Luigi Bocola

Research Economist

Luigi.Bocola@northwestern.edu
CV
Personal Website

Interests:
Macroeconomics
Financial economics
Time series analysis

Luigi Bocola is an assistant professor of economics at Northwestern University. He joined the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis as a research economist in 2014 and returned to that position in 2017. Luigi received a B.A. in international studies from Università di Torino, an M.A. in economics from Università di Torino, and a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Pennsylvania. His work has been published in the Journal of Political Economy, Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, and Rivista di Politica Economica. Luigi’s major research interests include macroeconomics, financial economics, and time series analysis.

Assessing DSGE Model Nonlinearities

We develop a new class of time series models to identify nonlinearities in the data and to evaluate DSGE models. U.S. output growth and the federal funds rate display nonlinear conditional mean dynamics, while inflation and nominal wage growth feature conditional heteroskedasticity. We estimate a DSGE model with asymmetric wage and price adjustment costs and use predictive checks to assess its ability to account for nonlinearities. While it is able to match the nonlinear inflation and wage dynamics, thanks to the estimated downward wage and price rigidities, these do not spill over to output growth or the interest rate.

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.

The Pass-Through of Sovereign Risk

This paper examines the macroeconomic implications of sovereign risk in a model in which banks hold domestic government debt. News of a future sovereign default hampers financial intermediation. First, it tightens the funding constraints of banks, reducing their resources to finance firms (liquidity channel). Second, it generates a precautionary motive to deleverage (risk channel). I estimate the model using Italian data, finding that sovereign risk was recessionary and that the risk channel was sizable. I also use the model to measure the effects of subsidized long-term loans to banks. Precautionary motives at the height of the crisis imply that bank lending to firms responds little to these interventions.

Trade and Business-Cycle Comovement: Evidence from the EU

This paper is an empirical study of the determinants of business-cycle comovement. Using a panel of European countries (1972-2004) it is found that bilateral trade intensity is a robust determinant of real comovement in Europe, this confirming the seminal study by Frankel and Rose (1998). It is also found that convergence in macroeconomic policies (especially fiscal policies) is associated to a high degree of intra-european business-cycle correlation. Moreover, having controlled for policy convergence, the effect of bilateral tradeo n business cycle comovement weakens on average by a factor of 36%-33% with respect to that estimated according to Frankel and Rose’s econometric specification, this suggesting the potential endogeneity of the set of instrumental variabls adopted by the two authors (Gruben, Koo and Millis, 2002).

Financial Crises and Lending of Last Resort in Open Economies

We study financial panics in a small open economy with floating exchange rates. In our model, bank runs trigger a decline in domestic wealth and a currency depreciation. Runs are more likely when banks have dollar debt. Dollar debt emerges endogenously in response to the precautionary motive of domestic savers: dollar savings provide insurance against crises; so when crises are possible it becomes relatively more expensive for banks to borrow in local currency, which gives them an incentive to issue dollar debt. This feedback between aggregate risk and savers’ behavior can generate multiple equilibria, with the bad equilibrium characterized by financial dollarization and the possibility of bank runs. A domestic lender of last resort can eliminate the bad equilibrium, but interventions need to be fiscally credible. Holding foreign currency reserves hedges the fiscal position of the government and enhances its credibility, thus improving financial stability.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.21034/sr.557

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.

Sovereign Default Risk and Firm Heterogeneity

This paper studies the recessionary effects of sovereign default risk using firm-level data and a model of sovereign debt with firm heterogeneity. Our environment features a two-way feedback loop. Low output decreases the tax revenues of the government and raises the risk that it will default on its debt. The associated increase in sovereign interest rate spreads, in turn, raises the interest rates paid by firms, which further depresses their production. Importantly, these effects are not homogeneous across firms, as interest rate hikes have more severe consequences for firms that are in need of borrowing. Our approach consists of using these cross-sectional implications of the model, together with micro data, to measure the effects that sovereign risk has on real economic activity. In an application to Italy, we find that the progressive heightening of sovereign risk during the recent crisis was responsible for 50% of the observed decline in output.

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.

Self-Fulfilling Debt Crises: A Quantitative Analysis

This paper uses the information contained in the joint dynamics of government’s debt maturity choices and interest rate spreads to quantify the importance of self-fulfilling expectations in sovereign bond markets. We consider a model of sovereign borrowing featuring endogenous debt maturity, risk averse lenders and self-fulfilling rollover crises á la Cole and Kehoe (2000). In this environment, interest rate spreads are driven by economic fundamentals and by expectations of future self-fulfilling defaults. These two sources of default risk have contrasting implications for the debt maturity choices of the government. Therefore, they can be indirectly inferred by tracking the evolution of the maturity structure of debt during a crisis. We fit the model to the Italian debt crisis of 2008-2012, finding that 12% of the spreads over this episode were due to rollover risk. Our results have implications for the effects of the liquidity provisions established by the European Central Bank during the summer of 2012.

The Pass-Through of Sovereign Risk

This paper examines the macroeconomic implications of sovereign risk in a model in which banks hold domestic government debt. News of a future sovereign default hampers financial intermediation. First, it tightens the funding constraints of banks, reducing their resources to finance firms (liquidity channel). Second, it generates a precautionary motive to deleverage (risk channel). I estimate the model using Italian data, finding that sovereign risk was recessionary and that the risk channel was sizable. I also use the model to measure the effects of subsidized long-term loans to banks. Precautionary motives at the height of the crisis imply that bank lending to firms responds little to these interventions.

Risk, Economic Growth, and the Value of the U.S. Corporations

This paper documents a strong association between total factor productivity (TFP) growth and the value of U.S. corporations (measured as the value of equities and net debt for the U.S. corporate sector) throughout the postwar period. Persistent fluctuations in the first two moments of TFP growth predict two-thirds of the medium-term variation in the value of U.S. corporations relative to gross domestic product (hence-forth value-output ratio). An increase in the conditional mean of TFP growth by 1% is associated to a 21% increase in the value-output ratio, while this indicator declines by 12% following a 1% increase in the standard deviation of TFP growth. A possible explanation for these findings is that movements in the first two moments of aggregate productivity affect the expectations that investors have regarding future corporate payouts as well as their perceived risk. We develop a dynamic stochastic general equilibrium model with the aim of verifying how sensible this interpretation is. The model features recursive preferences for the households, Markov-Switching regimes in the first two moments of TFP growth, incomplete information and monopolistic rents. Under a plausible calibration and including all these features, the model can account for a sizable fraction of the elasticity of the value-output ratio to the first two moments of TFP growth.