Working Paper 2023-13
We study the effectiveness of targeted reserve requirements (RR) as a policy tool for macroeconomic stabilization. Targeted RR adjustments were implemented in China during both the 2008-09 global financial crisis and the recent COVID-19 pandemic. We develop a model in which firms with idiosyncratic productivity can borrow from two types of banks—local or national—to finance working capital. National banks provide liquidity services, while local banks have superior monitoring technologies, such that both types coexist. Relationship banking is modeled in terms of a fixed cost of switching lenders, and banks choose to switch only under sufficiently large shocks. Reducing RR on local banks boosts leverage and aggregate output, whereas reducing RR on national banks has an ambiguous output effect. Following a large recessionary shock, a targeted RR policy that reduces RR for local banks relative to national banks can lower costs of switching lenders, stabilizing macroeconomic fluctuations. However, targeting RR in that manner also boosts local bank leverage, increasing risks of default and related liquidation losses. Our model's mechanism is supported by bank-level empirical evidence.