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

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  • Corsetti, Giancarlo
  • Dedola, Luca

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

  • Corsetti, Giancarlo & Dedola, Luca, 2016. "The "Mystery of the Printing Press" Monetary Policy and Self-fulfilling Debt Crises," CEPR Discussion Papers 11089, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:11089
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Keywords

    Inflationary financing; Lender of last resort; Seigniorage; Sovereign risk and default;

    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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