies without participation constraints: interest rates are lower and risk premia depend on the covariance of the idiosyncratic and aggregate shocks.
"Sudden Stops " experienced during emerging markets crises are characterized by large reversals of capital inflows and the current account, deep recessions, and collapses in asset prices. This paper proposes an open-economy equilibrium asset pricing model in which financial frictions cause Sudden Stops. Margin requirements impose a collateral constraint on foreign borrowing by domestic agents and trading costs distort asset trading by foreign securities firms. At equilibrium, margin constraints may or may not bind depending on portfolio decisions and equilibrium asset prices. If margin constraints do not bind, productivity shocks cause a moderate fall in consumption and a widening current account deficit. If debt is high relative to asset holdings, the same productivity shocks trigger margin calls forcing domestic agents to fire-sell equity to foreign traders. This sets off a Fisherian asset-price deflation and subsequent rounds of margin calls. A current account reversal and a collapse in consumption occur when equity sales cannot prevent a sharp rise in net foreign assets.
We add a nominal tax system to a sticky-price monetary business cycle model. When nominal interest income is taxed, the coefficient on inflation in a Taylor-type monetary policy rule must be significantly larger than one in order for the model economy to have a determinate rational expectations equilibrium. When depreciation is treated as a charge against taxable income, an even larger weight on inflation is required in the Taylor rule in order to obtain a determinate and stable equilibrium. These results have obvious implications for assessing the historical conduct of monetary policy.
The durable goods sector is much more interest sensitive than the non-durables sector, and these sectoral differences have important implications for monetary policy. In this paper, we perform VAR analysis of quarterly US data and find that a monetary policy innovation has a peak impact on durable expenditures that is roughly five times as large as its impact on non-durable expenditures. We then proceed to formulate and calibrate a two-sector dynamic general equilibrium model that roughly matches the impulse response functions of the data. We derive the social welfare function and show that the optimal monetary policy rule responds to sector-specific inflation rates and output gaps. We show that some commonlyprescribed policy rules perform poorly in terms of social welfare, especially rules that put a higher weight on inflation stabilization than on output gap stabilization. By contrast, it is interesting that certain rules that react only to aggregate variables, including aggregate output gap targeting and rules that respond to a weighted average of price and wage inflation, may yield a welfare level close to the optimum given a typical distribution of shocks.
This paper is part of a project to model the interaction between heterogeneous agents in intertemporal stochastic models and to develop numerical algorithms to solve these kind of models. It is well-known that solving dynamic heterogeneous agent models is a challenging problem, since in these models the distribution of wealth and other characteristics evolve endogenously over time. Existing dynamic models in the literature contain therefore just two agents or other simplifying assumptions to limit the heterogeneity.
ln environments with private information and spatial separation, the ability of agents to establish mutually beneficial arrangements can be limited by their ability to communicate contemporary dealings and histories of past dealings. Indeed, with the extension of some recent work in contract theory and mechanism design, this paper argues that location or person-specific assignment systems, portable object record-keeping systems, written message systems, and telecommunication systems can be viewed as communication systems which are successively more complete in this sense. An attempt is made also to match these various communication systems with systems in use in historical primitive, and/or contemporary societies and to interpret these communication systems as financial structures.
We explain why contracting parties may choose ambiguous financial contracts. Introducing ambiguity may be optimal, even when unambiguous contracts can be costlessly written. We show that an ambiguous contract has two advantages. First, it permits the guarantor to sacrifice reputational capital in order to preserve financial capital as well as information reusability in states where such tradeoff is optimal. Second, it fosters the development of reputation. This theory is then used to explain ambiguity in mutual fund contracts, bank loan commitments, bank holding company relationships, the investment banker's "highly confident" letter, non-recourse debt contracts in project financing, and other financial contracts.