This post is available in pdf format Federal Reserve – My monday Column
The Federal Reserve meets on September 25 and 26, and a 25bps hike to the fed funds rate is expected, putting the effective rate in a range of between 2% and 2.25%, with another hike expected in December. The Fed now seems to agree on these four monetary tightening moves for 2018, so the next big question is 2019. During the latest update of economic and financial projections from the members of the Federal Open Markets Committee (FOMC) in June, three interest rate hikes were expected in 2019. How can we get a clearer idea of what’s to come?
Four interest rates are now confirmed by the Fed. I had mentioned this scenario at the start of the year due to the White House’s implementation of expansionary fiscal policy and I have not changed my mind: the hike to the fed funds rate is just a way to iron out the imbalances caused by this policy that seeks to fuel domestic demand.
This domestic momentum reflects the impact of two factors: the first is the direct effect of tax cuts and rising public spending, and we can see the positive effects of this twofold approach for demand; the other component is trade policy that aims to use domestic production to replace imports, thereby sharply driving up demand for companies’ goods and services.
So the White House has adopted a two-pronged approach: on the one hand it bolsters domestic demand and the other it directs this additional demand towards US companies rather than imports.
This internal momentum will have at least two direct consequences: the first is the risk of inflation because demand is strong and because of higher import duties. Continue reading
A pdf version of this post is available Ten Years on – my Monday Column
On September 15, 2008, the collapse of Lehman brothers set off a shockwave that rippled out right across the world economy. What can we make of this watershed moment 10 years down the line?
The extent and duration of the shock that hit the world economy are still impressive even 10 years later. Some observers had anticipated the property market’s role in triggering the upheaval, but no-one had envisaged the intensity of the shock or how long it would last.
Between the end of Spring 2007 and Fall 2008, the financial system crumbled astoundingly quickly and astonishingly easily, to an extent that remains unbelievable still to this day. The collapse of Lehman Brothers was the culmination point, coming in the wake of other investment banks’ demise – although these previous casualties had been rescued and taken over by other financial institutions – and its bankruptcy was accepted without taking the full measure of the consequences. It was a step into the unknown, and enough to strike fear into the heart of any economist at the time. Risks quickly emerged as insurer AIG was saved just a few weeks later: Lehman marked the final stage in the breakdown process, as the realization dawned that history was on the brink of a new era. Continue reading
This post is available in pdf format My weekly Column – Italy Standpoint – PW
What were last week’s major changes?
The main change was in Italy with a strong and rapid drop in the interest spread with Germany.
Since the new coalition government came to office, fears have emerged on exactly how the campaign-trail program would translate into the forthcoming budget – an answer to this question is expected on September 27.
The government’s stance so far has been to be fairly relaxed, especially on the 3% threshold (of budget deficit as % of GDP), which explains why the yield spread with Germany widened considerably over recent weeks.
This was a source of concern as the Italian economy would soon have run up against financing difficulties due to the reluctance of non-resident investors – who hold around 35% of the country’s debt – to revisit the Italian market after withdrawing their investment in the country all summer. Italians cannot and do not want to leave the euro area, so additional pressure on liquidity and interest rates could have hampered funding for Europe as a whole.
However, the economic situation is swiftly changing in Italy, as economic activity slowed sharply over the summer months, Continue reading
The whole document is available in pdf format September round-up of the summer_s events
Let’s start with the global outlook – are signs on the world economy still as robust as they were?
The situation has changed since the start of this year. The world economy was fuelled by faster world trade growth in 2017, but this is no longer the case. Trade momentum has slowed since the start of 2018 and no longer looks able to drive the same impetus across the economy as a whole.
Business surveys worldwide point to a slowdown in export orders, reflecting more sluggish momentum worldwide.
Why did we see an acceleration in 2017?
Central banks loosened monetary policy in 2016, at a time when inflation was low in most countries, bar a few exceptions such as Russia and Brazil. The Federal Reserve raised its leading rates at a very slow pace and steered its communication to ensure that investors were not spooked, especially in emerging economies.
More accommodative monetary policies kindled domestic demand in each country, spurring on economic activity and trade, and triggering broad-based momentum that was beneficial for all concerned and set the world economy on a virtuous trend.
What has changed since then?
“The biggest policy mistake of the last decade” is the title of an article by Ryan Cooper, and the mistake is of course austerity. (It is a very US focused piece, so Brexit is not on the map.) Cooper goes through all the academics who gave reasons why austerity was necessary and how their analysis later fell to bits. (How much they fell to bits is still a matter of dispute as far as these authors are concerned.)
Here is his concluding paragraph:
“As we have seen, the evidence for the Keynesian position is overwhelming. And that means the decade of pointless austerity has severely harmed the American economy — leaving us perhaps $3 trillion below the previous growth trend. Through a combination of bad faith, motivated reasoning, and sheer incompetence, austerians have directly created the problem their entire program was supposed to avoid. Good riddance.”
To read this article by Simon Wren-Lewis click on the link
In a recent opinion piece, the German foreign minister Heiko Maas discussed how Europe needs to reassess its partnership with the United States, stating that the two areas have been drifting apart, requiring them to reshape their relationship in light of recent changes, and calling for an assertion of Europe’s autonomy in diplomatic, military and financial terms.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel disputed this point of view, refuting this notion of drifting apart, which she believes would damage the very long-standing relationship between Germany and the US, which acted as the foundations for North Atlantic relations. It would also require greater political integration within Europe, which is not the direction Germany wants to take, opting instead for a sort of federal approach without a federal government, but with strict rules for each State. This sits in contrast with French president Emmanuel Macron’s aim and the idea of a substantial European budget to influence the pace of European construction.
Heiko Maas also raised the issue of dependence on the dollar Continue reading