First, I need to clear the air on an issue that is cited over and over, of which causes me great discomfort. In last Thursday’s Financial Times, Robert Pollin and Michael Ash, the two professors who sponsored graduate student Thomas Herndon of UMass-Amherst–and of recent fame for finding the flaws in Rogoff/Reinhart–published the article heard round the world: “Why Reinhart and Rogoff are wrong about austerity.” I am not disputing the results of their work but I am questioning a causal relationship that they note:
Posts Tagged ‘GDP’
Tonight’s BLOG headline is attributable to my friend KM after a long conversation about the IMF and G-20 meetings that took place in Washington during the past four days. It appears that Japanese monetary policy was not the subject of derision but rather applauded as a strong measure to lift Japan’s domestic economy out of two decades of malaise. Let me be as clear as possible: There is a full frontal assault being waged on the German model of GROWTH THROUGH AUSTERITY. The first shot fired was several months ago when IMF economist Olivier Blanchard delivered a paper stating that the previous belief that the negative impact on GDP from austerity was not a multiplier effect of 0.5% but rather a greater measure of 0.9-1.5% in its impact so a decease in fiscal spending would create a much greater slowdown than previously thought. The battle was waged in the efforts to limit the sequestration in the U.S. even as IMF Managing Director Lagarde cautioned that U.S. tightening is “too much, too fast and it’s in the wrong place. It’s not right for the U.S. economy and it’s not right for the world.”
It appears that the world is awash with Schadenfreude as analysts and pundits are experiencing great satisfaction and joy in the misery of others. Today the European automakers released sales data for March and the numbers were much weaker than the markets had expected. Registrations fell 10 percent and German auto sales dropped 17 percent. It appears that European auto sales in the passenger market are expected to hit 1993 levels. Ford and Peugeot also saw double-digit falls in sales. The euro rally against the YEN is dramatically biting into German car sales and the proof is in the fact that Japanese auto production has increased, and Toyota, Honda and Nissan stock prices have performed very well during the last six months.
What ailed the markets yesterday seems to have moved to the back pages and the equity markets recovered most of their losses. Gold and silver staged very tepid rallies considering the massive selling that took place during the past week. The global equity markets are still comfortable with central bank policy and even a terrorist attack on U.S. soil cannot shake of confidence of investors seeing high profits, low inflation and no alternative to the returns on equity. It is an old theme but when a market continues to discount unfavorable data and news the power of momentum is in full bloom.
Two events roiled the currency market this morning. First, the GDP numbers out of many European economies were weaker than expected. The softness of European economic activity has stirred the complacency of recent buyers of EUROs and caused some unwinding of the EUR/YEN and EUR/GBP cross rates. The second event that unnerved recent buyers of EUROs was a comment by the ECB Governor from Portugal, Vitor Constancio. It was reported that Mr. Constancio said in response to recent Euro strength that “… negative rates always possible.”
Notes From Underground: Not Quite Groundhog Day, But It’s Time for the Unemployment Report to See Its ShadowJanuary 31, 2013
Will it be another mediocre report or will the economy show signs of life after the “fiscal cliff” issue was pushed down the halls of Congress? The robustness of the equity markets would certainly make one presume the jobs data “ought” to be better, but my readers are well aware that its ultra low interest rates that put the continued bid to global stocks. In fact, low wage growth and low interest rates have been a dynamic duo for corporate profits as high unemployment continues to keep downward pressure on wages and, of course, corporations are borrowing massive amounts of money through bond offerings and bypassing the need for bank financing. The recent GDP release showed that wages and bonuses had a large increase in the fourth quarter but that was due to businesses bringing dividends and bonuses forward to 2012 so as to beat the tax increases in the new year.
The FED‘s statement today showed no surprises and the vote even was the same as Kansas Fed President Esther George voted NO in opposition to further monetary accommodation by the monetary authorities. James Bullard of the St.Louis Fed voted with the severe majority as did Chicago Fed President Charles Evans. The Bullard vote did not surprise as he has shown a pragmatic edge over the last several years but the consensus vote by Charles Evans was surprising. President Evans has been the most vocal proponent of increased Fed action over the last year when he was a non-voting FOMC member. Today’s negative number on the GDP should have provided Mr. Evans with a perfect excuse to push for a larger FED asset purchase program. At least Ms. George votes in a consistent manner with her rhetoric. The FOMC release opened with this phrase”… suggest that growth in economic activity paused in recent months, in large part because of weather-related disruptions and other transitory factors.” Again, as in years past, it is a spate of bad luck that has caused last quarters slowdown. Before it was the Tsunami in Japan which Bernanke termed “bad luck.”
In the most significant news over the weekend, the Basel Committee announced that it was backing off from the implementation of the 2015 enhanced capital requirements for banks. Under the original Basel III requirements, global banks were going to have to have enough LIQUID ASSETS to be able to sustain a possible financial crisis of 30 days. The ability to sell assets to meet a possible run meant that banks would be forced to hold a larger amount of high quality, easily sellable assets. European banks have been clamoring for relief from the new capital rules for fear that the new standards would create less bank lending as banks rushed to shore up their balance sheets. U.S. banks were supporting the lobbying efforts by the European banks and thus the Basel Committee showed forbearance and lessened the possible impact by extending full compliance with the new regs out until 2019.
The fiscal crisis came and went and yet the Potemkin village remains. So much was made about the looming fiscal calamity and its dire consequences that the probabilities of a compromise were overwhelming. Not only did fiscal sanity fail to show, the final package was beyond my comprehension. As the nation’s focus was supposedly on Congress, these purveyors of fiscal rectitude passed a BILL that was laden with pork. NASCAR, Hollywood, alternative energy et. al. were the recipients of CONGRESSIONAL LARGESSE IN THE TIME OF FISCAL AUSTERITY. There is no shame in the payment of political favors even in the full view of the MIDDLE CLASS.
***The Canadian situation became more muddled today with the release of its GDP. BOC Governor Mark Carney and FM Flaherty would love to raise rates in an effort to halt the rise of private debt, but today’s GDP showed a 0.1% decline in growth for the month. It is a real dilemma as the strong Canadian dollar is impacting some sectors of the economy and thus a rate increase to stem credit growth will have a strengthening impact. The GDP release blamed the slowing global economy for the downturn but it has not impacted domestic credit growth because of ultra-low rates. How will the Canadians solve this dilemma as it wants to slow the housing sector to help forestall private loans? This conundrum will test Carney’s position as a leading central banker. Let’s watch to see if it is possible to head off asset appreciation without causing system wide economic pain. Greenspan and Bernanke claim it is not possible. Governor Carney, here’s your chance to help set central banking on a better course.