The Asymmetric Unemployment Response of Natives and Foreigners to Migration Shocks

Working Paper by Nicolò Maffei Faccioli (Macro ’15 and IDEA) and Eugenia Vella (Sheffield)

What is the macroeconomic impact of migration in the second-largest destination for migrants after the United States? 

In this paper, we uncover new evidence on the macroeconomic effects of net migration shocks in Germany using monthly data from 2006 to 2019 and a variety of identification strategies in a structural vector autoregression (SVAR). In addition, we use quarterly data in a mixed-frequency SVAR.

While a large literature has analyzed the impact of immigration on employment and wages using disaggregate data, the migration literature in the context of macroeconometric models is still limited due to a lack of data at high frequency. Interestingly, such data is available for Germany. The Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) has been collecting monthly data on the arrivals of foreigners by country of origin on the basis of population registers at the municipal level since 2006. The figure below shows the net migration rate by origin. 

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Key takeaways

Migration shocks are persistently expansionary, increasing industrial production, per capita GDP, investment, net exports and tax revenue. 

Our analysis disentangles the positive effect on inflation of job-related migration from OECD countries from the negative effect of migration (including refugees) from less advanced economies. In the former case, a demand effect seems prevalent while in the latter case, where migration is predominantly low-skilled and often political in nature (including refugees), a supply effect prevails.

In the labor market, migration shocks boost job openings and hourly wages. Unemployment falls for natives, driving a decline in total unemployment, while it rises for foreigners (see figure below). Interestingly, migration shocks (blue area in the first row) play a relevant role in explaining fluctuations in industrial production and unemployment of both natives and foreigners, despite the bulk of these being explained by other shocks (red area in the first row), like business cycle and domestic labor supply.

figure

We also shed light on the employment and participation responses for natives and foreigners. Taken together, our results highlight a job-creation effect for natives and a job-competition effect for foreigners.

Conclusion

The COVID-19 recession may trigger an increase in migration flows and exacerbate xenophobic sentiments around the world. This paper contributes to a better understanding of the migration effects in the labor market and the macroeconomy, which is crucial for migration policy design and to curb the rise in xenophobic movements. 

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About the Barcelona GSE Master’s Program in Macroeconomic Policy and Financial Markets

Responding to COVID-19 by prioritising sustainability and wellbeing in the recovery

Elliot Jones ’18 (Macro) and Maximilian Magnacca Sancho ’21 (incoming ITFD)

Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash

Maximilian and Elliot connected through social media due to the Barcelona GSE connection and started working together on this piece due to shared research interests.


The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the way that we live our lives. As time passes it is becoming apparent that even once the lockdown policies have been eased and some level of normality has been resumed, the new world that we live in will be different to the one we knew before. This article focuses on emerging trends within the UK that have largely taken place as a result of COVID-19, or in some cases the pandemic has simply accelerated a trend that was already occurring. We then look to offer a range of public policy solutions for the recovery period where the overarching objective is to increase wellbeing in society in a sustainable way. These are focused towards the UK but several could be paralleled to other advanced economies.

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Chart 1. Consumer spending in April 2020 by category, % change year-on-year

But first, before we get to the policy solutions, briefly, what have been the main economic and wellbeing effects that we have seen as a result of COVID-19? In 2020, it is expected that the fall in overall economic output is going to be larger than during the financial crisis in 2008. Much of this is due to the level of decline in economic activity as a result of the UK governments lockdown policy. This was a necessary decision in order to reduce the spread of the virus and ensure the health service still has capacity to treat those that have unfortunately caught the disease. However, it has led to a significant liquidity shock for both households and businesses. Large portions of the labour market are now out of work and levels of consumer spending have declined rapidly (Chart 1). Alongside sharp falls in measures of economic performance, measures of wellbeing have declined rapidly as well (Chart 2). Increases in measures of uncertainty have mirrored increases in anxiety. While, social distancing policies are having a large impact on measures of happiness.

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Chart 2. ONS wellbeing measures (2011-2020)

Source: ONS. Notes: Each of these questions is answered on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is “not at all” and 10 is “completely”. Question: “Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?”, “Overall, to what extent do you feel that the things you do in your life are worthwhile?”, “Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?”, “Overall, how anxious did you feel yesterday?”.

The UK government responded to the shock posed by COVID-19 with a range of policy interventions to provide funding to those that have been most impacted. At a macro level, the long-lasting effects of this crisis will be more pertinent if economic activity does not respond quickly after the government’s schemes have ended. Large portions of UK businesses have limited cash reserves to fall back on in a scenario where demand remains subdued for some time. However, even if the recovery period is strong there will still have been some clear winners and losers during this crisis. Younger workers, those on lower incomes and those with atypical work contracts are the ones that have been most heavily impacted (Chart 3). Whilst those on higher incomes, that are more likely to be able to work from home, have increased their household savings during this period, due to less opportunities to consume.

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Chart 3. Impact of COVID-19 on household savings by income and employment type

The policy solutions outlined below aim to be complementary of one another and look to amplify observed trends that are positive for wellbeing and to provide intervention where trends have been negative for wellbeing: 

  1. Climate at the centre of the response: This is less a policy recommendation and more a theme for the response. However, our message here is that increased public spending projects, focused towards green initiatives should be combined with a coherent carbon tax policy which influences incentives and helps to support the UK’s transition to a low carbon economy. 
  2. Labour market reforms: The government should look to develop a centralised job retraining and job matching scheme that supports workers most impacted by COVID-19, helps to encourage structural transformation towards emerging industries and increases the amount of highly skilled workers in the UK workforce. 
  3. Tough decisions on business: Some businesses will require further assistance from the UK government in the form of equity funding, rather than the debt funding seen so far. This should be done on a conditional basis, requiring all these businesses to comply with the UK’s climate objectives and should only be provided to businesses in industries that are expanding or strategically important to the UK economy. 
  4. Modernising the regions on a cleaner, greener and higher level: Looking to build on the governments ‘levelling up the regions’ policy to reduce regional inequalities, our policy consists of government funded infrastructure policies that include green investments for regions outside of the UK’s capital.  
  5. Harbouring that rainbow effect: Building on the increased community spirit that has been observed during the pandemic, this policy solution looks to increase localised community funding to maintain social cohesion and support those with mental health issues. 

Lastly, as the policy recommendations focus on expanding public investment to support the recovery, it is important to consider what this means for public debt sustainability in the UK. The conclusion is that as a result of the low interest rate environment, the most efficient way out of this recession is to borrow and spend on projects that will increase resilience to future shocks and support the UK’s transition to a low carbon economy. 

Please click on the link below to read about this in more detail. Comments are welcome.


Full article originally posted on Exploring Happiness.

Elliot Jones ’18 is a Sovereign Credit Risk Analyst at the Bank of England. He is an alum of the Barcelona GSE’s Master’s in Macroeconomic Policy and Financial Markets.

LinkedIn | Exploring Happiness

Maximilian Magnacca Sancho ’21 is an incoming student in the Barcelona GSE Master’s in International Trade, Finance, and Development.

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Mini-Bot: Ingenuity or Ignorance

Alessandro Franconi ’17 (Macroeconomic Policy and Financial Markets)

“Mini-Bot: Ingenuity or Ignorance” is my first policy brief for the Luiss School of European Political Economy.

“The concept of using mini-BOTs to pay off trade payables may seem like a good idea, but if we analyze it in detail we can intuitively conclude that such a tool is futile and limited…It is clear that the mini-BOTs are a completely sterile, if not harmful, device for public finances, as their implementation (or just the information that the government is officially studying their implementation) would put again Italy on the road to leaving the euro.

How do firms adjust to rises in the minimum wage? Survey evidence from Central and Eastern Europe

Publication by Nataša T. Jemec ’09 (Economics) and Ludmila Fadejeva ’11 (Macro)

Nataša Todorović Jemec ’09 (Economics) and Ludmila Fadejeva ’11 (Macroeconomic Policy and Financial Markets) have published a paper in the IZA Journal of Labour Policy, together with a few other colleagues from central banks of new EU member states. The paper, “How do firms adjust to rises in the minimum wage? Survey evidence from Central and Eastern Europe,” studies the transmission channels for rises in the minimum wage using a unique firm-level dataset from eight Central and Eastern European countries.

They wrote the publication within the ECB Wage Dynamics Network (WDN). At the time, Nataša and Ludmila were working at the Central Bank of Slovenia and the Central Bank of Latvia respectively, and they were their banks’ representatives in the WDN. Increase of the minimum wage was a common topic of many new EU members, and they decided to write a paper on that based on the data that they collected through a WDN survey in their countries.

Researchers can use this form to request access to the data of the WDN network which includes many EU countries.

Paper abstract

We study the transmission channels for rises in the minimum wage using a unique firm-level dataset from eight Central and Eastern European countries. Representative samples of firms in each country were asked to evaluate the relevance of a wide range of adjustment channels following specific instances of rises in the minimum wage during the recent post-crisis period. The paper adds to the rest of literature by presenting the reactions of firms as a combination of strategies and evaluates the relative importance of those strategies. Our findings suggest that the most popular adjustment channels are cuts in non-labour costs, rises in product prices, and improvements in productivity. Cuts in employment are less popular and occur mostly through reduced hiring rather than direct layoffs. Our study also provides evidence of potential spillover effects that rises in the minimum wage can have on firms without minimum wage workers.

About the authors

Nataša T. Jemec ’09 is a Senior Economist at IMAD. She is an alum of the Barcelona GSE Master’s in Economics.

Ludmila Fadejeva ’11 is a Senior Econometrician at the Bank of Latvia. She is an alum of the Barcelona GSE Master’s in Macroeconomic Policy and Financial Markets.

Forecasting Currency Crises

Macroeconomic master project by Ivana Ganeva and Rana Mohie ’19

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series showcasing Barcelona GSE master projects. The project is a required component of all Master’s programs at the Barcelona GSE.

Introduction

The question of whether a currency crisis can be predicted beforehand has been discussed in the literature for decades. Economists and econometricians have been trying to develop different prediction models that can work as an Early Warning System (EWS) for a currency crisis. The significance of such systems is that they provide policy makers with a valuable tool to aid them in tackling economic issues or speculation pressure, and in taking decisions that would prevent that from turning into a crisis. This topic is especially relevant to Emerging Markets Economies due to the presence of a greater number of fluctuations in their exchange rate translating to a bigger currency crisis risk.

In this paper, we propose an Early Warning System for predicting currency crises that is based on an Artificial Neural Networks (ANN) algorithm. The performance of this EWS is then evaluated both in-sample and out-of-sample using a data set of 17 developed and developing countries over the period of 1980-2019. The performance of this Neural-Network-based EWS is then compared to two other models that are widely used in the literature. The first one is the Probit model dependent variable which is considered the standard model in predicting currency crises, and is based on Berg and Patillo, 1999. The second model under consideration is a regime switching prediction model based on that proposed by Abiad, 2006.

Artificial Neural Networks

Artificial Neural Networks (ANN-s) is a Machine Learning technique which drives its inspiration from biological nervous systems and the (human) brain structure. With recent advancement in the computing technologies, computer scientists were able to mimic the brain functionality using artificial algorithms. This has motivated researchers to use the same brain functionality to design algorithms that can solve complex and non-linear problems. As a result, ANN-s have become a source of inspiration for a large number of techniques across a vast variety of fields. The main financial areas where ANN-s are utilized include credit authorisation and screening, financial and economic forecasting, fixed income investments, and prediction of default and bankruptcy and credit card manipulations (Öztemel, 2003).

Main Contributions

1. Machine Learning Techniques:

(a) Using an Artificial Neural Network predictive model based on the multi-layered feed forward neural network (MLFN), also known as the “Back-propagation Network” which is one of the most widely used architectures in the financial series neural network literature (Aydin and Savdar 2015). To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study that used a purely neural network model in forecasting currency crises.

(b) Improving the forecast performance of the Neural Network model by allowing the model to be trained (learn) from the data of other countries in the cluster; i.e countries with similar traits and nominal exchange rate depreciation properties. The idea behind this model extension is mainly adopted from the “Transferred Learning” technique that is used in image recognition applications.

2. The Data Set: Comparing models across a large data set of 17 countries in 5 continents, and including both developing and developed economies.

3. Crisis Definition: Adding an extra step to the Early Warning System design by clustering the set of countries into 6 clusters based on their economy’s traits, and the behavior of their nominal exchange rate depreciation fluctuations. This allows for having a crisis definition that is uniquely based on each set of countries properties – we call it the ’middle-ground’ definition. Moreover, this allowed to test for the potential of improving the forecasting performance of the neural network by training the model on data sets of other countries within the same cluster. 4. Reproducible Research: Downloading and Cleaning Data has been automated, so that the results can be easily updated or extended.

Conclusions

We compare between models based on two main measures. The Good Signals measure captures the percentage of currency crises predicted out of the total crises that actually occurred in the data set. The second measure used for comparing across models is the False Alarms measure. That is, the percentage of false signals that the EWS gives out of the total number of crises it predicts. In other words, that is the percentage of times when the EWS predicts a crisis that never happens.

The tables presented below show our findings and how the models perform against each other on our data set of 17 countries. We also provide the relevant findings from literature as a benchmark for our research.

The results in Table 1 show that Berg & Patillo’s clustering of all countries together generally works worse than our way of clustering data. Therefore, we can confirm that the choice of a ’middle-ground’ crisis definition has indeed helped us preserve any potential important country- or cluster-specific traits. In brief, we get comparable results to the ones found in the literature when using conventional methods, as highlighted by the table to follow.

After introducing the ANN model and its extension, we observe their Out-of-Sample models performance and obtain some of the key results to our research.

Summary of the key results

  • The proposed Artificial Neural Network model crisis predictability is shown to be comparable to the standard currency crisis forecasting model across both measures of Good Signals and less False Alarms. However, the modified Neural Network model on the special clustering data set has shown superior performance to the standard forecasting model.
  • The performance of the Artificial Neural Network model observed a tangible improvement when introducing our method of clustering the data. That is, data from similar countries as part of the training set of the network could indeed serve as an advantage rather than a distortion. To the contrary, using the standard Probit model with the panels of clustered data resulted in lower performance as compared to the respective country-by-country measures.

Authors: Ivana Ganeva and Rana Mohie

About the Barcelona GSE Master’s Program in Macroeconomic Policy and Financial Markets

Economics by Barcelona GSE alumni at CaixaBank Research (Vol. 2)

Recent work by alumni at CaixaBank Research

It’s our second roundup of articles by Barcelona GSE Alumni who are now working as research assistants and economists at CaixaBank Research in Barcelona (see Vol. 1).

This roundup includes posts and videos from the second half of 2018 and early 2019, listed in reverse chronological order. Click each author’s name to view all of his or her articles from CaixaBank Research in English, Catalan, and Spanish.

Education as a lever for inclusive growth

Ricard Murillo ’17 (International Trade, Finance, and Development)

The importance of education for people’s well-being throughout all stages of their lives is beyond any doubt. At the economic level, individuals with higher levels of education tend to enjoy higher employment rates and income levels. What is more, all the indicators suggest that in the years to come, the role of education will be even more important. The challenges posed by technological change and globalisation have a profound effect on the educational model.


Social cohesion and inclusive growth: inseparable

Javier Ibáñez de Aldecoa ’18 (Economics)

Faced with the major transformation of the productive system brought about by technological change and globalisation, as well as the challenges posed by an ageing population, it is important to take action to strengthen social cohesion – an indispensable element if we are to carry out reforms that foster an inclusive and sustained form of growth.


The central banks, at the helm of a more volatile environment

Adrià Morron ’12 (Economics) and Ricard Murillo ’17 (ITFD)

The US and the euro area are at different stages of their financial cycles: while the Fed’s monetary policy is close to becoming neutral or even restrictive, the ECB remains in clearly accommodative territory. However, to some extent, both are facing a common risk: the decoupling between their monetary policy and the financial conditions. The two institutions will try to manage their tools carefully, in order to facilitate a gradual adjustment of the financial conditions in the US and, in the case of the euro area, to keep them in accommodative territory.


Regulation more appropriate to the nature of the banking sector

Gerard Arqué ’09 (Macroeconomic Policy and Financial Markets)

Thanks to the implementation of the measures introduced following the financial crisis, today the financial sector is more robust than before. This will help to minimise the impact to the economy and financial stability in periods of upheaval, since countries with better-capitalised banking systems tend to experience shorter recessions and less contraction in the supply of credit. However, the outstanding tasks we have mentioned should be properly addressed sooner rather than later.

Bonus video! An unconventional monetary policy cycle

Adrià Morron ’12 (Economics)

Central banks are facing the challenge of removing the extraordinary measures imposed during the financial crisis of 2007-2008 and the subsequent economic recession. In normal times, central banks would simply raise interest rates up to the desired level. However, monetary policy is currently in a rather unconventional cycle.


Source: Caixabank Research

If you’re an alum and you’re also writing about Economics, let us know where we can find your stuff!

Labor Markets, Search Frictions and International Trade: Assessing the China Shock

Master project by Marcos Mac Mullen ’18

Made in China label with Chinese flagimage source: Daily Times Peking

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series showcasing Barcelona GSE master projects by students in the Class of 2018. The project is a required component of every master program.


Authors:

Marcos Mac Mullen

Master’s Program:

Macroeconomic Policy and Financial Markets

Paper Abstract:

The goal of this paper is to assess quantitatively the impact that the emergence of China in the international markets during the 1990s had on the U.S. economy (i.e. the so-called China Shock). To do so, I build a model with two sectors producing two final goods, each of them using as the only input of production an intermediate good specific to each sector. Final goods are produced in a perfectly competitive environment. The intermediate goods are produced in a frictional environment with labor as the only input. First I calibrate the close economy model to match some salient stylized facts from the 1980s in the U.S. Then to assess the China Shock I introduce a new country (China) in the international scene. I proceed with two calibration strategies: (i) calibrate China such that it matches the variation in the price of imports relative to the price of exports for the U.S. between the average of the 1980s and the average of 2005-2007, (ii) Calibrate China such that variation in allocations are close to the ones observed in data, for the same window of time. I found that under calibration (i) the China Shock in the model explains 26.38% of the variation in the share of employment in the manufacturing sector, 16.28% of the variation in the share of manufacturing production and 27.40% of the variation in the share of wages of the manufacturing sector. Finally, under calibration (ii) I found that the change in relative price needed to match between 80 to 90 percent of the variation in allocations is around 3.47 times the one observed in data.

Conclusions and key results:

According to the model, the China Shock explains 26.35% of the variation in the share of manufacture employment, 16.28% of the variation in the share of manufacturing production and 27.44% of the variation in the share of wages of the manufacturing sector. The first of these results is consistent with findings in Autor et al. (2013). On the other hand, the variation in the unemployment rate of the economy is not matched, neither for the first nor the second calibration of the open economy. I also found that as a consequence of the China Shock, real wages increase when measuring them in terms of the price of the import good, and decrease when measured in terms of the price of the export good. This result is not in line with findings in Autor et al. (2013). The optimal unemployment insurance in the open economy is 6.13% of average wages higher than in the close economy because the unemployment rate of the open economy is higher than in the close economy (0.9% difference). Finally, the model generates a non-traditional source of comparative advantage, arising from differences in the relative bargaining power of workers.

Download the full paper [pdf]


More about the Macro Program at the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics

The dynamic relationship between long term interest rates and fiscal stances in the EMU

euro

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series showcasing Barcelona GSE master projects by students in the Class of 2018. The project is a required component of every master program.


Authors:

Sybrand Brekelmans, Guillermo Sanz Marin, and Luca Tomassetti

Master’s Program:

Macroeconomic Policy and Financial Markets

Paper Abstract:

In this paper we study the dynamics and drivers of 10 year’s sovereign bond yields using a panel of the original 11 Eurozone countries (excluding Luxembourg). The interest of this study relies on the fact that despite very different macroeconomic policy stances in the variables that we believe determine interest rates among these countries, 10 years Eurozone bond yields almost perfectly converged during the 2000’s, before they suffered a sudden disconnection in the aftermath of the Great Financial Crisis.

To this end, we apply two different methodologies. A Panel Data approach (that we end discarding) and a Time Varying Coefficients model using the Kalman Filter, which allows us for capturing changes in the pricing mechanism of bond yields over time. Initially, by using the latter methodology without controlling for the volatility of the interest rates (which dramatically increased after 2008), we obtain very noisy results that are barely explainable, since the coefficients seem to be capturing these changes in volatility. Once we introduce in the filter a GARCH process for the variance-covariance matrix of the interest rates that we use in the Time Varying Coefficients approach, we manage to obtain much more meaningful and explicative results.

One of our key contributions is the inclusion of new fiscal and macroeconomic variables as determinants of yields in the different Eurozone countries, which were discarded by other studies in the field. We also contribute by controlling by common determinants to all the Eurozone countries, which we obtained by applying a common component approach. Furthermore, our findings confirm that after the period of divergence in interest rates, started in the aftermath of the Great Financial Crisis, and caused by a refocus on fundamentals, Eurozone interest rates have converged again under the effect of a normalization of bond yield drivers, similarly to their pre-crisis levels, although not to the same extent. Another implication that we find is that in times of economic uncertainty and financial hysteresis, when default risk becomes an issue, the effects of government policy on interest rates can significantly lead to accentuated crowding out effects.

Conclusions and key results:

Our work indicates that there has been a significant break in the way sovereign debt was priced after the Great Financial Crisis of 2008, indicating a return to fundamentals as main drivers of sovereign yields. We find that several factors reflective of fiscal and macroeconomic stances became increasingly important during the crisis, after having been ignored in previous years. As such, Debt to GDP, Deficit to GDP, GDP growth and Current Account balances to GDP, among others, started to play important roles in the determination of long term interest rates for Eurozone government bonds. In line with previous research, our findings confirm the existence of 3 distinct phases in the euro bond market. A period of high integration, a period of disintegration, and a phase of partial reintegration (Adam and Lo Duca (2017)).

Our findings suggest that during periods of economic uncertainty characterized by high volatility in the financial markets, investors tend to focus on fundamentals, while in times of economic boom they do not discriminate too much among the different stance of these macroeconomic determinants. This finding has important policy implications since it suggests that during economic crises interest rates react much more to unsustainable fiscal policies and macroeconomic imbalances than during calmer times, causing a great private sector crowding out effect (Laubach (2011)).

Therefore, our results suggest that governments should pay closer attention to their fiscal stances during times of economic turbulence in order to avoid the detrimental effects of high interest rates on activity in a period of economic agent´s lack of confidence. As argued before by De Grauwe and Ji (2013), this former effect is exacerbated by the fact that Eurozone governments have no control over monetary policy, making impossible for them to reduce interest rates by no other means than sound fiscal policies. In line with this result, we notice that the ECB’s unconventional monetary policy (we obtain that the impact of short term interest rates -one of our common determinants obtained by principal components- on long yields has diminished over time) helped to bring down European bond yields after 2014. This fact contributed to put the fiscal stances of these countries, and other essential macroeconomic variables, back to sustainable levels, that along with the structural reforms carried out (which in addition to the former effect, have also contributed to bring back economic confidence and dynamism) have had by its own another loosening impact in the interest rates that these countries have been facing in every debt issuance.

Regarding the methodologies used to address our research question, we were able to obtain robust results and determine which method was the most appropriate to investigate the drivers of 10 year’s sovereign bond yields. We found that panel data approaches, which are widely used in the literature, lead to unstable and unsatisfactory results, causing us to attach limited credibility to the outcomes of such analysis. However, the Time Varying Coefficients approach seems more reliable and yields more robust and plausible results after we model the changes in volatility appropriately. We believe that having a larger sample (we use the forecasts released twice a year by the IMF in its World Economic Outlook and by the OECD in their Economic Outlook in order to control by the effect of the market´s forward looking in current levels of interest rates, as well as by reverse causality) would have allowed us to obtain more reliable results on this approach as well.

A suggestion for further research would be to apply Bayesian techniques to estimate our model. Indeed, given the limited amount of data available and the complexity of our models, these methods seem to suit better in this kind of estimation, where the great amount of parameters, as well as the possible presence of non-linearities, can make the optimization process very costly. Consequently, this methodology would have allowed us to also model the variance of the Time Varying Parameters, and not only the ones of the interest rates (our observables) with another GARCH or stochastic volatility process, since we expect that these variances could also follow a conditional process, which might have an impact on our estimation results.

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Download the full paper [pdf]


More about the Macro Program at the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics

Economics articles by BGSE alumni at CaixaBank Research

Ricard Murillo, Marta Guasch, and Mar Domènech in front of Caixabank. Photo by Marta Guasch.

We’ve just come across some articles written by several Barcelona GSE Alumni who are now Research Assistants and Economists at Caixabank Research in Barcelona. New articles are published each month on a range of topics.

Below is a list of all the alumni we found listed as article contributors, as well as their most recent publications in English (click each author to view his or her full list of articles in English, Catalan, and Spanish).

If you’re an alum and you’re also writing about Economics, let us know where we can find your stuff!

Gerard Arqué (Master’s in Macroeconomic Policy and Financial Markets ’09)

The (r)evolution in the regulatory and supervisory framework resulting from the crisis

Mar Domènech (Master’s in International Trade, Finance, and Development ’17)

Registered workers affiliated to Social Security: situation and outlook across sectors

Active labour market policies: a results-based evaluation

Equal opportunities: levelling the playing field for everyone

Cristina Farràs (Master’s in Macroeconomic Policy and Financial Markets ’17)

The financial situation of Millennial households in the US and Spain: will they catch up with previous generations?

Measures to improve equality of opportunities

Marta Guasch (Master’s in International Trade, Finance, and Development ’17)
and Adrià Morron (Master’s in Economics ’12)

Jay Gatsby’s American Dream: between inequality and social mobility

Ricard Murillo (Master’s in International Trade, Finance, and Development ’17)

Inflation will gradually recover in the euro area

Millenials and politics: mind the gap!

The sensitivity of inflation to the euro’s appreciation

Ariadna Vidal Martínez (Master’s in Finance ’12)

Situation and outlook for consumer financing


Source: Caixabank Research

Could post-Brexit uncertainty have been predicted?

By Cox Bogaards, Marceline Noumoe Feze, Swasti Gupta, Mia Kim Veloso

May Brexit

Almost a year since the UK voted to leave the EU, uncertainty still remains elevated with the UK’s Economic Policy Index at historical highs.  With Theresa May’s snap General Election in just under two weeks, the Labour party has narrowed the gap from Conservative lead to five percentage points, which combined with weak GDP data of only 0.2 per cent growth in Q1 2017 released yesterday, has driven the pound sterling to a three-week low against the dollar. Given potentially large repurcussions of market sentiment and financial market volatility on the economy as a whole, this series of events has further emphasised the the need for policymakers to implement effective forecasting models.

In this analysis, we contribute to ongoing research by assessing whether the uncertainty in the aftermath of the UK’s vote to leave the EU could have been predicted. Using the volatility of the Pound-Euro exchange rate as a measure of risk and uncertainty, we test the performance of one-step ahead forecast models including ARCH, GARCH and rolling variance in explaining the uncertainty that ensued in the aftermath of the Brexit vote.

Introduction

The UK’s referendum on EU membership is a prime example of an event which perpetuated financial market volatility and wider uncertainty.  On 20th February 2016, UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced the official referendum date on whether Britain should remain in the EU, and it was largely seen as one of the biggest political decisions made by the British government in decades.

Assessment by HM Treasury (2016) on the immediate impacts suggested “a vote to leave would cause an immediate and profound economic shock creating instability and uncertainty”, and in a severe shock scenario could see sterling effective exchange rate index depreciate by as much as 15 percent.  This was echoed in responses to the Centre for Macroeconomics’ (CFM) survey (25th February 2016), where 93 percent of respondents agreed that the possibility of the UK leaving the EU would lead to increased volatility in financial markets and the broader economy, expressing uncertainty about the post-Brexit world.

Resonating these views, the UK’s vote to leave the EU on 23rd June 2016 indeed led to significant currency impacts including GBP devaluation and greater volatility. On 27th June 2016, the Pound Sterling fell to $1.315, reaching a 31-year low against the dollar since 1985 and below the value of the Pound’s “Black Wednesday” value in 1992 when the UK left the ERM.

In this analysis, we assess whether the uncertainty in the aftermath of the UK’s vote to leave the EU could have been predicted. Using the volatility of Pound-Euro exchange rate as a measure of risk and uncertainty, we test the performance of one-step ahead forecast models including ARCH, GARCH and rolling variance. We conduct an out-of-sample forecast based on models using daily data pre-announcement (from 1st January 2010 until 19th February 2016) and test performance against the actual data from 22nd February 2016 to 28th February 2017.

Descriptive Statistics and Dynamic Properties

As can be seen in Figure 1, the value of the Pound exhibits a general upward trend against the Euro over the majority of our sample. The series peaks at the start of 2016, and begins a sharp downtrend afterwards.  There are several noticeable movements in the exchange rate, which can be traced back to key events, and we can also comment on the volatility of exchange rate returns surrounding these events, as a proxy for the level of uncertainty, shown in Figure 2.

Figure 1: GBP/EUR Exchange Rate

Fig 1

Source: Sveriges Riksbank and authors’ calculations

Notably, over our sample, the pound reached its lowest level against the Euro at €1.10 in March 2010, amid pressure from the European Commission on the UK government to cut spending, along with a bearish housing market in England and Wales. The Pound was still recovering from the recent financial crisis in which it was severely affected during which it almost reached parity with the Euro at €1.02 in December 2008 – its lowest recorded value since the Euro’s inception (Kollewe 2008).

However, from the second half of 2011 the Pound began rising against the Euro, as the Eurozone debt crisis began to unfold. After some fears over a new recession due to consistently weak industrial output, by July 2015 the pound hit a seven and a half year high against the Euro at 1.44.   Volatility over this period remained relatively low, except in the run up to the UK General elections in early 2015.

However, Britain’s vote to leave the EU on 23rd June 2016 raised investors’ concerns about the economic prospects of the UK. In the next 24 hours, the Pound depreciated by 1.5 per cent on the immediate news of the exit vote and by a further 5.5 per cent over the weekend that followed, causing volatility to spike to new record levels as can be seen in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Volatility of GBP/EUR Exchange Rate

fig 2

Source: Sveriges Riksbank and authors’ calculations

As seen in Figure 1, the GBP-EUR exchange rate series is trending for majority of the sample, and this may reflect non-stationarity in which case standard asymptotic theory would be violated, resulting in infinitely persistent shocks. We conduct an Augmented Dickey Fuller test on the exchange rate and find evidence of non-stationarity, and proceed by creating daily log returns in order to de-trend the series. Table 1 summarises the first four moments of the log daily returns series, which is stationary.

 

Table 1: Summary Statistics

Table 1.PNG

Source: Sveriges Riksbank and authors’ calculations

The series has a mean close to zero, suggesting that on average the Pound neither appreciates or depreciates against the Euro on a daily basis. There is a slight negative skew and significant kurtosis – almost five times higher than that of the normal distribution of three – as depicted in the kernel density plot below. This suggests that the distribution of daily returns for the GBP-EUR, like many financial time series, exhibits fat tails, i.e. it exhibits a higher probability of extreme changes than the normal distribution, as would be expected.

To determine whether there is any dependence in our series, we assess the autocorrelation in the returns. Carrying out a Ljung-Box test using 22 lags, as this corresponds to a month of daily data, we cannot reject the null of no autocorrelation in the returns series, which is confirmed by an inspection of the autocorrelograms. While we find no evidence of dependence in the returns series, we find strong autocorrelations in the absolute and squared returns.

The non-significant ACF and PACF of returns, but significant ACFs of absolute and squared returns indicate that the series exhibits ARCH effects. This suggests that the variance of returns is changing over time, and there may be volatility clustering. To test this, we conduct an ARCH-LM test using four lag returns and find that the F-statistic is significant at the 0.05 level.

Estimation

For the in-sample analysis we proceed using the Box-Jenkins methodology. Given the evidence of ARCH effects and volatility clustering using an ARCH-LM test but lack of any leverage effects in line with economic theory, we proceed to estimate models which can capture this: ARCH (1), ARCH (2), and the GARCH (1,1).  Estimation of ARCH (1) suggests low persistence as captured by α1 and relatively fast mean reversion. The ARCH(2) model generates greater persistence measured by sum of α1 and α2 and but still not as large as the GARCH(1,1) model, sum of  α1 and β as shown in table 2.

Table 2: Parameter Estimates

table 2

We proceed to forecast using the ARCH(1) as it has the lowest AIC and BIC in-sample, and GARCH (1,1) which has the most normally distributed residuals, no dependence in absolute levels, and the largest log-likelihood. We compare performance against a baseline 5 day rolling variance model.

Figure 3 plots the out of sample forecasts of the three models (from 22nd February 2016 to 28th February 2017). The ARCH model is able to capture the spike in volatility surrounding the referendum, however the shock does not persist. In contrast, the effect of this shock in the GARCH model fades more slowly suggesting that uncertainty persists for a longer time. However neither of the models fully capture the magnitude of the spike in volatility. This is in line with Dukich et al’s (2010) and Miletic’s (2014) findings that GARCH models are not able to adequately capture the sudden shifts in volatility associated with shocks.

Figure 3: Volatility forecasts and Squared Returns (5-day Rolling window)

Fig 3

We use two losses traditionally used in the volatility forecasting literature namely the quasi-likelihood (QL) loss and the mean-squared error (MSE) loss. QL depends only on the multiplicative forecast error, whereas the MSE depends only on the additive forecast error. Among the two losses, QL is often more recommended as MSE has a bias that is proportional to the square of the true variance, while the bias of QL is independent of the volatility level. As shown in table 3, GARCH(1,1) has the lowest QL, while the ARCH (1) and rolling variance perform better on the MSE measure.

Table 3: QL & MSE

Table 3 QL and MSE

Table 4: Diebold- Mariano Test (w/5-day Rolling window)

Table 4 DM test

Employing the Diebold-Mariano (DM) Test, we find that there is no significance in the DM statistics of both the QL and MSE. Neither the GARCH nor ARCH are found to perform significantly better than the 5-day Rolling Variance.

 

Conclusion

In this analysis, we tested various models to forecast the volatility of the Pound exchange rate against the Euro in light of the Brexit referendum. In line with Miletić (2014), we find that despite accounting for volatility clustering through ARCH effects, our models do not fully capture volatility during periods of extremely high uncertainty.

We find that the shock to the exchange rate resulted in a large but temporary swing in volatility but this did not persist as long as predicted by the GARCH model. In contrast, the ARCH model has a very low persistence, and while it captures the temporary spike in volatility well, it quickly reverts to the unconditional mean.  To the extent that we can consider exchange rate volatility as a measure of risk and uncertainty, we may have expected the outcome of Brexit to have a long term effect on uncertainty. However, we observe that the exchange rate volatility after Brexit does not seem significantly higher than before. This may suggest that either uncertainty does not persist (unlikely) or that the Pound-Euro exchange rate volatility does not capture fully the uncertainty surrounding the future of the UK outside the EU.

 

References

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