Occasional papers published in 2012

Communication device to a broad audience

Our Occasional Paper Series (OPS) disseminates work carried out by, as a rule, ECB staff on subjects that relate to the main tasks and functions of the ECB and the ESCB. Occasional Papers (OPs) are addressed to a wide audience, including other policy-makers, financial analysts, academics, the media and the interested general public. Understanding the papers will normally require some prior knowledge of the topic.

No. 139
7 December 2012
Competitiveness and external imbalances within the euro area

Abstract

JEL Classification

F10 : International Economics→Trade→General

F41 : International Economics→Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance→Open Economy Macroeconomics

F43 : International Economics→Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance→Economic Growth of Open Economies

F47 : International Economics→Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance→Forecasting and Simulation: Models and Applications

O52 : Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth→Economywide Country Studies→Europe

Abstract

The onset of the financial crisis in 2008 has highlighted the problems of diverging external imbalances within Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and the role of persistent losses in competitiveness. This paper starts by investigating some of the competitiveness factors which contributed to external imbalances in euro area countries. The evidence suggests significant heterogeneity across countries in both price/cost and non-price competitiveness in the euro area and that there is no one factor, but rather a range of potential factors explaining diverging external imbalances. In particular, while non-price competitiveness effects contributed largely to the trade surplus in some countries, for some southern European countries the trade balance was also driven by price factors. The second part of the paper studies the implications of competitiveness adjustment by means of quantitative tools. Using four different multi-country macro models, improvements in both price/cost aspects (namely wage reduction, productivity improvements or fiscal devaluation) and non-price competitiveness factors (quality improvements) were shown - under certain conditions - to improve external imbalances. The analysis suggests differences in countries' composition of trade could lead to heterogeneity in the potential gains from improvements in competitiveness.

No. 138
31 October 2012
Euro area labour markets and the crisis

Abstract

JEL Classification

E42 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Money and Interest Rates→Monetary Systems, Standards, Regimes, Government and the Monetary System, Payment Systems

F15 : International Economics→Trade→Economic Integration

F33 : International Economics→International Finance→International Monetary Arrangements and Institutions

F41 : International Economics→Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance→Open Economy Macroeconomics

Abstract

Between the start of the economic and financial crisis in 2008, and early 2010, almost four million jobs were lost in the euro area. Employment began to rise again in the first half of 2011, but declined once more at the end of that year and remains at around three million workers below the pre-crisis level. However, in comparison with the severity of the fall in GDP, employment adjustment has been relatively muted at the aggregate euro area level, mostly due to significant labour hoarding in several euro area countries. While the crisis has, so far, had a more limited or shorter-lived impact in some euro area countries, in others dramatic changes in employment and unemployment rates have been observed and, indeed, more recent data tend to show the effects of a re-intensification of the crisis. The main objectives of this report are: (a) to understand the notable heterogeneity in the adjustment observed across euro area labour markets, ascertaining the role of the various shocks, labour market institutions and policy responses in shaping countries

No. 137
1 October 2012
The social and private costs of retail payment instruments: a European perspective

Abstract

JEL Classification

D12 : Microeconomics→Household Behavior and Family Economics→Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis

D23 : Microeconomics→Production and Organizations→Organizational Behavior, Transaction Costs, Property Rights

D24 : Microeconomics→Production and Organizations→Production, Cost, Capital, Capital, Total Factor, and Multifactor Productivity, Capacity

O52 : Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth→Economywide Country Studies→Europe

Abstract

The European Central Bank (ECB) carried out a study of the social and private costs of different payment instruments with the participation of 13 national central banks in the European System of Central Banks (ESCB). It shows that the costs to society of providing retail payment services are substantial. On average, they amount to almost 1% of GDP for the sample of participating EU countries. Half of the social costs are incurred by banks and infrastructures, while the other half of all costs are incurred by retailers. The social costs of cash payments represent nearly half of the total social costs, while cash payments have on average the lowest costs per transaction, followed closely by debit card payments. However, in some countries, cash does not always yield the lowest unit costs. Despite countries' own market characteristics, the European market for retail payments can be grouped into five distinct payment clusters with respect to the social costs of payment instruments, market development, and payment behaviour. The results from the present study may trigger a constructive debate about which policy measures and payment instruments are suitable for improving social welfare and realising potential cost savings along the transaction value chain.

No. 136
28 September 2012
Financial stability challenges for EU acceding and candidate countries: making financial systems more resilient in a challenging environment

Abstract

JEL Classification

F32 : International Economics→International Finance→Current Account Adjustment, Short-Term Capital Movements

F41 : International Economics→Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance→Open Economy Macroeconomics

G21 : Financial Economics→Financial Institutions and Services→Banks, Depository Institutions, Micro Finance Institutions, Mortgages

G28 : Financial Economics→Financial Institutions and Services→Government Policy and Regulation

Abstract

This Occasional Paper reviews financial stability challenges in countries preparing for EU membership with a candidate country status, i.e. Croatia (planned to accede to the EU on 1 July 2013), Iceland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Turkey. It follows a macro-prudential approach, emphasising systemic risks of financial systems as a whole. After recalling that some EU candidate countries went through a pronounced boom-and-bust credit cycle in recent years, the paper identifies current challenges for the bank-based financial sectors as mainly stemming from: (i) high or rising domestic credit risk; (ii) unhedged borrowing in foreign currencies; and (iii) strains related to the euro area debt crisis, which is impacting the EU candidate countries via a number of channels. The main channels of transmission of the euro area debt crisis to the EU candidate countries operate via: (i) trade and foreign direct investment; (ii) an increased market focus on sovereign risk; and (iii) "deleveraging", e.g. via a decline of external funding to local subsidiaries of EU parent banks. A macro-stress-test exercise performed by the national authorities of the EU candidate countries in February 2012 suggests that large capital buffers can absorb a shock to credit quality stemming from a drop in economic activity in the EU and renewed strains from the euro area debt crisis. With respect to supervisory practices, the paper finds that the EU candidate countries have made good progress, but some gaps with respect to international and EU standards remain.

No. 135
17 August 2012
The use of the Eurosystem's monetary policy instruments and operational framework since 2009

Abstract

JEL Classification

D02 : Microeconomics→General→Institutions: Design, Formation, and Operations

E43 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Money and Interest Rates→Interest Rates: Determination, Term Structure, and Effects

E58 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit→Central Banks and Their Policies

E65 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook→Studies of Particular Policy Episodes

Abstract

This paper provides a comprehensive overview of the use of the Eurosystem's monetary policy instruments and the operational framework from the first quarter of 2009 until the second quarter 2012. The paper discusses in detail, from a liquidity management perspective, the standard and non-standard monetary policy measures taken over this period. The paper reviews the evolution of the Eurosystem balance sheet, participation in tender operations, the outright purchase programmes, patterns of reserve fulfilment, recourse to standing facilities as well as the steering of money market interest rates.

No. 134
28 June 2012
Revisiting the effective exchange rates of the euro

Abstract

JEL Classification

F10 : International Economics→Trade→General

F30 : International Economics→International Finance→General

F31 : International Economics→International Finance→Foreign Exchange

F40 : International Economics→Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance→General

Abstract

This paper describes in detail the methodology currently used by the European Central Bank (ECB) to determine the nominal and real effective exchange rate indices of the euro. Building on the work of Buldorini et al. (2002), it shows how the ECB's techniques for calculating effective exchange rates have been updated over time and explains the related theoretical foundations. In particular, the paper discusses the use and development of trade weights based on trade in manufactured goods (taking account of third market effects), the trading partners selected, and the choice of deflators for constructing the real effective exchange rate indices. In addition, it presents evidence on exchange rate and competitiveness developments for both the euro area as a whole and individual Member States. While the growing importance of China is reflected in the updated trade weights of euro effective exchange rates, it appears that the increasing integration of the euro area with other European economies accounts for the largest variation in trade weights. The US dollar, an anchor currency for a number of large emerging markets, continues to play an important role for the effective exchange rate of the euro and euro area competitiveness. Overall, euro area competitiveness has improved slightly since the introduction of the single currency, despite significant heterogeneity within the euro area.

No. 133
30 April 2012
Shadow banking in the Euro area: an overview

Abstract

JEL Classification

G01 : Financial Economics→General→Financial Crises

G15 : Financial Economics→General Financial Markets→International Financial Markets

G21 : Financial Economics→Financial Institutions and Services→Banks, Depository Institutions, Micro Finance Institutions, Mortgages

G28 : Financial Economics→Financial Institutions and Services→Government Policy and Regulation

Abstract

Shadow banking, as one of the main sources of financial stability concerns, is the subject of much international debate. In broad terms, shadow banking refers to activities related to credit intermediation and liquidity and maturity transformation that take place outside the regulated banking system. This paper presents a first investigation of the size and the structure of shadow banking within the euro area, using the statistical data sources available to the ECB/Eurosystem. Although overall shadow banking activity in the euro area is smaller than in the United States, it is significant, at least in some euro area countries. This is also broadly true for some of the components of shadow banking, particularly securitisation activity, money market funds and the repo markets. This paper also addresses the interconnection between the regulated and the non-bank-regulated segments of the financial sector. Over the recent past, this interconnection has increased, likely resulting in a higher risk of contagion across sectors and countries. Euro area banks now rely more on funding from the financial sector than in the past, in particular from other financial intermediaries (OFIs), which cover shadow banking entities, including securitisation vehicles. This source of funding is mainly shortterm and therefore more susceptible to runs and to the drying-up of liquidity. This finding confirms that macro-prudential authorities and supervisors should carefully monitor the growing interlinkages between the regulated banking sector and the shadow banking system. However, an in-depth assessment of the activities of shadow banking and of the interconnection with the regulated banking system would require further improvements in the availability of data and other sources of information.

Disclaimer: Please keep in mind that OPs are published in the name of the author(s). Their views do not necessarily reflect those of the ECB.