The failure to find fundamentals that co-move with exchange rates or forecasting models with even mild predictive power -- facts broadly referred to as ``exchange rate disconnect'' -- stands among the most disappointing, but robust, facts in all of international macroeconomics. In this paper, we demonstrate that U.S. purchases of foreign bonds, which did not co-move with exchange rates prior to 2007, have provided significant in-sample, and even some out-of-sample, explanatory power for currencies since then. We show that several proxies for global risk factors also start to co-move strongly with the dollar and with U.S. purchases of foreign bonds around 2007, suggesting that risk plays a key role in this finding. We use security-level data on U.S. portfolios to demonstrate that the reconnect of U.S. foreign bond purchases to exchange rates is largely driven by investment in dollar-denominated assets rather than by foreign currency exposure alone. Our results support the narrative emerging from an active recent literature that the US dollar's role as an international and safe-haven currency has surged since the global financial crisis.
Cross-border capital flows are often opaque, involving multiple layers of corporate ownership and the use of shell companies in tax-haven countries. As a result, available statistics often miss important dimensions of how capital is allocated globally. We provide a methodology to unwind corporate ownership chains globally at the security level. We trace back issuances made in tax havens and through offshore subsidiaries in order to identify the firm, industry, and country facing each ultimate economic liability. We provide a dataset of bilateral positions restated to reflect the unwinding of these ownership structures. The existing data significantly understate the size of corporate debt and equity financing flowing from developed-market investors to firms in large emerging economies. Private debt and equity flows from the U.S. and Eurozone to BRIC economies are substantially larger than previously thought.
We administer a newly-designed survey to a large panel of individual investors who have substantial wealth invested in financial markets. The survey elicits beliefs that are crucial for macroeconomics and finance, and matches respondents with administrative data on their portfolio composition and their trading activity. We establish five facts in this data. (1) Beliefs are reflected in portfolio allocations. The sensitivity of portfolios to beliefs is small on average, but varies significantly with investor wealth, attention, trading frequency, and confidence. (2) It is hard to predict when investors trade, but conditional on trading, belief changes affect both the direction and the magnitude of trades. (3) Beliefs are mostly characterized by large and persistent individual heterogeneity; demographic characteristics struggle to explain why some individuals are optimistic and some are pessimistic. (4) Investors disagree about both expected cash flows and discount rates. At the investor level, higher expected cash flows are associated with higher discount rates. (5) Expected returns and the probability of rare disasters are negatively related. Our results challenge the rational expectation framework for macro-finance, and provide important guidance for the design of behavioral models.
We explore what private market data can tell us about the appropriate discount rates for valuing investments in climate change abatement. We estimate the term structure of discount rates for real estate up to the very long horizons relevant for investments in climate change abatement. The housing term structure is downward-sloping, reaching 2.6% at horizons beyond 100 years. We also show that real estate is exposed to both consumption risk and climate risk. We explore the implications of these new data using a tractable asset pricing model that incorporates important features of climate change. Climate change is modeled as a rare catastrophic event, the probability of which increases with economic growth. Economic activity partially mean reverts following a climate disaster, capturing the ability of the economy to adapt. As a result, short-run cash flows are more exposed to climate risk than long-run cash flows, allowing us to match the observed housing term structure. The model and data provide simple yet powerful guidance for appropriate discount rates for investments that hedge climate disaster risk. The term structure of these discount rates is upward-sloping but bounded above by the risk-free rate. For extremely far horizons at which we do not observe the risk-free rate, the estimated long-run discount rates for housing (a risky asset) provide an upper bound that becomes tighter with maturity. This suggests that the appropriate discount rates for investments in climate change abatement are low at all horizons, substantially below those conventionally used for valuing these investments and for determining the social cost of carbon.
We propose a simple model of the international monetary system. We study the world supply and demand for reserve assets denominated in different currencies under a variety of scenarios: under a Hegemon vs. a multi-polar world; when reserve assets are abundant vs. scarce; under a gold exchange standard vs. a floating rate system; away from or at the zero lower bound (ZLB). We rationalize the Triffin dilemma which posits the fundamental instability of the system, the common prediction regarding the natural and beneficial emergence of a multi-polar world, the Nurkse warning that a multi-polar world is more unstable than a Hegemon world, and the Keynesian argument that a scarcity of reserve assets under a gold exchange standard or at the ZLB is recessive. We show that competition among few countries in the issuance of reserve assets can have perverse effects on the total supply of reserve assets. Our analysis is both positive and normative.
I provide a framework for understanding the global financial architecture as an equilibrium outcome of the risk sharing between countries with different levels of financial development. The country that has the most developed financial sector takes on a larger proportion of global fundamental and financial risk because its financial intermediaries are better able to deal with funding problems following negative shocks. This asymmetric risk sharing has real consequences. In good times, and in the long run, the more financially developed country consumes more, relative to other countries, and runs a trade deficit financed by the higher financial income that it earns as compensation for taking greater risk. During global crises, it suffers heavier capital losses than other countries, exacerbating its fall in consumption. This country's currency emerges as the world's reserve currency because it appreciates during crises and so provides a good hedge. The model is able to rationalize these facts, which characterize the role of the US as the key country in the global financial architecture.
We test for the existence of housing bubbles associated with a failure of the transversality condition that requires the present value of payments occurring infinitely far in the future to be zero. The most prominent such bubble is the classic rational bubble. We study housing markets in the U.K. and Singapore, where residential property ownership takes the form of either leaseholds or freeholds. Leaseholds are finite-maturity, pre-paid, and tradable ownership contracts with maturities often exceeding 700 years. Freeholds are infinite-maturity ownership contracts. The price difference between leaseholds with extremely-long maturities and freeholds reflects the present value of a claim to the freehold after leasehold expiry, and is thus a direct empirical measure of the transversality condition. We estimate this price difference, and find no evidence of failures of the transversality condition in housing markets in the U.K. and Singapore, even during periods when a sizeable bubble was regularly thought to be present.
We provide a theory of the determination of exchange rates based on capital flows in imperfect financial markets. Capital flows drive exchange rates by altering the balance sheets of financiers that bear the risks resulting from international imbalances in the demand for financial assets. Such alterations to their balance sheets cause financiers to change their required compensation for holding currency risk, thus impacting both the level and volatility of exchange rates. Our theory of exchange rate determination in imperfect financial markets not only helps rationalize the empirical disconnect between exchange rates and traditional macroeconomic fundamentals, but also has real consequences for output and risk sharing. Exchange rates are sensitive to imbalances in financial markets and seldom perform the shock absorption role that is central to traditional theoretical macroeconomic analysis. Our framework is flexible; it accommodates a number of important modeling features within an imperfect financial market model, such as non-tradables, production, money, sticky prices or wages, various forms of international pricing-to-market, and unemployment.
We estimate how households trade off immediate costs and uncertain future benefits that occur in the very long run, 100 or more years away. We exploit a unique feature of housing markets in the U.K. and Singapore, where residential property ownership takes the form of either leaseholds or freeholds. Leaseholds are temporary, pre-paid, and tradable ownership contracts with maturities between 99 and 999 years, while freeholds are perpetual ownership contracts. The price difference between leaseholds and freeholds reflects the present value of perpetual rental income starting at leasehold expiry, and is thus informative about very long-run discount rates. We estimate the price discounts for varying leasehold maturities compared to freeholds and extremely long-run leaseholds via hedonic regressions using proprietary datasets of the universe of transactions in each country. Households discount very long-run cash flows at low rates, assigning high present value to cash flows hundreds of years in the future. For example, 100-year leaseholds are valued at more than 10% less than otherwise identical freeholds, implying discount rates below 2.6% for 100-year claims.
The downside risk CAPM (DR-CAPM) can price the cross section of currency returns. The market-beta differential between high and low interest rate currencies is higher conditional on bad market returns, when the market price of risk is also high, than it is conditional on good market returns. Correctly accounting for this variation is crucial for the empirical performance of the model. The DR-CAPM can jointly explain the cross section of equity, commodity, sovereign bond and currency returns, thus offering a unified risk view of these asset classes. In contrast, popular models that have been developed for a specific asset class fail to jointly price other asset classes.
Currently both the International Monetary System (IMS) and the International Price Systems (IPS) are dominated by the U.S. The emergence of China, both as reserve currency and as a currency of invoicing, is likely to disrupt this status quo. We provide a framework to understand the forces that will shape this transition and identify sources of instability. We highlight the risk of an abrupt shift triggered by a run on the dollar.
The modern notion of an international currency involves use in areas of international finance and trade that extend well beyond central banks' coffers. In addition to their important roles as foreign exchange reserves, international currencies are most frequently used to denominate corporate and government bonds, bank loans, and import and export invoices. These currencies offer unrivaled liquidity, constituting large shares of the volume on global foreign exchange markets, and are commonly chosen as the anchors targeted by countries with pegged or managed exchange rate regimes. In this short article, we provide evidence suggesting a recent rise in the use of the dollar, and fall of the use in the euro, with similar patterns manifesting across all these aspects of international currency use.