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In Search of a Theory of Debt Management

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

Abstract

A growing literature integrates theories of debt management into models of optimal fiscal policy. One promising theory argues that the composition of government debt should be chosen so that fluctuations in the market value of debt offset changes in expected future deficits. This complete market approach to debt management is valid even when the government only issues non-contingent bonds. A number of authors conclude from this approach that governments should issue long term debt and invest in short term assets. We argue that the conclusions of this approach are too fragile to serve as a basis for policy recommendations. This is because bonds at different maturities have highly correlated returns, causing the determination of the optimal portfolio to be ill-conditioned. To make this point concrete we examine the implications of this approach to debt management in various models, both analytically and using numerical methods calibrated to the US economy. We find the complete market approach recommends asset positions which are huge multiples of GDP. Introducing persistent shocks or capital accumulation only worsens this problem. Increasing the volatility of interest rates through habits partly reduces the size of these positions but at the cost of introducing extreme volatility in asset holdings. Across these simulations we find no presumption that governments should issue long term debt - policy recommendations can be easily reversed through small perturbations in the specification of shocks or small variations in the maturity of bonds issued. We further extend the literature by removing the assumption that governments every period costlessly repurchase all outstanding debt. This exacerbates the size of the required positions, worsens their volatility and in some cases produces instability in debt holdings. We conclude that it is very difficult to insulate fiscal policy from shocks by using the complete markets approach to debt management. Given the limited variability of the yield curve using maturities is a poor way to substitute for state contingent debt. The result is the positions recommended by this approach conflict with a number of features that we believe are important in making bond markets incomplete e.g allowing for transaction costs, liquidity effects, etc..Until these features are all fully incorporated we remain in search of a theory of debt management capable of providing robust policy insights.

Suggested Citation

  • Faraglia, Elisa & Marcet, Albert & Scott, Andrew, 2008. "In Search of a Theory of Debt Management," CEPR Discussion Papers 6859, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:6859
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    Cited by:

    1. Niepelt, Dirk, 2014. "Debt maturity without commitment," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(S), pages 37-54.
    2. Javier Bianchi & Juan Carlos Hatchondo & Leonardo Martinez, 2012. "International Reserves and Rollover Risk," NBER Working Papers 18628, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Ellison, Martin & Scott, Andrew, 2017. "Managing the UK National Debt 1694-2017," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 86148, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    4. Ricardo Nunes & Davide Debortoli, 2007. "Political Disagreement, Lack of Commitment and the Level of Debt," 2007 Meeting Papers 725, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    5. Hans J Blommestein & Philip Turner, 2012. "Interactions between sovereign debt management and monetary policy under fiscal dominance and financial instability," BIS Papers chapters,in: Bank for International Settlements (ed.), Threat of fiscal dominance?, volume 65, pages 213-237 Bank for International Settlements.
    6. 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.
    7. Faraglia, Elisa & Marcet, Albert & Scott, Andrew, 2014. "Modelling Long Bonds - The Case of Optimal Fiscal Policy," CEPR Discussion Papers 9965, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    8. Alessandro Missale, 2012. "Sovereign debt management and fiscal vulnerabilities," BIS Papers chapters,in: Bank for International Settlements (ed.), Threat of fiscal dominance?, volume 65, pages 157-176 Bank for International Settlements.
    9. Albert Marcet & Katharina Greulich, 2008. "Pareto-Improving Optimal Capital and Labor Taxes," UFAE and IAE Working Papers 733.08, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC).
    10. S. M. Ali Abbas & Laura Blattner & Mark De Broeck & Asmaa A ElGanainy & Malin Hu, 2014. "Sovereign Debt Composition in Advanced Economies; A Historical Perspective," IMF Working Papers 14/162, International Monetary Fund.
    11. 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.
    12. Marcet, Albert & Scott, Andrew, 2009. "Debt and deficit fluctuations and the structure of bond markets," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 144(2), pages 473-501, March.
    13. Equiza-Goni, Juan & Faraglia, Elisa & Oikonomou, Rigas, 2016. "Union Debt Management," CEPR Discussion Papers 11181, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    14. Dottori, Davide & Manna, Michele, 2016. "Strategy and tactics in public debt management," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 38(1), pages 1-25.
    15. Julius Aidoo-Buameh, 2014. "The Effect of NHIA Debt on Accounts Payables Management in Public Hospitals," Asian Economic and Financial Review, Asian Economic and Social Society, vol. 4(8), pages 1001-1015, August.
    16. Rigas Oikonomou & Albert Marcet & Elisa Faraglia, 2016. "Long term Government Bonds," 2016 Meeting Papers 565, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    17. Dirk Niepelt, 2009. "Sovereign Debt Maturity without Commitment," 2009 Meeting Papers 231, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    18. Hans J. Blommestein & Anja Hubig, 2012. "A Critical Analysis of the Technical Assumptions of the Standard Micro Portfolio Approach to Sovereign Debt Management," OECD Working Papers on Sovereign Borrowing and Public Debt Management 4, OECD Publishing.
    19. Hans J Blommestein & Anja Hubig, 2012. "Is the standard micro portfolio approach to sovereign debt management still appropriate?," BIS Papers chapters,in: Bank for International Settlements (ed.), Threat of fiscal dominance?, volume 65, pages 141-155 Bank for International Settlements.
    20. Mark Aguiar & Manuel Amador, 2013. "Take the Short Route: How to Repay and Restructure Sovereign Debt with Multiple Maturities," NBER Working Papers 19717, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    21. Bank for International Settlements, 2011. "Interactions of sovereign debt management with monetary conditions and financial stability," CGFS Papers, Bank for International Settlements, number 42.
    22. Massimo BERNASCHI & Alessandro MISSALE & Davide VERGNI, 2009. "Should governments minimize debt service cost and risk? A closer look at the debt strategy. Simulation approach," Departmental Working Papers 2009-53, Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods at Università degli Studi di Milano.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Complete Markets; Debt Management; Government Debt; Maturity Structure; Yield Curve;

    JEL classification:

    • 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

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