“Unintended Consequences is far smarter and more thought-provoking than most economics written for the general public” - Greg Mankiw, Harvard University, Former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors
Over the past 12 months, only 20% of American workers have experienced real hourly earnings growth. Outside the leisure and hospitality, information and transportation, and warehousing sectors, wage gains fell short of 5.9% PCE price index inflation. @KarenDynan
Because of high inflation, most workers are experiencing declines in their real wages. Wages are growing most rapidly in the leisure and hospitality, information, and transportation and warehousing sectors, where gains over the past 12 months have been between 6.5 and 9% (figure 6). The wage gains for these industries—representing about 20% of employment—are above the 12-month change in consumer prices. In other sectors, wage increases have fallen short of consumer price increases (except for construction and utilities, where average wage growth has roughly kept up with inflation).
In a step away from Covid-zero, China will now allow Covid patients with mild or no symptoms to isolate at home instead of being shipped to state-run quarantine facilities. @wsj
China dropped many of its quarantine and testing requirements and curtailed the power of local officials to shut down entire city blocks as the country’s leaders accelerate plans to dismantle zero-Covid controls in the wake of nationwide protests. Though widely predicted, Beijing’s retreat from its costly and increasingly unpopular pandemic regime has been faster than expected. The wide-ranging new measures will allow Covid patients with mild or no symptoms and their close contacts to isolate at home instead of being shipped to government quarantine facilities.
.@fuxianyi at @ProSyn argues that political transformations tend to occur during a “youth boom” when the share of the population aged 15-29 exceeds 28%. The proportion of youth aged 15-29 in China stood at just 17% last year, and the median age was 42.
A country can be said to be having a “youth boom” when the proportion of people aged 15-29 exceeds 28%. When a country is experiencing a youth boom, it may also find itself on the path to political change – including, potentially, democratization. That was the case in Taiwan and South Korea. As the share of young people increased – from 25% in each country in 1966 to a peak of 31% in the early 1980s – so did economic growth and pro-democratic fervor. Both economies became democracies in 1987 when their populations’ median age was 26. In April 1989 – when the proportion of youth was at its peak of 31%, and the median age was 25 – student-led demonstrators occupied Tiananmen Square in Beijing. It took a bloody crackdown that June to crush the movement. The proportion of youth aged 15-29 in China stood at just 17% last year when the median age was 42.
In a survey of 1,200 millennials aged 26-41, one in four are currently living with their parent, and half of these moved in with family within the past year. @bloomberg
About one in four millennials are living with their parents, according to the survey of 1,200 people by Pollfish for the website PropertyManagement.com. That’s equivalent to about 18 million people between the ages of 26 and 41. More than half said they moved back in with family in the past year. Among the latter group, the surge in rental costs was the main reason given for the move. About 15% of millennial renters say that they’re spending more than half their after-tax income on rent. In September of 2020, a survey by Pew found that for the first time since the Great Depression, a majority of Americans aged between 18 and 29 were living with their parents.
.@GoldmanSachs forecasts that by 2075 both India and China will have slightly larger GDP than the US, but US real per capita GDP will rise from $69k in 2021 to $132k, vs. 2075 forecasts of $55k for China and $31k for India.
Exhibit 17 sets out our 2075 GDP level projections, broken down by population and GDP per capita levels. Two points are notable: First, there is a large gap between the largest three economies (China, India, and then the US) and all other economies (although the Euro area represents a fourth economic superpower, if it is treated as a single economy). Second, while China and India are projected to be larger than the US by 2075, our projections imply that the US will remain more than twice as rich as both (and five times as rich as countries such as Nigeria and Pakistan).
.@M_C_Klein updates his Russian imports series, and finds that Russian imports have stabilized at 76% of pre-war levels, up 56% from the March-May 2022 monthly average. Imports with potential military uses are about 1/3 of the pre-war average.
The average monthly value of exports to Russia in August-October was 24% below the average monthly value before the invasion and 56% higher than the March-May 2022 monthly average. Overall exports of manufactured goods with potential military applications have been largely unchanged. Chinese and Turkish exports of machinery, electronics, and other goods with potential military uses have soared since June, with the total in October about a third below the pre-war average.
Change in their relative earnings accounted for 44% of the growth in labor force exits among non-college men between 1980-2019, suggesting a decline in social status is a likely factor driving the decline in prime-age labor force participation. @BostonFed
This paper investigates whether prime-age non-college men are more inclined to leave the labor force when their expected earnings fall relative to the earnings of other workers in their labor market. The empirical model takes into account that a job not only provides economic security but also affirms a worker’s social status, which is tied to their position relative to their age range peers. According to [a regression analysis] estimate, a 10% growth in expected earnings has an associated 0.12 percentage point decrease in the exit rate. Contrarily, a 10% growth in reference earnings has an associated 0.13 percentage point increase in the exit rate, fully discounting the earnings effect. These coefficients offer suggestive evidence that non-college men’s labor market exit behavior is tied to the relative values of their earnings. Over the course of the study period, non-college men’s relative earnings declined 30% on average. Based on the estimates, this decline in relative earnings had an associated 49 percentage point increase in the exit rate, accounting for 44% of the total growth in the exit rate among non-college men over this period. In contrast, changes in real earnings alone account for only 18% of the total growth in exit rate.
Technology newsletter publisher @benthompson tested @OpenAI’s ChatGPT on his daughter’s homework assignment about Thomas Hobbes and received “a confident answer, complete with supporting evidence, and it is completely wrong.”
My daughter asked for help in her role as Thomas Hobbes, witness for the defense in “The Trial of Napoleon” for her European history class. I put the question to ChatGPT, which had just been announced by OpenAI a few hours earlier. [The service returned] a confident answer, complete with supporting evidence and a citation to Hobbes work, and it is completely wrong. Hobbes was a proponent of absolutism; checks and balances was the argument put forth by Hobbes’ younger contemporary, John Locke. Hobbes and Locke are almost always mentioned together, so Locke’s articulation of the importance of the separation of powers is likely adjacent to mentions of Hobbes and Leviathan in the homework assignments you can find scattered across the Internet.
M2 has declined 1.5% since peaking at a record $21.7T in March, but Yardeni Research estimates that November M2 remains at least $2T above its pre-pandemic trendline. @johnauthers @bloomberg
How much money is still sitting ready to spend in consumers’ bank accounts? As Yardeni Research points out, some economists are worried about M2’s decline. It has fallen 1.5% since peaking at a record high of $21.7 trillion in March. Although that followed a record peak, such a drop is unprecedented. Still, the firm’s founder, Ed Yardeni, thinks that supply remains at least $2 trillion above its pre-pandemic trendline. The year-over-year change in M2, in fact, has been moving in near lockstep with the 12-month sum of the personal saving rate; money supply has stopped rising as Americans have stopped accumulating new savings. Thus, for Yardeni, the recent weakness reflects the excess liquidity accumulated by US consumers since the start of the pandemic.
Michael Cembalest at JP Morgan notes that its basket of farm equipment, office cleaning supplies, and industrial REITs is now outpacing “innovation” stocks. @jpmorgan
During the stimulus bonanza, digital assets were priced at an unrealistic premium relative to physical ones. Monetary and fiscal policy are normalizing now after the longest period of negative real interest rates since 1820 and the largest fiscal deficits since 1800 (other than during WWI and WWII), so Cembalist is not surprised to see a basket of farm equipment, office cleaning supplies and industrial REITs finally outperforming “innovation” stocks.
TSMC is expanding its investment in Arizona, building a plant that will manufacture 3- nanometers chips which are the most advanced currently under production. @NikkeiAsia
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. says it will more than triple its investment in the US to $40 billion and bring the world’s most advanced chip production technology to the country by 2026, in a victory for Washington’s push to onshore vital parts of the semiconductor supply chain. TSMC, the world’s biggest contract chipmaker, announced on Tuesday it will increase its investment in Arizona, where it is currently building a $12 billion chip facility, to $40 billion in order to build a second, even more, advanced plant there. The additional facility will begin operation by 2026 and will be the first plant in the US to make 3-nanometer chips, the most advanced currently available.
Japan is on pace to increase defense spending by 57% over the next five years to near the levels spent by Russia. This would raise defense spending to 2% of GDP, the NATO target. @bloomberg
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has ordered a sharp defense spending hike that could see his long-pacifist country’s defense budget balloon to near the levels spent by Russia. Kishida instructed ministers to put together a budget of about 43 trillion yen ($315 billion) for the five-year period starting in April, Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said Monday. That’s up 57% on the 27 trillion yen initially budgeted for the current five-year period. The money is set to be used for items such as stockpiling missiles that are capable of striking military assets in neighbors Russia, China, and North Korea. Another goal over the next 10 years would be to triple the number of military units equipped with ballistic missile interceptors in a southwestern island chain that stretches toward Taiwan.
The US has proposed selling as many as 100 of its most advanced Patriot air-defense missiles to Taiwan in a deal valued at $882M @bloomberg
The US has proposed selling Taiwan as many as 100 of its most advanced Patriot air-defense missiles along with radar and support equipment in a deal valued at $882 million, according to a State Department notice obtained by Bloomberg News. The new proposal calls for as many as 100 of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s hit-to-kill Patriot Pac-3 “Missile Segment Enhancement” missiles that are more advanced than earlier Patriots sent to Taiwan. The proposal also calls for M903 Launcher modification kits, missile round trainers, and software upgrades to accommodate the new missiles.
The @NewYorkFed Global Supply Chain Pressure Index increased slightly in November to 1.1 from 1.0 in October, driven by Chinese delivery times. The index remains far below its peak of 4.3 in December 2021.
Global supply chain pressures increased moderately in November, continuing a trend seen in October, albeit at a lower rate. The largest contributing factor to the rise in supply chain pressures was Chinese delivery times, though improvements were shown in US delivery times and Taiwanese purchases. The GSCPI’s recent movements suggest that developments in Asia are slowing down the return of the index back to historical levels.
ChatGPT by @OpenAI release to the public strikes @kevinroose as an important milestone, the first easily accessed AI tool. @nytimes
ChatGPT is, quite simply, the best artificial intelligence chatbot ever released to the general public. It was built by OpenAI, the San Francisco A.I. company that is also responsible for tools like GPT-3 and DALL-E 2, the breakthrough image generator that came out this year. Users have also been finding more serious applications. For example, ChatGPT appears to be good at helping programmers spot and fix errors in their code. It also appears to be ominously good at answering the types of open-ended analytical questions that frequently appear on school assignments. (Many educators have predicted that ChatGPT, and tools like it, will spell the end of homework and take-home exams.)
As of October 2022, the US is 5.8mm jobs short of its pre-pandemic trend. @BHobijn and Aysegul Sahin argue that this number is attributable to cyclical factors that were unlikely to continue; they argue a proper accounting yields an 810k jobs shortfall. @NBER
The [5.8M estimate] of missing jobs is inflated because it is based on the unrealistic assumption that the pre-pandemic tailwinds for job growth from the decline in the unemployment rate and cyclical upward pressures on participation would have continued in 2020 and beyond if the pandemic would not have occurred. Instead, our payroll jobs accounting yields an 810 thousand cyclical shortfall in payroll jobs in October 2022 compared to right before the pandemic. At the recent pace of job growth, even without monetary and fiscal tightening, we expect a substantial deceleration of payroll growth in the coming months.
.@LHSummers suggests that the Fed will need to boost rates by more than the futures market expectation of 5% by May 2023, vs. the current 3.75-4.0%. “6% is certainly a scenario we can write…five is not a good best-guess.” @bloomberg
Interest-rate futures suggest traders expect the Fed to raise rates to about 5% by May 2023, compared with the current target range of 3.75% to 4%. “Six is certainly a scenario we can write,” Larry Summers said with regard to the peak percentage rate for the Fed’s benchmark. “And that tells me that five is not a good best-guess.” Summers reiterated that he didn’t think the Fed ought to change its inflation target to, say, 3% from the current 2% -- in part because of potential credibility issues after having allowed inflation to surge so high the past two years.
.@M_C_Klein argues that 7% annualized growth in nominal employee pay, up from 4.5% before the pandemic, implies that inflation “will probably persist around 4-5% a year.”
Aggregate weekly payrolls has been rising about 7% annually since the beginning of this year, with minimal variation. That’s up from about 4.5% a year before the pandemic. Wages can rise 1-3 percentage points faster or slower than consumer prices for a variety of reasons—including but not limited to compositional and definitional differences—but larger gaps between the growth rates of wages and prices basically don’t exist outside of WWII and Korean War rationing, the late 1990s productivity boom, and the first year of the pandemic. The only time U.S. wages rose at least 4 percentage points faster than prices for at least two years in a row was 1941-1943.
.@paulkrugman agrees with @ojblanchard1’s case for an inflation target of 3% vs. 2%, perhaps without officially announcing the policy.
Many economists believe that a little bit of inflation helps to “lubricate” the economy. An ever-changing economy often requires that prices of some goods (and wages for some workers) fall relative to prices and wages elsewhere. But price and wage cuts are hard to achieve. If the price of widgets needs to fall relative to the price of gizmos, it’s easier to do this with rising gizmo prices rather than falling widget prices, so adjustment is easier if overall inflation is somewhat positive. On the other hand, there’s a lot to be said for more or less stable prices, and in particular for an inflation rate low enough that people don’t have to think about it much. I’m with Blanchard and others in believing that it’s OK to stop at 3, maybe without admitting that we’re doing it.
Half of global trade is invoiced in dollars despite the United States accounting for just 10% of the trade. The dollar’s role in official foreign exchange reserves has declined to less than 60%, well under its 20-year mean of 65%. @BIS_org
Approximately half of global trade is invoiced in USD, although this share varies widely across regions. This disproportionately large reliance on the USD is in spite of the United States accounting for just over a 10th of global trade. These shares have hardly changed since 2019. One area where the role of the USD has been shrinking to some degree is official foreign exchange reserves, even though it remains the foremost reserve currency. As of the second quarter of 2022, the USD accounted for less than 60% of official foreign exchange reserves. This is one of the lowest shares in the past 20 years and is well below the average of 65% for the period.
The United States is now importing more goods from Europe than from China. @bloomberg
As the pandemic snarled global supply chains, US policymakers urged companies to look at ways to reinforce their supply chains and reduce American economic dependence on China and other authoritarian regimes. The Biden administration’s push toward “friend-shoring” production and manufacturing has steadily resulted in increased US trade between the US and its traditional allies in Europe. Over the next five years semiconductor companies will collectively spend more than $110 billion building new semiconductor fabrication plants outside of China.
Apple will have problems moving higher-end iPhone production to Vietnam as the former lacks China’s scale of potential workers, and India is a very difficult business environment for imports and exports. @WSJ
In recent weeks, Apple has accelerated plans to shift some of its production outside China. It is telling suppliers to plan more actively for assembling Apple products elsewhere in Asia, particularly India and Vietnam, they say, and looking to reduce dependence on Taiwanese assemblers led by Foxconn. Dan Panzica, a former Foxconn executive who now advises companies on supply-chain issues, said Vietnam’s manufacturing was growing quickly but was short of workers. The country has just under 100 million people, less than a 10th of China’s population. It can handle 60,000-person manufacturing sites but not places such as Zhengzhou that reach into the hundreds of thousands, he said. “They’re not doing high-end phones in India and Vietnam,” said Mr. Panzica. “No other places can do them. India is the Wild West in terms of consistent rules and getting stuff in and out.”
Biden is considering adopting a 2019 Trump policy to deny asylum to migrants if they failed to apply for asylum in countries they had moved through, such as Mexico, on their way to the American border. @WSJ
Through the first three weeks of November, Border Patrol agents made roughly 127,000 arrests of people crossing the border illegally, according to internal government data viewed by The Wall Street Journal, primarily of Mexicans, Cubans, and Nicaraguans. The administration was able to use Title 42 against roughly 32% of those crossing, with the rest allowed to remain in the country and pursue asylum claims. The ban under discussion would prevent migrants from winning asylum in the U.S. if they moved through another country, such as Mexico, on the way and didn’t first apply for asylum in that country. The policy would be issued, so it would take effect in conjunction with the end of Title 42.
The demands of the Ukraine war have significantly stressed the West’s defense industrial base. Increasing capacity will require investments supported by long-term production contracts, vs. the “just in time” model adopted after the Cold War era. @ft
“Ukraine has focused us . . . on what really matters. ” William LaPlante, the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, told a recent conference at George Mason University. “What matters is production. Production really matters.” NATO members’ defense ministries are discovering that dormant weapons production lines cannot be switched on overnight. Increasing capacity requires investment which, in turn, depends on securing long-term production contracts. Since the end of the cold war, these countries have reaped a peace dividend by slashing military spending, downsizing defense industries, and moving to lean, “just-in-time” production and low inventories of equipment such as munitions.
Germany cut its gas demand by 23% in November even as temperatures fell, with the EU cutting demand by 24% overall. @FT
EU countries cut gas demand by a quarter in November even as temperatures fell, in the latest evidence that the bloc is succeeding in reducing its reliance on Russian energy since Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Provisional data from commodity analytics company ICIS showed gas demand in the EU was 24% below the five-year average last month, following a similar fall in October.
New research from @FederalReserve quantifies the likely spillovers from the three rounds of Chinese stimulus, which each accounted for 1.5% of global GDP
Panel A in figure 1 illustrates the credit impulse as a share of China’s GDP. It highlights that the Chinese authorities have long used credit to stabilize the economy as they have long faced a tradeoff between strong economic growth and financial stability objectives. That said, the GFC stands out as a period of massive credit stimulus, amounting to 25% of GDP. To size China’s credit measures in a global context, panel B in figure 1 illustrates China’s credit impulse as a share of global GDP. It shows that prior to the GFC, China’s credit measures represented a small share of global GDP. However, with China’s rise in the global economy, the quantitative importance of China’s credit policies has risen as well. Indeed, China’s last three stimulus episodes each accounted for around 1.5% of global GDP.
.@AEI’s @swinshi revisits Raj Chetty’s data and argues that contrary to Chetty’s findings, slower economic growth has been a much more important driver of the reduction of absolute mobility than the rise in inequality.
Higher growth would have raised absolute mobility from 50% to 81%, while lower inequality would have increased it to just 57%. This is almost the mirror image of the Chetty findings. Chetty also reported trends looking at absolute mobility for the 1970 cohort as of age 40 rather than for the 1980 cohort at age 30 (Figure S12 in their paper.) These analyses showed that in the “high growth” counterfactual, instead of 56% of the 1970 birth cohort experiencing absolute mobility, 67.5% would have. Meanwhile, in the “low inequality” counterfactual, the rate was 74%. However, using my approach, the “high growth” scenario produced an absolute mobility rate of 78.5%, while the “low inequality” scenario featured a rate of 63%. Again, the Chetty conclusion about the importance of growth versus inequality reverses.
Today’s job report showed average hourly earnings rose twice what was forecast, now up 5.1% year-over-year and running at a 6% annual rate. @bloomberg
Nonfarm payrolls increased 263,000 in November after an upwardly revised 284,000 gain in October, a Labor Department report showed Friday. The unemployment rate held at 3.7% as participation eased. Average hourly earnings rose twice as much as forecast after an upward revision to the prior month. The jobs report showed average hourly earnings rose 0.6% in November in a broad-based gain that was the biggest since January and was up 5.1% from a year earlier. Wages for production and nonsupervisory workers climbed 0.7% from the prior month, the most in almost a year. The pace of pay raises is inconsistent with the Fed’s 2% inflation target.
.@jasonfurman argues that the uptick in average hourly earnings should “dash hopes” for a soft landing: 6% growth is consistent with a 5% inflation rate.
The biggest news in this release is large upward revisions in wage growth for September and October and a big number for November. This is the second time this year we’ve seen AHE revisions like this dashing the hopes that maybe nominal wages growth was cooling. You can’t understate how huge this is. Last month the data showed average hourly earnings grew at a 3.8% annual rate (three-month average). With revisions and one month of data, this is now a 6% annual rate. I was allowing myself to get more hopeful about a soft landing (2nd time this year), but this pretty much dashed that hope. This pace of average hourly earnings growth is consistent with about 5% inflation. About the same or slightly worse than the story the ECI is telling.
Prime-age labor force participation dropped to 82.4%, still under its pre-pandemic level of 83.1% in January 2020. @catarinasaraiva @bloomberg
The share of Americans either working or actively looking for a job fell to 62.1%, according to government data released Friday. The rate had risen to 62.4% in August, matching a post-pandemic high reached in March, but remains significantly below where it was before the pandemic. The participation rate for so-called prime-aged workers, those aged 25 to 54, also dropped to 82.4% from 82.5%. And it, too, remains below its pre-pandemic levels. While participation declined for both men and women, a larger share of female workers left the labor force last month.
Due to the rapidly dropping waters level of Lake Powell, the Glen Canyon (Hoover) Dam may have to be shut down next summer due to the risk posed by whirlpool formation @partlowj
The first sign of serious trouble for the drought-stricken American Southwest could be a whirlpool. It could happen if the surface of Lake Powell, a man-made reservoir along the Colorado River that’s already a quarter of its former size, drops another 38 feet down the concrete face of the 710-foot Glen Canyon Dam here. At that point, the surface would be approaching the tops of eight underwater openings that allow river water to pass through the hydroelectric dam. The normally placid Lake Powell, the nation’s second-largest reservoir, could suddenly transform into something resembling a funnel, with water circling the openings. If that happens, the massive turbines that generate electricity for 4.5 million people would have to shut down — after nearly 60 years of use — or risk destruction from air bubbles. The federal government projects that day could come as soon as July.
Despite a sharp increase in sovereign debt levels, the upward pressure on neutral rates has been modest. @FederalReserve
Leading up to the 2008 financial crisis, neutral rates in these four economies saw declines of between 2.1 and 2.8 percentage points, with all drivers pushing down neutral rates. Between 2008 and 2019, the positive contribution of the increased sovereign debt supply modestly offset the negative contributions from other drivers. Since the pandemic, the rise in government debt accounts for most of the recent rise in neutral rates in [the US, UK, Canada, and Euro area], with other factors exerting largely offsetting effects. All told, while the sharp rise in government indebtedness since the pandemic may have put upward pressure on neutral rates abroad, we estimate that this pressure has been likely modest.
Applications to start new businesses, including firms that are likely employers, surged during the pandemic. @UpdatedPriors @JHaltiwanger_UM
A striking feature of the US economic experience during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a surge in applications for new businesses. After initially dropping in March and April of 2020, applications rose to record levels, an all-time high in July 2020 and remaining historically elevated through the fall of 2022 (Figure 1.) The surge was apparent even among “likely employers,” that is, applications with characteristics that are likely to result in the hiring of workers and growth. Historically, there has been a tight relationship between business applications and true business formation, but questions have remained about the degree to which the pandemic’s surging applications would translate into actual employer businesses with broader labor market implications.
In a speech yesterday, Jay Powell signaled the pace of rate increases would slow but that the terminal rate will likely be higher than the 4.6% rate that Fed officials had projected in their last quarterly forecast. @ft
Jay Powell has sent a strong signal that the Federal Reserve will slow the pace of interest rate rises next month in an otherwise hawkish speech warning that the US central bank has a long way to go in its fight against inflation. “The time for moderating the pace of rate increases may come as soon as the December meeting,” the Fed chair said. The remarks from Powell suggest the Fed is preparing to “downshift” to a 0.5 percentage point increase when it meets in two weeks after it raised rates by 0.75 percentage points at each of its past four meetings. He reiterated that the endpoint of the tightening cycle would probably need to be higher than forecasted in projections released in September, which suggested most officials anticipated a so-called terminal rate of 4.6%. Most economists have penciled in the fed funds rate topping 5%.
Over the past three years, the best-performing sectors of the S&P 500 have been energy and IT, outpacing the Technology sector. @TheEconomist
We have examined which American industries and firms have done best over the past three years based on stock market performance. The headline is that market leadership has flipped dramatically. The digital hares have given ground to old-economy tortoises. Big tech is no longer running away with the race. Firms once derided as obsolete and sluggish suddenly look vital again. We have chosen January 1st, 2020, as the starting date for our analysis. Since then, the S&P 500 index of leading American shares has risen by 23%. The best-performing industry sector is energy, followed by information technology (IT). Health care has done well, as might be expected during a public-health crisis: the second-best-performing company in the S&P 500 is Moderna, a leading vaccine maker, whose share price is up by nearly 800%.
.@economistmeg argues in @ft that by mid-2023, consumers and corporations will have depleted the excess savings they built up during the pandemic, and the long-awaited recession will get underway.
Bank of America expects that at the current three-month average rate of decline of household deposits, it would take between 12 and about 40 months (depending on income quartile) to return to 2019 levels. Goldman Sachs estimates US households will have less than $1T in excess savings by the end of 2023. JPMorgan recently warned excess savings could be completely depleted by the second half of next year. There are many reasons to fall on the pessimistic side of these estimates. The personal savings rate jumped from 8.3% at the end of 2019 to 26.3% at the height of Covid-19 in March 2021. In September, it had fallen back to 3.1%, well below the historical average. And for all the cash still left in aggregate household bank accounts, consumers are not feeling very confident. The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index has been declining since mid-2021.
The PCE inflation measure rose 0.2% in October, under the forecast, while the personal savings rate fell to 2.3%, the lowest since 2005. @bloomberg
A key gauge of US consumer prices posted the second-smallest increase this year while spending accelerated, offering hope that the Federal Reserve’s interest-rate hikes are cooling inflation without sparking a recession. The personal consumption expenditures price index, excluding food and energy, which Fed Chair Jerome Powell stressed this week is a more accurate measure of where inflation is heading, rose a below-forecast 0.2% in October from a month earlier, Commerce Department data showed Thursday. The saving rate fell to 2.3% in October, the lowest since 2005, the Commerce Department report showed.
The run-up in energy prices has driven an increase in trade imbalances, with a ~ $1 Trillion surplus largely ending up in the hands of autocratic countries: China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf. @Brad_Setser
There was an enormous swing in the trade surplus of the energy-exporting economies, and surprisingly, China’s surplus also has continued to rise. Russia’s surplus is set to top $250 billion. Saudi Arabia’s surplus should top $200 billion. The other monarchies in the Gulf should have a surplus comparable to that of the Saudis—if anything, it will be a bit bigger. Summed up, these autocratic countries’ surpluses should total about $1 trillion in 2022. But there is an important difference between now and then: the big autocratic surplus countries are not adding to their formal foreign exchange reserves. By implication, private financial intermediaries somewhere around the world will need to absorb Treasury bonds. Just as financial intermediaries globally had to absorb U.S. “subprime” (household) risk prior to the global crisis, now they have to absorb U.S. interest rate risk.
.@PaulKrugman suggests that wage growth for lower-income families has more than offset inflation, even accounting for their higher food and energy consumption.
The labor economist Arindrajit Dube has estimated hourly wage changes — by decile rather than quartile — over a longer period since the beginning of the pandemic recession. He finds that real wages for the bottom 40 percent of workers have increased. Lower-income families spend a higher than average share of their income on food and energy, which are also the categories that have seen the most inflation recently. My rough calculations suggest that even when you take these food and energy costs into account, lower-income families have done better, not worse, than others, at least in terms of inflation’s effects. But it does lessen that difference somewhat.
An Oliver Wyman model argues that the increase in inequality has driven equity valuations @jmackin2
Oliver Wyman has constructed a model of demand for stocks that tries to assess the effect of inequality and two other long-running shifts. These are the rise in willingness of pension-fund managers to hold stocks since the 1950s and the easier access to stocks for ordinary investors, both through lower fees and the popularity of funds. This “demand-weighted income” measure is then compared with household equity wealth to come up with something akin to a slow-moving price-to-earnings ratio. A price-to-inequality ratio won’t replace a simple price-to-earnings gauge. Inequality data are slow to be produced, so this can’t be used as a real-time indicator.
While global debt declined slightly from last year, the total outstanding debt is $290 Trillion, up 1/3 from a decade ago, as borrowers face rising interest rates globally, report @mccormickliz @atanzi @endacurran
The total debt owed by households, businesses, and governments stands at $290 trillion, up by more than one-third from a decade ago, according to research by the Institute of International Finance. Although the world’s debt has declined from a pandemic-driven record early this year, the risks it poses to economies and financial markets are intensifying.
Since the start of the current tightening cycle, increases in the Investment Grade Corporate Bond Market Distress Index (CMDI) have been relatively modest. The index remains close to historical medians. @NewYorkFed
The increases in the Investment Grade Corporate Bond Market Distress Index since the start of the current tightening cycle have been relatively modest. Overall, the IG CMDI has trended sideways recently, with the 2022 peak not substantially above that observed in the 2015 tightening cycle.
The president of the German federation of industry argues “more than a fifth of German medium-sized companies they had polled were considering packing up and leaving the country,” given expected structurally higher energy costs going forward.
FAZ quotes the president of the German federation of industry as saying that more than a fifth of German medium-sized companies they had polled were considering packing up and leaving the country. Despite recent market moves, end-user energy prices will not revert to the pre-war times on a sustained level. What we expect to see in Germany is not so much large de-industrialization but a shift in production technologies. We expect to see a shift away from energy-intensive production, like bulk chemicals and steel, towards lower energy-intensive industrial segments and a shift towards low carbon technologies, in particular, a process that will be accompanied with friction and possibly lower GDP growth.
2021 saw a record 48,953 gun deaths or 15 fatalities per 100,000 people. Black men aged 20-24 suffered 142 firearm homicides per 100,000 people in 2021, a 74% increase since 2014. @wsj
A record 48,953 deaths in the US, or about 15 fatalities per 100,000 people, were caused by guns last year, said the analysis published Tuesday in the journal JAMA Network Open. Since 1990, rates of gun-related homicide have been highest among Black men aged 20 to 24, the analysis said, with 142 fatalities per 100,000 people in this group in 2021—a 74% increase since 2014. Homicide rates are as much as 23 times higher among Black men, and as much as nearly four times higher among Hispanic men than among white men, the analysis said. Gun fatality rates from suicide were highest among white men aged 80 to 84 years, at 47 fatalities per 100,000 people in this group in 2021—a 41% increase since 2007, the analysis showed.
Inflation-adjusted home prices are 3.3% under their recent peak, but affordability decreased as mortgage rates increased. @calculatedrisk
In real terms, the National index is 3.3% below the recent peak, and the Composite 20 index is 4.4% below the recent peak in 2022. In real terms, house prices are still above the bubble peak levels. There is an upward slope to real house prices, and it has been over 16 years since the previous peak, but real prices are historically high. Affordability worsened in September as mortgage rates increased, even though house prices declined.
Jack Ma has been living in central Tokyo for the last six months in the aftermath of the Chinese government’s regulatory crackdown on his businesses. @ft
Jack Ma, the Alibaba founder and once the richest business leader in China, has been living in central Tokyo for almost six months amid Beijing’s continuing crackdown on the country’s technology sector and its most powerful businessmen. Since his fallout with Chinese authorities, Ma has been spotted in various countries, including Spain and the Netherlands. People involved in Japan’s modern art scene said that Ma had become an enthusiastic collector. Friends close to the billionaire in China said he had turned to painting watercolors to pass the time after being forced to retreat from his frenetic public life, jet-setting between meetings with top officials in China and around the globe.
A good example of capital flight from the PRC: the founders of Soho China now live in New York, where their real estate assets value may exceed their Chinese assets. @bloomberg
Zhang Xin and her husband Pan Shiyi, who grew Soho China Ltd. into a behemoth that reshaped the country’s skylines, have built a discreet family office. Two of its biggest assets: stakes in the General Motors Building on Fifth Avenue and Park Avenue Plaza in Midtown. Now, after the implosion of the Chinese property sector, the combined equity value of just these two investments — about half a billion dollars — is roughly the same as the couple’s holding in the Beijing-based company responsible for their wealth. Their five-part strategy — build a successful business in China, list it on a global exchange, pay out billions of dollars in dividends, set up a family office abroad, and buy up foreign real estate — means their fortune is relatively protected while other Chinese billionaires have seen their riches crumble after running foul of President Xi Jinping’s clampdowns.
At least 500 Chinese firms have redomiciled or registered in Singapore over the past year to hedge against geopolitical risk. @ft
The exact number of Chinese companies being set up is unclear because Singapore does not disclose the origin country in its public statistics. However, one lawyer said his firm’s internal research division found more than 500 new Chinese companies had set up this year in Singapore, which experts noted was a rise from previous years. Another business advisory group in the city-state that had reviewed the data calculated the number at 400, including family offices, but also asked not to be identified due to the sensitivities involved. Analysts expect the number of family offices — many of which are from China — to be well over 1,000 by the end of this year, compared with 400 at the end of 2020.
China newsletter publisher @niubi notes that the scale of the protests is “remarkable and meaningful, but expects that the Chinese security services “will succeed in nipping [protests] in the bud.”
While there have been some breathless claims using terms like “uprising” and “revolt,” I think that is an exaggeration of the protests at this stage and that the security services will succeed in nipping them in the bud. But no mistake, the fact that so many were willing to stand up publicly in spite of the likely personal costs is remarkable and meaningful. Still, in spite of how stirring these protests have been, I would be surprised if they continue in any meaningful way, given how much work the system has put into dealing with just these kinds of contingencies and how it has repeatedly demonstrated that when it comes to ensuring political security, there is no bottom line.
The Chinese are seeking to deploy 1,500 nuclear weapons by 2035 and have doubled their intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) satellite systems since 2018 to 260 satellites, according to a new Pentagon report. @ft
The Pentagon said Beijing “probably accelerated” its nuclear expansion last year and was on track to have a stockpile of 1,500 nuclear weapons by 2035. The Pentagon said China was also investing heavily in space, including everything from intelligence assets to weapons to counter an adversary, such as kinetic-kill missiles and ground-based lasers. It said China had more than 260 intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) satellite systems, which marked an almost doubling since 2018. US officials say China has shown no willingness to engage in any talks about nuclear weapons.
.@ojblanchard1 revises his recommendation for the “right” inflation target from 4% to 3%, given evidence that Google search activity on “inflation” increases once it surpasses 3-4%. @ft
When inflation is low, people and companies simply do not think about it and thus do not react to it. This was certainly the case pre-Covid. When it becomes higher, however, inflation becomes salient, wage and price decisions become more sensitive to it, and inflation expectations become more easily de-anchored. The question is, what rate of inflation leads to salience? A hint is given in a recent paper, which looks at Google searches for “inflation” as a function of the actual inflation rate. It found that, for the US, if inflation was around 3-4%, people simply did not pay attention. Above 3-4%, they did. Altogether, these arguments have led me to conclude that, while a higher inflation target is desirable, the right target for advanced economies such as the US might be closer to 3% than our original 4% proposal.
Last week, the yield on the 10-year US Treasury note dropped to 0.78 percentage point below the 2-year yield, the largest negative gap since late 1981. Many investors and analysts see reasons to think that the current yield curve may presage waning inflation. @wsj
Yields on longer-term US Treasurys have fallen further below those on short-term bonds than at any time in decades, a sign that investors think the Federal Reserve is close to winning its inflation battle regardless of the cost to economic activity. Last week, the yield on the 10-year US Treasury note dropped to 0.78 percentage points below that of the two-year yield, the largest negative gap since late 1981, at the start of a recession that pushed the unemployment rate even higher than it would later reach in the 2008 financial crisis.
.@tracyalloway and @luwangnyc of @bloomberg report an unusual divergence: the price of West Texas Intermediate crude oil for immediate delivery has dropped almost 18% since July, while energy stocks have jumped more than 32% in the same time frame.
While the price of West Texas Intermediate crude oil for immediate delivery has dropped almost 18% since the middle of July, energy stocks, as encapsulated by the Energy Select Sector SPDR exchange-traded fund (XLE), have jumped more than 32% in the same time frame. Two main factors seem to be behind the divergence: 1) Energy earnings have been recovering, with the sector claiming the highest percentage of companies reporting earnings above estimates in the most recent quarter, according to Factset data, and 2) Brent crude has flipped into contango for the first time since December 2021.
There has been a sharp uptick in the number of men working as stay-at-home parents. Almost 5% of stay-at-home parents are men, compared to about 1% in the mid-1990s. @bloomberg @jordan_yadoo
[The Census Bureau defines stay-at-home males] as husbands in opposite-sex marriages with children under 15 who specifically say they’re not working so that they can care for family and whose wives are either working or looking for work. Under those terms, men accounted this year for 5% of the one-fifth of US families with a stay-at-home parent, up from about 1% in the mid-’90s and representing 239,000 fathers. According to a broader analysis by the Pew Research Center—which expands the pool to include any father of a child under 18 who hasn’t been working, regardless of reason or marital status, and also incorporates men in same-sex relationships—the number of stay-at-home dads had swelled to about 2.1M by 2021, equal to 18% of all stay-at-home parents, up from 10% in 1989.
.@scottahodge, one of the architects of the Child Tax Credit, notes the American Rescue Plan’s expanded credits left 48.3% of all filers with no income tax liability in 2021 and argues making expanded credits permanent, based on the $1.3T ten-year cost. @wsj
According to a Tax Policy Center estimate, some 74 million tax filers—or nearly half (48.3%) of all filers in 2021—had no income tax liability. Can we have a sustainable tax system if the number of nonpayers continues to grow? Expanding the child tax credit would take our redistributionist tax code to a new level. Although 2021 was a pandemic year, it gives us a picture of what that world would look like. The child tax credit is a drain not only on the federal budget but on the nation’s economy. Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation economic models predict that the policy would reduce the labor supply by 0.2% over a decade and the amount of capital by 0.4%. As a result of the reduced supply of labor and capital investment, gross domestic product would shrink by 0.2%.
Black students continue to lag white students in the last National Assessment of Educational Progress results. In 8th grade, 38% of black students were performing at their grade level vs. 74% of white students. @aei
Whereas nationally, 86% of white 4th graders were at least on grade level in mathematics, this was true for only 55% of black students. As students progressed to the 8th grade, the share performing at grade level or better fell by 15% (86 to 74%) for white students nationally. Among black students, the decline was 30% nationally (from 55 to 38%) and among black students in the [poorest-performing cities poorest performing cities (Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia)] (28 to 20%). A Brookings Report found that in 2019, only 7% of black test-takers scored at least 600 on the math portion of the SAT exam. By contrast, 11%, 31%, and 62% of Latino, white, and Asian test-takers, respectively, did that well.
.@Bloomberg forecasts that lithium demand is set to increase more than fivefold by the end of the decade and notes that “EV sales targets for 2030 are probably unachievable because of constraints on various raw materials.”
Lithium demand is expected to jump more than fivefold by the end of the decade. EV sales targets for 2030 are probably unachievable because of constraints on various raw materials, according to Piper Sandler & Co. New lithium mines can cost as much as $1 billion and take more than six years to build, too slow for the sector’s needs, Piper analysts wrote in a November note. And BloombergNEF predicts shortages of lithium will be a problem until 2026 for companies that refine the products into chemicals used in EV batteries.
Between 2002 and 2014, regulatory costs averaged 1.34% of firms’ wage bills in the United States @xftrebbi @rainozhang @NBER
We quantify firms’ regulation compliance costs from 2002 to 2014 in terms of their labor input expenditure to comply with government rules. Detailed establishment-level occupation data, in combination with occupation-specific task information, allow us to recover the share of an establishment’s wage bill owing to employees engaged in regulatory compliance. Regulatory costs account, on average, for 1.34% of the total wage bill of a firm but vary substantially across and within industries and have increased over time. We investigate the returns to scale in regulatory compliance and find an inverted-U shape, with the percentage of regulatory spending peaking for an establishment size of around 500 employees.
October CPI showed continued disinflation month-over-month in durables and the service sector, but it will “take more time to be confident that disinflation is real.” @GeneralTheorist
Housing now dominates—accounting for more than half of service inflation pressure over 3 months. It is expected that housing will take time to reflect past rent increases still, but at the margin, the housing sector is already softening—which should hit Core CPI in about 12 months. Medical services distorted service inflation downward—something unlikely to be repeated in coming months. Overall, the October print doesn’t yet provide confidence that disinflation has spread from durables to services.
.@PaulKrugman argues that the rent surge of 2021-2022 was driven by changing preferences related to work-from-home during the pandemic, and has now largely ended.
A couple of notes about [the above] chart: I show rates of rent growth [reported by Zillow] over a three-month period, a practice many economists have converged on in recent discussions: Monthly data are too noisy, but annual growth rates lag too far behind a rapidly changing economy. I also show inflation in the average rental rate reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (labeled official rent above.) As you can see, the rental surge of 2021-22 was quite spectacular, with rents rising at double-digit rates for about a year and a half. But it has leveled off recently. Zillow’s index (a three-month average) fell in October; other private measures, like those published by Realtor.com and Apartmentlist.com, have been signaling rent declines for two or three months.
Bond markets forecast a 2023 recession, with long-dated Treasury yields below the Fed’s overnight benchmark range of 3.75-4%. @bloomberg
The bond market is zeroing in on a US recession next year, with traders betting that the longer-term trajectory for interest rates will be down even as the Federal Reserve is still busy raising its policy rate. Long-dated Treasury yields are already below the Fed’s overnight benchmark range -- currently 3.75% to 4% -- and there’s still an extra percentage point of central bank increases priced in for the coming months. Demand for Treasuries with longer tenors this week dragged the rate on 10-year and 30-year securities below the lower bound of the Fed’s overnight range. With front-end rates holding relatively steady, that’s seen an intensification of the most pronounced yield curve inversion in four decades -- a widely watched indicator of potential economic pain to come.
In November, 41% of American job listings required a college degree, down from 46% at the start of 2019, suggesting employers are relaxing degree requirements in tight labor markets. @wsj
US job postings requiring at least a bachelor’s degree were 41% in November, down from 46% at the start of 2019 ahead of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to an analysis by the Burning Glass Institute, a think tank that studies the future of work. Degree requirements dropped even more early in the pandemic. They have grown since then but remain below pre-pandemic levels.
Young adults in both the UK and US are spending more time alone and increasingly reporting feeling “lonely.” @ft
On average, 53% of Americans aged over 65 spend more than eight hours of waking time on their own every day, according to my analysis of data from the American Time Use Survey. The trend remains unchanged for people over 60. But compared with a decade ago, the rise in the number of young people who spend more than eight hours on their own is alarming. Time on your own is one thing; feeling lonely is quite another. And young people seem worse affected by the latter. A March 2022 ONS survey found that 40% of women aged 16 to 29 in the UK report “feeling lonely often, always or some of the time,” compared with 22% of women over 70. For men, some 22% of this age group report feeling lonely, compared with 13% of the over-70s. And, of course, the impact of Covid lockdowns cannot be ignored.
Rare, widespread political protest spread across major Chinese cities over the weekend, seemingly driven by frustrations with zero-Covid. @ft
At least 10 cities, including Shanghai, Beijing, Wuhan, and Chengdu, were shaken by rare political protests over the weekend, triggering clashes with police and security officers that led to a spate of detentions. The sudden outbreak of civil disobedience was sparked by outrage after a deadly apartment fire in Urumqi, Xinjiang, was partly blamed on coronavirus restrictions. While most of the protests appeared to have been stamped out by Monday, they followed months of frustration, especially among China’s young people, with relentless lockdowns, quarantines, mass testing, and electronic surveillance under Xi’s zero-Covid policies.
China’s trade surplus has continued to grow since the pandemic, with manufacturing exports ~ 14% of GDP. The trade surplus is poised to grow, as China’s bill for imported commodities falls. @Brad_Setser
The popular deglobalization narrative simply isn't in China's trade data -- manufacturing exports are up massively, and that has pushed the surplus up even as China's commodity import bill reached record levels (the commodity bill is poised to fall now, by the way.) China's currency is (still) managed (in my judgment, even if the PBOC's reported reserves don't change,) so movements reflect the interaction of market pressure and political decisions. But at some level, a weaker CNY, even with a massive trade surplus, reflects a judgment by China's policymakers that they need to sustain the rise in exports (relative to China's GDP) even as global demand for manufactures drops (to offset China's domestic weakness.)
The FCC has banned China-based Huawei and ZTE from telecommunications sales into the American market, citing national security concerns. The move may further fuel tensions with Beijing. @ft
Washington’s top telecommunications regulator has barred China-based Huawei and ZTE from selling equipment in the US, citing national security concerns in a move that could further fuel tensions with Beijing. The Federal Communications Commission announced the step on Friday, saying it was the latest effort by US authorities to “build a more secure and resilient supply chain” in the telecommunications industry. “The action we take today covers base station equipment that goes into our networks. It covers phones, cameras, and WiFi routers that go into our homes. And it covers rebranded or ‘white label’ equipment that is developed for the marketplace. In other words, this approach is comprehensive,” said Jessica Rosenworcel, chair of the FCC.
The backlog of US weapons delivery has grown to $18.7B from more than $14B last December, as competing demands from Ukraine and Taiwan stress the military supply chain. @wsj
The flow of weapons to Ukraine is now running up against the longer-term demands of a US strategy to arm Taiwan to help it defend itself against a possible invasion by China, according to congressional and government officials familiar with the matter. The backlog of deliveries, which was more than $14 billion last December, has grown to $18.7 billion. Included in the backlog is an order made in December 2015 for 208 Javelin antitank weapons and a separate one at the same time for 215 surface-to-air Stinger missiles. None of them have arrived on the island, according to congressional sources and people familiar with the matter. Executives at Lockheed Martin Corp., Boeing Co., and other defense companies say pandemic-driven supply-chain problems have set back production for many systems and that they have struggled to keep up with orders even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine boosted demand.
German defense spending is set to decline by €300M in 2023 as the country continues to fall short of its NATO-set obligation of spending the equivalent of 2% of GDP on defense. @ft
Nine months ago, in the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Olaf Scholz declared a Zeitenwende — a turning point — for Germany’s military and its place in the world. But since then, barely any of the €100bn in extra funding the German chancellor pledged has made its way to the armed forces. The parliamentary body set up in the spring to allocate money to modernization and reform programs has met once. The defense ministry had no procurement proposals to submit to it. Its next sitting will not be until February. Far from rising, the 2023 defense budget, opposition leader Friedrich Merz noted, was set to shrink by €300mn based on current government plans. The lack of German action was “[giving] rise to considerable distrust” at NATO and in allied capitals, he claimed.
Companies with market capitalization of over $200B currently represent 30-35% of total capitalization, up from the 10-15% share that was normal until 2016. @policytensor
The polarization in favor of the biggest firms peaked at the end of last year. The megacap-to-midcap ratio of market cap has been cut from four to three in the course of 2022. But three is far from a collapse of the megacap boom. The 10-15% that was normal until 2016 has since given way to 30-35% of total capital controlled by the megacaps. I have used biweekly rolling averages for the graph. Note that this is a bottom-up census rather than an estimate. I am just adding up reliable third-party data at the granular level; every single ticker for which there is price and market cap data. This is the broadest possible universe of US equities for which I can find kosher data.
Temperatures anomalies that were once-in-1,000-yearly events in North America in the 1970s are now expected to be 5-yearly events, according to new research in @Nature
We find that slow- and fast-moving components of the atmospheric circulation interacted, along with regional soil moisture deficiency, to trigger a 5-sigma heat event. Its severity was amplified by ~40% by nonlinear interactions between its drivers, probably driven in part by land-atmosphere feedback catalyzed by long-term regional warming and soil drying. Since the 1950s, global warming has transformed the peak daily regional temperature anomaly of the event from virtually impossible to a presently estimated ~200-yearly occurrence. Its likelihood is projected to increase rapidly with further global warming, possibly becoming a 10-yearly occurrence in a climate 2 °C warmer than the pre-industrial period, which may be reached by 2050.
.@M_C_Klein cites the end of a spike in compensation for low-skilled workers and longer-term forward real interest rates well within their post-financial crisis range and argues against a deliberate economic downturn to curb inflation.
In the US, the earlier spike in lower-end wages relative to other workers' pay has completely stopped, while the split between labor income and profits has, if anything, moved in favor of investors. For better or worse, the popular and elite reactions to the inflation outbreak suggest that policymakers are not going to respond to future downturns the way they did to the pandemic. Soft budget constraints do not appear to be on the menu. And while there have been some constructive increases in public investment (and military spending) in the major economies, they do not seem large enough to move the needle. Financial markets may be wrong, but it is noteworthy that longer-term forward real interest rates are well within their post-financial crisis range, even if they have jumped over the past 12 months.
China reported almost 28,000 new Covid cases on Tuesday, with outbreaks in Beijing, Guangzhou, and Chongqing. Lockdowns are more extensive than during the Shanghai outbreak that slowed annual economic growth to 0.4% in Q2. @ft
Covid-19 cases in China are spiraling towards record highs, forcing officials to lock down again large swaths of the country. The world's second-biggest economy reported almost 28,000 new Covid cases on Tuesday, with outbreaks in Beijing, the southern manufacturing hub of Guangzhou, and the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing continuing to grow. Covid restrictions have hit areas responsible for one-fifth of China's gross domestic product. Officials in Beijing shut most non-essential businesses in the city's largest district, Chaoyang, which has a population of 3.4mn, and have closed restaurants and other entertainment venues in much of the city while telling residents to work from home.
Researchers at @NewYorkFed evaluate the pass-through of the fed funds rate to deposit rates (that is, deposit betas) over the past several interest rate cycles, and discuss factors that affect deposit rates.
We can observe that the gap [between the deposit rate and the Fed funds rate] is negative when rates are near zero (and deposit levels are high) and positive when rates rise. As a consequence, post-GFC and before the 1994 tightening, deposits were more attractive to depositors, and deposit supply was high relative to loans. However, as rates rise, the gap increases, depositors move elsewhere, banks raise their rates, and cumulative deposit betas rise. Since the 1990s, the response of deposits to monetary policy has been attenuated. This can be explained by the growth in deposits over the post-crisis period relative to investment opportunities.
.@WSJ notes that the Fed has been raising rates at the fastest pace in four decades (+375 basis points in 9 months.) Key variables such as housing starts have declined much more rapidly than in previous cycles.
The Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman famously argued that "monetary actions affect economic conditions only after a lag that is both long and variable." Historically, housing starts begin to decline within two years of a Fed hike. New home construction fell by 24% from the Fed increase in March to July. Declines in home construction that follow Fed rate increases can take years before they bottom out.
@bloomberg reports that the dollar value of global debt as a share of the global economy is 20 percentage points under its pandemic peak, as a result of inflation and a sharply appreciated dollar.
Total debt declined $6.4 trillion in the three months through September, to about $290 trillion, the IIF said in its quarterly Global Debt Monitor published Tuesday in Washington. That drop is amplified by the surging dollar, which makes loans denominated in other currencies look smaller when they’re measured in greenbacks. As a share of the world economy, debt has dropped to 343% -- about 20 percentage points below its pandemic peak last year. Soaring inflation in many economies has helped erode debt burdens measured against the size of economic output because the nominal value of gross domestic product has risen rapidly.
.@paulkrugman argues that once the demand shock from pandemic aid fades, “we’ll probably be back to a situation in which too much saving is chasing too few investment opportunities, and interest rates will be revisiting their old lows.”
Once [the economic boost from pandemic aid fades away,] we’ll probably be back where we were before the pandemic, with weak private investment demand holding interest rates down. Last time I wrote about this I stressed demography — the drastic slowdown in growth of the working-age population — plus what looks like disappointing rates of technological progress. Let me now put it a different way. [The macroeconomic accelerator effect] tells us that investment spending will only remain high if we expect rapid economic growth. And what we know now doesn’t support that expectation. What all this suggests to me is that the era of cheap money is not, in fact, over. A few years from now, we’ll probably be back to a situation in which too much saving is chasing too few investment opportunities, and interest rates will be revisiting their old lows
Excess savings associated with the pandemic, which are somewhere in the $1.2-$1.8T range, should provide support for the economy through the end of next year according to a range of estimates. @WSJ
Headed into the third quarter of this year, households still had about $1.2 trillion to $1.8 trillion in “excess savings”—the amount above what they would have saved had there been no pandemic. Economists’ estimates for how much consumers have left vary. JPMorgan Chase & Co. put the hoard at about $1.2 to $1.8 trillion in the third quarter and said it could be entirely spent by the second half of next year. Goldman Sachs economists estimate households have drawn down about 25% of excess savings and will have spent about 60% by the end of 2023. Ian Shepherdson, chief economist of Pantheon Macroeconomics, puts it at $1.3 trillion and estimates that at the current rate of rundown, that could last another year or so.
Former Fed bond trader Joseph Wang notes that higher interest rates subsidize consumption by increasing private sector interest income from public sector liabilities. He argues, “the current policy stance may not be effective in moving inflation back to 2%.” @FedGuy12
The economic impact of higher rates is mixed because it also subsidizes consumption by increasing private sector interest income from public sector liabilities. While private sector interest expenditures merely redistribute income among private actors, public sector interest rate expenditures increase the overall spending power of the private sector. If rates are higher for longer, the interest payments will easily exceed $1t next year. The aggressive rate hikes have thus far appeared to have a limited effect on dampening inflation. With the policy rate much closer to the terminal rate than 0% and financial markets stabilizing, the stock effect of monetary policy appears to be waning. If the flow effects are mixed, then the current policy stance may not be effective in moving inflation back to 2%
.@foxjust at @bloomberg argues that the lag between the new leases rent measure and the CPI’s shelter component may mean the Fed “was behind the curve when it started raising interest rates in March and could end up late again in pivoting to easier monetary policy.”
The most important of those implications would seem to be that the Federal Reserve’s policy-making committee was behind the curve when it started raising interest rates in March — a year after rents on new leases started exploding — and could end up late again in pivoting to easier monetary policy long after rents have started to fall. I ran the idea of switching to a new-leases rent measure by Princeton economist and former Fed Vice Chairman Alan Blinder, who wrote an influential paper in 1980 urging the switch to owner’s equivalent rent. He emailed, “For most purposes, making that change would be a terrible idea. It would reflect the prices paid by a small, and not representative, minority. That said, if the BLS (or anyone) wants to create a leading indicator of inflation, using rents on new leases would be quite sensible.”
A 2019 RAND study found 60% of American men in the 26-35 cohort who failed to graduate from high school had been arrested by age 26, and their arrest rate has been going up over time, reports @adam_tooze
60% of young men in America with less than high-school education have been arrested at least once by age 26. Strikingly, the report’s author James P. Smith found that the arrest rate has increased dramatically over time. Black men were significantly more likely to have been arrested. Of black men aged 26-35 in the study, 33% had been arrested by age 26 versus 23% for white men. Education plays an outsized role in explaining racial arrest differences, especially for men in the 26–35 age group. The overall higher rate of arrests by 26 among black adults in the 26–35 age group correlates with lower education levels. The study also found that having a more educated father was associated with lower rates of arrests and convictions by 26.
The MSCI India Index has outperformed the MSCI China Index through April 2022, according to @Wellington_Mgmt research, as noted by @tylercowen
Figure 1 shows the cumulative total returns posted by the S&P 500 Index, the MSCI China Index, and the MSCI India Index from December 31, 1992, through April 20, 2022. Our clients have been uniformly surprised that China’s long-term performance has been so much lower than that of the US and India, especially given all the investor focus on China in recent years. And they’ve been even more surprised that India – a market many clients have more or less ignored – has fared so well over the long run.
New research cast doubts on the impact of Made In China 2025, at least through 2018 “we see little statistical evidence of productivity improvement or increases in R&D expenditure, patenting and profitability”
Using a Difference-in-Differences approach, we find evidence that participation [in Made In China 2025] enables firms to receive more innovation subsidies, which appears to induce increases in R&D intensity. However, there is no evidence that participation increases domestic and foreign patenting, labor productivity, TFP, or profitability of participating firms, suggesting the most important goals of the policy are still unrealized. There is no statistically significant evidence (at a 5% significance level) of positive effects of the “Made in China 2025” initiative on total subsidies, Chinese invention patents, US utility patents, log labor productivity, TFP, and profit margin.
Two Aegis-equipped Japanese destroyers successfully intercepted mock ballistic missiles during tests off the coast of Hawaii earlier this month. Japan added two more vessels to its Aegis-equipped fleet and now has a total of 8 operational.
Japan added two more vessels to its fleet of Aegis-equipped destroyers, raising to eight the number of ships capable of intercepting ballistic missiles. Two Maya-class Aegis destroyers, the Maya and the Haguro, successfully intercepted mock ballistic missiles during tests off the coast of Hawaii earlier this month, the Defense Ministry said Monday. In addition, the Maya fired the Standard Missile-3 Block 2A, the interceptor missile developed by the US and Japan. This marks the first time a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force vessel launched an interceptor from the state-of-the-art Block 2A system.
New official Chinese numbers show over 40% of 31 provincial-level jurisdictions reported more deaths than births last year. Total population grew by 480,000 to 1.4B in 2021, the smallest increase since 1962, with births down 11.5% from 2021. @SCMPNews
Among China’s 31 provincial-level jurisdictions, 13 reported more deaths than births last year. Those 13 comprised the wealthy regions of Shanghai, Jiangsu, and Tianjin; the central provinces of Sichuan, Chongqing, Hunan, and Hubei; Hebei, Shanxi, and the Inner Mongolia autonomous region in the north and northwest; and the northeastern rust-belt provinces of Liaoning, Jilin, and Heilongjiang. China has shined a bit more light on its demographic crisis, with newly released figures showing that more than a third of its provinces saw their populations shrink last year. Chinese mothers gave birth to just 10.62 million babies in 2021 – an 11.5% decline from 2020.
Large scale decoupling isn’t showing up in the Chinese trade data. Chinese exports to the US rose to 2.5% of GDP in Q3 ‘22, up from about 2.25% on average from 2010 to 2018. @Brad_Setser
I don't think there has been much of a shift in global supply chains out of China. If you trust the Chinese data -- the Chinese data here may be better, as the US data is influenced by tariff avoidance -- US imports from China are slightly higher (as a share of GDP) than before the trade war. China's overall data tells a story of the reglobalization of China's economy after the pandemic. Exports to GDP had been trending down from 2010 to 2018 -- but have moved up strongly in the past year. And there is no sign that the G-7 has already decoupled from China as a source of supply! (imports from China have boomed in the last 3 years) So decoupling, in my view, is a forecast -- not a current reality. The pandemic increased the world's reliance on China as a source of manufactured supply and increased China's reliance on exports for demand!
The Oswald Misery Index (2 x unemployment + inflation ) was 15% in October, on par with the 20% peaks in the aftermath of the financial crisis. @WSJ
Since the early 1990s, the Misery Index has only been higher during the 2007-09 recession and its aftermath and for a couple of months in 2020 during the early lockdowns. Importantly, though, the two factors didn't necessarily carry the same weight, as the Misery Index implies. [Andrew Oswald, a professor at the University of Warwick, found that] a 1-percentage-point increase in the unemployment rate had an equivalent impact on happiness as a 1.97-point increase in the inflation rate. [If Oswald] were to construct a Misery Index, he would make a simple modification: Multiply the unemployment rate by two and add it to the inflation rate. His index was 20% in 2010 and 15.1% now. By putting extra weight on unemployment, the index helps explain why 2010 was so much worse for Democrats.
Masayoshi Son, chief executive and founder of SoftBank, owes the company close to $5B from loans that enabled his investments in the company’s tech funds. @ft
Masayoshi Son personally owes SoftBank close to $5bn because of growing losses on the Japanese conglomerate's technology bets, which have also rendered the value of his stake in the group's second Vision Fund worthless. The billionaire's ballooning personal liabilities, discovered through a Financial Times analysis of SoftBank's recent filings, comes as the world's biggest tech investor was hammered by plunging tech stocks and valuations in private companies over the past year.
The S&P is rallying outside of large-cap tech stocks. @rbrtrmstrng @ft
One way to think about the relationship between the great Big Tech stocks and the broader market is by comparing the equal-weight S&P index — where the performance of every stock counts the same — to the plain vanilla S&P, which is [weighted by market capitalization.] The performance of the equal-weight index is the light blue line in the chart above, [with a dark blue line for the market cap weighted index.] What that chart shows, in short, is the performance of a few [large cap] stocks, mostly the Big Techs, dragging the index around. But in the most recent rally, things have changed meaningfully, as seen from the extreme right part of the chart. Since the beginning of October, the equal-weight index has outperformed, and the index has risen. The market has rallied without Big Tech.
Economics newsletter publisher @JosephPolitano notes worsening financial conditions, increasing interest rate volatility and rising long-term interest rates as the Federal Reserve began Quantitative Tightening earlier this year.
Throughout most of the 2010s, the dominant state for the US banking system was low-interest rates, large amounts of Quantitative Easing, weak credit creation, and low inflation. Now, however, commercial banks face a different challenge. Since the start of Quantitative Tightening, we have seen financial conditions worsening, increasing interest rate volatility, and rising long-term interest rates—so the program is likely having some of its intended effects (although it's hard to disaggregate the effects of short-term rate hikes and signaling against the actions of QT).
James Capretta notes the federal government’s unfunded liabilities in 2021 were $93.1 trillion, nearly 400% of annual GDP. In 2001, they stood at 105% of GDP. @AEI
Most of the nation's political leaders show little concern or even awareness that the federal government's net financial position has eroded rapidly in this century. They know about mounting public debt because regular budget reports highlight it, as do media outlets. Less well-known or understood is the growth of the government's unfunded liabilities, which, if anything, should be more alarming. With Social Security and Medicare included in the assessment, the federal government's unfunded liabilities in 2021 are $93.1 trillion, or nearly 400 percent of annual GDP. That compares with $11.1 trillion as calculated in the 2001 Treasury report, which was 105 percent of GDP.
.@JohnAuthers argues that the Cleveland Fed “trimmed mean” and the Atlanta Fed “sticky” inflation measure suggest inflation has peaked.
Underlying metrics confirmed that this time might really be the peak, in a way they conspicuously failed to do earlier this year when core CPI last seemed to have started a descent. The chart shows the “trimmed mean” inflation produced by the Cleveland Fed that excludes the biggest outliers in either direction from the index’s components and takes the average of the rest; and the “sticky” inflation measure produced by the Atlanta Fed, which looks only at the goods and services whose prices are hardest to change. In practice, when these measures rise, it’s taken as a sign that inflationary pressure is gaining strength; it’s good to see that while both remain very elevated, the trimmed mean has dipped slightly, while sticky price inflation is unchanged.
.@johnHCochrane argues that inflation potentially peaking with the Federal Funds rate < CPI is evidence that the fiscal theory of the price level is the right way to understand inflation
The news of the moment is that inflation might--might--be peaking. I just present the CPI to make the point, but there seems to be a lot of news suggesting that inflation is easing off. Newer theory, which primarily uses rational (better, forward-looking or model-consistent) rather than adaptive expectations, says that inflation is stable under an interest rate target. It follows that inflation can go away all on its own, even with interest rates substantially below inflation. With fiscal theory + rational expectations, we are having a burst of inflation to devalue government debt, as a response to the 2020-2021 fiscal blowout. But once the price level has risen enough to bring the real value of debt back, it’s over. Until the next shock hits. If inflation fades away despite interest rates below the inflation rate, we have a rather striking confirmation of this rational expectations view, with stable inflation, relative to the traditional spiral-away view. So, are we headed there? It’s too soon for this cautious commenter to declare victory, but I am willing to provide context and say I’m watching anxiously!
.@Davidshor notes that Republicans likely turned out at higher rates than democrats in 2022 and suspects the reason Democrats won independents was anger at the Dobbs decision.
Republicans literally outnumbered Democrats, according to the AP’s VoteCast. And yet Democrats still won. What’s really unique about this midterm cycle is that Republicans created a radical policy change — and one that was quite unpopular — without controlling the presidency or the legislature. And that allowed Democrats to plausibly run as the party that was going to make less change than the opposition, which is a super-unusual situation. In our ad testing, messaging about reproductive rights tested very well. Dobbs had an immediate impact on election outcomes. If you look at special elections before and after the decision, Democrats did much better in the latter. And the percentage of primary voters who were Democrats increased by about 2.7 percent after Dobbs. So I think Dobbs was really the major factor.
Citing a slowdown in the Employment Cost Wage index, @paulkrugman argues there is a “strong case to be made there’s considerable disinflation in the pipeline” and admits, “Over the past year, optimists like me were wrong, while pessimists were right.”
Wages are still rising too fast to be consistent with the Fed’s inflation target, but if the economy is really set to weaken, wage growth will probably weaken too. Furthermore, you can argue that past wage growth, like surging rents, partly reflected a one-time adjustment to pandemic-related shocks, which will go away over time. I’d argue, a strong case to be made that there’s considerable future disinflation already in the pipeline. Over the past year, optimists like me were wrong, while pessimists were right. But past results are no guarantee of future performance.
@LHSummers argues that the current inflationary environment should spur regulatory reforms “that will both reduce prices and make the economy work better.”
The crisis of inflation should not be wasted. A bright spot in the dismal inflation period of the 1970s was the collaboration of Stephen G. Breyer (then counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee), Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and the Carter administration on airline deregulation. In this era, high inflation should be a spur to regulatory changes — from addressing Jones Act increases in shipping costs, to strategic tariffs, to rules that force oil and gas to be transported via truck rather than pipeline, to punitive zoning restrictions — that will both reduce prices and make the economy work better. Regaining price stability at as low a cost as possible is far from sufficient to maximize American economic performance, but it is necessary.
American households still have $1.7 trillion in excess savings, $350 billion of which are in the hands of the lower half of the income distribution. @NickTimiraos @WSJ￼
Household, nonfinancial corporate and small-business sectors ran a surplus of total income over total spending equal to 1.1% of gross domestic product in the quarter of April to June, according to economists at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Using a three-year average, the measure is healthier than on the eve of any U.S. recession since the 1950s. U.S. households still have around $1.7 trillion in savings they accumulated through mid-2021 above and beyond what they would have saved if income and spending had grown in line with the prepandemic economy, according to estimates by Fed economists. Around $350 billion in excess savings as of June were held by the lower half of the income distribution, or around $5,500 per household on average.
.@WSJ reports, “Treasury securities with similar characteristics are trading at larger-than-normal price differences” as large buyers like big banks and asset managers reduce purchases.￼
Treasury securities with similar characteristics are trading at larger-than-normal price differences. Major players, including the big banks and asset managers that have long been significant buyers, are in retreat. One problem is a growing difference between yields on the newest Treasurys in the market and older vintages that are still traded among investors. Theoretically, a five-year note sold this year should trade at the same yield as a five-year-old 10-year note, because both come due in 2027. But fresh Treasurys are trading at a growing premium to older notes, a sign the older securities have become harder to find buyers for.
“There’s not a customer that we have that isn’t pressuring us, suggesting, hoping that we will build factories outside of China,” an American manufacturer in China reports @WSJ ￼
It took Jacob Rothman two decades to build a Chinese manufacturing business with his friends and family. Now the 49-year-old American executive says customers want him to make some of his grilling tools and kitchen products elsewhere. He knows it isn’t going to be easy. “There’s not a customer that we have that isn’t pressuring us, suggesting, hoping that we will build factories outside of China,” says the co-chief executive of Velong Enterprises Co., which has six factories in mainland China and serves big retailers and consumer brands such as Walmart Inc. and grill maker Weber Inc. Yet “there’s nothing like China,” he added. “We’ve built this supply chain for 30 years to work like a Swiss clock. There’s just nothing like it.”
.@michaelxpettis notes that decoupling from China will be hard because, with subsidies in “energy, transportation, logistical and communications infrastructure, they can effectively produce more cheaply in China than elsewhere.”￼
Decoupling won't be easy because there is a reason China-based manufacturers are so "competitive" internationally. Chinese subsidies to manufacturers – not just direct but, especially, indirect – are far greater than those of any other country. The extent of these subsidies explains China's huge domestic imbalances and the persistent weakness in its domestic demand. Manufacturers are in China because as long as China subsidies them directly and indirectly, with constant (and expensive) upgrades to energy, transportation, logistical and communications infrastructure, they can effectively produce more cheaply in China than elsewhere. Even rising Chinese wages won't matter because as long as the total income of Chinese workers – and households more generally – doesn't exceed, or even lags, the growth in total production, China will always be a relatively "low wage" economy.
China’s leadership is suspicious of growing household consumption as a % of GDP at the expense of building industrial capacity and “girding for potential conflict with the West.”
Xi and some of his lieutenants remain suspicious of U.S.-style consumption, which they see as wasteful at a time when China’s focus should be on bolstering its industrial capabilities and girding for potential conflict with the West, people with knowledge of Beijing’s decision-making say. The leadership also worries that empowering individuals to make more decisions over how they spend their money could undermine state authority, without generating the kind of growth Beijing desires.
Expected earnings for S&P 500 firms “fully explain observed stock market fluctuations from 1980-2022,” and help explain macroeconomic boom-bust cycles @NBERpubs
The present value of short and long term expected earnings for S&P 500 firms, computed using a constant required return, fully explains observed stock market fluctuations btw 1980-2022. When long term earning growth (LTG) is high relative to historical standards, analyst forecasts of short and long term profits are systematically disappointed in the future, inconsistent with rationality. High LTG also correlates with higher survey expectations of stock returns, in contrast with standard theories, in which investors expect low returns in good times. High LTG thus proxies for excess optimism: it points to investors being too bullish about future profits and stock return. This evidence offers additional support to the hypothesis that boom-bust dynamics in non-rational expectations about the long-term act as an important driver of the volatility of key asset prices. A one standard deviation increase in LTG fuels an investment boom. Crucially, the investment boom sharply reverts 2 years later, and that reversal is fully explained by the predictable disappointment of the initially high LTG.
.@nberpubs analysis finds that a 1% increase in the working age share of population raises per capita income by ~ 1% and forecasts a 0.4-0.8pp drop in growth of income per capita from population aging.
The results document that shifts in population age structure significantly affect economic growth. A 1% increase in the working-age share raises income per capita by about 1%. A 1% greater working-age share amplifies growth by 0.1–0.4% in subsequent periods. These patterns are stable for both OECD and non-OECD countries. We combine the empirical estimates with demographic predictions and project economic growth in 2020–2050. Without population aging, income per capita in OECD countries is projected to grow on average by 2.5% annually between 2020 and 2050. With population aging, growth is projected to slow by 0.8 pp if we measure working ages retrospectively but only by 0.4 pp if we measure [changes in age patterns of health]. In contrast, population aging is projected to spur average growth of income per capita in non-OECD countries.
As the American workforce shrinks relative to the economy @pkedrosky @defrag argue the number of workers is a limiting constraint on economic growth. He notes that the current generation of AI isn’t mature enough yet to offset this headwind.
If the labor force had continued to grow more or less in line with history and GDP, we’d have almost 5M more workers out there. But we don’t. The gap is shrinking—it was closer to 7M a year ago—but it is still a very large number, and, given retirements, skill mismatches, and aging, it seems unlikely we will close that gap quickly, if ever. Absent a wave of immigration, which creates its own problems, politically and otherwise, and doesn’t necessarily fill the observed skill gaps, something needs to change. Historically, when this has happened—labor became more expensive than capital—economies have responded with automation, so we should expect that again today. We think, contrary to hyperbole, we are already at the tail end of the current wave of AI. We need to look past the limits of current AI technology if we are to break free from the past few decades of tech—enabled automation, where there is high worker displacement without commensurate productivity gains impact—where minimal human flourishing is created.
The average home insurance cost for Floridians has tripled in the past five years. Homebuilders in California and Florida are reporting insurance costs are “somewhat slowing sales.”
Almost a third of house builders in Florida said buyers’ concerns about home insurance were “somewhat slowing sales.” The proportion in Southern California was very similar, at 29%, the survey by John Burns Research & Consulting found. That is much higher than the national figure of 9% of builders reporting sales affected by insurance concerns. The risks of disasters haven’t been fully priced into property markets, partly because of flaws in the way federal flood insurance was priced, researchers say. If flood risks were taken into account, U.S. residential properties would be worth at least $121 billion less, according to a study earlier this year by nonprofit the First Street Foundation, the Federal Reserve and others. In Florida alone, properties in flood zones are overvalued by more than $50 billion.
.@BankofAmerica reports that in Q2 ‘23 San Antonio, Dallas, and Orlando have the most constrained housing supplies as buoyant labor markets continue to attract people.
Our analysis suggests that in 2Q, San Antonio, Dallas, and Orlando have the most constrained housing supply as buoyant labor markets continue to attract people. St. Louis, Detroit, and Miami seem to have the highest housing stock relative to their population. The good news is that cities with lower housing supply are already seeing higher construction trends but if the current population dynamics are maintained there will continue to be a strong housing need in the growing parts of the country. Looking more broadly at population flow, Bank of America internal data suggests that in 2Q, 13 out of the 27 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) we track continue to see positive year-over-year growth in population with Jacksonville and Columbus leading the gain. Charlotte, Nashville, and Las Vegas saw accelerating pace of increase in residents than in 1Q. Related: A $100 Billion Wealth Migration Tilts US Economy’s Center of Gravity South and What’s the Matter With Miami? and Young Families Have Not Returned to Large Cities Post-Pandemic
.@AswathDamodaran argues that central banks are rate takers, not rate makers. Rates, in his view, are ultimately set by inflation and real growth. He notes, “The fundamentals will win.”
There is no better way to show the emptiness of "the Fed did it" argument than to plot out the US treasury bond rate each year against a crude version of the fundamental risk-free rate, computed by adding the actual inflation in a year to the real GDP growth rate that year. No one (including central banks) cannot fight fundamentals: Central banks and governments that think that they have the power to raise or lower interest rates by edict, and the investors who invest on that basis, are being delusional. While they can nudge rates at the margin, they cannot fight fundamentals (inflation and real growth), and when they do, the fundamentals will win. Related: The Fed and the Secular Decline in Interest Rates and What Have We Learned About the Neutral Rate? and The Evolution of Short-Run r* After the Pandemic
Analysts at @sffed argue that as of June households have spent 90% of $2.1T in excess savings accumulated during the pandemic. They estimate that excess savings will be fully depleted by the end of Q3 2023.
The United Auto Workers are coming closer to a strike in September. Their demands would cost carmakers $80 billion over the four years of the deal.
The leader of the United Auto Workers union on Tuesday asked members to grant him the ability to call a strike, arguing contract talks with the three major Detroit carmakers are moving too slowly. Earlier this year, the UAW gave each carmaker a list of demands that included pay raises of more than 40%, inflation protection, better treatment of temporary workers, and improved perks for retirees. The UAW also wants all workers paid the same wage, regardless of the job they do or whether they work on electric vehicles. If the union got everything it demanded it would cost carmakers $80 billion over the four years of the deal, Bloomberg has reported. Related: The ‘Summer of Strikes’ Isn’t Living Up to the Hype and Unions’ Inflation Warning? and Everyone Wants to Work at UPS After Teamsters Deal
Over the last year, FDI flows into China have turned negative, as foreign multinationals have repatriated Chinese earnings they had previously reinvested. @jnordvig @EtraAlex @martin_lynge
Net FDI into China has been negative for four consecutive quarters (from Q3 2022 to Q2 2023). The bottom line is that foreign investors have shifted in recent quarters from reinvesting their earnings on their Chinese operations to repatriating those earnings. Whether this simply reflects cash management and carry considerations or is a harbinger of a slowdown in future foreign direct investment in China is too soon to say. If the recent trend to repatriate earnings is a signal about future investment intentions, it could have implications for future Chinese production and export capacity and economic growth. Either way, the repatriation of foreign investors’ profits from their Chinese operations is negative for the CNY. Related: The Mysterious $300 Billion Flow Out of China and NYC Becomes One Billionaire Family’s Haven From China Property Crash and Singapore Asks Banks to Keep Quiet on Wealth Inflows During China Boom
Chris Satterthwaite notes the overperformance of the top-5 market cap stocks is historically unusual and speculates that technological advances ranging from AI and superconductors will likely drive significant churn over the next decade.
The phenomenon of the largest stocks delivering the best returns is new, in our opinion. In fact, from 1994 to 2013, an annually rebalanced portfolio of the largest 5 stocks (“Big 5”) in the US had a comparable return to the entire S&P 500. But both portfolios significantly lagged a large-cap value portfolio (per Ken French). The last 10 years have seen a concentration of returns to the tech sector and to a few companies within that sector. This is both notable and unusual. With the advent of exciting new technologies like AI and superconductors, we think it’s plausible that the top 5 largest companies 10 years from now may look quite different from the top 5 today. In which case, a diversified portfolio would likely serve investors better than a highly concentrated size-defined portfolio. Related: Birth, Death, and Wealth Creation and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride: The Impact Of Underperforming 2020 and 2021 US IPOs and The Economics of Inequality in High-Wage Economies
Treasury’s new buyback program will allow the Treasury to “add and remove duration into the market,” an ability previously only held by the Fed. @FedGuy12
Treasury plans to issue a bit more debt at each auction with the understanding a portion of the proceeds would be used to purchase old debt. In effect, the composition of Treasuries outstanding would be tilted towards the more liquid new issues. The program could one day be deployed to influence monetary conditions. For example, Treasury could effectively ease financial conditions by issuing short dated debt to purchase longer dated debt. There is no indication of this today, but treasuries and the central banks do not always have the same goal, and conflicts between the two are common in history.
.@paulkrugman argues that at the current interest rate of inflation-protected 10-year U.S. bonds of 1.83%, economic growth makes a runaway debt spiral unlikely.
You can get a debt spiral if r is significantly larger than g; in that case rising debt leads to faster accumulation of debt, and we’re off to the races. Even after the rate surge of the past few days, the interest rate on inflation-protected 10-year U.S. bonds was 1.83%, which is close to most estimates of the economy’s sustainable growth rate. If you take the low end of such estimates, we could possibly face a debt spiral, but it would be a very slow-motion spiral. Put it this way: If r is 1.8, while g is only 1.6, stabilizing the debt ratio with debt at 100% of G.D.P. would require a primary surplus of 2% of G.D.P.; increase debt to 150%, and that required surplus would increase only to 3%. Related: Summers and Blanchard Debate the Future of Interest Rates and Interest Costs Will Grow the Fastest Over the Next 30 Years and US Fiscal Alarm Bells Are Drowning Out a Deeper Problem
A model from the @sffed forecasts “year-over-year shelter inflation will continue to slow through late 2024 and may even turn negative by mid-2024.”
The dashed line presents our baseline forecast of year-over-year shelter inflation over the next 18 months based on the average of cumulative shelter inflation forecasts at the CBSA level. Blue shading shows the area in which 95% of the model’s out-of-sample forecast errors fall, indicating the range of confidence regarding the accuracy of our model estimates. The solid line plots actual year-over-year shelter inflation. Our baseline forecast suggests that year-over-year shelter inflation will continue to slow through late 2024 and may even turn negative by mid-2024. This would represent a sharp turnaround in shelter inflation, with important implications for the behavior of overall inflation. The deflationary component of this forecast would be the most severe contraction in shelter inflation since the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-09. Related: Rangvid On Housing Inflation and New Tenant Repeat Rent Index
Since the start of the pandemic major urban counties’ federal tax base has declined by at least $68B, with large declines in San Francisco and New York City. @cojobrien
The country’s large urban areas were hit hard by the pandemic and subsequent economic recovery on a number of fronts. Between 2020 and 2021, IRS data shows that net migration subtracted more than $68 billion (Adjusted Gross Income, or AGI) from large urban counties’ aggregate taxable income. Meanwhile migration added to taxable income in all other types of counties, even smaller urban peers. The scale of decline in large urban areas was equivalent to nearly two percent of total taxable incomes in such counties. In contrast, newcomers to rural counties have added more than 1.5% to taxable income in each of 2020 and 2021. Manhattan alone lost more than $16 billion in federally-taxable income (spread across more than 37,000 returns) through net migration, equivalent to more than 13% of remaining residents’ combined taxable incomes. Net migration out of San Francisco left that city’s federal income tax base more than $8 billion—or 20% —smaller between 2020 and 2021 alone. Related: Young Families Have Not Returned to Large Cities Post-Pandemic and Sunbelt Cities Nashville and Austin Are Nation’s Hottest Job Markets and Taxing Billionaires: Estate Taxes and the Geographical Location of the Ultra-Wealthy
The American semiconductor industry trade association reports the industry is facing a likely shortfall of 60% of the 115,000 new positions they will need through 2030. @markets
Chipmakers are on course to add about 115,000 jobs by 2030 [according to] Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA). Based on a study of current degree completion rates, though, about 58% of those projected positions could remain unfilled. Not enough Americans are studying science, engineering, math and technology-related subjects, according to the SIA. And people from other countries who are acquiring those skills are leaving, the group said. At US colleges and universities, more than 50% of master’s engineering graduates and 60% of those with a Ph.D. in engineering are citizens of other countries. About 80% of those master’s graduates and 25% of those who earn doctorates depart the US — either by choice or because immigration policy doesn’t allow them to stay. Related: The Extreme Shortage of High IQ Workers and TSMC To Send Hundreds More Workers To Speed U.S. Plant Construction
.@BobbyJindal argues that simple reforms in Medicare billing could save patients and taxpayers somewhere between $346B and $672B over the next 10 years.
Currently, Medicare pays hospital-owned facilities two to three times as much as independent physician offices for the same service, according to the Alliance for Site Neutral Payment Reform. This creates an enormous incentive for large hospital chains to acquire outpatient practices. A report by the Physician Advocacy Institute found that the share of hospital-owned physician practices more than doubled, from 14% to 31%, between 2012 and 2018. By 2020 more than half of physicians worked directly for a hospital or at a physician practice owned by a hospital, according to the American Medical Association. Removing these perverse incentives could save patients and taxpayers between $346 billion and $672 billion over the next decade.
Americans aged 25-54 are employed or looking for jobs at rates not seen in two decades, helping counter the exodus of older baby boomers from the workforce.
American prime age 25-54 labor force participation is at a two decade high of 83.5% as an uptick in prime age female LFP has offset a decline in male prime age LFP since 2000. In the first months of the pandemic, nearly four million prime-age workers left the labor market, pushing participation in early 2020 to the lowest level since 1983—before women had become as much of a force in the workplace. Prime-age workers now exceed prepandemic levels by almost 2.2 million. The resurgence of midcareer workers is driven by women taking jobs. The labor-force participation rate for prime-age women was the highest on record, 77.8% in June. That is well up from 73.5% in April 2020. Related: The Labor Supply Rebound from the Pandemic and Where Are the Missing Gen Z Workers
Michael Cembalest @jpmorgan notes the 2020/20221 IPO class has performed extremely poorly relative to the overall equity market. IPO returns since 2010 were highly skewed; if the top 5% were removed, returns were strongly negative vs the market.
Since 40%-60% of IPOs generate negative returns even in good times, their value proposition is whether a small subset of winners offsets all the losers. A highly skewed investment universe is characterized by average returns that are much higher than median. As shown below, IPOs are an example of that; in many years, average net returns were positive while median net returns were close to zero. But these positive average returns are highly skewed: look how quickly they decline when excluding the best 3%, 5%, and 7% of IPOs. Even when only excluding the top 3%, average net returns become negative, and average absolute returns fall by more than half. In other words, long-term IPO survival odds are low and skewed to a small number of mega-winners.
.@joshrauh & Gregory Kearney of @HooverInst argue academic research suffers from a feedback loop that encourages economists to produce left-leaning research to achieve widespread coverage in the mainstream media.
Social sciences researchers hoping to become public influencers have one clear path: through the mainstream media. Unfortunately, journalists aren’t unbiased arbiters. For more than a decade, the media has praised economists Saez, Zucman and Piketty. Their data purport to show the income share of the top 1% of [US] earners climbed to 21% in 2019 from 9% in 1970. In a recent paper that has received far less attention, Auten of the U.S. Treasury and Splinter of Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation find the income share of the top 1% climbed to 13.7% in 2019 from 9.2% in 1970. and, incorporating increases in redistributive government policy, the income share of the top 1% only increased to 8.8% in 2019 from 6.8% in 1970. In 2017, [Harvard’s Raj Chetty] published findings that U.S. trends in the likelihood of children achieving a higher income status than their parents has grown progressively worse, a point that received intense media coverage. Research published by Scott Winship of the American Enterprise Institute shows the fall in mobility was a direct consequence, not of inequality, but of slowing economic growth that began in the 1970s. Journalists’ propensity to ignore research that refutes their beliefs encourages academics to pander to the liberal tilt of mainstream news organizations, leading to the general public’s misunderstanding of important policy issues.
George Borjas finds that a 1981 French program giving legal status to undocumented workers who represented about 1% of all workers resulted in increased employment and wages for low-skill native and immigrant men and raised GDP 1%.
This paper documents the economic consequences of a large amnesty program implemented in France. In July 1981, the newly elected government of President François Mitterrand proposed to regularize all undocumented workers. The regularized workers were predominantly male, low-skill, and lived disproportionately in the Paris region. The regularized immigrants composed 2.0% of workers in Paris and nearly 1% of all workers in France. In short, by reducing monopsony power in the undocumented labor market, a regularization program improves labor market efficiency and can generate a substantial increase in output, a “regularization surplus.” Our empirical analysis of employment, wage, and output data in the French labor market confirms that the regularization program indeed had positive effects on the employment and wages of many groups, and particularly for male, low-skill workers. Moreover, there was a sizable jump in the growth rate of per-capita GDP in the affected region, suggesting an increase in total French GDP of around 1%. Related: Immigration to Drive All US Population Growth Within Two Decades and Immigrants & Their Kids Were 70% of U.S. Labor Force Growth Since 1995
.@_seulakim documents the importance of the 50 largest US firms in generating novel patents that combine technical components in new ways.
The share of mega firms in novel patent applications had been declining for almost two decades but there has been a turnaround since the early-mid 2000s. By the mid-2010s, the share of mega-firms was the highest since 1980 when our sample starts. We show that mega firms are more likely to apply for novel patents even after controlling for various firm characteristics including size, industry, and the total number of patents. This finding also holds within firms––firms produce more novel patents than before as they become mega firms. This suggests that closing on market leadership is associated with more, not less new combinations. We also examine the opposite side of the spectrum, the not-yet-public VC-backed startups, and find that those also play a disproportionately large role in generating novel patents, especially “hit” novel patents, so that successful novel patents appear to be produced in a bi-modal pattern, both by super large mega firms and relatively small startups. Related: The Economics of Inequality in High-Wage Economies and Where Have All the "Creative Talents" Gone? Employment Dynamics of US Inventors
New @NBERpubs paper finds that there is no empirical evidence that government spending related to the space race contributed to broader economic growth on the national level.
Figure 1 shows that the ambitious mission to send a manned crew to the Moon led to a massive expansion of federal investment in R&D – NASA received over 0.7 percent of GDP at the peak of the Space Race. Space Race spending was economically large so we might expect local effects through a fiscal multiplier channel even without technological spillovers. We compare the fiscal multiplier for NASA contractor spending implied by our estimates to the literature to get a sense of this. We find that R&D contractor spending on the Space Race had a similar impact as typical government expenditures. There is no credible empirical estimate of the space mission’s contribution to economic growth. The magnitudes of the estimated effects seem to align with those of other non-R&D types of government expenditures.
The American current account deficit is mainly financed via portfolio debt flows, a change from the pre-GFC period when the deficit was funded by reserve accumulation. @IMFNews data shows a declining role for China.
The US current account deficit, the largest deficit of all, is mainly financed via portfolio debt flows. Geographically, the financing of the US current account deficit has become increasingly mediated by financial centers in recent years. This contrasts with the pre-GFC period, when the US current account deficit was financed largely through reserve accumulation from surplus countries. Balance-of-payments data show a declining role for China. Related: Brad Sester On The Balance Of Payments and How Was the U.S. Current Account Deficit Financed In 2022?
Peder Beck-Friis and Richard Clarida @PIMCO argue that fiscal policy has been a key driver of the current temporary inflationary episode, consistent with @JohnHCochrane fiscal theory of the price level.
In advanced economies, there’s a significant positive relationship between core inflation and sovereign debt growth since the start of the pandemic. The fiscal expansions delivered this decade will likely lead to price levels adjusting permanently higher. But this is not the same thing as permanently higher inflation: Our base case is that as temporary pandemic-related deficits gradually normalize, inflation is likely to diminish – and today’s restrictive monetary policies aim to accelerate this process. And unlike in the 1970s, monetary policy credibility appears intact, with medium-term inflation expectations still anchored around central bank targets. Related: The Second Great Experiment Update, Inflation and Debt Across Countries and Waining Inflation, Supply and Demand
.@FedGuy12 argues slowing employment growth is consistent with an American economy that is at full employment and running out of workers. This works against Fed aims, as higher wages are needed to attract marginal workers into the labor force.
The pandemic was a significant negative labor supply shock because it led to a wave of early retirements. This sudden labor shortage led to a spike in wages, which appeared to draw in people who were otherwise not looking for a job. The prime-age labor force participation rate has risen to multi-year highs and is not too far from all-time highs last seen in the 1990s. This suggests that there is very little slack in the labor market and additional workers will be increasingly difficult and expensive to find. While that shock has been digested, workers continue to retire and place increasing demand on a stagnant worker pool. In this scenario, moderating employment growth reflects labor scarcity and would be accompanied by reacceleration of wages similar to that seen in the most recent non-farm payroll report. Related: “The Great Retirement Boom”: The Pandemic-Era Surge in Retirements and Implications for Future Labor Force Participation and Unions’ Inflation Warning?
.@TheEconomist argues that policymakers are overestimating the importance of manufacturing. In recent years, there has been no significant relationship between economic growth and manufacturing’s share of the economy in OECD countries.
New York state’s foray into industrial policy was a white elephant; $1 billion investment in a Tesla facility earned 0.54 cents on the dollar. External auditors have written down nearly all of New York’s investment.
New York state paid to build a quarter-mile-long facility with 1.2 million square feet of industrial space, which it now owns and leases to Tesla for $1 a year. It bought $240 million worth of solar-panel manufacturing equipment. Musk had said that by 2020 the Buffalo plant each week would churn out enough solar-panel shingles to cover 1,000 roofs. A state comptroller’s audit found just 54 cents of economic benefit for every subsidy dollar spent on the factory, which rose on the site of an old steel mill. External auditors have written down nearly all of New York’s investment. Related: Making Manufacturing Great Again and Why Laws Meant To Create Jobs Can Be So Destructive For Our Cities
While China’s overall unemployment rate is stable at 5.2% in May, but youth unemployment at nearly 21% is above now even higher than Italy. China’s civil service exam had twice as many applicants as in 2019.
.@Brad_Setser argues that net interest payments will top their pre-crisis level of 1.5% of GDP.
The US is the world's big net debtor -- with net external debt of around 50% of its GDP. The US is now getting 4% on average on its loans, while only paying 3% on its borrowing (mostly bonds) the implied net interest rate on US external debt works out to be 2.4% -- well below any current US interest rate. And as a result, net interest payments as a share of US GDP are only up 15 bps of US GDP or so (not much really). These predictable dynamics slow the adjustment in the U.S. balance of payments to higher interest rates, but they don't eliminate it. Net interest payments have a lot further to rise. They certainly will top their pre-GFC peak as a share of US GDP (1.5% or so). Related: Interest Costs Will Grow The Fastest Over The Next 30 Years and American Gothic
Higher child care costs do not explain the labor force participation sluggishness. @stlouisfed @oksana_leukhina
During the first half of 2022, the LFP rate of partnered women with children increased by 1.06 percentage points. Our results suggest that had it not been for rising child care worker wages, we would have likely seen an even stronger LFP rate of partnered women with children today. One reason why this group dramatically increased their market work, despite the rising child care prices, may be related to the rise in the prevalence of telecommuting jobs for which this particular group has a high preference. Related: How Child Care Impacts Parents’ Labor Force Participation
Evidence from CA shows that between 2002-2016 Asian immigration is associated with a decline in white student enrollment in public schools. @leah_boustan
We find substantial white flight from Asian students entering high-socioeconomic status suburban districts: on average, the arrival of one Asian student in a suburban school district leads to the departure of 1.5 white students, a rate of white flight that is somewhat lower but not too dissimilar from flight from Black/Hispanic We find substantial white flight from Asian students entering high-socioeconomic status suburban districts: on average, the arrival of one Asian student in a suburban school district leads to the departure of 1.5 white students, a rate of white flight that is somewhat lower but not too dissimilar from flight from Black/Hispanic populations documented in different settings. Academic performance also rises with Asian entry to high-SES suburban districts. After ruling out correlated patterns of Black/Hispanic entry and direct racial animus, and confirming that housing market dynamics cannot account for the observed departure rate, we suggest that white flight from high-SES districts may be due to parental concerns about academic competition, particularly in a state like CA where entry to public colleges and universities is determined in part by relative high school performance. This pattern is consistent with qualitative sociological evidence about white-Asian encounters in suburban settings. Related: Can Democrats Survive the Looming Crisis in New York City’s Outer Boroughs? and Where New York’s Asian Neighborhoods Shifted to the Right
Torsten Sløk notes that low-interest mortgages constrain housing inventory: 23% of mortgages outstanding have an interest rate of less than 3% and 38% are at 3-4%. @apolloglobal
23% percent of all mortgages outstanding have an interest rate below 3%, 38% are between 3% and 4%, and only 9% of all mortgages outstanding were originated with an interest rate above 6%. The bottom line is that homeowners across America do not have any incentive to move and get a new mortgage with mortgage rates currently at 7.25%. This is a key reason why the supply in the housing market continues to be so low. Related: Inflation Adjusted House Prices 3.8% Below Peak and The Great Pandemic Mortgage Refinance Boom
Mexico became the top US trading partner earlier this year with 15.4% share of all the goods exported and imported, vs. Canada’s 15.2% and China’s 12%. @DallasFed
Mexico became the top U.S. trading partner at the beginning of 2023, with total bilateral trade between the two countries totaling $263 billion during the first four months of this year. Mexico’s gains mirror its rise in manufacturing, a key component of goods moving between it and the U.S. During the first four months of 2023, total trade of manufactured goods between Mexico and the U.S. reached $234.2 billion. Overall, Mexican imports to the U.S. totaled $157 billion; U.S. exports to Mexico reached $107 billion. Mexico–U.S. trade during the first four months of 2023 represented 15.4 percent of all the goods exported and imported by the U.S.; the Canada–U.S. share followed at 15.2 percent and then the China–U.S. share at 12.0 percent. Related: Pettis on “Friend-Shoring” and Global Trade Is Shifting, Not Reversing