Take It to the Bank

Kevin Lewis

April 11, 2024

The Cost of Money is Part of the Cost of Living: New Evidence on the Consumer Sentiment Anomaly
Marijn Bolhuis et al.
NBER Working Paper, February 2024

Unemployment is low and inflation is falling, but consumer sentiment remains depressed. This has confounded economists, who historically rely on these two variables to gauge how consumers feel about the economy. We propose that borrowing costs, which have grown at rates they had not reached in decades, do much to explain this gap. The cost of money is not currently included in traditional price indexes, indicating a disconnect between the measures favored by economists and the effective costs borne by consumers. We show that the lows in US consumer sentiment that cannot be explained by unemployment and official inflation are strongly correlated with borrowing costs and consumer credit supply. Concerns over borrowing costs, which have historically tracked the cost of money, are at their highest levels since the Volcker-era. We then develop alternative measures of inflation that include borrowing costs and can account for almost three quarters of the gap in US consumer sentiment in 2023. Global evidence shows that consumer sentiment gaps across countries are also strongly correlated with changes in interest rates. Proposed U.S.-specific factors do not find much supportive evidence abroad.

Why Do We Dislike Inflation?
Stefanie Stantcheva
NBER Working Paper, April 2024

This paper provides new evidence on a long-standing question asked by Shiller (1997): Why do we dislike inflation? I conducted two surveys on representative samples of the US population to elicit people's perceptions about the impacts of inflation and their reactions to it. The predominant reason for people's aversion to inflation is the widespread belief that it diminishes their buying power, as neither personal nor general wage increases seem to match the pace of rising prices. As a result, respondents report having to make costly adjustments in their budgets and behaviors, especially among lower-income groups. Inflation also provokes stress, emotional responses, and a sense of inequity, as the wages of high-income individuals are perceived to grow more rapidly amidst inflation. Many respondents believe that firms have considerable discretion in setting wages, opting not to raise them in order to boost profits, rather than being compelled by market dynamics. The potential positive associations of inflation, such as with reduced unemployment or enhanced economic activity, are typically not recognized by respondents. Inflation ranks high in priority among various economic and social issues, with respondents blaming the government and businesses for it. I also highlight a substantial polarization in attitudes towards inflation along partisan lines, as well as across income groups.

The Supply-Side Effects of Monetary Policy
David Baqaee, Emmanuel Farhi & Kunal Sangani
Journal of Political Economy, forthcoming

We propose a supply-side channel for the transmission of monetary policy. We show that when high-markup firms have lower pass-throughs than low-markup firms, then positive demand shocks, such as monetary expansions, alleviate cross-sectional misallocation by reallocating resources to high-markup firms. Consequently, positive "demand shocks" are accompanied by endogenous positive "supply shocks" that raise productivity and lower inflation. We derive a tractable, four-equation model where monetary shocks generate hump-shaped productivity responses. In our calibration, the supply-side effect amplifies the total impact of monetary shocks on output by about 70%. We provide empirical evidence validating our model's predictions using identified monetary shocks.

Can Human Capital Explain Income-Based Disparities in Financial Services?
Ruidi Huang et al.
Review of Financial Studies, forthcoming

Research shows that access to high-quality financial services varies with local income and wealth. We study how financial firms' internal allocation of human capital contributes to these disparities. Using a near-comprehensive panel of over 350,000 U.S. mortgage loan officers, we document large and persistent differences in productivity and performance. We find that firms' hiring and promotion practices allocate workers with less experience or poor track records to branches serving low-income customers. Further, the consequences of poor performance differ by location: low sales, bad loans, and misconduct are more tolerated in low-income branches, exacerbating income-based disparities in financial services.

How does competition affect retail banking? Quasi-experimental evidence from bank mergers
Jack Liebersohn
Journal of Financial Economics, April 2024

This paper studies bank antitrust rules which discontinuously shift bank mergers' competitive impact. The likelihood of mandatory divestiture rises sharply for mergers in markets above a threshold level of concentration, leading to an increase in the number of banks in these markets. Consistent with greater competition, intervention leads to higher deposit rates. Mortgage originations rise by 11%, from both refinancing and purchases. However, small business loan quantities do not change. The effects of intervention do not dissipate over time, and nonbank lenders respond similarly to banks. Overall, antitrust rules can increase bank competition, but relationships protect banks from competitors.

The Beneficial Effect of Common Ownership: Evidence from Bank Liquidity Creation
Joye Khoo, Chen Zheng & Shams Pathan
Journal of Banking & Finance, forthcoming

We argue a positive association between common ownership and liquidity creation because common ownership increases risk-absorption capacity through higher profit margins, greater equity capital, and improved disclosure quality. Accordingly, we find solid evidence that banks with greater common ownership create 3.56%-4.54% more liquidity. The beneficial effect on liquidity creation is dominant for banks with high risk-absorption capacities, enhanced disclosure quality, low competition, greater long-term shareholdings, and low performance-sensitive managerial incentives, substantiating our theoretical conjectures and establishing five significant channels. Finally, we show that banks have incentive to create more liquidity when they have significant co-ownerships among themselves. Our main findings remain robust to multiple proxies, alternative specifications, and three methods to address endogeneity concerns - difference-in-differences based on the Blackrock-Barclays Global Investors merger in 2009, two-stage least squares analysis with instrumental variables based on Russell 2000 index inclusion, and propensity score matching.

The Value of Regulators as Monitors: Evidence from Banking
Emilio Bisetti
Management Science, forthcoming

While conventional wisdom suggests that financial supervision is costly for bank shareholders, agency theory suggests that supervisors' audits can reduce shareholder monitoring costs. I study this trade-off in the context of an unexpected decrease in off-site surveillance intensity by the U.S. Federal Reserve. Banks subject to reduced surveillance experience a 1% loss in bank Tobin's q and a 7% loss in equity market-to-book. These banks engage in more earnings management, and appear to compensate lower regulatory surveillance with costly internal audits. My results document a novel substitution effect between public monitoring by regulators and private monitoring by shareholders.

The Secular Decline of Bank Balance Sheet Lending
Greg Buchak et al.
NBER Working Paper, February 2024

The traditional model of bank-led financial intermediation, where banks issue demandable deposits to savers and make informationally sensitive loans to borrowers, has seen a dramatic decline since 1970s. Instead, private credit is increasingly intermediated through arms-length transactions, such as securitization. This paper documents these trends, explores their causes, and discusses their implications for the financial system and regulation. We document that the balance sheet share of overall private lending has declined from 60% in 1970 to 35% in 2023, while the deposit share of savings has declined from 22% to 13%. Additionally, the share of loans as a percentage of bank assets has fallen from 70% to 55%. We develop a structural model to explore whether technological improvements in securitization, shifts in saver preferences away from deposits, and changes in implicit subsidies and costs of bank activities can explain these shifts. Declines in securitization cost account for changes in aggregate lending quantities. Savers, rather than borrowers, are the main drivers of bank balance sheet size, Implicit banks' costs and subsidies explain shifting bank balance sheet composition. Together, these forces explain the fall in the overall share of informationally sensitive bank lending in credit intermediation. We conclude by examining how these shifts impact the financial sector's sensitivity to macroprudential regulation. While raising capital requirements or liquidity requirements decreases lending in both early (1960s) and recent (2020's) scenarios, the effect is less pronounced in the later period due to the reduced role of bank balance sheets in credit intermediation. The substitution of bank balance sheet loans with debt securities in response to these policies explains why we observe only a fairly modest decline in aggregate lending despite a large contraction of bank balance sheet lending. Overall, we find that the intermediation sector has undergone significant transformation, with implications for macroprudential policy and financial regulation.


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