November/December 2007

In This Edition

  • Measuring Commercial Bank Profitability: Proceed with Caution

    The federal tax code creates challenges for comparing the profit rates of different banks on a consistent basis. The earnings of banks that elect to operate under subchapter S of the federal tax code are not subject to federal corporate income tax, but shareholders of these "S-banks" are taxed on their pro rata share of the entire earnings of the bank. The number of banks electing subchapter S tax treatment has increased rapidly, especially among small banks. The authors use estimates of the federal corporate income tax that S-banks would pay if they were subject to the tax to show that the difference in the tax treatment of S-banks and other banks has a large impact on measures of U.S. banking system profitability. Further, the article shows that adjustment of S-bank earnings by estimates of federal income taxes to make them comparable with the earnings of other banks can markedly affect conclusions of studies that use net income as a measure of performance. Finally, the article shows that S-banks (even after their earnings are reduced by estimated federal taxes) tend to out-earn their peers; S-banks also tend to have higher earnings rates than their peers in the year before they elect S-bank status.

  • Open Market Operations and the Federal Funds Rate

    It is commonly believed that the Fed's ability to control the federal funds rate stems from its ability to alter the supply of liquidity in the overnight market through open market operations. This paper uses daily data compiled by the author from the records of the Trading Desk of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York over the period March 1, 1984, through December 31, 1996: He analyzes the Desk's use of its operating procedure in implementing monetary policy and the extent to which open market operations affect the federal funds rate"”the liquidity effect. The author finds that the operating procedure was used to guide daily open market operations; however, there is little evidence of a liquidity effect at the daily frequency and even less evidence at lower frequencies. Consistent with the absence of a liquidity effect, open market operations appear to be a relatively unimportant source of liquidity to the federal funds market.

  • The Decline in the U.S. Personal Saving Rate: Is It Real and Is It a Puzzle?

    Since the mid-1990s, the national income and product accounts personal saving rate for the United States has been trending down, dropping into negative territory for three months during the past two years. This paper examines measurement problems surrounding two of the standard definitions of the personal saving rate. The authors conclude that, despite these measurement problems, the recent decline of the U.S. personal saving rate to low levels seems to be a real economic phenomenon and may be a cause for concern for several reasons. After examining several possible explanations for the trend advanced in the recent literature, the authors conclude that none of them provides a compelling explanation for the steep decline and negative levels of the U.S. personal saving rate.

  • The Determinants of Aid in the Post-Cold War Era

    The authors estimate the responsiveness of aid to recipient countries' economic and physical needs, civil/political rights, and government effectiveness. They look exclusively at the post-Cold War era and use fixed effects to control for the political, strategic, and other considerations of donors. They find that aid and per capita income have been negatively related, while aid has been positively related to infant mortality, rights, and government effectiveness.



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