Manuel Amador

Monetary Advisor

amador.manuel@gmail.com
CV
Personal Website | Github

Interests:
Macroeconomic theory
International economics

Manuel Amador joined the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis as a monetary advisor in 2013. He has also been an assistant professor of economics in the Department of Economics at Stanford University, at Harvard University and at Stanford Graduate School of Business. He received his B.S. in economics from Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; his P.I.M.A. degree from Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, Santiago, Chile; and his Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has been a visitor at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis (2005 and 2012), and a visiting professor at Princeton University (2010–11). Manuel is also a Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research. His work has been published in several prominent economics journals, among them the Quarterly Journal of Economics, the Journal of Political Economy, and Econometrica.

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.

Fiscal Policy in Debt Constrained Economies

We study optimal fiscal policy in a small open economy (SOE) with sovereign and private default risk and limited commitment to tax plans. The SOE’s government uses linear taxation to fund exogenous expenditures and uses public debt to inter-temporally allocate tax distortions. We characterize a class of environments in which the tax on labor goes to zero in the long run, while the tax on capital income may be non-zero, reversing the standard prediction of the Ramsey tax literature. The zero labor tax is an optimal long run outcome if the economy is subject to sovereign debt constraints and the domestic households are impatient relative to the international interest rate. The front loading of tax distortions allows the economy to build a large (aggregate) debt position in the presence of limited commitment. We show that a similar result holds in a closed economy with imperfect inter-generational altruism, providing a link with the closed-economy literature that has explored disagreement between the government and its citizens regarding inter-temporal tradeoffs.

Coordination and Crisis in Monetary Unions

We study fiscal and monetary policy in a monetary union with the potential for rollover crises in sovereign debt markets. Member-country fiscal authorities lack commitment to repay their debt and choose fiscal policy independently. A common monetary authority chooses inflation for the union, also without commitment. We first describe the existence of a fiscal externality that arises in the presence of limited commitment and leads countries to overborrow; this externality rationalizes the imposition of debt ceilings in a monetary union. We then investigate the impact of the composition of debt in a monetary union, that is the fraction of high-debt versus low-debt members, on the occurrence of self-fulfilling debt crises. We demonstrate that a high-debt country may be less vulnerable to crises and have higher welfare when it belongs to a union with an intermediate mix of high- and low-debt members, than one where all other members are low-debt. This contrasts with the conventional wisdom that all countries should prefer a union with low-debt members, as such a union can credibly deliver low inflation. These findings shed new light on the criteria for an optimal currency area in the presence of rollover crises.

Sovereign Debt Booms in Monetary Unions

We propose a continuous time model to investigate the impact of inflation credibility on sovereign debt dynamics. At every point in time, an impatient government decides fiscal surplus and inflation, without commitment. Inflation is costly, but reduces the real value of outstanding nominal debt. In equilibrium, debt dynamics is the result of two opposing forces: (i) impatience and (ii) the desire to conquer low inflation. A large increase in inflation credibility can trigger a process of debt accumulation. This rationalizes the sovereign debt booms that are often experienced by low inflation credibility countries upon joining a currency union.

Sovereign Debt

In this chapter, we use a benchmark limited-commitment model to explore key issues in the economics of sovereign debt. After highlighting conceptual issues that distinguish sovereign debt as well as reviewing a number of empirical facts, we use the model to discuss debt overhang, risk-sharing, and capital flows in an environment of limited enforcement. We also discuss recent progress on default and renegotiation; self-fulfilling debt crises; and incomplete markets and their quantitative implications. We conclude with a brief assessment of the current state of the literature and highlight some directions for future research.

The Theory of Optimal Delegation With an Application to Tariff Caps

We consider a general representation of the delegation problem, with and without money burning, and provide sufficient and necessary conditions under which an interval allocation is optimal. We also apply our results to the theory of trade agreements among privately informed governments. For both perfect and monopolistic competition settings, we provide conditions under which tariff caps are optimal.

Tariff Revenue and Tariff Caps

We characterize the design of an optimal trade agreement when governments are privately informed about the value of tariff revenue. We show that the problem of designing an optimal trade agreement in this setting can be represented as an optimal delegation problem when a money burning instrument is available. In a specification with quadratic payoffs and a uniform distribution, we find that the tariff cap and the probability of binding overhang are higher when the upper bound of the support distribution is higher and when the support distribution has greater width.

Learning from Private and Public Observations of Others’ Actions

We study the diffusion of dispersed private information in a large economy, where agents learn from the actions of others through two channels: a public channel, such as equilibrium market prices, and a private channel, for example local interactions. We show that, when agents learn only from the public channel, an initial release of public information increases agentsʼ total knowledge at all times and increases welfare. When a private learning channel is present, this result is reversed: more initial public information reduces agents asymptotic knowledge by an amount in order of log(t) units of precision. When agents are sufficiently patient, this reduces welfare.

Growth in the Shadow of Expropriation

We propose a tractable variant of the open economy neoclassical growth model that emphasizes political economy and contracting frictions. The political economy frictions involve a preference for immediate spending, while the contracting friction is a lack of commitment regarding foreign debt and expropriation. We show that the political economy frictions slow an economy’s convergence to the steady state due to the endogenous evolution of capital taxation. The model rationalizes why openness has different implications for growth depending on the political environment, why institutions such as the treatment of capital income evolve over time, why governments in countries that grow rapidly accumulate net foreign assets rather than liabilities, and why foreign aid may not affect growth.

Learning from Prices: Public Communication and Welfare

We study the effect of releasing public information about productivity or monetary shocks using a micro-founded macroeconomic model in which agents learn from the distribution of nominal prices. While a public release has the direct beneficial effect of providing new information, it also has the indirect adverse effect of reducing the informational efficiency of the price system. We show that the negative indirect effect can dominate. Thus, the public information release may increase uncertainty about the monetary shock and reduce welfare. We find that the optimal communication policy is always to release either all or none of the information.

Expropriation Dynamics

Investment Cycles and Sovereign Debt Overhang

We characterize optimal taxation of foreign capital and optimal sovereign debt policy in a small open economy where the government cannot commit to policy, seeks to insure a risk-averse domestic constituency, and is more impatient than the market. Optimal policy generates long-run cycles in both sovereign debt and foreign direct investment in an environment in which the first best capital stock is a constant. The expected tax on capital endogenously varies with the state of the economy, and investment is distorted by more in recessions than in booms, amplifying the effect of shocks. The government’s lack of commitment induces a negative correlation between investment and the stock of government debt, a “debt overhang” effect. Debt relief is never Pareto improving and cannot affect the long-run level of investment. Furthermore, restricting the government to a balanced budget can eliminate the cyclical distortion of investment.

Commitment vs. Flexibility

We study the optimal trade-off between commitment and flexibility in a consumption–savings model. Individuals expect to receive relevant information regarding tastes and thus they value the flexibility provided by larger choice sets. On the other hand, they also expect to suffer from temptation, with or without self-control, and thus they value the commitment afforded by smaller choice sets. The optimal commitment problem we study is to find the best subset of the individual’s budget set. This problem leads to a principal–agent formulation. We find that imposing a minimum level of savings is always a feature of the solution. Necessary and sufficient conditions are derived for minimum-savings policies to completely characterize the solution. We also discuss other applications, such as the design of fiscal constitutions, the problem faced by a paternalist, and externalities.

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.

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.

Coordination and Crisis in Monetary Unions

We study fiscal and monetary policy in a monetary union with the potential for rollover crises in sovereign debt markets. Member-country fiscal authorities lack commitment to repay their debt and choose fiscal policy independently. A common monetary authority chooses inflation for the union, also without commitment. We first describe the existence of a fiscal externality that arises in the presence of limited commitment and leads countries to over borrow; this externality rationalizes the imposition of debt ceilings in a monetary union. We then investigate the impact of the composition of debt in a monetary union, that is the fraction of high-debt versus low-debt members, on the occurrence of self-fulilling debt crises. We demonstrate that a high-debt country may be less vulnerable to crises and have higher welfare when it belongs to a union with an intermediate mix of high- and low-debt members, than one where all other members are low-debt. This contrasts with the conventional wisdom that all countries should prefer a union with low-debt members, as such a union can credibly deliver low in
flation. These findings shed new light on the criteria for an optimal currency area in the presence of rollover crises.

Take the Short Route: How to Repay and Restructure Sovereign Debt with Multiple Maturities

We address the question of whether and how a sovereign should reduce its external indebtedness when default is a significant possibility, with a particular focus on whether a sovereign should buy back or dilute existing long-term sovereign bonds. Our main finding is that when reduction of debt is optimal, the sovereign should remain passive in the long-term bond market during the deleveraging process, retiring long-term bonds as they mature but never actively issuing or buying back these bonds. The only active margin is the short-term bond market, which involves partial roll over of such debt. Any active maturity management, as will typically be required to address rollover crisis risk, will be delayed until the end of the deleveraging process. We also show that there exist a set of Pareto improving debt restructurings in which maturities are shortened; however, these cannot be implemented by trading in competitive secondary markets.

Money Burning in the Theory of Delegation

This paper uses a Lagrangian approach to provide general sufficient conditions under which money burning expenditures are used in an optimal delegation contract. We also apply our findings to a model of cooperation and delegation and to a model with quadratic preferences and general distribution functions.

Crisis and Commitment: Inflation Credibility and the Vulnerability to Sovereign Debt Crises

We propose a continuous time model of nominal debt and investigate the role of inflation credibility in the potential for self-fulfilling debt crises. Inflation is costly, but reduces the real value of outstanding debt without the full punishment of default. With high inflation credibility, which can be interpreted as joining a monetary union or issuing foreign currency debt, debt is effectively real. By contrast, with low inflation credibility, sovereign debt is nominal and in a debt crisis a government may opt to inflate away a fraction of the debt burden rather than explicitly default. This flexibility potentially reduces the country’s exposure to self-fulfilling crises. On the other hand, the government lacks credibility not to inflate in the absence of crisis. This latter channel raises the cost of debt in tranquil periods and makes default more attractive in the event of a crisis, increasing the country’s vulnerability. We characterize the interaction of these two forces. We show that there is an intermediate inflation credibility that minimizes the country’s exposure to rollover risk. Low inflation credibility brings the worst of both worlds–high inflation in tranquil periods and increased vulnerability to a crisis.

Fiscal Policy in Debt Constrained Economies

We study optimal fiscal policy in a small open economy (SOE) with sovereign and private default risk. The SOE’s government uses linear taxation to fund exogenous expenditures and uses public debt to inter-temporally allocate tax distortions. We characterize a class of environments in which the tax on labor goes to zero in the long run, while the tax on capital income may be non-zero, reversing the standard prediction of the Ramsey tax literature. The zero labor tax is an optimal long run outcome if the private agents are impatient relative to the international interest rate and the economy is subject to sovereign debt constraints. The front loading of labor taxes allows the economy to build a large (aggregate) debt position in the presence of limited commitment. We show that a similar result holds in a closed economy with imperfect inter-generational altruism.

Efficient Expropriation: Sustainable Fiscal Policy in a Small Open Economy

We study a small open economy characterized by two empirically important frictions— incomplete financial markets and an inability of the government to commit to policy. We characterize the best sustainable fiscal policy and show that it can amplify and prolong shocks to output. In particular, even when the government is completely benevolent, the government’s credibility not to expropriate capital varies endogenously with the state of the economy and may be “scarcest” during recessions. This increased threat of expropriation depresses investment, prolonging downturns. It is the incompleteness of financial markets and the lack of commitment that generate investment cycles even in an environment where first-best capital stock is constant.