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The "Mystery of the Printing Press" Monetary Policy and Self-fulfilling Debt Crises

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  • Giancarlo Corsetti
  • Luca Dedola

Abstract

We study the conditions under which unconventional (balance-sheet) monetary policy can rule out self-fulfilling sovereign default in a model with optimizing but discretionary fiscal and monetary policymakers. When purchasing sovereign debt, the central bank effectively swaps risky government paper for monetary liabilities only exposed to inflation risk, thus yielding a lower interest rate. As central bank purchases reduce the (ex ante) costs of debt, we characterize a critical threshold beyond which, absent fundamental fiscal stress, the government strictly prefers primary surplus adjustment to default. Because default may still occur for fundamental reasons, however, the central bank faces the risk of losses on sovereign debt holdings, which may generate inefficient inflation. We show that these losses do not necessarily undermine the credibility of a backstop, nor the monetary authorities’ ability to pursue its inflation objectives. Backstops are credible if either the central bank enjoys fiscal backing or fiscal authorities are sufficiently averse to inflation.

Suggested Citation

  • Giancarlo Corsetti & Luca Dedola, 2014. "The "Mystery of the Printing Press" Monetary Policy and Self-fulfilling Debt Crises," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 1463, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
  • Handle: RePEc:cam:camdae:1463
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Sovereign risk and default; Lender of last resort; Seigniorage; inflationary financing;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • E58 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Central Banks and Their Policies
    • E63 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Comparative or Joint Analysis of Fiscal and Monetary Policy; Stabilization; Treasury Policy
    • H63 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Debt; Debt Management; Sovereign Debt

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