Bank of Canada Review Article

  • December 17, 2000

    Dynamic General-Equilibrium Models and Why the Bank of Canada is Interested in Them

    Dynamic general-equilibrium models (DGEMs) are being increasingly used in macroeconomic research. In this article, the author describes the main features of these models and outlines their contribution to economic research performed at the Bank of Canada. He notes that the basic principle of DGEMs is that the modelling of economic activity, even on a scale as large as the economy of a country, should start with a series of microeconomic problems (at the scale of individuals), which, once resolved, are aggregated to represent the macroeconomic reality described by the model.
  • December 16, 2000

    The Bank of Canada's Management of Foreign Currency Reserves

    This article describes the Bank's management of the liquid foreign currency portion of the government's official reserves. It broadly outlines the operations of the Exchange Fund Account (EFA), the main account in which Canada's reserves are held. It then briefly reviews the evolution of the objectives and management of the EFA over the past 25 years, particularly in light of the changing level of reserves and developments in financial markets. The EFA is funded by Canada's foreign currency borrowings in capital markets. The article focuses on the comprehensive portfolio framework used to manage the Account, which matches assets and liabilities. Under this framework, funds are invested in assets that match, as closely as possible, the characteristics of foreign currency liabilities issued, helping to immunize the portfolio against currency and interest rate risks.
  • December 15, 2000

    The Federal Government's Use of Interest Rate Swaps and Currency Swaps

    Interest rate swaps and currency swaps are contracts in which counterparties agree to exchange cash flows according to a pre-arranged formula over a period of time. Since 1985, the federal government has been using such swaps to manage its liabilities in a cost-effective and flexible manner. The authors outline the characteristics of swap agreements and the ways in which the government uses them. They show that the swap program has been cost-effective, estimating that past and projected savings exceed $500 million. The authors also discuss the methods that the government uses to monitor the counterparty credit risk associated with these transactions.
  • November 16, 2000

    Credit Derivatives

    Credit derivatives are a useful tool for lenders who want to reduce their exposure to a particular borrower but are unwilling to sell their claims on that borrower. Without actually transferring ownership of the underlying assets, these contracts transfer risk from one counterparty to another. Commercial banks are the major participants in this growing market, using these transactions to diversify their portfolios of loans and other risky assets. The authors examine the size and workings of this relatively new market and discuss the potential of these transactions for distorting existing incentives for risk management and risk monitoring.
  • November 15, 2000

    Recent Performance of the Canadian Economy: A Regional View

    This article first outlines the activities of the Bank's regional offices and looks at how regional economic analysis fits into the Bank's decision-making process. The changing role of the regional offices in communications and in information gathering is examined, focusing on the quarterly surveys of industries and associations. The second section reviews, from a regional perspective, economic developments since the Asian crisis and future prospects.
  • November 14, 2000

    Conference Summary: Money, Monetary Policy, and Transmission Mechanisms

    This article summarizes the proceedings of a conference hosted by the Bank of Canada in November 1999. Three major themes emerged at the conference. The first concerned uncertainty about the transmission mechanism by which monetary policy affects output and inflation. The second concerned the potential usefulness of monetary aggregates in guiding the economy along a stable non-inflationary growth path. The third was the recent developments in dynamic monetary general-equilibrium models. The work presented suggests that a wide range of models is useful for understanding the various paths by which monetary policy actions might influence the economy.
  • November 13, 2000

    Seminar Summary: Price Stability and the Long-Run Target for Monetary Policy

    On 8 and 9 June 2000, the Bank held a seminar to examine some key issues affecting the upcoming decision on Canada's inflation-control target for the period after 2001. The main issues covered at the seminar were the extent of downward nominal-wage rigidity and its implications for employment as well as the relative merits of price-level targeting versus inflation targeting. Another critical question that was discussed was how to balance the evidence on all the relevant issues in order to develop an overall view on the appropriate long-run target. The author gives a brief overview of the seminar followed by detailed summaries of individual papers.
  • August 16, 2000

    The Changing Face of Central Banking in the 1990s

    During the 1990s, central banks in the industrialized countries made important changes in the way they operate. As part of these initiatives, central banks have endeavoured to define a set of best practices, learning from each other in the process. The goal was to improve and adapt the frameworks within which monetary policy is implemented. Clarifying Objectives A clear objective is a necessary starting point for any policy framework. The growing consensus that price stability is the most appropriate objective for monetary policy was perhaps one of the most critical developments of the past decade. Price stability is now universally regarded as the key contribution that monetary policy can make to promote sustainable growth and maximize the level of employment. Central banks also need a clear strategy for achieving their objective. A major development of the past decade was the growing popularity of inflation targets as the numerical focus for monetary policy. Clearly defined inflation targets focus policy on the variable that is directly associated with price stability. The Bank of Canada was one of the first to adopt (in 1991) a set of targets for inflation over a specified time horizon. Accountability Many central banks have acquired greater independence and this, together with the public's desire for more information from key public institutions, has raised the standards for accountability. At the same time, explicit targets provide a clear measure against which to judge the performance of the monetary authorities. Increased accountability also has implications for the overall transparency of the monetary authorities. In sum, central banks have become much more open institutions and are placing greater emphasis on their communications activities. As an example, comprehensive inflation reports have become key communications vehicles for a number of central banks. Many of the changes implemented by central banks stem from the desire to improve the credibility of monetary policy, thus making it easier for monetary authorities to achieve their objectives. Although it is difficult to ascertain the overall effect of the evolving policy framework, it is encouraging that inflation and inflation expectations were at low levels at the end of the 1990s, thus providing a solid base for monetary policy in the future.
  • August 15, 2000

    Restructuring in the Canadian Economy: A Survey of Firms

    Towards the end of the 1980s and into the early 1990s, the Canadian economy experienced a number of structural changes. These included free trade agreements (both the FTA and NAFTA), significant technological advances, deregulation in many sectors of the economy, the arrival of large, U.S.-based retailers, and the introduction of the GST.
  • August 14, 2000

    Approaches to Current Stock Market Valuations

    The increase in North American stock prices in 1999 and early 2000 has generated interest in the valuation assumptions that would make these price levels sustainable. Here, commonly used valuation techniques are applied to stock markets in Canada and the United States. For the comparative yield approach, real interest rates (rather than nominal rates) are preferred as the comparator of choice to yields on stock market indexes. The spreads between real interest rates and stock market yields have generally increased over the last two years. The dividend-discount model (DDM) approach provides an analytic linkage between the equity-risk premium and the expected growth of dividends. It suggests that market values (measured at the end of February 2000) could be sustained only by rapid growth of dividends in the future or by the continued assumption of an uncharacteristically low risk premium on equity. The spectacular rise in the value of technology stocks in 1999 is noted (Chart 4), and then the valuation measures for the Canadian stock market excluding the technology sector are examined. When this is done with the comparative yield approach, yield spreads are slightly lower, and for the DDM approach, one does not need to assume as high a growth of dividends or as low a risk premium to validate market valuations. Two effects of the "new economy" on the stock market are noted. One is the lowering of dividend yields, as new-economy technology companies tend to have a high reinvestment rate and a low dividend payout rate. Another relates to the potential for a higher track for the economy's productivity growth, which would mean that higher-than-historical assumptions about future earnings growth would be more plausible. Several explanations for the decline in risk premiums on equity are considered. While short-term volatility in the stock market has, if anything, increased in recent years, low inflation and improved economic performance, along with demographics and investor preferences, may have contributed to a decline in the risk premium demanded by investors. A scenario of rapid growth of dividends in the near term slowing to historical norms in the longer term is examined. While this approach can go partway towards explaining high stock market valuations, it requires assumptions that are outside historical experience.

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