Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A macro view on boom-bust cycles (fg)

I found an updated version of the Bordo/Wheelock paper on stylized facts of boom-bust cycles in 20th century macroecomic history. According to the authors,
[..] booms tended to occur during periods of above-average
growth of real output, and below-average and falling inflation. We also find that
booms often ended within a few months of an increase in inflation and monetary
policy tightening. The evidence suggests that booms reflect both real macroeconomic phenomena and monetary policy, as well as the extant regulatory environment.
In my view, this is consistent with implications of the Austrian Business Cycle Theory and the Financial Instability Hypothesis of Minsky. Since I am not familiar with ABCT in depth but with Minsky's theory, the latter emphasized the evolution of finance conditions for economic units during the business cycle. When inflation begins to soar, monetary policy is obliged to react with short-term interest-rate hikes which leads to a flattening of the yield curve. A flat or inverse yield curve, however, worsens the refinancing possibilities for speculative-engaged units which borrowed short-term and invested long-term (partly in fixed capital) along the yield curve. To stay solvent, these units are forced to sell their positions in order serve their payment obligations. This fact induces a major fall in asste prices and worsens the balance-sheet asset side. Shrinking asset valuations harm the creditworthiness and impede further finance possibilities (including credit rationing on the part of the banking sector). The result are further falling asset prices which go hand in hand with a downswing of economic activity due to missing investement and consumption.