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Countercyclical capital regulation: should bank regulators use rules or discretion?

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  • Michal Kowalik

Abstract

One of the key features of the U.S. economy’s slow recovery from the 2007-09 recession has been abnormally low bank lending to households and corporate businesses. While demand for loans may be sluggish, much of the slowdown may stem from banks’ reluctance to lend. Before resuming normal lending activity, banks must first replenish capital levels that were depleted during the financial crisis. ; Many analysts have pointed out that existing bank capital regulation can contribute to banks’ reluctance to lend during recessions and into recoveries. That is, the capital requirements have a procyclical effect on lending. They make it more difficult for banks to finance loans in recessions when they would help stimulate the economy. ; In response to this problem, the Dodd-Frank Financial Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (Dodd-Frank) and the recent revision of the international Basel Accord, Basel III, mandated changes to make capital requirements countercyclical. The changes should counteract the procyclical effect of capital regulation by requiring banks to hold higher capital ratios during booms. Thus, during downturns banks would be in a better position to absorb rising losses and sustain lending to support economic growth. ; Whether countercyclical capital requirements will provide more lending in recessions depends on how they are implemented. Yet, little discussion among policymakers has focused on implementation. ; Kowalik examines the primary options for implementing countercyclical capital requirements: using a fixed rule or giving the regulatory authorities discretion in deciding when and how to act. He finds that the rule-based approach has more advantages than the approach based on discretion.

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Article provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City in its journal Economic Review.

Volume (Year): (2011)
Issue (Month): Q II ()
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedker:y:2011:i:qii:n:v.96no.2:x:1

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Cited by:
  1. Detzer, Daniel, 2012. "New instruments for banking regulation and monetary policy after the crisis," IPE Working Papers 13/2012, Berlin School of Economics and Law, Institute for International Political Economy (IPE).
  2. Itai Agur & Sunil Sharma, 2013. "Rules, Discretion, and Macro-Prudential Policy," IMF Working Papers 13/65, International Monetary Fund.

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