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Is the discount window necessary? a Penn Central perspective

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  • Charles W. Calomiris

Abstract

The discount window has been under attack recently as a costly and unnecessary tool of policy. This paper argues that the primary role of the discount window should be to provide occasional, temporary support to particular financial markets during localized financial crises. The benefits of the discount window revolve around information externalities across firms resulting from confusion over the incidence of bad news, or reductions in the net worth of market intermediaries. The history of the Penn Central commercial paper crisis of 1970, and the Fed's use of the discount window to combat that crisis, are reviewed. The crisis is visible in a pronounced decline in outstanding commercial paper, an increase in the interest rate spreads for commercial paper and for long-term debt, and declines in stock prices. Cross-sectional variation in abnormal stock returns indicates that, controlling for other factors, firms that were likely to have had outstanding debt in the form of commercial paper suffered larger negative returns during the onset of the crisis, and larger positive returns after the Fed intervened to lower the cost of commercial paper rollover. Implications of the 1970 crisis for current financial markets, and for discount window policy, are considered in light of this evidence.
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  • Charles W. Calomiris, 1994. "Is the discount window necessary? a Penn Central perspective," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue May, pages 31-55.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedlrv:y:1994:i:may:p:31-55
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    1. repec:ucp:bknber:9780226355887 is not listed on IDEAS
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    3. Pu Shen, 2003. "Why has the nonfinancial commercial paper market shrunk recently?," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, vol. 88(Q I), pages 55-76.
    4. Evan Gatev & Philip Strahan, 2008. "Liquidity Risk and Syndicate Structure," NBER Working Papers 13802, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Mark Carlson & Burcu Duygan-Bump & William Nelson, 2015. "Why do we need both liquidity regulations and a lender of last resort? A perspective from Federal Reserve lending during the 2007-09 US financial crisis," BIS Working Papers 493, Bank for International Settlements.
    6. Gorton, Gary & Metrick, Andrew, 2012. "Securitized banking and the run on repo," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 104(3), pages 425-451.
    7. Charles Calomiris & David Wheelock, 1998. "Was the Great Depression a Watershed for American Monetary Policy?," NBER Chapters, in: The Defining Moment: The Great Depression and the American Economy in the Twentieth Century, pages 23-65, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Michele Fratianni, 2008. "Financial Crises, Safety Nets and Regulation," Rivista italiana degli economisti, Società editrice il Mulino, issue 2, pages 169-208.
    9. Calomiris, Charles W. & Flandreau, Marc & Laeven, Luc, 2016. "Political foundations of the lender of last resort: A global historical narrative," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 28(C), pages 48-65.
    10. Charles Calomiris, 2000. "Comment on Bordo and Kroszner," Journal of Financial Services Research, Springer;Western Finance Association, vol. 18(2), pages 173-177, December.
    11. Viral V. Acharya & Denis Gromb & Tanju Yorulmazer, 2012. "Imperfect Competition in the Interbank Market for Liquidity as a Rationale for Central Banking," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(2), pages 184-217, April.
    12. Gorton, Gary & Metrick, Andrew & Xie, Lei, 2021. "The flight from maturity," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 47(C).
    13. Mishkin, Frederic S, 1994. "Preventing Financial Crises: An International Perspective," The Manchester School of Economic & Social Studies, University of Manchester, vol. 62(0), pages 1-40, Suppl..
    14. Gary Gorton & Lixin Huang, 2004. "Liquidity, Efficiency, and Bank Bailouts," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 455-483, June.
    15. Calomiris, Charles W. & Himmelberg, Charles P. & Wachtel, Paul, 1995. "Commercial paper, corporate finance, and the business cycle: a microeconomic perspective," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 42(1), pages 203-250, June.
    16. Christopher J. Neely, 2004. "The Federal Reserve responds to crises: September 11th was not the first," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, vol. 86(Mar), pages 27-42.
    17. Elizabeth C. Klee, 2011. "The first line of defense: the discount window during the early stages of the financial crisis," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2011-23, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    18. Richard G. Anderson & Charles S. Gascon, 2009. "The commercial paper market, the Fed, and the 2007-2009 financial crisis," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, vol. 91(Nov), pages 589-612.
    19. Pablo Kurlat, 2018. "Liquidity as Social Expertise," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 73(2), pages 619-656, April.
    20. Goodfriend, Marvin, 2014. "Lessons from a century of FED policy: Why monetary and credit policies need rules and boundaries," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 112-120.
    21. Arvind Krishnamurthy, 2010. "Amplification Mechanisms in Liquidity Crises," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(3), pages 1-30, July.
    22. Berger, Allen N. & Black, Lamont K. & Bouwman, Christa H.S. & Dlugosz, Jennifer, 2017. "Bank loan supply responses to Federal Reserve emergency liquidity facilities," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 32(C), pages 1-15.
    23. Charles W. Calomiris & Athanasios Orphanides & Steven A. Sharpe, 1994. "Leverage as a State Variable for Employment, Inventory Accumulation, andFixed Investment," NBER Working Papers 4800, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    24. Selgin, George & Lastrapes, William D. & White, Lawrence H., 2012. "Has the Fed been a failure?," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 569-596.

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