What does cash hoarding mean for the economy?

New Zealand banks noticed an increase in cash withdrawals by households since the day of lockdown announcement. Banks believe this might be due to the panic stockpiling of nervous households as was mentioned in the article.

In this post I want to discuss what drives the households to behave in this way, and how this comes into our thinking about economics and monetary policy. 

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MPCs, multipliers, and our 1st year ECON model

I have been preparing my lecture content for macroeconomics later in the year, and have thought it would be a bit of fun to finish with the following: discuss why the initial marginal propensity to consumer and the final multiplier on any “initial expenditure impulse” need not be related to each other.

This is an issue that I’d cover after discussing Ricardian Equivalence, and think it matters given the increasing relevance of zero-lower bound economics for students in the current environment – and some of the discussion on NBER about multipliers, and HANK vs RANK (heterogeneous vs representative agent models) models of monetary policy.

Note: These non-standard models are cool, and much more “Keynesian” – but I think the more basic description below is important for keeping us humble about our ability to control things.

Now none of this will go into any detail on the more complex models (and ideas of expectations) – it will just ensure that we aren’t “losing money as an asset from our mental model” and should be read as such.

The circular flow (the description ECON141 is all about) describes the flow of funds around the economy, and the key thing is showing that if there is more dollars going around that flow in a period of time there is by definition more nominal activity – be it through higher prices or higher output. This insight can easily get lost in the discussion of individual channels during the course.

Happy with thoughts below – this is likely to be a non-assessed topic for eager students.

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Does monetary policy need to respond to the surge in inflation during pandemic?

Inflation went up to 2.5% in the March quarter, its highest rate since 2011. This was a fair amount above expectations, with the RBNZ expecting a 2.2% rate. They were not alone with private sector forecasters also expecting weaker inflation outcomes. 

This raised two questions from me:

  1. Is this evidence that COVID was a supply shock more than a demand shock?  
  2. And does it mean that monetary policy should respond? 

I want to think about the later point in this post – as the first question will get answered as we work through it.

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A decade without recession as monetary policy failure?

A post by Scott Sumner said that a decade of growth in the US wasn’t good enough – and was a monetary policy failure.  In New Zealand, we have had nearly a decade without a technical recession (the last one was the second half of 2010) – so has this been a monetary policy failure too?

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The coronavirus and the general NZ economy

The coronavirus has been in the news, with its relatively rapid spread a cause for concern.  This has important welfare and wellbeing effects associated with the pain people might experience due to the coronavirus. 

However, today I am going to discuss how we can think about the consequences of a disease outbreak for the general economy – or in terms of broad macro stabilisation or monetary policy. 

These lessons can help us understand some of the broad consequences of a disease outbreak which can then be extended to ask other policy related questions (eg how the virus might disproportionately affect industry sectors in NZ, what areas are harm reduction policies particularly important).

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From the Great Depression to the contemporary days: is the reallocation of resources a solution?

Former Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King is suggesting that Economics Needs a Post-Crash Revolution in a seeming admission that current frameworks don’t work in a world of radical uncertainty and necessary reallocation.

Is the former BOE governor and academic icon correct, or is this an unfair critique of the mainstream?  As a summary, I have two issues with his argument:

  1. Reallocation does not have anything to do with “average demand”, which is predominantly a monetary policy issue,
  2. If excessive reallocation is necessary and requires government assistance, where are the “high return” industries that need reallocation to them?

Let me explain.

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