ECB rate: an amazing calculation

Central bankers are very attentive to the unemployment rate even if it is for different reasons. In the US, Janet Yellen’s main target was the unemployment rate and she drove the USA economy to full employment at the end of her mandate. Mario Draghi doesn’t focus too much on the unemployment rate during his press conferences. But when we look at low inflation pressures in a Phillips curve we can anticipate that the equilibrium unemployment rate is lower than what we previously thought. It will have to be lower than now to generate inflation pressures.
The comparison of the US and EA unemployment rates is amazing as they follow the same post recession trend Continue reading

Soaring US deficit is a source of concern

When our grandchildren study economics one day, will they systematically have to add a dummy variable* to their econometric equations for the period covering the Trump administration? Will the US economy over this period have something of a “special status” due to Trump’s and Congress’ decisions? This question is worth raising in light of moves to cut taxes and raise spending, with the ensuing effects on the appalling US public deficit.

The state of public finances is the trickiest of questions. The sustainable rise in the public deficit seems to show that the economy is undergoing a severe recession, yet this is far from true as Janet Yellen took the economy to full employment (see analysis from Jason Furman). So economic stimulus moves from the White House and Congress raise very real questions on the rationale behind this policy. Governments do not embark on economic stimulus programs when the country is running on full employment, otherwise major long term imbalances are created, which are bad news for all concerned. Continue reading

The Fed increases its rate, but more to come

The Federal Reserve has increased its main interest rate by 25 basis points. The corridor for the fed fund’s rate is now [1.5 – 1.75%] versus [1.25 – 1.50%] since December 13, 2017. The dots graph which represents FOMC members’ expectations of the fed fund suggests that the US central bank will hike its rate 3 times in 2018 (already one is done), 3 times in 2019 but only twice in 2020. The rate’s profile contained in the dots graph is unchanged even if growth expectations are stronger according to these same FOMC members.
Continue reading

Italian Elections and US Protectionism: my Monday Column

This weekend’s Italian elections failed to provide an answer to address the risk of political instability that has characterized the country since the Second World War.
The vote saw a surge in populism that the pre-election polls had not fully taken on board. The Five Star Movement looks set to win 34% of votes and the League (formerly known as the Northern League) is poised to carry off 16%, while Silvio Berlusconi’s party should gain only 14% and Matteo Renzi’s Democratic party just 18%. This marks a huge decline for the traditional governing parties as compared to 2013.

Based on the outcome expected as counting continued today, a hung parliament looks likely. There is a small amount of proportional representation, so a 40% score would be enough to secure a majority.

This potential outcome raises a number of questions: Continue reading

Jay Powell, the US economy’s new leader

The stockmarkets took a real rollercoaster ride the week of February 5, with the Dow Jones plummeting more than 1,100 points in a single day’s trading on February 5, the most severe decline in its history in number of points, although only 4.6% in relative terms as compared to the 22.6% crash on October 19, 1987. The index shed a further 1,000 on February 8. US indices had put in spectacular rallies since the start of the year and their growth was not sustainable, so a change in trend was inevitable.

However, this market shift remains a clear sign from investors, and comes just as the Fed undergoes a change in leadership. Janet Yellen took her final bow on the evening of February 2 and Jerome Powell was sworn in on February 5. Market losses and the change in leadership at the Fed are connected: the US central bank is very powerful and the choices it makes over the months ahead will be crucial for both the US economy and market performances. Continue reading