Discussion Questions

Week three: The commercial banking structure in the US has changed a great deal in the past 30 years. Today the market structure of banking is that of a small set of globally huge banking behemoths (Citigroup, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP/Chase, etc) and a much larger set of much smaller banks. The big banks since the 2008 crisis have been characterized as ‘too big to fail’ and are even now in their own category of bank regulations. Discuss the wisdom of having financial institutions that are recognized as ‘too big to fail’ and the moral hazard they present to the economy at large.

Week four: Prior to the current pandemic, the Financial Crisis of 2007 – 2009 was the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930’s, and like that event had global repercussions and consequences. Also like the earlier crisis there were significant events that were under the control of policy makers that made the 2008 crisis worse. Among these were lax banking regulations on home loans, a loosening of regulations that had prevented commercial banks from engaging in speculative behavior more typically reserved for investment banks and hedge funds (see also: The London Whale). Please contribute to our discussion this week by writing on ‘whether the crisis could have been prevented or significantly mitigated by better bank supervision’.

Week five: Since the 2007 financial crisis the Fed’s portfolio of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities has grown tremendously, from $900 billion to more than $8 trillion today.  In recent years there has been much discussion about how and how quickly the Fed may begin reducing the size of its balance sheet. What is the Fed’s balance sheet?  What’s your take?  Should the balance sheet be smaller?
Please see the links below for some useful background.
1.    https://www.bankrate.com/banking/federal-reserve/federal-reserve-balance-sheet/
2.    https://www.cnbc.com/2017/04/06/fed-balance-sheet-what-happens-why-it-matters-what-could-go-wrong.html
3.    Hopper, L. (2018, July, 11). How the fed is reducing its balance sheet—and why. Retrieved from https://www.stlouisfed.org/open-vault/2018/july/how-fed-reducing-balance-sheet
4.    Ng, Michael. Wessel, David. (18, August 2018). The Hutchins Center Explains: The Fed’s balance sheet. retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2017/08/18/the-hutchins-center-explains-the-feds-balance-sheet/
5.    https://www.brookings.edu/blog/ben-bernanke/2016/09/02/should-the-fed-keep-its-balance-sheet-large/
Week six: Housing Starts showed a steep decline at the onset of the pandemic. While this trend has reversed, there remains a shortage of affordable housing and mortgage rates have recently begun to rise. Is the American Dream of home ownership still feasible?
Please see the links below for some useful background.
1.    https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/housing-starts
2.    https://nationalmortgageprofessional.com/news/75268/housing-starts-higher-projected#:~:text=The%20U.S.%20Census%20Bureau%20and,934%2C000%2C%20but%2023.2%25%20below%20the
3.    https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/06/18/mortgage-rates-plunge-record-lows/
4.    https://www.marketwatch.com/story/mortgage-rates-hit-another-all-time-low-as-home-buyers-rush-to-secure-cheap-financing-2020-05-28
5.    https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/07/27/housing-inequality-coronavirus/
Week seven: Monetary policy in the US, especially the desire to increase interest rates, will have international repercussions. One of these will be to strengthen an already strong dollar. Please discuss the consequences of increasing interest rates on the US economy, taking into consideration the global ramifications.

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