DP10189 Inspecting the Mechanism: Leverage and the Great Recession in the Eurozone

Author(s): Philippe Martin, Thomas Philippon
Publication Date: October 2014
Keyword(s): Eurozone crisis, Fiscal policy, Macroprudential policy, private leverage, sudden stop
JEL(s): E44, E62, F32, F41, G01
Programme Areas: International Macroeconomics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=10189

We provide a first comprehensive account of the dynamics of Eurozone countries from the creation of the Euro to the Great recession. We model each country as an open economy within a monetary union and analyze the dynamics of private leverage, fiscal policy and spreads. Our parsimonious model can replicate the time-series for nominal GDP, employment, and net exports of Eurozone countries between 2000 and 2012. We then ask how periphery countries would have fared with: (i) more conservative fiscal policies; (ii) macro-prudential tools to control private leverage; (iii) a central bank acting earlier to limit sovereign spreads; and (iv) the possibility to recoup the competitiveness they lost in the boom. To perform these counterfactual experiments, we use U.S. states as a control group that did not suffer from a sudden stop. We find that periphery countries could have stabilized their employment if they had followed more conservative fiscal policies during the boom. This is especially true in Greece. For Ireland, however, given the size of the private leverage boom, such a policy would have required buying back almost all of the public debt. Macro-prudential policy would have been helpful, especially in Ireland and Spain. However, in presence of a spending bias in fiscal rules, macro-prudential policies would have led to less prudent fiscal policies in the boom. Central bank actions would have stabilized employment during the bust but not public debt. Finally, if these countries had been able to regain in the bust the competitiveness they lost in the boom, they would have experienced a shorter and milder recession.