IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/bfr/fisrev/20111502.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

International capital flows and the returns to safe assets in the United States 2003-2007

Author

Listed:
  • Bernanke, B.S.

Abstract

A broad array of domestic institutional factors –including problems with the originate-to-distribute model for mortgage loans, deteriorating lending standards, deficiencies in risk management, conflicting incentives for the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs), and shortcomings of supervision and regulation– were the primary sources of the US housing boom and bust and the associated financial crisis. In addition, the extended rise in US house prices was likely also supported by long-term interest rates (including mortgage rates) that were surprisingly low, given the level of short-term rates and other macro fundamentals –a development that Greenspan (2005) dubbed a “conundrum.” The “global saving glut” (GSG) hypothesis (Bernanke, 2005 and 2007) argues that increased capital inflows to the United States from countries in which desired saving greatly exceeded desired investment –including Asian emerging markets and commodity exporters– were an important reason that US longer-term interest rates during this period were lower than expected. This essay investigates further the effects of capital inflows to the United States on US longer-term interest rates; however, we look beyond the overall size of the inflows emphasised by the GSG hypothesis to examine the implications for US yields of the portfolio preferences of foreign creditors. We present evidence that, in the spirit of Caballero and Krishnamurthy (2009), foreign investors during this period tended to prefer US assets perceived to be safe. In particular, foreign investors –especially the GSG countries–acquired a substantial share of the new issues of US Treasuries, Agency debt, and Agency-sponsored mortgage-backed securities. The downward pressure on yields exerted by inflows from the GSG countries was reinforced by the portfolio preferences of other foreign investors. We focus particularly on the case of Europe: although Europe did not run a large current account surplus as did the GSG countries, we show that it leveraged up its international balance sheet, issuing external liabilities to finance substantial purchases of apparently safe US “private label” mortgage-backed securities and other fixed-income products. The strong demand for apparently safe assets by both domestic and foreign investors not only served to reduce yields on these assets but also provided additional incentives for the US financial services industry to develop structured investment products that “transformed” risky loans into highly-rated securities. Our findings do not challenge the view that domestic factors, including those listed above, were the primary sources of the housing boom and bust in the United States. However, examining how changes in the pattern of international capital flows affected yields on US assets helps provide a deeper understanding of the origins and dynamics of the crisis.

Suggested Citation

  • Bernanke, B.S., 2011. "International capital flows and the returns to safe assets in the United States 2003-2007," Financial Stability Review, Banque de France, issue 15, pages 13-26, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:bfr:fisrev:2011:15:02
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: https://publications.banque-france.fr/sites/default/files/medias/documents/financial-stability-review-15_2011-02.pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Ricardo J. Caballero & Emmanuel Farhi & Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, 2008. "An Equilibrium Model of "Global Imbalances" and Low Interest Rates," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(1), pages 358-393, March.
    2. Glenn D. Rudebusch & Eric T. Swanson & Tao Wu, 2006. "The Bond Yield "Conundrum" from a Macro-Finance Perspective," Monetary and Economic Studies, Institute for Monetary and Economic Studies, Bank of Japan, vol. 24(S1), pages 83-109, December.
    3. Joseph Gruber & Steven Kamin, 2009. "Do Differences in Financial Development Explain the Global Pattern of Current Account Imbalances?," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 17(4), pages 667-688, September.
    4. Ben S. Bernanke & Vincent R. Reinhart & Brian P. Sack, 2004. "Monetary Policy Alternatives at the Zero Bound: An Empirical Assessment," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 35(2), pages 1-100.
    5. Kristopher Gerardi & Andreas Lehnert & Shane M. Sherlund & Paul Willen, 2008. "Making Sense of the Subprime Crisis," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, pages 69-159.
    6. Gary Gorton, 2009. "Information, Liquidity, and the (Ongoing) Panic of 2007," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 567-572, May.
    7. Richard N. Cooper, 2005. "Living with Global Imbalances: A Contrarian View," Policy Briefs PB05-03, Peterson Institute for International Economics.
    8. Patrick McGuire & Goetz von Peter, 2009. "The US dollar shortage in global banking and the international policy response," BIS Working Papers 291, Bank for International Settlements.
    9. Ricardo J. Caballero & Arvind Krishnamurthy, 2009. "Global Imbalances and Financial Fragility," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 584-588, May.
    10. Christopher Mayer & Karen Pence & Shane M. Sherlund, 2009. "The Rise in Mortgage Defaults," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 23(1), pages 27-50, Winter.
    11. Carlos O. Arteta & Mark S. Carey & Ricardo Correa & Jason Kotter, 2008. "Which banks sponsored ABCP vehicles and why?," Proceedings 1072, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
    12. Francis E. Warnock & Veronica C. Warnock, 2005. "International Capital Flows and U.S. Interest Rates," The Institute for International Integration Studies Discussion Paper Series iiisdp103, IIIS.
    13. Patrick McGuire & Goetz von Peter, 2009. "The US dollar shortage in global banking," BIS Quarterly Review, Bank for International Settlements, March.
    14. Olivier Blanchard & Francesco Giavazzi & Filipa Sa, 2005. "The U.S. Current Account and the Dollar," NBER Working Papers 11137, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Joshua Coval & Jakub Jurek & Erik Stafford, 2009. "The Economics of Structured Finance," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 23(1), pages 3-25, Winter.
    16. Jane K. Dokko & Brian M. Doyle & Michael T. Kiley & Jinill Kim & Shane M. Sherlund & Jae W. Sim & Skander J. van den Heuvel, 2009. "Monetary policy and the housing bubble," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2009-49, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Caballero, Ricardo & Farhi, Emmanuel & Gourinchas, Pierre-Olivier, 2015. "Global Imbalances and Currency Wars at the ZLB," CEPR Discussion Papers 10905, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Barry Eichengreen & Hui Tong, 2011. "The External Impact of China's Exchange Rate Policy: Evidence from Firm Level Data," NBER Working Papers 17593, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Kacperczyk, Marcin & Perignon, Christophe & Vuillemey, Guillaume, 2017. "The Private Production of Safe Assets," CEPR Discussion Papers 12395, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    4. Goda, Thomas & Onaran, Özlem & Stockhammer, Engelbert, 2014. "A case for redistribution? income inequality and wealth concentration in the recent crisis," Greenwich Papers in Political Economy 14056, University of Greenwich, Greenwich Political Economy Research Centre.
    5. Gourinchas, Pierre-Olivier & Rey, Hélène, 2014. "External Adjustment, Global Imbalances, Valuation Effects," Handbook of International Economics, Elsevier.
    6. Gourinchas, Pierre-Olivier & Rey, Hélène & Truempler, Kai, 2012. "The financial crisis and the geography of wealth transfers," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, pages 266-283.
    7. Dániel Horváth & Róbert Szini, 2015. "The safety trap – the financial market and macroeconomic consequences of the scarcity of safe assets," Financial and Economic Review, Magyar Nemzeti Bank (Central Bank of Hungary), vol. 14(1), pages 111-138.
    8. Sydney Ludvigson & Stijn Van Nieuwerburgh & Jack Favilukis, 2012. "Foreign Ownership of U.S. Safe Assets: Good or Bad?," 2012 Meeting Papers 297, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    9. Photis Lysandrou, 2014. "Post-Keynesian stock-flow models after the subprime crisis: the need for micro-foundations," European Journal of Economics and Economic Policies: Intervention, Edward Elgar Publishing, vol. 11(1), pages 113-126, April.
    10. Mary M. Everett, 2015. "International liquidity shocks and the European sovereign debt crisis: Was euro area unconventional monetary policy successful?," FIW Working Paper series 143, FIW.
    11. Ma, Guonan & McCauley, Robert N., 2013. "Is China or India more financially open?," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 6-27.
    12. repec:cbh:journl:v:14:y:2015:i:1:p:111-138 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Marco Passarella, 2013. "Financial Integration in the European Union: an Analysis of ECB’s role," Working papers wpaper04, Financialisation, Economy, Society & Sustainable Development (FESSUD) Project.
    14. Byrne, Joseph P. & Fiess, Norbert, 2016. "International capital flows to emerging markets: National and global determinants," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 82-100.
    15. Siklos, Pierre L., 2011. "Emerging market yield spreads: Domestic, external determinants, and volatility spillovers," Global Finance Journal, Elsevier, vol. 22(2), pages 83-100.
    16. Goda, Thomas & Lysandrou, Photis & Stewart, Chris, 2013. "The contribution of US bond demand to the US bond yield conundrum of 2004–2007: An empirical investigation," Journal of International Financial Markets, Institutions and Money, Elsevier, vol. 27(C), pages 113-136.
    17. Bank for International Settlements, 2015. "Introduction to BIS statistics," BIS Quarterly Review, Bank for International Settlements, September.
    18. Zoltan Pozsar, 2014. "Shadow Banking: The Money View," Working Papers 14-04, Office of Financial Research, US Department of the Treasury.
    19. Ott, Hervé, 2014. "Will euro area house prices sharply decrease?," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 116-127.

    More about this item

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:bfr:fisrev:2011:15:02. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Michael brassart). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/bdfgvfr.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.