by Joseph Joyce

U.S. Interest Rates and Global Banking in Emerging Market Economies

The spillover effects of changes in U.S. interest rates are widely recognized (see here and  here). An increase in rates, for example, raises the cost of dollar-denominated financing outside the U.S., which has grown in recent years, while an appreciation of the dollar makes such debt even more expensive to service and refinance. The emerging markets are among the nations adversely affected by the rise in U.S. interest rates. Several recent research papers have shown how global bank lending in these economies is affected.

Stefan Avdjiev, Cathérine Koch, Patrick McGuire and Goetz von Peter of the Bank for International Settlements investigate the impact of a change in U.S. monetary policy on cross-border lending by global banks in their paper, “Transmission of Monetary Policy through Global Banks: Whose Policy Matters?”, BIS Working Paper no. 745. In their analysis they also investigate the effect of changes in the policy stance of the central banks of both the country of the borrower as well as the home country of the lending bank. They use data on cross-border claims denominated in U.S. dollars held by international banks in 32 lender countries on borrowers in 55 countries over the period of 2000-2016.

The authors find that a tightening in U.S. monetary policy does lead to a decrease in dollar-denominated lending, as expected. But they also find that a more contractionary monetary policy in the lending country leads in a rise in cross-border dollar lending out of that country, presumably as the banks within the country switch to the cheaper dollar funding. Similarly, monetary tightening in the country of the borrower also leads to an increase in dollar-denominated credit, although these results are less robust.

The authors then investigate some of the transmission channels and seek to identify which characteristics of the banks are most relevant for these effects. They find, for example, that the negative effect of a tightening in U.S. monetary policy is smaller for banks that are more reliant on short-term wholesale funding and have better access to intragroup funding. These banks may have more alternatives to turn to when the cost of borrowing in dollars rises.

Another analysis of the effects of U.S. monetary policy on credit to emerging markets is offered by Falk Bräuning of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and Victoria Ivashina of Harvard Business School in “U.S. Monetary Policy and Emerging Market Credit Cycles”, NBER Working Paper no. 25185. They investigate the impact of shocks in U.S. monetary policy on the issuance of global syndicated corporate loans in a broad range of countries between 1990 and 2016. Dollar-denominated loans represent a large share of cross-border credit in the emerging market economies.

Their results indicate that an easing (tightening) of U.S. monetary policy leads to a rise (decline) in bank flows to the foreign markets. When they distinguish between developed economies and emerging markets, they find that the impact is about twice as large in the latter group. They also report that this result holds for U.S. and non-U.S. lenders, and that this linkage existed before the global financial crisis.

Ilhyock Shim of the Bank for International Settlements and Kwanho Shin of Korea University offer another line of analysis of global bank activity in emerging market economies in “Financial Stress in Lender Countries and Capital Outflows From Emerging Market Economies”, BIS Working Paper no. 745. In their empirical analysis, they use data from bilateral banking flows to construct a measures of capital outflows from the emerging markets to each lender country. To measure stress in lender countries, they use three indicators: an average of bank credit default spreads (CDS) for 66 banks in 29 lender countries, sovereign CDS spreads in the banks’ home countries, and the spread between dollar-denominated corporate bonds in each lender country and the matching U.S. Treasury yield. They also use sovereign spreads for financial stress in the 67 borrower nations.

The authors find that an increase in financial stress in the lending country leads to capital outflows from the emerging markets. When the measure of financial stress in the emerging market is included, it is also significant. But when economic fundamental variables in the emerging markets are added, the significance of stress in the lender countries continues to be strong while stress in the emerging markets is not. In addition, they report that cross-border claims are particularly vulnerable to stress in the lender countries. They also find these results hold in the post-financial crisis period.

Shim and Shin point out that one of the policy implication of their results draw is that strong economic fundamentals in an emerging market economy may not be sufficient to prevent capital outflows during a period of stress in lending countries. The same lesson applies for these countries if U.S. interest rates are rising. Flexible exchange rates, the standard buffer from foreign shocks, may not be able to change global banking flows.

Federal Reserve officials are attempting to pull off a difficult task: raising interest rates without ending the recovery in the U.S. Within the U.S. this challenge has been complicated by the short-run effects of expansionary fiscal policies that are due to run out in coming months. If the rise in rates also contributes to a slowdown in bank lending in other countries, the Fed will face enormous pressure to put further rate hikes on hold.  We have seen the story of higher U.S. rates and emerging market economies before, and the ending is not pretty.