Month: September 2015
There seems to be genuine uncertainty about what the Fed will do, or not do, this September.
At a superficial glance, the good news scenario is if the Fed’s decision doesn’t matter much for the markets. Woe unto you if your economy is so fragile that a quarter point or so in the short rate, mixed in with some cheap talk, were to matter so much.
So if at first prices were to stay steady, following any Fed decision, then equities should jump in price. That is the “no news is good news” theory, so to speak. It’s a better state of the world if it is common knowledge that the Fed’s actions don’t matter so much in a particular setting.
What if prices jump right away, following a Fed decision? The market might then see that price jumps rely on the Fed making good decisions, whatever those might be. The risk premium might then go up. It is even possible that prices should on net fall in response to that, but in any case it seems that some further price adjustment is in order, perhaps in the downward direction. (That ought to come rapidly.)
Most generally, it seems the initial price move, in response to the Fed’s choice, cannot itself be correct, but that first price move must itself induce further price movements. The price move in response to the Fed’s decision is the economy telling us how much it is relying on the Fed, which right now we do not know.
Maybe the Fed would like to know this too.
I’ve covered these ideas before a number of times, but now the Chinese slowdown is common knowledge, so let’s put them in one place:
1. You can’t invest 45-50 percent of your gdp very well forever. It’s amazing how long China’s run has been, but it is over. The quality of their marginal investments is now low and that means their growth rate will be much lower too. The low hanging fruit is gone, at least for the time being. They might later on resurrect some new low-hanging fruit through institutional reform, we’ll see if they end up stuck in the middle income trap but right now they are at a sharp discontinuity.
2. There is no simple way to switch to a “consumption-driven” economy without the growth rate both falling and staying permanently lower. Structural reforms are absolutely called for, but in this context they represent a surrender to a lower rate of growth and thus they are especially difficult to pull off in a politically sustainable manner.
3. The Chinese have been growing at ten percent or nearly ten percent for about thirty-five years. More than a generation of Chinese is used to treating the risk premium as if they don’t have to worry about it. I shudder to think what economic and also political decisions have been made on that basis.
4. The Chinese economic response to the dwindling of their low-hanging fruit is sharp rather than smooth because there is a sudden revision of expectations, as people realize the risk premium isn’t zero after all. And seeing the others see that causes the new set of beliefs to spread pretty quickly. That is a very painful process for a macroeconomy, and it is not well captured by simple AD-AS analysis, although of course it has implications for both AD and AS.
5. I would not so quickly infer that the Chinese government is stupid when it comes to economics. It is true their actions do not correspond to what professional economists would recommend. But they are painted into a very unpleasant corner and have lots of interest groups to feed. Their observed response is possibly explained by some kind of public choice-constrained, nested game, internal conflict-driven seventh-best response. They were smart a few years ago, and they are still smart now. That doesn’t mean they will end up doing a good job.
6. Avoid mood affiliation! You can be a pessimist about the Chinese recession now without being a) a pessimist about China in the longer run, or b) a pessimist about Chinese political stability. Those are separate albeit related questions, and you are not forced to have the same mood response to all of them.
Keep this primer on hand at all times. It is more useful than trying to twist the C + I + G tautology into a series of causal statements about China.
Her new The Silo Effect: The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers is a tour de force of economics, anthropology, Pierre Bourdieu, management theory, and anecdotes about Sony and Facebook and UBS and Cleveland Clinic.
It turns out Gillian wrote her doctoral thesis in anthropology on Islamic marriage practices in Tajikistan.
In Mississippi, 7.3% of all workers in the state are manufacturing workers who make less than $15 an hour. Losing many of these jobs would have a serious negative impact on the state.
Because of its sample size, the CPS is of more limited use for small geographies. However, there is a relatively large number of observations for Los Angeles County, CA. Almost 400,000 manufacturing workers live in the county, and 55% of them make less than $15 an hour. Many of these workers will be affected by $15 minimum wages that have been approved for the City of Los Angeles and the unincorporated parts of Los Angeles County.
This data suggest that if the minimum wage was increased to $15 an hour across the U.S., it would impact a significant number of manufacturing workers, with some states being hit harder than others. This reflects the fact that lifting the minimum wage to $15 an hour would not just be quantitatively larger than previous U.S. experience, but qualitatively different in that it would affect a different set of workers and industries. Leisure/hospitality and retail make up 54% of the workers who make less than $8 an hour, but only 34% of those making less than $15 an hour. As the minimum wage rises it affects other sectors. For manufacturing, at least, the effect is likely to be greater.
That is from Adam Ozimek, more at the link.
I will be doing a Conversations with Tyler with Luigi next Wednesday, eight days from now (do sign up!). He is a brilliant and multi-faceted economist, and an Italian — what should I ask him?
4. Scott Sumner dissents on reach for yield. I don’t think easier money will boost the American economy right now. So I think you just get a loanable funds effect and then possibly a reach for yield.
5. Peak things?
6. “The world’s longest yard sale runs for nearly 700 miles along a mostly vertical line connecting Alabama and Michigan, from the first Thursday in August through the first Sunday. It’s called the 127 Sale, since most of it takes place along US Route 127, but that road ends in Chattanooga.“
Ten thousand Icelanders have offered to welcome Syrian refugees into their homes, as part of a Facebook campaign launched by a prominent author after the government said it would take in only a handful.
After the Icelandic government announced last month that it would only accept 50 humanitarian refugees from Syria, Bryndis Bjorgvinsdottir encouraged fellow citizens to speak out in favour of those in need of asylum. In the space of 24 hours, 10,000 Icelanders – the country’s population is 300,000 – took to Facebook to offer up their homes and urge their government to do more.
The full story is here. And here is one such message:
“I’m a single mother with a 6-year-old son… We can take a child in need. I’m a teacher and would teach the child to speak, read and write Icelandic and adjust to Icelandic society. We have clothes, a bed, toys and everything a child needs. I would of course pay for the airplane ticket,” wrote Hekla Stefansdottir in a post.
In 2012, 5.9 million unauthorized immigrants from Mexico lived in the U.S., down about 1 million from 2007. Despite the drop, Mexicans still make up a slight majority (52% in 2012) of unauthorized immigrants. At the same time, unauthorized immigration overall has leveled off in recent years. As a result, net migration from Mexico likely reached zero in 2010, and since then more Mexicans have left the U.S. than have arrived.
The likes of Zambia, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Kenya, Ghana, Senegal, and Ivory Coast have all issued foreign currency dominated sovereign bonds in recent years.
Ghana is one African nation with a history of debt crises (pdf), and also dating back to the 1980s (pdf). Tanzania was another offender, both current and past (pdf), and for a while a lot of lending to Africa dried up and that limited the number of possible debt crises. But now…?
Today, a third of African countries have debt to GDP ratios in excess of 40 percent. The outstanding sovereign debt for Africa as a whole increased 2.6 times between 2009Q2 and 2015Q2. In contrast, total debt in developing countries rose 2.3 times over the same period. The appreciation of the dollar has raised the nominal currency values of dollar denominated debts. Thus Africa’s outstanding bond debt is already 29 percent higher today in real terms than it would have been had the dollar remained at its March 2011 level…
Here is Andrew England at the FT:
A recent note by Fathom Consulting highlighted a 40 per cent year-on-year dip in Chinese imports from Africa for July. Martyn Davies, chief executive of Frontier Advisory, a group that specialises in Africa-China investment, says there is anecdotal evidence of an easing in Chinese activity on the continent. “The hurdle rates of Chinese sovereign wealth investment, or part sovereign wealth fund invested projects in Africa have been raised so the capital is more discerning and seeks greater profitability,” he says.