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Government Debt Management: The Long and the Short of It

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  • Faraglia, Elisa
  • Marcet, Albert
  • Oikonomou, Rigas
  • Scott, Andrew

Abstract

Our aim is to provide insights into some basic facts of US government debt management by introducing simple financial frictions in a Ramsey model of fiscal policy. We find that the share of short bonds in total U.S. debt is large, persistent, and highly correlated with total debt. A well known literature argues that optimal debt management should behave very differently: long term debt provides fiscal insurance, hence short bonds should not be issued and the position on short debt is volatile and negatively correlated with total debt. We show that this result hinges on the assumption that governments buy back the entire stock of previously issued long bonds each year, which is very far from observed debt management. We document how the U.S. Treasury rarely has repurchased bonds before 10 years after issuance. When we impose in the model that the government does not buy back old bonds the puzzle disappears and the optimal bond portfolio matches the facts mentioned above. The reason is that issuing only long term debt under no buyback would lead to a lumpiness in debt service payments, short bonds help offset this by smoothing out interest payments and tax rates. The same reasoning helps explain why governments issue coupon-paying bonds. Solving dynamic stochastic models of optimal policy with a portfolio choice is computationally challenging. A separate contribution of this paper is to propose computational tools that enable this broad class of models to be solved. In particular we propose two significant extensions to the PEA class of computational methods which overcome problems due to the size of the model. These methods should be useful to many applications with portfolio problems and large state spaces.

Suggested Citation

  • Faraglia, Elisa & Marcet, Albert & Oikonomou, Rigas & Scott, Andrew, 2014. "Government Debt Management: The Long and the Short of It," CEPR Discussion Papers 10281, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:10281
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Kenneth L. Judd & Lilia Maliar & Serguei Maliar, 2011. "Numerically stable and accurate stochastic simulation approaches for solving dynamic economic models," Quantitative Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 2(2), pages 173-210, July.
    2. Stéphane Guibaud & Yves Nosbusch & Dimitri Vayanos, 2013. "Bond Market Clienteles, the Yield Curve, and the Optimal Maturity Structure of Government Debt," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 26(8), pages 1914-1961.
    3. 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, March.
    4. repec:oup:qjecon:v:132:y:2017:i:1:p:55-102. is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Davide Debortoli & Ricardo Nunes & Pierre Yared, 2017. "Optimal Time-Consistent Government Debt Maturity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 132(1), pages 55-102.
    6. Yves Nosbusch, 2008. "Interest Costs and the Optimal Maturity Structure Of Government Debt," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 118(527), pages 477-498, March.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Bouakez, Hafedh & Oikonomou, Rigas & Priftis, Romanos, 2018. "Optimal debt management in a liquidity trap," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 5-21.
    2. Equiza-Goni, Juan & Faraglia, Elisa & Oikonomou, Rigas, 2016. "Union Debt Management," CEPR Discussion Papers 11181, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Jochen Mankart & Rigas Oikonomou, 2017. "Household Search and the Aggregate Labour Market," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 84(4), pages 1735-1788.
    4. George J. Hall & Thomas J. Sargent, 2015. "A History of U.S. Debt Limits," NBER Working Papers 21799, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Saki Bigio & Galo Nuño & Juan Passadore, 2019. "A Framework for Debt-Maturity Management," Working Papers 143, Peruvian Economic Association.
    6. Alex Clymo & Andrea Lanteri, 2016. "Fiscal Policy with Limited-Time Commitment," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 16-056/VI, Tinbergen Institute.
    7. Faraglia, E. & Marcet, A. & Oikonomou, R. & Scott, A., 2019. "A Short Note on Optimal Debt Management under Asymmetric Information," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 1761, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
    8. Anmol Bhandari & David Evans & Mikhail Golosov & Thomas Sargent, 2019. "The Optimal Maturity of Government Debt," 2019 Meeting Papers 1011, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    9. Rigas Oikonomou & Albert Marcet & Elisa Faraglia, 2016. "Long term Government Bonds," 2016 Meeting Papers 565, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    10. Boris Chafwehé & Rigas Oikonomou & Romanos Priftis & Lukas Vogel, 2018. "Endogenous forward guidance," Working Paper Research 354, National Bank of Belgium.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Computational methods; Debt Management; Fiscal Policy; Incomplete Markets; Maturity Structure; Tax Smoothing;

    JEL classification:

    • C63 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Computational Techniques
    • E43 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Interest Rates: Determination, Term Structure, and Effects
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • H63 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Debt; Debt Management; Sovereign Debt

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