Javier Bianchi

Senior Research Economist

javieribianchi@gmail.com
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Interests:
International macroeconomics
Macroprudential regulation
Capital flows

Javier Bianchi is a senior research economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. He is also a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research and an associate editor at the Journal of the European Economic Association, Journal of International Economics, and Review of Economic Dynamics. Before joining the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, he was an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin from 2012 to 2015. Javier received his B.A. in economics from Universidad de Montevideo in 2004 and earned a Ph.D. in economics in 2011 from the University of Maryland. In 2016, Javier was the recipient of the Excellence Award in Global Economic Affairs from the Kiel Institute for the World Economy.

Javier’s major areas of interest are international macroeconomics, macroeconomics, and macro-finance, and his research focuses on financial crises, macroprudential regulation, and capital flows. His work has been published in several leading journals including the American Economic Review, IMF Economic Review, and Journal of International Economics and has been funded by the National Science Foundation.

Efficient Bailouts?

We develop a quantitative equilibrium model of financial crises to assess the interaction between ex-post interventions in credit markets and the buildup of risk ex ante. During a systemic crisis, bailouts relax balance sheet constraints and mitigate the severity of the recession. Ex ante, the anticipation of such bailouts leads to an increase in risk-taking, making the economy more vulnerable to a financial crisis. We find that moral hazard effects are limited if bailouts are systemic and broad-based. If bailouts are idiosyncratic and targeted, however, this makes the economy significantly more exposed to financial crises.

Reverse Speculative Attacks

In January 2015, in the face of sustained capital inflows, the Swiss National Bank abandoned the floor for the Swiss Franc against the Euro, a decision which led to the appreciation of the Swiss Franc. The objective of this paper is to present a simple numerical framework that helps to better understand the timing of this episode, which we label a “reverse speculative attack”. We model a central bank which wishes to maintain a peg, and responds to increases in demand for domestic currency by expanding its balance sheet. In contrast to the classic speculative attacks, which are triggered by the depletion of foreign assets, reverse attacks are triggered by the concern of future balance sheet losses. Our key result is that the interaction between the desire to maintain the peg and the concern about future losses, can lead the central bank to first accumulate a large amount of reserves, and then to abandon the peg, just as we have observed in the Swiss case.

Fundamentals News, Global Liquidity and Macroprudential Policy

We study optimal macroprudential policy in a model in which unconventional shocks, in the form of news about future fundamentals and regime changes in world interest rates, interact with collateral constraints in driving the dynamics of financial crises. These shocks strengthen incentives to borrow in good times (i.e. when “good news” about future fundamentals coincide with a low-world-interest-rate regime), thereby increasing vulnerability to crises and enlarging the pecuniary externality due to the collateral constraints. Quantitatively, an optimal schedule of macroprudential debt taxes can lower the frequency and magnitude of financial crises, but the policy is complex because it features significant variation across interest-rate regimes and news realizations.

Macroprudential Policy in a Fisherian Model of Financial Innovation

The interaction between credit frictions, financial innovation, and a switch from optimistic to pessimistic beliefs played a central role in the 2008 financial crisis. This paper develops a quantitative general equilibrium framework in which this interaction drives the financial amplification mechanism to study the effects of macroprudential policy. Financial innovation enhances the ability of agents to collateralize assets into debt, but the riskiness of this new regime can only be learned over time. Beliefs about transition probabilities across states with high and low ability to borrow change as agents learn from observed realizations of financial conditions. At the same time, the collateral constraint introduces a pecuniary externality, because agents fail to internalize the effect of their borrowing decisions on asset prices. Quantitative analysis shows that the effectiveness of macroprudential policy in this environment depends on the government’s information set, the tightness of credit constraints, and the pace at which optimism surges in the early stages of financial innovation. The policy is least effective when the government is as uninformed as private agents, credit constraints are tight, and optimism builds quickly.

Overborrowing and Systemic Externalities in the Business Cycle

Credit constraints linking debt to market-determined prices embody a systemic credit externality that drives a wedge between competitive and constrained socially optimal equilibria, inducing private agents to overborrow. This externality arises because private agents fail to internalize the financial amplification effects of carrying a large amount of debt when credit constraints bind. We conduct a quantitative analysis of this externality in a two-sector dynamic stochastic general equilibrium (DSGE) model of a small open economy calibrated to emerging markets. Raising the cost of borrowing during tranquil times restores constrained efficiency and significantly reduces the incidence and severity of financial crises.

Credit Externalities: Macroeconomic Effects and Policy Implications

Exchange Rate Policies at the Zero Lower Bound

We study how a monetary authority pursues an exchange rate objective in an environment that features a zero lower bound (ZLB) constraint on nominal interest rates and limits to international arbitrage. If the nominal interest rate that is consistent with interest rate parity is positive, the central bank can achieve its exchange rate objective by choosing that interest rate, a well-known result in international finance. However, if the rate consistent with parity is negative, pursuing an exchange rate objective necessarily results in zero nominal interest rates, deviations from parity, capital inflows, and welfare costs associated with the accumulation of foreign reserves by the central bank. In this latter case, all changes in external conditions that increase inflows of capital toward the country are detrimental, while policies such as negative nominal interest rates or capital controls can reduce the costs associated with an exchange rate policy. We provide a simple way of measuring these costs, and present empirical support for the key implications of our framework: when interest rates are close to zero, violations in covered interest parity are more likely, and those violations are associated with reserve accumulation by central banks.

International Reserves and Rollover Risk

We study the optimal accumulation of international reserves in a quantitative model of sovereign default with long-term debt and a risk-free asset. Keeping higher levels of reserves provides a hedge against rollover risk, but this is costly because using reserves to pay down debt allows the government to reduce sovereign spreads. Our model, parameterized to mimic salient features of a typical emerging economy, can account for a significant fraction of the holdings of international reserves, and the larger accumulation of both debt and reserves in periods of low spreads and high income. We also show that income windfalls, improved policy frameworks, larger contingent liabilities, and an increase in the importance of rollover risk imply increases in the optimal holdings of reserves that are consistent with the upward trend in reserves in emerging economies. It is essential for our results that debt maturity exceeds one period.

Financial Safety Nets

In this paper, we study the optimal design of financial safety nets under limited private credit. We ask when it is optimal to restrict ex ante the set of investors that can receive public liquidity support ex post. When the government can commit, the optimal safety net covers all investors. Introducing a wedge between identical investors is inefficient. Without commitment, an optimally designed financial safety net covers only a subset of investors. Compared to an economy where all investors are protected, this results in more liquid portfolios, better social insurance, and higher ex ante welfare. Our result can rationalize the prevalent limited coverage of safety nets, such as the lender of last resort facilities.

Reverse Speculative Attacks

In January 2015, in the face of sustained capital inflows, the Swiss National Bank abandoned the floor for the Swiss Franc against the Euro, a decision which led to the appreciation of the Swiss Franc. The objective of this paper is to present a simple framework that helps to better understand the timing of this episode, which we label a “reverse speculative attack”. We model a central bank which wishes to maintain a peg, and responds to increases in demand for domestic currency by expanding its balance sheet. In contrast to the classic speculative attacks, which are triggered by the depletion of foreign assets, reverse attacks are triggered by the concern of future balance sheet losses. Our key result is that the interaction between the desire to maintain the peg and the concern about future losses, can lead the central bank to first accumulate a large amount of reserves, and then to abandon the peg, just as we have observed in the Swiss case.

Efficient Bailouts?

We develop a quantitative equilibrium model of financial crises to assess the interaction between ex-post interventions in credit markets and the buildup of risk ex ante. During a systemic crisis, bailouts relax balance sheet constraints and mitigate the severity of the recession. Ex ante, the anticipation of such bailouts leads to an increase in risk-taking, making the economy more vulnerable to a financial crisis. We find that moral hazard effects are limited if bailouts are systemic and broad-based. If bailouts are idiosyncratic and targeted, however, this makes the economy significantly more exposed to financial crises.

Discussion of “Macroeconomic volatility and external imbalances” by Alessandra Fogli and Fabrizio Perri

Banks, Liquidity Management, and Monetary Policy

We develop a new framework to study the implementation of monetary policy through the banking system. Banks finance illiquid loans by issuing deposits. Deposit transfers across banks must be settled using central bank reserves. Transfers are random and therefore create liquidity risk, which in turn determines the supply of credit and the money multiplier. We study how different shocks to the banking system and monetary policy affect the economy by altering the trade-off between profiting from lending and incurring greater liquidity risk. We calibrate our model to study quantitatively why banks have recently increased their reserve holdings but have not expanded lending despite policy efforts. Our analysis underscores an important role of disruptions in interbank markets, followed by a persistent credit demand shock.

Discussion of “The Risk Channel of Monetary Policy” by Oliver de Groot

International Reserves and Rollover Risk

This paper provides a theoretical framework for quantitatively investigating the optimal accumulation of international reserves as a hedge against rollover risk. We study a dynamic model of endogenous default in which the government faces a tradeoff between the insurance benefits of reserves and the cost of keeping larger gross debt positions. A calibrated version of our model is able to rationalize large holdings of international reserves, as well as the procyclicality of reserves and gross debt positions. Model simulations are also consistent with spread dynamics and other key macroeconomic variables in emerging economies. The benefits of insurance arrangements and the effects of restricting the use of reserves after default are also analyzed.

Comment on “Capital Account Policies and the Real Exchange Rate” by Olivier Jeanne