The Long Reach of U.S. Monetary Policy

by Joseph Joyce

The Long Reach of U.S. Monetary Policy

The spillover of U.S. monetary policy on foreign economies has become an active area of research. Analysts seek to identify the channels of transmission between the policy stance of the Federal Reserve and foreign interest rates and credit extension. The usual account is that an expansionary Fed policy leads to capital outflows and an appreciation of foreign currencies as investors seek higher yields abroad. Two recent papers have focused on different aspects of this linkage.

Silvia Albrizio of the Bank of Spain, Sangyup Choi of Yonsei University, Davide Furceri of the IMF and Chansik Yoon of Princeton University investigated the impact of monetary tightening on cross-border bank lending in an IMF working paper, “International Bank Lending Channel of Monetary Policy.” Previous work was divided on whether a contractionary U.S. policy would lead to a decline or an increase in international bank lending. These economists used data on exogenous policy shocks in the U.S., which are based on the narrative approach of  Romer and Romer (2004), to examine their impact on cross-border bank lending in 45 countries.

The results show clear signs of a significant negative effect of U.S. monetary policy shocks on cross-border lending. A 100 basis point rise in the policy rate leads to a sizable more than 10% fall in lending after two quarters. When the authors extended their analysis to include monetary policy shocks in Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the U.K., they again found that exogenous monetary tightening in these economies led to a decline in cross-border bank lending. These results hold even when the authors control for global uncertainty or liquidity risks.


Sebnem Kalemli-Özcan of the University of Maryland focused on the impact of U.S. monetary policy changes on risk in her 2019 Jackson Hole presentation, “U.S. Monetary Policy and International Risk Spillovers.” In her analysis, there are two components of risk, global risk and country-specific risk, and these are crucial elements in the transmission of changes in U.S. policies to the emerging market economies. In these countries, a tightening of U.S. monetary policy leads to a rise in global risk as well as an increase in country risk. These changes in the risk premia affect the domestic response to the U.S. policy. The advanced economies, on the other hand, do not show similar responses.

For example, in the empirical analysis Kalemli-Özcan finds that an increase in the U.S. Treasury rate leads to an increase in the differential with domestic government bond rates in her sample of 46 emerging market economies, but a decline in the same differential in her sample of 13 advanced economies. However, the differential in the emerging market countries falls when a measure of global risk aversion (VIX) is added to the analysis, and becomes insignificant when an indicator of country risk (Emerging Market Bond Index Global of JPMorgan) is also utilized.

Risk premia also affect the linkage of domestic policy rates and lending rates. The presence of risk injects a wedge between the two domestic interest rates. If domestic bank rates are regressed on the policy rate in the emerging markets, the pass-through is less than complete, whereas the pass-through is almost complete in the case of the advanced economies. But the impact in the emerging markets rises when the two indicators of risk are included in the empirical analysis.

Kalemli-Özcan infers that the central banks of the emerging markets loosen their policies when risk rises, and tighten when risk falls. This response is determined in part by the type of exchange rate regime that a country has. Those emerging markets that manage their exchange rates raise their policy rates in response to the increased risk premia following a U.S. tightening. These interest rate upswings in turn affect domestic economic activity. A flexible exchange rate regime, on the other hand, mitigates the undesirable effects of the risk spillovers by absorbing the response to the higher risk. The differences in exchange rate regimes, therefore, may explain the divergence in the responses of emerging market and advanced economies to U.S. policy shocks.

Both papers acknowledge that U.S. policies have significant effects on foreign economies. Albrizio, Choi, Furceri and Yoon conclude that U.S. monetary policy is a contributor to the “global financial cycles” that Rey (2015) and others have identified. Kalemli-Özcan finds that U.S. policies are a “powerful force in driving international risk spillovers.” While global trade flows may have fallencapital flows until the coronavirus were robust. As long as the U.S. dollar is dominant in international commerce and finance, the Fed’s influence will continue to unsettle foreign nations.