Trump and the Federal Reserve

Donald Trump hit out again recently at the Federal Reserve for its monetary policy management, taking it to task for hiking interest rates, which he claims would hamper US growth. But this is something of a bold statement given the White House’s fiscal policy.
The chart below depicts US unemployment and the government balance as a percentage of GDP, revealing that the two indicators have trended in a similar way over almost 60 years, each reflecting the US cycle. When economic activity is robust, jobless numbers decrease, while at the same time, tax income increases and spending to support the economy is lower, thereby improving the budget balance. This twofold trend has always worked well, even when Ronald Reagan embarked on economic stimulus at the start of the 1980s. Meanwhile, the budget surplus at the end of the 1990s is also an illustration of this trend, with Bill Clinton’s – fairly smart – moves to implement austerity policies to gain leeway in the event of a downturn in the cycle.

But the current period marks an exception. The cycle is robust, as reflected by the drop in unemployment to 3.7% in September 2018, hitting its lowest since 1969, yet the government balance is not improving, but rather it is deteriorating under the influence of Donald Trump’s policies. The public deficit stands at close to 5%, yet it should have fallen significantly on the back of the economic cycle. The government is driving economic stimulus at a time when the economy is running on full employment.

So it is reasonable for the Fed to take action to counter these excesses and avoid the emergence of persistent imbalances. We cannot rule out the possibility that fiscal policy will bolster domestic demand, triggering a significant surge in inflation and a larger external imbalance despite the White House’s protectionist measures (demand is rising sharply – due to tax cuts and increased spending – and supply does not have time to adjust, which leads to a swell in imports).

The Fed, as embodied by Chair Jay Powell, has clearly indicated that this policy is not sustainable in the medium term and that it must be offset, which is why the Fed is hiking interest ratesand it is right to do so – thereby setting the US economy on a more sustainable path for the medium term.

However, the risk lies in the event of a severe negative economic shock, as there would be no leeway for fiscal policy to adjust, and there would be no scope for raising the budget deficit or implementing a stimulus plan like Obama did in 2009, as the budget deficit is already extensive before a potential shock: the US economy would therefore be hampered over the long term. Trump’s policies will only help the better-off in society, who benefit from lower taxes, while the cost of this policy is spread out across the population via the ensuing increase in the public deficit. And this approach will create even more inequality in the longer term as some Republicans are alarmed at the extent of public debt and are arguing for a reduction in social spending to make this debt sustainable in the medium term. For now, America seems to have lost sight of the meaning of the words equality and fairness.unemploymentand budgetdeficitUS

Microeconomic impact of the White House’s trade measures

Nails, lobsters, peanut butter or bourbon all these products are suffering from the trade measures taken by the White House. The disruptions they imply are just anecdotal now but this will change progressively as these measures will persist. From microeconomic at the beginning, the impact will become macroeconomic and at the expenses of all.

Read more here

nyti.ms/2Ij6zI4

US sanctions to be restrictive for European companies

Donald Trump’s announced sanctions on Iran are proving to be quite a headache for European companies that had re-expanded their business in the market since the July 2015 agreement.

It is vital here to draw a distinction between a potential political nuclear agreement between Iran and the other signatories of the previous 2015 accord (apart from the US) on the one hand and the issue of economic sanctions on the other, which would severely hamper Iran’s economic growth as foreign companies working with the country would be subject to hefty penalties from the US. Before 2015 we witnessed the extent of such penalties on banks that had tried to evade sanctions, and a number of banks had actually continued to steer clear of Iran, even after the 2015 agreement as they were not convinced it would last. In this respect, the timing of the ZTE affair is perfect. The Chinese company operating in the telecoms sector and specializing in 5G technology is highly dependent on US components to pursue its growth. After pleading guilty of shipping US components to Iran and North Korea in 2016, it is now facing legal action for failing to comply with measures it was supposed to take against managers involved in the affair. Continue reading

Oil above $75/bbl for long

Oil price trends have shifted since the start of April, with figures set on a range of $70–75, compared with a previous figure of around $67 on average, i.e. higher than figures seen since late 2014. This reflected the impact of demand driven by world growth.

The chart below shows that trend altered after April 6, when the White House implemented sanctions against Russia, with subsequent threats on Iran merely serving to amplify this trend. This morning after Donald Trump’s decision on Iran it is above 75 as shown on the graph. Continue reading

Economists are rebelling on economic protectionism

US economists are mobilizing against Donald Trump’s protectionist measures. The interdependence of developed and emerging countries, but also the dependence on global trade are today too important to take the risk of changing the rules abruptly. In view of the on cooperative political climate, we can not rule out retaliation and escalation that would be very detrimental to growth, employment and standard of living. The experiences of the past must necessarily help us to think.

“Over a thousand economists have written to Donald Trump warning his “economic protectionism” and tough rhetoric on trade threatens to repeat the mistakes the US made in the 1930s, mistakes that plunged the world into the Great Depression.

The 1,140 economists, including 14 Nobel prize winners, sent the letter on Thursday amid an escalating row over trade between the US and the European Union. Trump has imposed tariffs on steel and aluminium imports but has granted temporary reprieves to the EU, Australia and other countries.

“In 1930, 1,028 economists urged Congress to reject the protectionist Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act,” the authors write, citing a trade act that many economists argue was one of the triggers for the Great Depression….”

Continue reading here in the Guardian