The financial crisis of 2007-09 and the subsequent extended period of historically low real interest rates have revived the question of whether economic agents are willing to take on more risk when interest rates remain low for a prolonged time period. This increased appetite for risk, which causes economic agents to search for investment assets and strategies that generate higher investment returns, has been called the risk-taking channel of monetary policy. Recent academic research on banks suggests that lending policies in times of low interest rates can be consistent with the existence of a risk-taking channel of monetary policy in Europe, South America, the United States and Canada. Specifically, studies find that the terms of loans to risky borrowers become less stringent in periods of low interest rates. This risk-taking channel may amplify the effects of traditional transmission mechanisms, resulting in the creation of excessive credit.
November 15, 2012
When Is It Less Costly for Risky Firms to Borrow? Evidence from the Bank Risk- Taking Channel of Monetary PolicyIn an investigation of banks’ loan pricing policies in the United States over the past two decades, this study finds supporting evidence for the bank risk-taking channel of monetary policy. We show that banks charge lower spreads when they lend to riskier borrowers relative to the spreads they charge on loans to safer borrowers in periods of low short-term rates compared to periods of high short-term rates.