ECB Outright Monetary Transactions – Master Projects 2014

Editor’s note: This is the first post in a series that will showcase Barcelona GSE master projects by students in the Class of 2014. The master project is a required component of every master program.

 An Evaluation of the ECB’s Outright Monetary Transactions


Madalen Castells, Alexandros Georgakopoulos, Edgar Giménez Trill, Jesse Lastunen, and Karolos Lymperakis-Pitas

Master Program:

International Trade, Finance and Development

Project Summary:

Since early 2009, the euro crisis has influenced most countries of the European Monetary Union (EMU), contributing to persistent low economic growth, high unemployment, steeply rising public financial costs and several problems with the region’s banks. As a result, a wide variety of policy measures have been adopted to address these problems. The central actors have included not only individual member states but also the European Central Bank (ECB), European Commission (EC) and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

While the success of many of the policies in recent years have been contested by different parties, the ECB’s Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT) program initiated in the summer of 2012 has been widely welcomed. Our paper attempts to understand and investigate OMT’s claimed success, motivated especially by the recent efforts to discontinue the policy. The implications with regard to the continuation of the program are potentially enormous, both economically and in terms of the social welfare of European citizens. Altogether, our motivation stems from the catastrophic consequences of the crisis, mixed success of most mid-crisis policy responses, and the uncertain destiny of OMT – perhaps one of the most crucial policy initiatives adopted in Europe after 2008.

Our research questions build on the uncertain contribution of OMT to the declining bond spreads in the peripheral euro nations. We ask whether OMT was responsible for the decline in their spreads after mid-2012, why this might be the case, and whether the policy can be successful in the future. The underlying policy question is simply whether European legislators should resume OMT. Our study is based on two steps: we first examine the ”theory and practice” of the program, also conducting a compact literature survey on other research studying its effectiveness, and then turn to quantitative methods. Our quantitative analysis consists of a regression study and the application of the synthetic control method to examine OMT’s effect on declining bond spreads in the periphery. In the process, we also analyze the nature and dynamics of the post-Lehman hikes in peripheral bond spreads.

Our results suggest, firstly, that the post-Lehman takeoff in sovereign bond spreads in the periphery was largely induced by fears of sovereign default that were separated from ”normal” associations between spreads and economic fundamentals. In particular, the synthetic control countries we construct based on spread determinants in the peripheral countries do not experience any such increases in their spreads. Our regression analysis also indicates that the mid-crisis evolution of peripheral spreads differs strikingly from the values predicted based on the stable period between 2000 and 2008. Furthermore, countries outside the periphery do not suffer from the pronounced association between spreads and fundamentals.

Secondly we find that OMT was very likely to be responsible for the rapid decline in peripheral spreads after mid-2012. The synthetic control countries we construct are not significantly affected by OMT, and some actually experience slight upward trends in their spreads after the policy is announced. The method lends strong support to OMT’s role in the declines in peripheral spreads. Similarly, the regression analysis suggests that post-OMT trends in spreads approach the stable values predicted based on the pre-crisis period. In most peripheral countries, OMT also breaks up the upward trend predicted based on the period before OMT.

Our results broadly validate earlier studies by Krishnamurthy et. al (2013) and Altavilla et al. (2014) regarding OMT’s effect, and Arghyrou and Kontonikas (2011), De Grauwe and Yi (2012) and Di Cesare et al. (2012) regarding the panic-driven nature of the increased peripheral bond spreads during the crisis. Although we consider that further research regarding the suggested long-term costs of OMT is needed, we strongly believe that the benefits of the policy outweigh the hypothetical concerns, and OMT should therefore be resumed by European policymakers. In particular, OMT had the intended effect of reducing bond spreads and stabilizing monetary policy in the European Monetary Union, and there is no indication that actually implementing bond purchases through the program will be necessary.

Read the full project report or view slides below:

Firms in conflict: adapt or perish

Being an entrepreneur is a difficult activity, and being an entrepreneur in a developing country is even more difficult. But being an entrepreneur in a developing country affected by a violent conflict situation seems almost impossible. In fact, it is not.

Francesco Amodio (Economics ’10) is a PhD student in the GPEFM doctoral program organized by Universitat Pompeu Fabra with the Barcelona GSE. He and co-author Michele Di Maio (University of Naples Parthenope) have published the following post on the blog of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI):

Firms in conflict: adapt or perish

Being an entrepreneur is a difficult activity, and being an entrepreneur in a developing country is even more difficult. But being an entrepreneur in a developing country affected by a violent conflict situation seems almost impossible. In fact, it is not.

Read the full post on the SIPRI blog.

This week, Francesco is co-organizing the first Barcelona GSE Phd Jamboree. The Jamboree is a two-day workshop for GPEFM and IDEA students to share ideas and get feedback on their work in progress.

Note to all Barcelona GSE students and alumni:

If you have been published on the web or in a print publication and would like The Voice to link to your work, please send us a link and a short excerpt.

Spotlight on Faculty Research: Profs. Alessandra Bonfiglioli and Gino Gancia

Gino Gancia

Alessandra Bonfiglioli


Alessandra Bonfiglioli (PhD, Stockholm) and Gino Gancia (PhD, Stockhold) are both Barcelona GSE Affiliated Professors. Last year, they jointly published an article titled “Uncertainty, Electoral Incentives and Political Myopia” in the Economic Journal.


In this recent article, Alessandra Bonfiglioli (UPF) and Gino Gancia (CREI) argue that periods of high economic uncertainty like the current one are particularly favorable for the adoption of long-term policies, such as fiscal stabilizations and other structural reforms. The reason is that high uncertainty implies that economic performance and electoral outcomes depend more on luck and less on policy choices. This makes politicians less reluctant to adopt policies with current costs but future benefits. Continue reading “Spotlight on Faculty Research: Profs. Alessandra Bonfiglioli and Gino Gancia”

Cash Transfers and Labor Supply in Peru


(Editor’s Note: The following post was written by BGSE alumnus Fernando Fernandez (Economics ’13). Fernando is currently a Research Fellow at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, D.C.)

The paper:

What do you do when you receive your monthly payment? Do you leave the office a bit earlier and have some drinks with your friends? Now, imagine you are a self-employed, non-paid, agricultural worker who works to support your family in the Andeans regions of Peru. Moreover, suppose you are credit constrained and with limited access to markets. What would you do if you start receiving monthly cash transfers from your generous government? Would not you take a break? After all, you work very hard and need some rest, right?

Such a program does exist and is named JUNTOS (“together” in Spanish). It gives around US $40 per month to mothers of poor children if they send their kids to school and to health centers on a regular basis. The objective of the program is to reduce current and future poverty through cash transfers and investments in children’s human capital.

Labor economists would say that JUNTOS generates an income effect: if your income is higher you would consume more leisure and work less (assuming that leisure is a normal good). However, most of the empirical literature on cash transfers and labor supply find no effects on participation in the labor market, hours of work, and earnings. This literature relies on comparisons between households who receive the transfer to households who do not. Does this mean that labor supply does not respond to cash transfers? Continue reading “Cash Transfers and Labor Supply in Peru”

A Balkan Spring?

Bosnia and Herzegovina
A joke often retold in Bosnia and Herzegovina says: “Why is there no sex in any state firms or government buildings? Because everyone is related to each other”.

A joke often retold in Bosnia and Herzegovina says: “Why is there no sex in any state firms or government buildings? Because everyone is related to each other”. Thanks to prevailing nepotism in the public sector, that is. This joke perfectly portrays the self-ironic attitude of the Balkan mentality that develops as one quickly learns that succeeding in life evolves more around building “a network” than spending time in the library. Yet, in February of 2014, “that joke isn’t funny anymore”[1]. Continue reading “A Balkan Spring?”

Modeling Independence

Ryan D. Griffiths,  Pablo Guillen, and Ferran Martinez i Coma of the University of Sydney released a working paper (PDF) in September with a model of Catalan independence. The abstract:

We propose a game theoretical model to assess the capacity of Catalonia to become a recognized, independent country with at least a de facto European Union (EU) membership. Support for Catalan independence is increasing for reasons pertaining to identity and economics. Spain can avoid a vote for independence by effectively ‘buying-out’ a proportion of the Catalan electorate with a funding agreement favorable to Catalonia. If, given the current economic circumstances, the buying-out strategy is too expensive, a pro-independence vote is likely to pass. Our model predicts an agreement in which Spain and the European Union accommodate Catalan independence in exchange for Catalonia taking a share of the Spanish debt. If Spain and the EU do not accommodate, Spain becomes insolvent, which in turn destabilizes the EU. The current economic woes of Spain and the EU both contribute to the desire for Catalan independence and make it possible.

HT: Tyler Cowen

Meeting Chomsky

(Editor’s Note: The following post was written by alumnus Miguel Ángel Santos (ITFD ’11 and Economics ’12). Follow him on Twitter @miguelsantos12 or at his blog)


The first time I heard of Noam Chomsky was in the early nineties. During my senior year in college I was assigned to read a small book, “The true thinkers of our time(1989), a gallery of interviews with a select group of scientists from a wide array of disciplines. The author, a French journalist named Guy Sorman, had chosen them using three simple criteria: 1) once they showed up in their corresponding disciplines it became impossible to keep on thinking about it in the same way; 2) they had to be alive; and 3) they were willing to talk to him.

The book covered a wide spectrum, from the origins of the universe all the way to modern economic thinking. Each section presented two or three opposing views on the same topic, which were fiercely discussed and smartly presented, allowing amateurs to grasp the frontiers of human knowledge.

Chomsky had made his way into the group deservedly. He had revolutionized the field of linguistics, posing a theory that conceived language as a biological capacity. He identified common patterns to all languages (i.e. all made up plurals by adding characters in the end, none at the beginning) and hypothesized that while the environment allows our linguistic capacity to develop, it falls short of explaining its extraordinary complexity.

I mention this to highlight the thinker, the man working alone and facing the problems and puzzles of his time through a sheer exercise of athletic thought and intelligence. The fame and scientific status he earned by making his most relevant contributions early in his life (all date from around his thirties) would be applied later to bring the world’s attention on a set of political causes, most of them left-winged, all rooted in the United States plethora of foreign policy wreckages. He became an outcast, a role he obviously feels very comfortable with, always pointing towards the elephant in the room.

This latter version of Chomsky is the one most people are familiar with. Continue reading “Meeting Chomsky”

Alumni Research- Macro Imbalances and Culture

At the “policy portal”, Macro Policy and Financial Markets alumni (’11) and current University of Munich Ph.D. candidate Sascha Bützer co-wrote a columnabout macroeconomic imbalances and differences in culture in the Eurozone.

Since the advent of the Eurozone sovereign-debt crisis, economic commentators have drawn attention to macroeconomic imbalances within the Eurozone. This column presents evidence on the link between macroeconomic imbalances and differences in culture – or more specifically, interpersonal trust. A conservative estimatation (sic) suggests that a one standard-deviation increase in trust reduces macroeconomic imbalances by about a quarter of a standard deviation. Moreover, differences in interpersonal trust can explain a fifth of the variation in intra-Eurozone imbalances.

This is just one more example of the creative research being done in greater GSE community.

The authors have a working paper on this topic here.


Enhanced by Zemanta