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Does a Low Interest Rate Environment Affect Risk Taking in Austria?

Paul Gaggl () and Maria Valderrama ()

Monetary Policy & the Economy, 2010, issue 4, 32–48

Abstract: It has recently been argued that a prolonged period of low interest rates under benign economic conditions tends to produce excessive risk taking in financial markets. The mechanism by which monetary policy affects investors’ risk positions has been called the “risk-taking channel” of monetary policy. We discuss this channel and compare it with the more traditional broad credit channel. Furthermore, we provide new evidence on the existence of this channel, using Austrian firm and bank data taken from the OeNB’s credit register. In particular, we show that the expected default rates within Austrian banks’ business-loan portfolios increased during the period of low refinancing rates from 2003 to 2005. This result is new and important in at least two respects: first, we construct a measure of Austrian banks’ portfolio risk on the basis of a matched lender and borrower dataset. Second, we specifically identify the effect of a monetary policy regime which is characterized by interest rates that are held at a low level for too long, as opposed to the more traditional effect of monetary policy “shocks,” usually identified through quarter-on-quarter changes in short-term interest rates.

Keywords: monetary policy; bank behavior; risk taking (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: E44 E59 G21 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2010
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