Essays in Macroeconomics
The dissertation studies the primary sources of business-cycle fluctuations and their interaction with uncertainty and financial frictions. In my work, I examine the degree to which changes in uncertainty and financial conditions can be independent drivers of economic fluctuations; I study the sources of boom-bust cycles and whether they are linkedto credit market sentiments; and I ask how financial frictions affect economic fluctuations in terms of prices and quantities. In "Financial and Uncertainty Shocks", I separately identify financial and uncertainty shocks using a novel SVAR procedure and discuss their distinct monetary policy implications. The procedure relies on the qualitatively different responses of corporate cash holdings: after a financial shock, firms draw down their cash reserves as they lose access to external finance, while uncertainty shocks drive up cash holdings for precautionary reasons. Although both financial and uncertainty shocks are contractionary, my results show that the former are inflationary while the latter generate deflation. I rationalize this pattern in a New-Keynesian model: after a financial shock, firms increase prices to raise current liquidity; after an uncertainty shock, firms cut prices in response to falling demand. These distinct channels have stark monetary policy implications: conditional on uncertainty shocks the divine coincidence applies, while in case of financial shocks the central bank can stabilize inflation only at the cost of more unstable output fluctuations. In "What are the Sources of Boom-Bust Cycles?", joint with Vito Cormun, we provide a synthesis of two major views on economic fluctuations. One view maintains that expansions and recessions arise from the interchange of positive and negative persistent exogenous shocks to fundamentals. This is the conventional view that gave rise to the profusion of shocks used in modern dynamic stochastic general equilibrium models. In contrast, a second view, which we call the endogenous cycles view, holds that business cycle fluctuations are due to forces that are internal to the economy and that endogenously favor recurrent periods of boom followed by a bust. In this environment, cycles can occur after small perturbations of the long run equilibrium. We find empirical evidence pointing at the coexistence of both views. In particular, we find that the cyclical behaviour of economic aggregates is due in part to strong internal mechanisms that generate boom-bust phenomena in response to small changes in expectations, and in part to the interchange of positive and negative persistent fundamental shocks. Motivated by our findings, we build a theory that unifies the dominant paradigm with the endogenous cycles approach. Our theory suggests that recessions and expansions are intimately related phenomena, and that understanding the nature of an expansion, whether it is driven by fundamentals or by beliefs, is a first order issue for policy makers whose mandate is to limit the occurrance of inefficient economic fluctuations. In "COVID-19 and Credit Constraints'', joint with Pierluigi Balduzzi, Emanuele Brancati, and Fabio Schiantarelli, we investigate the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the role played by credit constraints in the transmission mechanism, using a novel survey of expectations and plans of Italian firms, taken just before and after the outbreak. Most firms revise downward their expectations for sales, orders, employment, and investment, while prices are expected to increase at a faster rate, with geographical and sectoral heterogeneity in the size of the effects. Credit constraints amplify the effects on factor demand and sales of the COVID-19 generated shocks. Credit-constrained firms also expect to charge higher prices, relative to unconstrained firms. The search for and availability of liquidity is a key determinant of firms' plans. Finally, both supply and demand shocks play a role in shaping firms' expectations and plans, with supply shocks being slightly more important in the aggregate.