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Debt and Deficit Fluctuations and the Structure of Bond Markets

  • Albert Marcet
  • Andrew Scott

This paper tests for the market environment within which US fiscal policy operates, that is we test for the incompleteness of the US government bond market. We document the stochastic properties of US debt and deficits and then consider the ability of competing optimal tax models to account for this behaviour. We show that when a government pursues an optimal tax policy and issues a full set of contingent claims, the value of debt has the same or less persistence than other variables in the economy and declines in response to higher deficit shocks. By contrast, if governments only issue one-period risk free bonds (incomplete markets), debt shows more persistence than other variables and it increases in response to expenditure shocks. Maintaining the hypothesis of Ramsey behavior, US data conflicts strongly with the predictions of complete markets but is much more consistent with incomplete markets. We discuss the implications of this finding for the optimality of debt limits, debt management and assessing the sustainability of fiscal policy.

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Paper provided by Barcelona Graduate School of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 171.

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Date of creation: Jun 2003
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Handle: RePEc:bge:wpaper:171
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  1. George-Marios Angeletos, 2002. "Fiscal Policy With Noncontingent Debt And The Optimal Maturity Structure," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 117(3), pages 1105-1131, August.
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  5. Albert Marcet & Thomas J. Sargent & Juha Seppala, 1996. "Optimal taxation without state-contingent debt," Economics Working Papers 170, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Oct 2001.
  6. Per Krusell & Anthony A. Smith & Jr., 1998. "Income and Wealth Heterogeneity in the Macroeconomy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(5), pages 867-896, October.
  7. Albert Marcet & Elisa Faraglia & Andrew Scott, 2008. "In Search of a Theory of Debt Management," UFAE and IAE Working Papers 743.08, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC).
  8. Barro, Robert J., 1979. "On the Determination of the Public Debt," Scholarly Articles 3451400, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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  12. Bharat Trehan & Carl E. Walsh, 1988. "Testing intertemporal budget constraints: theory and applications to U. S. federal budget and current account deficits," Working Papers in Applied Economic Theory 88-03, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  13. V. V. Chari & Lawrence J. Christiano & Patrick J. Kehoe, 1991. "Optimal fiscal and monetary policy: some recent results," Staff Report 147, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  14. John Heaton & Deborah Lucas, 1993. "Evaluating the Effects of Incomplete Markets on Risk Sharing and Asset Pricing," NBER Working Papers 4249, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  16. Zhu, Xiaodong, 1992. "Optimal fiscal policy in a stochastic growth model," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 58(2), pages 250-289, December.
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  18. John Y. Campbell & Robert J. Shiller, 1996. "A Scorecard for Indexed Government Debt," NBER Working Papers 5587, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Butkiewicz, James L., 1983. "The market value of outstanding government debt : Comment," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(3), pages 373-379.
  20. Lloyd-Ellis, Huw & Zhu, Xiaodong, 2001. "Fiscal shocks and fiscal risk management," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(2), pages 309-338, October.
  21. Elisa Faraglia & Albert Marcet & Andrew Scott, 2008. "Fiscal Insurance and Debt Management in OECD Economies," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 118(527), pages 363-386, 03.
  22. Gorostiaga Alonso, Miren Arantzazu, 2002. "Should Fiscal Policy be different in a Non-Competitive Framework?," DFAEII Working Papers 2002-28, University of the Basque Country - Department of Foundations of Economic Analysis II.
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  25. Olivier Blanchard & Roberto Perotti, 1999. "An Empirical Characterization of the Dynamic Effects of Changes in Government Spending and Taxes on Output," NBER Working Papers 7269, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  26. Gorostiaga, A., 1999. "Should Fiscal Policy be Different in a Non-Competitive Framework?," Papers 9901, Centro de Estudios Monetarios Y Financieros-.
  27. den Haan, Wouter J & Marcet, Albert, 1990. "Solving the Stochastic Growth Model by Parameterizing Expectations," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 8(1), pages 31-34, January.
  28. Emmanuel Farhi, 2010. "Capital Taxation and Ownership When Markets Are Incomplete," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 118(5), pages 908 - 948.
  29. Bernheim, B Douglas, 1991. "Optimal Fiscal and Monetary Policy: Some Recent Results," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 23(3), pages 540-42, August.
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  34. repec:bla:restud:v:75:y:2008:i:3:p:789-808 is not listed on IDEAS
  35. V. V. Chari & Patrick J. Kehoe, 1998. "Optimal fiscal and monetary policy," Staff Report 251, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  36. Scott, Andrew, 2007. "Optimal taxation and OECD labor taxes," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(3), pages 925-944, April.
  37. John Y. Campbell & Robert J. Shiller, 1996. "A Scorecard for Indexed Government Data," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1758, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
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