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.