The Consumer Spending Response to Mortgage Resets: Microdata on Monetary Policy
32 Pages Posted: 20 May 2017
Date Written: April 20, 2017
In this report, we examine how a sample of US homeowners changed their credit card spending in response to a predictable drop in their mortgage payment driven by the Federal Reserve’s low interest rate policy that followed the Great Recession. Using a de-identified sample of Chase customers who had a hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages (ARM) and a Chase credit card, we analyze changes in credit card spending and revolving balance leading up to and after mortgage reset. We organize our results into four findings. First, forty-four percent of the homeowners in our sample experienced a large drop in their hybrid ARM payment at reset, which on average represented over 5 percent of their monthly income. Second, homeowners increased their spending by 9 percent in advance of the anticipated drop in their mortgage payments and by 15 percent after reset, despite a considerable drop in housing wealth. Third, homeowners used credit card borrowing to finance 21 percent of their pre-reset anticipatory spending increase, and post–reset they further increased their revolving balances. Over the full two year period, their total spending increase exceeded their mortgage-related savings by 4 percent. Fourth, Homeowners used the savings from lower hybrid ARM payments to make more purchases across all spending categories, notably home improvements and healthcare. Overall, we find that in a declining interest rate environment, the income channel that transmits interest rate policy to homeowners with ARMs is automatic, the consumer response is considerable, and that there are both anticipatory and contemporaneous increases in consumption. Additional research is needed to understand if the income channel also has the intended and expected contractionary effects on consumer spending as policy rates move higher. Armed with a full understanding, housing policy makers could evaluate the policies that influence which type of mortgage (fixed-rate or variable-rate) borrowers choose and should consider the effects these policies will have on the ability of monetary policy to impact personal consumption through the business cycle.
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