A General-Equilibrium Asset-Pricing Approach to the Measurement of Nominal and Real Bank Output

J. Christina Wang, Susanto Basu, John G. Fernald

NBER Working Paper No. 14616
Issued in December 2008
NBER Program(s):Monetary Economics, Productivity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship

This paper addresses the proper measurement of financial service output that is not priced explicitly. It shows how to impute nominal service output from financial intermediaries' interest income, and how to construct price indices for those financial services. We model financial intermediaries as providers of financial services which resolve asymmetric information between borrowers and lenders. We embed these intermediaries in a dynamic, stochastic, general-equilibrium model where assets are priced competitively according to their systematic risk, as in the standard consumption-based capital-asset-pricing model. In this environment, we show that it is critical to take risk into account in order to measure financial output accurately. We also show that even using a risk-adjusted reference rate does not solve all the problems associated with measuring nominal financial service output. Our model allows us to address important outstanding questions in output and productivity measurement for financial firms, such as: (1) What are the correct "reference rates" to use in calculating bank output? In particular, should they take account of risk? (2) If reference rates need to be risk-adjusted, should they be ex ante or ex post rates of return? (3) What is the right price deflator for the output of financial firms? Is it just the general price index? (4) When--if ever--should we count capital gains of financial firms as part of financial service output?

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w14616

Published: A General-Equilibrium Asset-Pricing Approach to the Measurement of Nominal and Real Bank Output, J. Christina Wang, Susanto Basu, John G. Fernald. in Price Index Concepts and Measurement, Diewert, Greenlees, and Hulten. 2009

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