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Thursday, May 16, 2019

Links (5/16/19)

  • There’s a revealing puzzle in the China tariffs - Larry Summers On Monday, China announced new tariffs on $60 billion of U.S. exports, and the United States threatened new tariffs on up to $300 billion of Chinese goods. These actions were cited as the principle reason for a decline of more than 600 points in the Dow Jones industrial average, or about 2.4 percent in broader measures of the stock market. With the total value of U.S. stocks around $30 trillion, this decline represents more than $700 billion in lost wealth. This was not an isolated event. Again and again in the past year, markets have gyrated in response to the state of trade negotiations between the United States and China. The market sensitivity to threats and counter-threats in the trade war is quite remarkable. Monday’s announcement by the Chinese, for example, would be expected to raise China’s tariffs by about $10 billion. Much of this will show up as higher prices for Chinese importers, and some of it will be avoided by diverting exports of goods such as liquid natural gas to other markets, so the impact on U.S. corporate profits will be far less than $10 billion. Meanwhile, U.S. tariffs are likely to raise corporate profits as higher import costs push some business to domestic producers. There is the further consideration that reasonable market participants should not have entirely discounted the possibility of tariff increases Monday and that there surely remains some chance a trade deal will be reached. So, in fact, the market should not even have moved in full proportion to the change in corporate profitability associated with new tariffs. There is a revealing puzzle here.
  • Europe and the class cleavage - Thomas Piketty Three years after the referendum on Brexit and on the eve of the new European elections, the scepticism about Europe is still as strong, particularly amongst the most disadvantaged sections of society. The problem is deep and long-standing. In all the referendums for the last 25 years the working classes have systematically expressed their disagreement with the Europe presented to them, whereas the richest and the most privileged classes supported it. During the French referendum on the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992, we observed that 60% of the voters with the lowest incomes, personal wealth or qualifications voted against, whereas the 40% of the electorate with higher incomes voted in favour; the gap was big enough for the yes vote to win with a small majority (51%). The same thing happened with the Constitutional Treaty in 2005, except that this time only the top 20% were in favour of the yes vote, whereas the lower 80% preferred to vote no, whence a clear victory for the latter (55%). Likewise for the referendum on Brexit in the UK in 2016: this time it was the top 30% who voted enthusiastically to remain in the EU. But, as the bottom 70% preferred to leave, the leave vote won with 52% of the votes. What is the explanation?
  • The Increasing Benefits and Diminished Costs of Running a High-Pressure Labor Market - Bernstein and Bentele Since at least the days of Arthur Okun’s work on the “upgrading of workers into more productive jobs in a higher-pressure economy,” economists have recognized the benefits of tight labor markets, both to the macroeconomy and to disadvantaged groups.[2] Much literature, briefly reviewed below, shows persistent, low unemployment associated with nominal and real wage gains, most notably to lower- and middle-wage workers. Other work shows that groups with higher than average jobless rates, such as African Americans, benefit disproportionately from lower overall unemployment, and evidence presented in this paper shows these gains to be economically significant when looking at the impact of high-pressure labor markets not just on real earnings, but on labor supply as well. From the perspective of the Federal Reserve, however, these outsized gains can come at the cost of inflationary pressures. In theory, such risks are heightened when the Fed allows the jobless rate to remain below estimates of the natural rate. But what if, as much analysis has shown, the correlation between inflation and labor market slack is diminished? Should the combination of the flatter Phillips Curve (PC) and the benefits of high-pressure labor markets — benefits that are particularly important in periods of high inequality and weak worker bargaining power — change the Fed’s weighting of the two sides of the tradeoff? Our case thus begins by highlighting the structural decline in the slope of the Phillips Price Curve (PC) and the persistence of well-anchored inflationary expectations. This flattening introduces an asymmetry into the classic tradeoff: the inflationary costs of running a high-pressure labor market have come down relative to the labor market benefits. This asymmetry is partly a function of the weaker correlation between economic conditions and changes in inflation. But it is also a function of the equalizing nature of the benefits of maintaining full employment. At the core of our argument is the idea that changing inflation dynamics, in tandem with higher wage, income, and wealth inequality, should create an asymmetry in the Fed’s reaction function ...
  • The Risk of Returning to the Zero Lower Bound - FRBSF Following the global financial crisis, U.S. monetary policy was constrained by the zero lower bound for short-term interest rates for many years. It has since lifted off and rates have gradually climbed. However, in light of the continuing economic expansion, it is relevant to ask how likely it is for the lower bound on interest rates to again become a constraint on monetary policy. Analysis using several different approaches suggests that there currently appears to be a low risk of the economy returning to the zero lower bound for at least the next several years.
  • Does the Federal Reserve Talk Too Much? - Tim Taylor For a long time, the Federal Reserve (and other central banks) carried out monetary policy with little or no explanation. The idea was that the market would figure it out. But in the last few decades, there has been an explosions of communication and transparency from the Fed (and other central banks), consisting both of official statements and an array of public speeches and articles by central bank officials. On one side, a greater awareness has grown up that economic activity isn't just influenced by what the central bank did in the past, but on what it is expected to do in the future. But does the this "open mouth" approach clarify and strengthening monetary policy, or just muddle it?
  • The Disconnect between Inflation and Employment in the New Normal - Lael Brainard It is a pleasure to be here at the National Tax Association Annual Spring Symposium. Just as it may take the tax experts and practitioners here today some time to disentangle the longer-term implications of recent major changes to tax policy, so, too, we are in the process of analyzing the lessons for monetary policy of apparent post-crisis changes in the relationships among employment, inflation, and interest rates.1 The Congress has assigned the Federal Reserve the job of using monetary policy to achieve maximum employment and price stability. Price stability means moderate and stable inflation, which the Federal Reserve has defined to be 2 percent inflation. Maximum employment is understood as the highest level of employment consistent with price stability. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, which had deep and persistent effects, it is important to understand whether there have been long-lasting changes in the relationships among employment, inflation, and interest rates in order to ensure our policy framework remains effective.
  • Nature versus nurture in economic outcomes and behaviours - VoxEU The wealth of parents and that of their children is highly correlated, but little is known about the different roles genetic and environmental factors play in this. This column compares outcomes for adopted children in Sweden and those of their adoptive and biological parents and finds there is a substantial role for environment in the transmission of wealth and a much smaller role for pre-birth factors. And while human capital linkages between parents and children appear to have stronger biological than environmental roots, earnings and income are, if anything, more environmental.
  • Did Changes in Economic Expectations Foreshadow Swings in the 2018 Elections? - Liberty Street Economics In the months leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, were economic expectations in congressional districts about to elect a Republican similar to those in districts about to elect a Democrat? How did economic expectations evolve in districts where the party holding the House seat would switch? After examining the persistence of polarization in expectations using voting patterns from the presidential election in our previous post, we explore here how divergence in expectations may have foreshadowed the results of the midterm elections. Using the Survey of Consumer Expectations, we show that economic expectations deteriorated between 2016 and 2018 in districts that switched from Republican to Democratic control compared to districts that remained Republican.
  • America’s Illusions of Growth - Jeffrey D. Sachs Many commentators have interpreted buoyant GDP and unemployment data in the United States as vindicating President Donald Trump’s economic policies, and some suggest that his re-election chances have improved as a result. But these indicators fail to measure what really counts for the public.
  • Why We Need New Measures of Potential Output—and What They Tell Us - Institute for New Economic Thinking Potential output, generally understood as the highest level of output that may be attained without putting inflationary pressures upon the economy, is a crucial notion in the current design and management of macroeconomic policies. Empirical measures of this notion and of the distance between it and actual output—the so-called output gap—play a fundamental role in determining the expansionary or contractionary stance of both monetary and fiscal policy, and the margins for their use. Mainstream economic theory sees potential output as determined exclusively by supply forces (essentially, resources and productivity), leaving to aggregate demand only the role of causing temporary deviations from it—precisely, the output gaps. When the economy is believed to be already operating at potential or slightly above, any increase in demand is regarded as dangerous for its dreaded inflationary consequences, and restrictive measures—such as the central bank raising interest rates—are taken.
  • When American Capitalism Meant Equality - ProMarket Americans used to have a relatively egalitarian view of markets. How did they come to accept extreme inequality as an innate part of their economic system? At the heart of this change is a radical shift in the meaning of American capitalism itself.
  • Fed Appointments - IGM Forum Selecting candidates for membership of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) based primarily on their political views would lead to worse monetary policy outcomes than has been the case over the last 15 years. Agree or disagree?

    Posted by on Thursday, May 16, 2019 at 02:13 PM in Economics, Links | Permalink  Comments (358)


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