Japan and the Netherlands are finalizing plans to join American exports controls designed to limit Chinese semiconductor production. @Bloomberg
Japan and the Netherlands are poised to join the US in limiting China’s access to advanced semiconductor machinery. The Netherlands will expand restrictions on ASML Holding NV, which will prevent it from selling at least some of its so-called deep ultraviolet lithography machines, crucial to making some types of advanced chips and without which attempts to set up production lines may be impossible. Japan will set similar limits on Nikon Corp.
Between 2010 and 2010 the share of Chinese women 20-24 who were unmarried rose from 67.5% to 80.4% as young Chinese delay marriage. @ft
This week, an estimated 200mn unmarried Chinese returned home to celebrate the lunar new year greeted by relatives brimming with questions about when they plan to get married and start a family. The annual inquisition is such a predictable part of life for young Chinese that social media channels are filled with viral how-to guides coaching people on how to bat away pushy parents. “Everyone has their own technique,” said a Beijing teacher in her late 20s, who has been keeping her boyfriend a secret from her family for years as a pre-emptive strategy against demands for marriage. Young people who do get married are doing so later, while the total pool of China’s marriageable youth continues to shrink annually. The number of women of childbearing age, defined as those between 15 and 49 years old, fell by more than 4mn last year.
.@Brian_Riedl notes that the eight largest deficit reduction bills since 1985 were attached to debt-limit bills and offers some plausible goals for the negotiation such as ending all pandemic related emergency spending.
There are several plausible policy goals. Conservatives could seek to end the Covid-emergency designation and end all pandemic-related emergency spending (a chance for Democrats to declare victory over the pandemic, too). Several Democrats have also expressed openness to the TRUST Act, which would create a congressional commission to extend Social Security and Medicare solvency. Conservatives could seek to freeze discretionary spending for the year (which may mean trimming domestic programs to accommodate any defense or veterans’ health hikes). If progressives want to eliminate the debt limit, they can make a deal to provide other tools to address unrestrained mandatory spending, such as statutory fiscal targets.
.@Jasonfurman notes GDP is “basically at CBO’s pre-pandemic forecast.” Consumer spending, which has enjoyed “huge fiscal support in 2020 and 2021,” is running well ahead of the CBO’s pre-pandemic forecast, while residential investment declined by 26.7%/yr.
Overall GDP is basically at CBO's pre-pandemic forecast. The big story for economic growth was the consistent strength of consumer spending, which is more than two-thirds of the economy. It has been consistently running well ahead of CBO's pre-pandemic forecast. Likely continued impact of huge fiscal support in 2020 and 2021. The countervailing story is the collapse of residential investment. It has fallen for 7 straight quarters, fell 19.3% over the last four quarters, with a decline of 26.7% (annual rate) in Q4. Biggest since the financial crisis. And the third story is that over the pandemic recovery the huge increase in US demand was partly accommodated by rising imports and production shifted from exports to domestic consumption. But the large increase in the trade deficit has been narrowing.
.@EthanYWu offers support to the Charles Goodhart and Manoj Pradhan view that population aging is inflationary as retirees create more demand than supply.
An ageing population, and the dependency it creates, will hamper supply and stoke inflation. Mikael Juselius and Elod Takats of BIS’s core insight: “The young and the old are inflationary, while the working-age cohort is disinflationary.” That is, prime-age workers create more supply than demand, while their elders and juniors do just the opposite.
The cost of moving money out of China has surged to 12 cents on the dollar relative to 1 cent prior to the pandemic. Nevertheless, Natixis SA estimates capital flight in 2023 will be greater than the pre-pandemic level of $150B per year. @Bloomberg
Before the pandemic, China faced capital flight of about $150 billion annually from people going overseas, but the amount is likely to be higher in 2023 since they haven’t been able to travel for the last three years, according to Alicia Garcia Herrero, chief economist for Asia Pacific at Natixis SA. Her calculation — worked out by looking at unexplained differentials in global tourism data — is an estimate of funds left abroad permanently by Chinese nationals who travel. About 10,800 rich Chinese migrated in 2022, the most since 2019 according to New World Wealth, a global data intelligence partner of investment migration consultant Henley & Partners. According to one private banker, wealthy individuals told him the cost of moving money offshore has risen to 12 cents on the dollar late last year from 1 cent in the years before the pandemic, as the government clamped down on money transfers.
.@MattThomasNYC argues the GOP’s performance in New York in last year wasn’t driven by suburban voters but by minority voters in NYC who accounted for 2/3 of the decline in democratic margins btw 2018-2022.
The suburbs account for just over a third of the decline in the Democratic margin of victory between 2018 and 2022. The people of New York City, through a combination of defection and abstention, account for most of the rest. Narrowing our focus to only those precincts where at least three-quarters of residents share the same racial identity – which I’ll refer to as racial enclaves – the trends are even more pronounced. Between 2018 and 2022, Hispanic and Asian enclaves swung fifty-eight and fifty-two points toward the GOP, respectively. Their turn to the right was far more decisive than that of white enclaves, which swung thirty-two points toward the GOP. For their part, black enclaves moved just eight points to the right over the same period. Between 2014 and 2022, the swings were as follows: six points in black enclaves, forty-two points in white enclaves, fifty-six points in Hispanic enclaves, and fifty-eight points in Asian enclaves. Now that’s what I call a revolt.
New @FedResearch finds that a 1pp policy-induced increase in mortgage rates lowers the presence of low-income households in the population of home buyers by 16%, and of low- and moderate-income households by 7.5%.
I identify the effects of monetary policy by exploiting the timing of high-frequency observations of mortgage rate locks around unanticipated monetary policy shocks conveyed in Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) announcements. I find that a contractionary policy shock which increases mortgage rates by 1 percentage point would reduce the share of home purchase loans going to low- and moderate-income (LMI) borrowers by 2.1 percentage points (or 7.5%) in the weeks following the announcement. The share going to low-income borrowers alone would fall by 1.1 percentage points (16%). While low-wealth households may not experience an immediate appreciation of financial assets when the stance of monetary policy is expansionary, that stance can allow them to get their foot in the door of homeownership.
In 2022 there were 1.7M applications for new businesses that are likely to hire workers. These applications – labeled “high propensity applications” by the Census Bureau – were up 28% over the pre-pandemic baseline. @kenanfikri
Americans filed nearly 1.7 million applications to start new likely employer businesses in 2022. These applications—labeled “high propensity applications” by the Census Bureau—make up a subset of total business applications, capturing those with a higher likelihood of hiring employees in the future based on their industry or other information in the filing. Over the course of the year, there were 359,000 more filings from likely employers in 2022 than in 2019—a 27.8 percent increase over the pre-pandemic baseline. While 2022’s count was 6.5 percent lower than 2021’s, it still ranked as the second-largest haul of the series. These applications are particularly noteworthy because they represent the businesses most likely to lead to lasting job growth and innovation, if and when they become operational.
.@paulkrugman argues that the run-up in debt in the aftermath of the financial crisis and pandemic is likely a better outcome than the counterfactual where debt wasn’t incurred.
My preferred measure — because it avoids some distortions associated with recessions — is debt as a percentage of potential G.D.P., an estimate of what the economy could produce at full employment. The big rise in debt from 2007 to the late 2010s was actually justified by economic events, and any attempt to avoid that rise would have done more harm than good by slowing our recovery even further. Did we borrow too much money? Probably not. During the economic crises of Covid and the Great Recession, adding to the debt was more than justified.
The aging of the American population has left the US short 1.9M workers relative to 2019. A decline in labor force participation of older workers is responsible for a drop of another 500,000 workers. @gelliottmorris @S_Rabinovitch
The labor-force participation (LFP) rate of prime-age workers (aged 25-54) and the foreign-born workforce have almost fully recovered. Neither explains the current squeeze. The biggest shortfall comes from Americans getting older and leaving work behind. Since 2019 those aged at least 65 have gone from less than 16% of the population to nearly 17%. Moreover, unlike prime-age workers, many people who retired early as covid-19 struck have not come back to work. LFP among older Americans, which rose from 12.5% in 2000 to 20.7% in early 2020, has dipped to 19.3%, the same as in 2016. The aging of the population accounts for the loss of 1.9m workers (0.7% of people aged at least 16), while the overall drop in LFP, mainly among the old, is responsible for a further 0.5m (0.2%).
According to a new @USCBO forecast, US population growth after 2033 will be driven by immigration, which will account for all American population growth in 2042. @Bloomberg
US population growth will be driven entirely by immigration within two decades, according to the latest forecasts by the Congressional Budget Office. The projections, published on Tuesday, show a population of 373 million by 2053 — about 3 million more than the CBO was expecting a year ago. That’s partly due to a sharp increase in the forecast for immigration in 2023 and the following two years, after pandemic travel restrictions eased — adding some 1 million to the population over that period. Much of the growth is projected to come in the so-called prime-age bracket, between 25 and 54, that is the core of the workforce. The CBO expects that cohort to increase by about 1.1 million people, or 0.9%, each year.
.@Edsall argues that a “white rural red wave” is the driving force of the Republican party today and cites shifts in Wisconsin suburban and rural voting patterns between 2016 and 2022.
In 2016, Ron Johnson rode Trump’s coattails and the Republican trail blazed by the former governor Scott Walker to a 3.4 point (50.2 to 46.8) victory and swept into office, in large part by running up huge margins in Milwaukee’s predominantly white suburbs. That changed in 2022. Craig Gilbert, a fellow at Marquette Law School conducted a detailed analysis of Wisconsin voting patterns and found that Johnson, "performed much worse in the red and blue suburbs of Milwaukee than he did six years earlier in 2016. So again, how did Johnson win? The simple answer: white rural Wisconsin. As recently as 17 years ago, rural Wisconsin was a battleground. In 2006, Jim Doyle, the Democratic candidate for governor, won rural Wisconsin, about 30 percent of the electorate, by 5.5 points. “Then came the rural red wave,” Gilbert writes. “Walker carried Wisconsin’s towns by 23 points in 2010 and by 25 points in 2014.” In 2016, Johnson won the rural vote by 25 points, but in 2022, he pushed his margin there to 29 points.
.@ojblanchard1 argues that the secular stagnation environment – where real interest rates were low, often negative, and much lower than the economy’s rate of growth – will soon reassert itself and will then be the “prevalent regime for some time to come.”
Summers has argued that the increase in public debt due to the fiscal response to COVID will lead, other things equal, to an increase in r [real return on capital]. He is right about the sign of the increase in public debt’s impact on r, but the effect is likely to be quite small. The debt-to-GDP ratio in advanced economies has increased only from 75 percent in 2019 to 82 percent in 2022; under standard assumptions, this implies an increase in r of no more than 15–30 basis points. That would be insufficient to offset the pre-COVID downward trend in safe rates, let alone to close the gap between r and g [growth rate of output.]
Michael Cembalest @jpmorgan notes that it has been difficult for legislators to increase tax receipts beyond 19% of GDP, and yet entitlement spending plus interest is likely to exceed that level by 2032.
The above chart plots the history of US tax increases since 1950 (as % of GDP and vs Federal receipts as a % of GDP). While there have been tax increases of 2% of GDP or more, they occurred when overall tax receipts were much lower. The red square shows the required increases in taxes, which if spent entirely on increasing discretionary spending, would reduce the ratio of entitlements to non-defense discretionary spending back to 2.2x (its 2006 level). The Sanders high net worth income and capital gains tax plan and the Warren wealth tax plan appear as well.
.@WSJ reports that year-over-year wages for the bottom 10% of earners increased 9.8% relative to 7.4% for the median for all workers. Workers in the top 10% of earnings saw a 5.7% gain.
Median weekly earnings for all workers were 7.4% higher, year-over-year, at the end of 2022, according to an analysis of newly released Labor Department data. The bottom 10th of wage earners—those that make about $570 a week—saw their pay increase by nearly 10%. Better pay increases late last year went to workers who attended college, a reversal from earlier in the pandemic when those who hadn’t completed high school saw outsize gains. The annual rate of wage growth for workers with less than a high school diploma touched a recent peak in the second quarter of 2022, when it was up 11.1% over the prior year, higher than the 7.6% wage growth during that period for workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher. The median raise for Black Americans employed full-time was 11.3%, compared with the prior year.
.@jan_eeckhout suggests that, when the underlying inflation data is not especially noisy, it might be appropriate to use “instantaneous” measures of inflation, which consider only very recent data. “Instantaneous inflation” hit 2% in Dec ‘22.
Current practice to measure inflation for monetary policy uses the average annual inflation rate. When inflation changes fast, whether increasing or decreasing, the annual average rate is biased towards data from too far in the past and conveys the true price level with six months delay. I propose to use instantaneous inflation as a more adequate measure of the price change. The measure trades off noise in the data with the precision of the instantaneous price change. Using the latest inflation numbers, it shows that instantaneous inflation in the US and the Eurozone is back to the target of 2% and that the high inflation period is over. Instantaneous core inflation, which excludes food and energy, is falling, but at 4%, it remains higher than the inflation target of 2%. The conventional measure of core inflation is at 5.7%.
A @nberpubs analysis finds workers who are working from home in the US save an average of 55 minutes with 39% of those time savings being devoted to a primary or secondary jobs and 33% for leisure activities. @I_Am_NickBloom
The pandemic-induced shift to work from home yielded large private benefits in the form of commute time savings. To gauge the magnitude of these benefits, we turn to the Global Survey of Working Arrangements and consider data on commute times and the extent of work from home in 27 countries. We estimate that work from home saved about two hours per week per worker in 2021 and 2022, and that it will save about one hour per week per worker after the pandemic ends. That amounts to 2.2 percent of a 46-hour workweek, with 40 paid hours plus six hours of commuting. As we discussed, the after-tax wage rate is a reasonable benchmark for the private value of commute time savings. Thus, we estimate that the private value of the commute time savings associated with work from home will be about 2.2 percent of after-tax earnings in the post-pandemic economy.
Jeremy Grantham predicts that the S&P 500 will likely hit 3,200 at some point this year, noting that “valuations are still nowhere near their long-term averages.” @GMOInsights
The first and easiest leg of the bursting of the bubble we called for a year ago is complete. While the most extreme froth has been wiped off the market, valuations are still nowhere near their long-term averages. Further, in the past, they have usually overcorrected to below trend as fundamentals deteriorated. My calculations of trendline value of the S&P 500, adjusted upwards for trendline growth and for expected inflation, is about 3200 by the end of 2023. I believe it is likely (3 to 1) to reach that trend and spend at least some time below it this year or next. Not the end of the world but compared to the Goldilocks pattern of the last 20 years, pretty brutal.
A new @CSIS study warns that the Russo-Ukrainian conflict has stressed the American defense industrial base and argues that the surge capacity needed for a potential Taiwan conflict is lacking. @SethGJones
“The bottom line is the defense industrial base, in my judgment, is not prepared for the security environment that now exists,” said Seth Jones, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Industry now is operating in a manner “better suited to a peacetime environment.” Mr. Jones recommends that the U.S. reassess its total munition requirements, urging Congress to hold hearings on the matter. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley said in November that such an effort is already underway. The study also suggests reassessing American requirements for replenishing its stockpiles, creating a strategic munitions reserve, and determining a sustainable munitions procurement plan to meet current and future requirements.
.@Brad_Setser shows that Chinese exports are still at a record level relative to global output and concludes, “Graph is clear; China never deglobalized.”
It is hard to “reglobalize” when there hasn’t yet been any real deglobalization. The world will start deglobalizing when Chinese exports of global manufactures are no longer at a record level relative to global output and when China no longer needs to draw a record amount of net demand from the world to sustain its unbalanced economy. The graph is clear; China never deglobalized.
Tim Krupa from @GoldmanSachs reports that the foreign-born labor force is rebounding from 2.8M below trend in September 2020 to 1.2M below trend in March 2022.
Starting in 2019, tighter immigration policies under the Trump Administration followed by pandemic disruptions depressed the US foreign-born working-age population. The foreign-born labor force fell 2.8 million below its long-term trend level in April 2020 and remained 1.2 million below trend in March 2022. The foreign-born population has grown 137k per month in the past 18 months, compared to 68k per month from Jan. 2010 to Jan. 2019. The chart above shows the foreign-born labor force has grown 110k per month in the past 18 months, compared to 42k per month during the prior period.
.@jimtankersley notes that “America’s debt is now six times what it was at the start of the 21st century” and outlines how America added $25 trillion in debt over the past two decades.
In just two decades, America has added $25 trillion in debt. The biggest — and often bipartisan — drivers of debt have been the federal responses to two sharp economic downturns: the 2008 financial crisis and the 2020 pandemic recession. Shortly after Mr. Obama took office in 2009, inheriting a recession, he pushed Congress to approve a nearly $800 billion package of tax cuts and stimulus spending. Safety-net spending continued at high levels for the next several years as the economy recovered sluggishly. Mr. Trump approved a much larger collection of aid packages, totaling more than $3 trillion after Covid-19 swept the world in 2020. Mr. Biden took office the next year and signed a $1.9 trillion stimulus plan soon after.
Charles Blahous @mercatus notes that America’s long-term Federal fiscal imbalance was largely set between 1965-72. The cost of programs enacted during that period is growing faster than economic output and neither party has made an effort to address this.
Over two-thirds of the structural fiscal imbalance derives from the unsustainable growth rates of federal health programs, most especially Medicare and Medicaid. Irrespective of future policy decisions in other areas such as tax policy, income security, and annually appropriated domestic and defense spending, federal finances will not be stabilized until Medicare and Medicaid’s growth rates are moderated. A survey of fiscal stewardship records produces the unsurprising result that more recent officeholders have tended to run far higher federal deficits than those countenanced by previously elected officials. The largest average federal deficits were operated during the Trump administration, followed, in turn, by the Obama, Ronald W. Reagan, and George H. W. Bush administrations.
.@Brian_Riedl offers practical suggestions on how Republicans could permanently stabilize the American debt at 95% of GDP, a goal that would start with running deficits at 3% of GDP relative to the current baseline of 6% over the next decade.
Fiscal conservatives should aim to permanently stabilize the debt at 95 percent of GDP. This goal would mean keeping deficits near 3 percent of GDP, compared to the baseline deficits rising past 6 percent of GDP over the next decade and 11 percent of GDP in three decades. In the short run, this means: Freezing annual discretionary appropriations. Building momentum for mandatory spending reforms with a modest package of savings (perhaps $400 billion over the decade) that address lower-hanging fruit such as leftover pandemic spending, program overpayments, and federal spending benefits for upper-income families. Begin working toward Social Security and Medicare reform—which drive nearly 100 percent of long-term deficits—by building bipartisan working groups behind the scenes.
Last year @Brian_Riedl compared Trump, Obama, and George W. Bush’s fiscal records and found that Trump’s policies in one term cost $7.8T over a decade, relative to $5T for Obama and $6.9T for Bush.
President Trump’s record on fiscal responsibility does not compare favorably to his immediate predecessors. Surely, it would not be fair to judge President Trump simply by the total budget deficits under his watch, however, as the $10 trillion 10-year baseline deficit that he inherited dwarfed the $4 trillion projected baseline deficit inherited by President Obama and the $6 trillion projected baseline surplus inherited by President Bush. That is far from a level playing field. On the other hand, President Trump also received the largest automatic deficit reductions from his inherited baseline. During his presidency, economic and technical factors that fall mostly outside of political control produced $3.9 trillion in 10-year deficit reduction, mainly through falling interest rates on the federal debt.
.@JBSay notes there have been at least 400,000 unexpected deaths among the US working-age population since 2020. Netting out Covid deaths and unnatural deaths (homicide, suicide, overdose, etc.) he finds a spike starting in 2021.
In 2021 group life [insurance] payments exploded by 20.7% over the five-year average and by 15% over the acute pandemic year of 2020. If we remove both Covid-19 and unnatural deaths (homicide, suicide, overdose, etc.), we see a dramatic spike of natural, non-Covid-19 deaths among working-age people beginning in the spring and summer of 2021. To overgeneralize: In 2020, the vulnerable died of Covid at unusually high rates. In 2021 and 2022, Covid continued its assault, but the young, middle-aged, and healthy also died in aberrantly high numbers of something else.
.@stlouisfed finds that for workers in the bottom 65% of lifetime earnings, an additional year of work experience increases wages by 2-3% versus 8% for workers in the top 35%.
Bottom earners are employed about 25% less than those at the median, underscoring a less stable job ladder for them with fewer opportunities to learn on the job and to switch to better-paying firms. The average returns to each additional year of work experience across the lifetime earnings (LE) distribution; the returns are relatively flatter in the bottom half of LE distribution and increase steeply toward the top. An additional year of work experience increases male workers’ wages by around 2% to 3% for workers below the 65th percentile of the income distribution, versus 8% for those at the top.
.@billjaneway argues that the procurement power of government can play an important role in reducing innovators’ and investors’ market risk. @ProSyn
One recurring feature of that history has been the procurement power of governments. Freed from the necessity of abiding by a neat cost-benefit calculation, the state has repeatedly helped overcome market risk by pulling innovative suppliers down the learning curve to the point where they can offer low-cost and reliable products to commercial markets. In these cases, “product-market fit” results from a state-initiated dynamic process that succeeds in aligning an immature “product” with a nascent “market.”
According to @M_C_Klein, Russian imports have recovered as exports of goods delivered to Russia’s friendly neighbors have increased beyond pre-war levels suggesting export restrictions are being evaded.
The pressure on Russia from sanctions is fading. Exports of manufactured goods to Russia have been rising rapidly in recent months, while exports of goods delivered to Russia’s friendly neighbors are soaring far beyond pre-invasion norms. If export restrictions and sanctions enforcement cannot be tightened further, the Russians may be able to restock some of their lost military equipment—and prolong the war. The overall trend is that exports of dual-use goods are rising, including from Europe. Moreover, the Chinese data show that exports of dual-use goods continued to jump in December, even if Korean exports of dual-use goods has retreated somewhat from the surge in October. The detailed data from Turkey are not yet available, but it is possible that their exports of dual-use goods also jumped in December.
Zoltan Pozsar of @CreditSuisse argues that the American dollar’s global role is under threat as the rise in Chinese, Russian and Saudi Arabian current account surpluses are not flowing into Treasuries as they have historically.
The current account surpluses of China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia are at a record. Yet these surpluses are largely not being recycled into traditional reserve assets like Treasuries, which offer negative real returns at current inflation rates. Instead, we have seen more demand for gold, commodities, and geopolitical investments such as funding the [Belt and Road Initiative.] Leftover surpluses are held increasingly in bank deposits in liquid form to retain much-needed options in a changing world. If less trade is invoiced in US dollars and there is a dwindling recycling of dollar surpluses into traditional reserve assets such as Treasuries, the “exorbitant privilege” that the dollar holds as the international reserve currency could be under assault.
.@michaelxpettis argues that Zoltan Pozsar is wrong about the dollar’s global role. Chronic surplus countries’ dependence on American deficits, and in turn the dollar’s global role, is growing.
The irony is that while Pozsar correctly notes that China's trade surplus is bigger than ever, he doesn't realize that this makes China even more dependent, and not less dependent, on the willingness of China and the rest of the world to hold dollars. The key to global currency "domination" is not how excited the political elite say they are about having their currency dominate. It is how willing they are to allow clear and transparent foreign ownership of domestic assets and, even more importantly, how willing and able they are to give up control of their capital and trade accounts. Can we at least agree that China is reducing the dollar component of its reserves? Even that is questionable. China's reserve accumulation since 2017 has occurred indirectly, through state-bank purchases of dollars. We have no idea whether or not the amount of dollars China is holding has increased or decreased, but simple B-o-P arithmetic tells us that China's rising accumulation of foreign assets was mostly matched by rising foreign accumulation of US assets.
Researchers at @sffed argue that higher transportation costs related to supply chain issues have had a negative impact on American labor force participation with the impact peaking this year.
Our model suggests that overall U.S. labor supply declines during the years when trade costs are elevated and then begins to recover. The biggest cumulative drop of 0.7% occurs in 2022 and the recovery is slow. By 2027, labor supply is projected to still be 0.2% lower than its pre-shock level. The fall in labor supply occurs because, while trade costs are higher, focusing on home production activities that are not reliant on the labor market temporarily becomes more attractive for some people than working in industries that are affected by the trade disruption. The blue line in Figure 2 for the cumulative change in employment since 2019 combines the separate effects from labor force participation and unemployment (green and red lines). Even though the low point for labor supply occurs in 2022, our model does not project that the low point for employment will happen until 2023, due to the additional unemployment that is generated when the trade-cost shock dissipates.
Raj Chetty and his @OppInsights team find that America’s workforce earning <$29k/year is down about 20% relative to its January 2020 level. Adjusting for workers now earning over $29k, the low-wage workforce was 13.5% under its pre-pandemic level. @BSteverman
The US is missing about a fifth of its pre-pandemic low-income workforce. At least some of those workers moved to higher-paying jobs, but, after adjusting for wage growth, researchers found employment for the poorest quarter of the workforce was still 13.5% below pre-pandemic levels at the end of 2021. Analyzing local trends, researchers found an important clue to where those missing workers went: Low-wage workers are scarcest where 2020’s devastation was worst. “It is clear there are large swaths of the population who are still not employed, and these are low-wage workers who lost their jobs in precisely the places where high-income people cut back on spending so sharply a couple of years ago,” Chetty said.
.@GeneralTheorist notes that, while durable goods are deflating, service inflation has decelerated from 7.2% in the three months ending October to 4.7% in December, but remains well above the 2% pre-pandemic run-rate.
While underlying durables are now deflating, underlying services remain high—at about 5% over 3 months, accelerating to 7% month-over-month annualized in Dec. On the bright side, adjusted core service inflation has decelerated from 7.2% over 3 months (annualized) to Oct. to only 4.7% in Dec. This is clearly an improvement. But is that only because Oct. and Nov. prints were unusually soft, or was Dec. the outlier in an otherwise strong disinflation trend? The fear for the Fed then is super core services settling around 4-5% annualized instead of returning to the 2% run-rate that characterized the pre-pandemic norm. What will it be? It may take until March until we can be sure.
During 2021 and 2022, inflation disproportionately impacted young people and those without a college degree (largely driven by used car and fuel expenses), though inflation for those groups has now converged with older and college workers. @NYFedResearch
During the inflationary period of 2021-22, younger people and people without a college degree faced the highest inflation, with steadily widening gaps relative to the overall average between early 2021 and June 2022, followed by a rapid narrowing of the gaps and a reversal of some of them by December 2022. This pattern arises primarily from a greater share of the expenditures of younger people and people without a college degree being devoted to transportation—particularly used cars and motor fuel—which led the 2021 inflationary episode but has since converged to general inflation. As of December 2022, the disparity has reversed, with no-college households experiencing lower inflation over the last twelve months than college households did. The reversal of the earlier rise in inflation disparities can be explained by 1) transportation inflation, which affects no-college households relatively more, declining back to the headline CPI, and 2) housing inflation, which affects college households relatively more, rising faster than headline CPI.
.@JosephPolitano notes differences in wage growth in the US and EU, and argues that Eurozone inflation is largely being driven by shocks related to the Russo-Ukrainian War, while inflation in the US is broader.
American inflation is now largely driven by cyclical or demand-sensitive components like housing and labor-intensive services. Eurozone inflation is still drivenmainly by rapid price increases in components like food, energy, and manufactured goods that are more representative of supply shocks than excess demand. Fundamentally, the biggest difference between Europe's and America’s inflation situation comes from wage growth. Measured through negotiated wage growth or the labor cost index, Euro area wage growth has remained tempered, below 4%, and in line with pre-COVID levels as American wage growth set new records. Growth in listed wages on job postings in the Euro Area was 5.1% over the last year and less than 2% the year before. The comparable number in the US has grown by over 6%/yr for the past two years.
The mortality rate for Americans aged 15-34 in 2021 was the highest since 1973. Deaths due to accidents (including drug overdoses,) suicides, and homicides were up 32% percent from 2019. @foxjust
The 2021 mortality rate for those 15 to 34 was the highest since 1973, and for those 25 to 34, it was the highest since 1950. That something, it should be clear from the chart, is mostly external causes such as accidents (including accidental drug overdoses), suicides and homicides. Covid itself has been found to cause myocarditis, pericarditis and other heart troubles at a higher rate than the vaccines do, and given that the initial increase in heart-disease deaths coincided with the arrival of Covid, the simplest explanation is that Covid is chiefly to blame. There certainly was no big increase in heart-disease deaths after the vaccines arrived: in the 12 months starting in July 2021, there were 106 fewer heart-disease deaths among 15-to-34-year-olds than in the previous 12.
.@michaelxpettis notes that policies to reduce the American trade deficit would in fact “improve the efficiency of global trade by reducing the imbalances” driven by Chinese and other chronic surplus countries’ beggar-thy-neighbor policies.
Large, persistent trade surpluses exist only because businesses in certain countries are able directly and indirectly to underpay domestic workers and households in order to become more competitive internationally and to grow more rapidly. It is especially absurd to criticize the United States, the country that typically absorbs 40–50 percent of global trade surpluses, as “protectionist.” If countries like the United States were to implement policies deemed “protectionist” and these were able even partly to reverse the trade imbalances (a big “if”), they would actually improve the efficiency of global trade by reducing the imbalances.
2022 saw an uptick in banks accessing the Fed’s discount window, likely driven by declining reserve balances in the banking system. @NewYorkFed
The notable decline in the total level of reserves in the banking system this year may have been an important factor for the rise in DW [discount window] borrowing. Indeed, as the Fed has gradually shrunk its balance sheet, the cash balances of smaller institutions, particularly those with total assets less than $10 billion, have in aggregate declined sharply relative to their asset size, reducing their liquidity positions. Smaller banks are generally more willing to come to the DW than their larger counterparts, as they are usually not publicly traded companies and are less subject to public scrutiny. Banks smaller than $3 billion in assets on average visited the DW twice as much as other banks in 2019, just prior to the pandemic.
According to a new analysis from the @stlouisfed, job switching is associated with lower earnings growth for lower-earning prime-age male workers but higher earnings growth for their higher-income peers.
Let’s consider two male workers, one in the bottom (in the first two percentiles) and the other in the 65th percentile of the lifetime earnings distribution. Both experienced on average a 2% growth in annual earnings if they stayed with the same employer. However, if they changed employers, the bottom earner did not see any growth in his earnings, whereas the 65th-percentile earner enjoyed, on average, 3% growth. This large heterogeneity among switchers indicates that the nature of job switches is very different throughout the lifetime earnings distribution. More than 35% of job switches were a result of a significant unemployment spell for the bottom earners, compared with only around 15% in the top third of earners, suggesting a much higher unemployment risk for bottom earners. Finally, earnings growth for both job stayers and job switchers increases steeply in the top third, reaching around 10% for the highest earners.
Americans are filing new business applications at higher levels in the aftermath of the pandemic; between 2019 and 2022, new business applications rose by 44%. Business applications are up the most in Florida and Texas. @bloomberg
New business applications rose by 44% from 2019 to 2022, with the sharpest increases in Southern states, according to US Census Bureau figures released Tuesday. About 5.1 million applications were filed last year, down from the record 5.4 million in 2021, but up from 3.5 million in 2019.
A @McKinsey_MGI analysis finds that 40% of global trade value is concentrated, in that the importer relies on three or fewer countries for their supply.
For many products, countries rely on a diversified pool of trade partners. This is particularly true for larger economies. For example, China imports crude oil from more than 40 economies, and the United States imports cars from more than 25 nations. A significant portion of global trade is concentrated in the sense that an economy relies on only a handful of nations to source almost all of its imports of a specific product. Indeed, 40% of the value of global goods trade corresponds to cases where the importing economy relies on three or fewer nations for the supply of a given manufactured good or resource. Narrowing the focus further, about 15 percent of global goods trade corresponds to cases where the importing economy relies on only two or fewer nations. Most concentration is due not to a lack of supplier economies. Instead, concentration arises because of specific choices to source products from only a few countries despite the fact that other potential supplying countries are available. In this research, this type of concentration is described as “economy-specific concentration.” Of the 40% of global trade value that relies on three or fewer supplier economies, about three-quarters corresponds to economy-specific concentration.
The iPhone makes up 80% of smartphone operating profits on less than 20% of handset shipments. The sophistication of the product will be a challenge to moving more than 10-20% of manufacturing to countries like India and Vietnam by 2030. @ft
Some supply chain experts argue that the growth numbers in iPhone “manufacturing” in India are more hype than reality. Although 200M phones were made in India last year, they are not in the same league as Apple’s products. The most popular models typically sell for $250 or less, while average iPhones cost nearly $1,000 and require more sophisticated automation and labor intensity. Woo-Jin Ho, hardware analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, projects that Apple will shift just 10% of iPhone production outside of China by 2030, or at most 20% if it moves aggressively.
.@AngelaRachidi notes that over the past two decades SNAP has grown from a $20B a year program to $100B a year. @AEIecon
In the past two decades, SNAP has transformed from a $20 billion per year safety net program, to upwards of $100 billion per year. Increased economic need cannot explain the upward trend in the SNAP caseload, though. Unemployment rates fluctuated over the past 20 years, but rates were lower in 2017–2019 than they were in the previous economic peak of 2000–2001, yet millions more people received SNAP in 2019 than in the early 2000s.
The uptick in so-called “deaths of despair” was preceded by a decline in religious participation. @econburner @D_Hungerman @TamarOostrom offer evidence that the repeal of blue laws is associated with the rise of such deaths.
Put differently, a 10-percentage-point effect on religious attendance implies that following the blue law repeals, about 10,000 out of every 100,000 middle-aged adults stopped attending services weekly. If mortality grew by 2 per 100,000 as a result, and assuming that the subsequent increase in middle-aged deaths came from this group, about 1 out of 5,000 of these of “marginal attenders” would consequently die from suicide, liver disease, or poisoning annually. Our back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that declines in religious attendance can explain an important part of the initial increase in mortality due to deaths of despair. Of course, since the introduction of OxyContin in 1996, deaths of despair for middle-aged white Americans have increased dramatically both overall and relative to trend. The impact that we witness seems to be driven by the decline in formal religious participation rather than in belief or personal activities like prayer.
Value-added/full-time employee in the US construction sector was ~40% lower in 2020 than in 1970; had construction productivity grown at 1% a year, aggregate US labor productivity would have been 10% higher. @Austan_Goolsbee @ChadSyverson @nberpubs
Figure 1 shows indices of U.S. construction sector labor productivity and TFP from 1950 to 2020. For comparison, it also plots the same indices for the overall economy. Throughout the 1950s and well into the 1960s, both measures of construction sector productivity grew steadily. Indeed, they outpaced their whole-economy counterparts during that period. By 1970, however, the construction sector’s labor productivity and TFP had both begun to fall. By 2020, while aggregate labor productivity and TFP were 290 percent and 230 percent higher than in 1950, both measures of construction productivity had fallen below their 1950 values. This is stunningly bad productivity performance for a major sector. Construction labor productivity fell at an average rate of about 1% per year from 1970-2020. Had it instead grown at the (relatively modest) rate of 1%per year, aggregate labor productivity (and plausibly, income per capita) being about 10% higher than it actually was.
.@Brad_Setser and @EtraAlex note Japanese investors are withdrawing from global debt markets, selling $200B of debt in 2022 relative to buying a mean of $100B a year over the previous decade.
The global economy has already adjusted to a slowdown in Japanese institutional fixed-income demand—Japanese investors have gone from buying about $100 billion a year of foreign bonds on average over the last ten years to selling close to $200 billion in 2022. The most likely outcome in 2023 is a continuation of the roll down in Japanese holdings of foreign bonds observed in 2022, as the large pool of hedged Japanese investors allow maturing bonds to roll off at par rather than reinvest abroad. That more mundane reality still implies the large flow into global fixed income from Japanese institutional investors over the last decade will dwindle to a relative trickle.
.@M_C_Klein notes the major buyer of Treasury debt has shifted from the Federal Reserve to US households and foreign buyers.
The Fed switched to “quantitative tightening”—an inelegant term for “letting some bonds mature”—which meant that new buyers needed to be found. State and local governments continued their purchases, but money-market funds shed Treasury bills and coupons for reverse repos with the Fed, while other buyers cut back on their purchases. The resulting mix of buyers in the first three quarters of 2022 looked a lot different than in prior periods. The entire net issuance was covered by the two most opaque sectors in the financial accounts: “households and nonprofit organizations” and “the rest of the world”.
As shale fracking costs surge and firms face demands to return capital to shareholders, American shale is no longer the world’s swing producer despite record American oil exports. @ft
High costs and labor shortages now bedevil the shale patch. Wall Street wants profits paid back to investors, not reinvested in new rigs. Even with crude prices at $80 a barrel, a price far above the long-term average, shale producers still fear to splurge capital. To top it off, new wells are yielding less oil. “The aggressive growth era of US shale is over,” says Scott Sheffield, chief executive of Pioneer Natural Resources, the country’s biggest shale producer. “The shale model definitely is no longer a swing producer.” Output today remains well below the pre-Covid highs, and is now growing glacially by shale standards despite 18 months of strong oil prices.
“Friendshoring” is underway: China’s share of US imports falling from 22% in 2017 to < 17% in 2022. Vietnamese exports to the US went from $10B in 2007 to $120B last year. From 2008 to 2022, Mexican exports to the US have doubled to $400B annually. @wsj
The result is that China’s share of U.S. imports dropped from a peak of 22% in 2017 to less than 17% last year. Other Asian economies and Mexico are gaining share—most notably Vietnam, whose exports to the U.S. rose from less than $10 billion before 2007 to more than $120 billion in 2022. The Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, India, and Malaysia have also enjoyed rapid export growth to the U.S., while also increasing their exports to China. Mexico’s annual exports to the U.S. have roughly doubled since 2008 to more than $400 billion, and they have increased to China, too.
In absolute terms US-China trade is on track to reach an all-time high in 2022 of just under $700B despite decoupling. @bloomberg
Trade between the US and China is on track to break records, a signal of resilient links between the world’s top economies amid the heated national security rhetoric in Washington and fears of “decoupling.” US government data through November suggest that imports and exports in 2022 will add up to an all-time high, or at least come very close, when the final report comes out Feb. 7. Beijing just published its own full-year figures that show record trade of around $760 billion.
.@GregObenshain of Verdad Capital argues that narrow high-yield spreads suggest investors are not yet pricing in a recession.
Below we show our historical measure of the high-yield spread. The thin line is where the high-yield spread is today. The current value of 4.3% is just above the long-term median of 4.2%. Right now, credit spreads are suggesting default risk is about normal in the high-yield market.
Real wages fell over the past year, declining 1.7% year-over-year in December. In 2021, real wages had declined 2.1% through December. @WSJ
Worker pay actually fell in the past two years after accounting for inflation. Inflation-adjusted average hourly earnings—or real earnings—were down 1.7% in December 2022 from a year earlier, following a 2.1% decline in December 2021 [from a year earlier].
.@JohnHCochrane argues that cumulative inflation has raised the price level by something like 10-20%. His fiscal theory or “demand” view suggests this price shock is permanent, not “transitory.”
Inflation seems to be waning. Is this not a victory lap for "team transitory," the view that inflation is just "supply shocks" that go away on their own? No. A "supply shock" would raise prices temporarily, and then prices would fall back down to normal once the supply shock is over. A supply shock all on its own cannot permanently raise the price level. How is the price level doing? The cumulative inflation has shifted up the price level by something like 10-20%, depending on what you think about the earlier trend. The fiscal theory or "demand" view says that this price level shock is permanent, or at least until something else comes along; a fiscal retrenchment would be necessary to lower the price level back to where it was.
.@paulkrugman argues last week’s CPI release was “really, really good news.” While both traditional core and wage core are elevated, fewer sectors are showing >10% inflation. @mtkonczal
Traditional core and wage core still suggest inflation running hotter than the Fed’s 2 percent target, but not by all that much. Until mid-2022, inflation just kept getting more widespread, and you had to work ever harder to claim that at some fundamental level it wasn’t that bad. If you want a broader view, Mike Konczal of the Roosevelt Institute has an incredibly cool graphic showing the distribution of price changes across the economy.
Jesper Rangvid from Copenhagen Business School argues that inflation is on track to normalize over the next 18 months, but the Fed should keep rates elevated while inflation comes down given persistent core inflation. @CBScph
The behavior of US inflation during the past 5-10 years has been strikingly similar to the behavior of inflation during the early 1970s. If this continues, inflation should be back on target in mid-2024. Core inflation followed headline inflation during the early 1970s, both when inflation rose and when it fell. Today, headline inflation has been falling for the past six months, while core inflation has not. This is worrying. It indicates that underlying inflationary pressures are more pronounced today than in the early 1970s. If correct, which I think it is, it will be more difficult to get inflation under control than in the early 1970s. Consequently, I believe the Fed should keep interest rates elevated for at least one more year.
China’s National Bureau of Statistics confirmed that China’s population dropped by 850,000 in 2022. With 9.56M births, the national birth rate fell to 6.77 per 1,000 people. @scmpeconomy
The National Bureau of Statistics confirmed on Tuesday that China’s overall population dropped by 850,000 people to 1.4118 billion in 2022, down from 1.4126 billion a year earlier. The national birth rate fell to a record low of 6.77 for every 1,000 people as Chinese mothers had only 9.56 million babies – the nation’s lowest total in modern history and the first time the figure fell below 10 million.
.@michaelxpettis argues that China’s demographic decline can be offset in the medium term by raising the household share of income.
It is also really a long-term problem whose effect will be overwhelmed by the near-term adjustment process. If Beijing succeeds in redistributing income to households in a non-disruptive way, a declining working population can drive more than enough growth in domestic demand. What is more, as direct and indirect wages rise, this will put pressure on China to invest in increasing worker productivity rather than invest in expanding economic activity and the building of railroads to nowhere. On the other hand, if Beijing doesn't redistribute income to households in a non-disruptive way, China will anyway suffer a brutally difficult transition once unsustainable debt levels force it to cut back on non-productive investment.
.@calculatedrisk notes that, despite the runup in home prices, household mortgage debt as a percent of GDP isn’t at the elevated levels we saw during the housing bubble.
The graph shows household mortgage debt as a percent of GDP through Q3 2022 (based on the Fed’s Flow of Funds report). The "bubble" is pretty obvious on this graph, and the sharp increase in mortgage debt was one of the warning signs. The blip up in Q2 2020 was related to the collapse in GDP rather than an increase in mortgage debt. The bottom line is there will be an increase in foreclosures over the next year (from record low levels), but there will not be a huge wave of distressed sales as happened following the housing bubble. Most homeowners have significant equity, were well qualified, and have a mortgage with low rates that they can afford. The distressed sales during the housing bust led to cascading price declines, and that will not happen this time.
JP Morgan reported deposits in Q4 2022 were down 4% from a year earlier, the first year-on-year decline since 2016. Investors and analysts anticipate that banks will have to pay more for deposits going forward. @ft
JPMorgan Chase said it might be forced to pay more for deposits this year in what analysts called “a warning shot for the entire industry”. JPMorgan said deposits in the fourth quarter were $2.4T, down 4% from a year earlier. This was the bank’s first year-on-year decline since 2016. Investors and analysts anticipate that banks will eventually have to reward deposit holders with better rates to retain their business and JPMorgan said it expected that would be the case in 2023.
.@M_C_Klein notes a broad-based slowdown in wage growth. He highlights that “12-month median wage change is now back to where it was in the second half of the 1990s” He thinks a soft landing is “increasingly likely.”
The 12-month median wage change is now back to where it was in the second half of the 1990s—not exactly a period of excessive price increases outside of Beanie Babies and stocks. That could soon be corroborated by the Employment Cost Index (ECI), which Fed officials and others regularly view as the single best indicator of wages. The ECI only comes out once a quarter, and the latest data right now are from 2022Q3. If the Q4 number were to move in line with the most recent hourly earnings numbers and the Atlanta Fed’s median wage change tracker, then the job market would no longer a worrying source of inflationary pressure. This could be noise, but it is looking increasingly likely that inflation may in fact normalize without policymakers having to push the economy into a downturn.
.@greg_ip argues yesterday’s CPI release is consistent with recent inflation being largely transitory in nature, but with consumer expectations of 4.6% inflation in the coming year, “the Fed can’t signal an end to interest rate increases yet.”
Still, even if a lot of wage and price growth does prove transitory, that won’t necessarily comfort the Fed. When officials began using the term “transitory” in March 2021, the unemployment rate was 6% and consumers expected about 3% inflation in the coming year. In other words, the main determinants of underlying inflation—aggregate supply and demand and expectations—justified a sanguine outlook. Not anymore. Unemployment is now 3.5% and consumers expect 4.6% inflation in the coming year, according to the University of Michigan. This is why the Fed can’t signal an end to interest rate increases yet and the risk of a recession can’t be dismissed.
New @nberpubs notes that the demand for safe assets from 1990-2020 grew even faster than the supply of safe assets, as rapidly growing emerging economies increasing desired to hold safe assets as FX reserves.
The sharp, secular decline in the world real interest rate of the past thirty years suggests that the surge in global demand for financial assets outpaced the growth in their supply. This phenomenon was driven by faster growth in emerging markets, changes in the financial structure of both emerging and advanced economies, and changes in demand and supply of public debt issued by advanced economies. The net foreign liabilities of advanced economies grew massively. The net foreign assets of advanced economies, as a share of their collective GDP, fell from close to zero at the beginning of the 1990s to about -20 percent in 2020.
A new @nature study finds that over the past 50 years the snowpack in the Alps has been drawing back 5.6% per decade. The current snowpack cover is 36 days shorter than the long-term mean, a decline that is unprecedented over the last six centuries.
Over the last 50 years, the Alps experienced a 5.6% reduction per decade in snow cover duration, which already affects a region where economy and culture revolve, to a large extent, around winter. Here we present evidence from 572 ring-width series extracted from a prostrate shrub (Juniperus communis) growing at high elevation in the Val Ventina, Italy. These ring-width records show that the duration of current snowpack cover is 36 days shorter than the long-term mean, a decline that is unprecedented over the last six centuries.
Inflation is decelerating with Core CPI rising 5.7% y/y, down from 6% in November. Core CPI rose at 3.1% annualized in the three months ending in December, well above the Fed’s 2% target. Headline inflation is running at 6.5%. @wsj
The consumer-price index, a measurement of what consumers pay for goods and services, rose 6.5% last month from a year earlier, down from 7.1% in November and well below a 9.1% peak in June. Core CPI, which excludes volatile energy and food prices, climbed 5.7% in December from a year earlier, easing from a 6% gain in November. Core prices increased at a 3.1% annualized rate in the three months that ended in December, the slowest pace in more than a year.
.@Jasonfurman argues that while core CPI excluding housing and used cars has moderated it still isn’t consistent with the Fed’s target, “the job of getting inflation to 2% or even 3% is still not done.”
The broad story continues to be that goods prices have gone from unusually large increases to unusually large decreases. And services prices have slowed a little from their rapid summer pace but continue to grow very quickly. Excluding housing (which is ~40% of core) and used cars, super-core inflation was consistently modest for the last three months at a 1.8% annual rate over this period. That is the lowest since February 2021. Overall, 3 consecutive months of relatively moderate core inflation. And some positive developments yet to happen, like future shelter slowdown. But a bit less moderation than hoped & the job of getting inflation to 2% or even 3% is still not done.
.@MichaelRStrain warns the White House that House firebrands are not bluffing and that the Administration should start working on a package of spending cuts to try to avoid a default. @AEI
The first step is to throw out any plans that depend on the House firebrands playing ball. They aren’t bluffing. Biden and congressional Democrats need to accept this reality and start working on a deal today. They should acknowledge the more widely shared Republican argument that federal spending has reached problematic levels – a conviction founded at least partly on the American Rescue Plan’s role in sparking inflation – and they should then find some spending that can be cut. In exchange, the debt ceiling should be raised high enough that it will be many years before it can again be used as a weapon. Second, responsible members of Congress must make plans to avoid a default. One idea worth exploring is to use a discharge petition to force a debt-ceiling increase to the floor of the House in the event that McCarthy is unwilling to do so.
The EU now imports more natural gas from the United States than Russia, a trend that is likely to get more pronounced as more American LNG export capacity comes online. @josephPolitano
In fact, the massive buildout of US LNG export capacity (America became the world’s number one LNG exporter last year) combined with the total collapse in Russian natural gas supplies to Europe has meant that the EU now gets more gas from the US than the Russian Federation. In Euro terms, the EU now actually imports slightly more total energy (including oil, petroleum products, coal, etc.) from the US than Russia. Barring a rapid about-face in Russian energy politics, this gap will likely only continue to grow—American LNG export capacity is expected to increase in 2023, especially as the Freeport LNG facility in Texas recovers from its accident last year, and the EU already banned further imports of Russian crude just over a month ago.
China is rolling back efforts to limit leverage in the real estate sector. @ft
China is moving away from its “three red lines” policy of limiting leverage in the property sector, after its effort to reduce risky lending and real estate speculation helped fuel a wave of defaults and triggered a slump in the property market. Beijing is now easing constraints on developer credit and even rolling out potential loans following a severe downturn that saw housing and land sales collapse, threatening a major pillar of an economy already ailing from coronavirus lockdowns. Officials at multiple state-owned banks said they had effectively shelved the leverage curbs — whose three red lines refer to targets for debt, equity, and assets for individual companies — in their assessment of borrowers. Late last year, state-owned banks announced hundreds of billions of dollars of potential new lending to property developers.
.@michaelxpettis warns that there is likely no way to stabilize the Chinese property sector without prices falling and a significant increase in financial distress.
For now, Beijing seems to want to stabilize the property sector and slow the pace of adjustment to reduce financial distress. It is not clear, however, that this is a realistic goal. In a speculative market, it is the expectations of rising prices that generate the demand for more rising prices, and once these expectations are reversed, it is very hard to prevent prices from falling. With real demand expected to fall sharply in the next few years, it will be impossible to wring speculation out of the property market without much lower prices and a significant increase in the spread of financial distress.
Japan and the United States are expanding their security cooperation to space pledging to defend each other’s satellites from Chinese attacks. @ft
The US and Japan have announced they are extending their security alliance to space in a push to defend against attacks on satellites amid growing concern about the threat from China. “We agree that attacks to, from or within space present a clear challenge,” said US secretary of state Antony Blinken after he and US defense secretary Lloyd Austin met their Japanese counterparts in Washington on Wednesday. “We affirm that, depending on the nature of those attacks, this could lead to the invocation of Article 5 of our Japan-US security treaty,” Blinken added, pointing to the section of the treaty stipulating that an attack on either party would prompt the other to “act to meet the common danger.”
Firms are using technology to shift work to remote employees and third-party subcontractors. Outsourcing intensity has doubled from 11% in 2005 to 22% in 2021, which may compress white-collar wages going forward. @TheEconomist
Pinning down just how much firms depend on outsiders is tricky—companies do not advertise this sort of thing. A measure, “outsourcing intensity,” [tracks] a firm’s external purchase commitments in the upcoming year as a share of its cost of sales. The Economist has calculated the measure using data from financial reports for a sample of large listed firms from America and Europe. Average outsourcing intensity across our sample has nearly doubled from 11% in 2005 to 22% in the most recent year of data (either 2021 or 2022). This growth is especially pronounced among tech titans such as Apple and Microsoft; businesses that grew little over the analyzed period, such as Unilever, a British consumer-goods giant, saw only small increases. This is consistent with research which finds that as firms grow ever larger and adopt more technologies, thus becoming more complex and unwieldy, they outsource more operations—precisely as Coase would have predicted.
.@joshrauh of the Stanford Graduate School of Business presents evidence that migration from California is being driven by high taxes rates, suggesting California has limited ability to raise taxes without losing revenue.
Figure 2 shows the net departure rates from the state by income tax bracket between 2003 and 2018. Since 2003, only middle-income earners in the 9.3 percent income tax bracket have entered California at higher rates than left during any year over the time period. The top bracket, and the highest earners within the top bracket in particular, display the highest net out-migration rate over the whole period. Higher-income earners who leave the state are not being replaced by other high earners at the same rate. California's top earners are particularly mobile, showing the highest rates of departure around tax policy changes such as Proposition 30 in 2012 and the Tax Cut and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017 as well as the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Consequently, potential net outflows of taxable income spiked to nearly $4 billion in the year TCJA was implemented and $10.7 billion around COVID-19. High-earning movers have been consistently more likely to leave California for zero-income tax states since 2012, and those who experienced larger tax increases under TCJA were more likely to depart.
In 2022 banks and credit unions made $1.5T in loans, an annual rate that’s three times higher than the 2018 to 2021 period. High net interest margins have increased the desire of banks to lend. @fedguy12
The total size of the banking sector was little changed over 2022, but the static surface obscures a boom in lending of epic proportions. Banks changed the composition of their assets by replacing their cash and security holdings with loans to the real economy. Around $1.2T in loans were made in 2022, a level around three times higher than that of recent years. The same explosive growth is also seen in credit unions, which are functionally similar to small banks. Credit union loans outstanding grew $0.23T from 2021Q3 to 2022Q3 (Q4 data not available), a level also there times higher than in recent years. Loan growth was strong across categories and appeared to persist despite rising rates. The huge credit growth in 2022 can be likened to the prior fiscal stimulus, with the exception that the money must one day be repaid. Borrowers have $1.5T more in purchasing power that they did not have before. The need to repay the money may affect their spending decisions and willingness to take on additional debt, but credit cycles can last for years.
Deaths likely outpaced births in China in 2022 with births falling to 10M, down from 10.6M in 2021. The UN expects China to lose 110 million people by 2050 and fall to about half its current size by the end of the century. @Bloomberg
The government’s official data for the total number of births in 2022 — expected to be released next week — will probably show a record low of 10 million, according to independent demographer He Yafu. That would be less than the 10.6 million babies born in 2021, which was already the sixth straight year of decline and the lowest since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. He added that the country likely recorded more deaths last year than the 10.1 million people who died in 2021, in part because of the spread of Covid infections.
.@rbrtrmstrng cites @DanCliftonStrat, who notes that fiscal hawks who won three seats on the Rules Committee as part of the McCarthy fight will likely demand spending cuts as a condition of raising the debt ceiling.
The debt ceiling of $31.3 trillion is expected to be hit sometime early in the autumn. Daniel Clifton of Strategas notes: “McCarthy agreed to allow three House Freedom Caucus members to sit on the Rules Committee and these members are likely going to demand spending cuts, which do not have the support of a majority of House Republicans, let alone Democrats, as a condition of raising the debt ceiling. The importance of this cannot be overstated. Legislation has to go through the Rules Committee to be placed on the floor under regular order in the House. Conservatives have weakened the Speaker and have leverage.”
.@Brad_Setser notes how closely the East Asian and oil-exporter surplus lines up with American deficits.
The global balance of payments has to add up (at least in theory). But it is still surprising how well the surplus of East Asia and main oil exporters lines up with the deficits of the US and a few others -- (excluding the EU makes everything line up better). To make sure I don't completely bury the lede -- the surplus of the Asia + oil block has doubled since 2020 ... so there have to be some offsetting adjustments in the global deficit. The recycling is taking place in rather complex ways, as the big surplus countries aren't just adding to their reserves/ it isn't flowing directly into bonds.
In January 2023 @AswathDamodaran found the market capitalization of EU and UK-based firms was 41% of American firms, and Chinese firms represented 38% of American firms.
In my sample, I include all publicly traded firms with market capitalizations that exceed zero, traded anywhere in the world. While there are risks in bringing in very small and lightly-traded companies, with shaky data, into the sample, I include them to avoid the biases that will be created in industry averages by looking at just larger publicly traded companies or just US-listed companies. In January 2023, I ended up with 47,913 publicly traded firms in my sample, with the pie chart above providing a geographic breakdown.
New @nberpubs finds that Medicaid expansion between 1994 and 2005 had no impact on mortality rates: “we find no evidence that Medicaid expansions affect any of the outcomes in any of the treated states or all of them combined.”
This paper examines the impact of Medicaid expansions to parents and childless adults on adult mortality. Specifically, we evaluate the long-run effects of eight state Medicaid expansions from 1994 through 2005 on all-cause, healthcare-amenable, non-healthcare-amenable, and HIV-related mortality rates using state-level data. We utilize the synthetic control method to estimate effects for each treated state separately and the generalized synthetic control method to estimate average effects across all treated states. Using a 5% significance level, we find no evidence that Medicaid expansions affect any of the outcomes in any of the treated states or all of them combined. Moreover, there is no clear pattern in the signs of the estimated treatment effects. These findings imply that evidence that pre-ACA Medicaid expansions to adults saved lives is not as clear as previously suggested.
According to a @UN report the Earth’s ozone layer, which protects the Earth from the majority of the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation, is on track to reach pre-1980 levels by 2040.
The weakened ozone layer, which is vital to protecting life on Earth, is on track to be restored to full strength within decades — the latest success of a global effort by nations to stop using chemicals that had been destroying the critical layer in the upper atmosphere. In a report for the United Nations, scientists said Monday that if countries continue to maintain the bans on chlorofluorocarbons and other chemicals, ozone levels between the polar regions should reach pre-1980 levels by 2040. Ozone holes, or regions of greater depletion that appear regularly near the South Pole and, less frequently, near the North Pole, should also recover, by 2045 in the Arctic and about 2066 in Antarctica.
.@M_C_Klein reports that the latest revisions show that annualized average hourly pay growth was less than 4% in December, down from the 7.5% average from March-Sept. 2022. Klein argues that the high quit rate makes further near-term reductions unlikely.
Total weekly wages paid to employees—the number of workers on payroll times the average workweek times average hourly pay—is now rising at a yearly rate of less than 4%. That is a dramatic deceleration from March-September 2022, when aggregate wage income was still rising about 7.5% annualized. If this holds up, even the most persistent components of inflation should quickly come back into line. The number of people quitting rose so much in November—the latest month for which we have data—that the proportion of workers quitting their jobs for better prospects elsewhere rose for the first time since the spring. Until that changes, it is hard for me to imagine (nominal) wage growth slowing down much more than it already has, even if nominal labor income growth has already decelerated sharply thanks to the slowdown in hours worked.
Phil Gramm and John Early report on @MichaelRStrain analysis that found robust absolute mobility in America. Only 28% of children raised in the bottom quintile had adult incomes that were in the same quintile and 26% reached the top quintile. @AEIecon
When the income of the children is compared with the inflation-adjusted income of their parents using the real income quintiles of their childhood in 1982-86 rather than the income quintiles of 2013-17, measured mobility is dramatically greater. Only 28% of children reared in the bottom quintile had adult incomes that would put them in the bottom childhood quintile, and 26% rose all the way to the childhood top quintile, which required a minimum income of only $111,416 (in 2016 dollars) for a family of four in 1982-86. A family of four with that income in 2013-17 would have been in the middle quintile based on 2013-17 income distribution.
The United States has been a net exporter of energy since 2019, a trend that is poised to accelerate with increasing LNG exports. @GregorMacdonald
In recent years, however, the amount of energy that the US exports has actually started to blot out the energy it still imports. Enough so, that the US has finally moved out of its post-war energy deficit, into a small surplus. In other words, from a trade balance perspective, its current account in energy terms is now positive. Here, we examine this trade balance not in dollar terms, but in energy content terms. And as you can see, after running in the red for a long time (certainly longer than is covered in the chart) the US has now moved into the black. Net imports, which used to be positive, are now negative. That’s a powerful position to be in, and we saw an example of this power just this year, when American LNG started making its way to Europe, during Putin’s war of aggression.
.@ATabarrok uses semiconductor manufacturing to argue that properly trained talent is the limiting constraint to growth at the technological frontier. He notes that only 164,000 potential American workers have the IQ needed to manage the process.
Although not everyone in semiconductor manufacturing requires a PhD, pretty much everyone has to be of above-average intelligence, and many will need to be in the top echelons of IQ. At the very top of semiconductor manufacturing, you are going to need workers with IQs at or higher than 1 in a 1000 people and there are only 164,000 of these workers in the United States, and US might be able to place only say 100,000 high-IQ workers in high-IQ professions. It’s very difficult to run a high-IQ civilization of 330 million on just 100,000 high-IQ workers. To some extent, we can economize on high-IQ workers by giving lower-IQ workers smarter tools and drawing on non-human intelligence. But we also need to draw on high-IQ workers throughout the world–which explains why some of the linchpins of our civilization end up in places like Eindhoven or Taiwan.
The US and Japanese armed forces have “seen exponential increases…just over the past year” in their joint preparations for a possible conflict with China, according to Lieutenant General James Bierman, the commanding general of Marine Forces Japan. @ft
The US and Japanese armed forces are rapidly integrating their command structure and scaling up combined operations as Washington and its Asian allies prepare for a possible conflict with China. The two militaries have “seen exponential increases . . . just over the last year” in their operations on the territory they would have to defend in case of a war, Lieutenant General James Bierman, commanding general of Marine Forces Japan, told the Financial Times in an interview. “Why have we achieved the level of success we’ve achieved in Ukraine? A big part of that has been because after Russian aggression in 2014 and 2015, we earnestly got after preparing for future conflict: training for the Ukrainians, pre-positioning of supplies, identification of sites from which we could operate support, sustain operations,” he said. “We call that setting the theatre. And we are setting the theatre in Japan, in the Philippines, in other locations.”
A TD Securities analysis suggests that the recent uptick in gold price has been driven by buying by the Chinese official sector. @tracyalloway @TheStalwart
Commodities strategists at TD Securities are on the case, speculating in a note published on Monday that the gold whale could be the Chinese official sector. “Armed with a flows-based approach, we present strong evidence that behemoth Chinese and official sector purchases may have single-handedly catalyzed a $150/oz mispricing in gold markets. What is less clear is what has driven these massive purchases.” While TD might be able to trace buying to China, it’s not entirely clear to them what’s driving those purchases. Here, the strategists theorize about a number of possibilities stretching from extra demand stemming from recent reopening measures as well as restocking ahead of China’s Lunar New Year. But there’s also the possibility that China is purchasing gold for strategic, rather than strictly economic factors.
A new @nature study documents a decline in the average “disruptiveness” of science and technology across both papers and patents, but notes that the absolute number of highly disruptive works remains stable. @michae1park
Across fields, we find that science and technology are becoming less disruptive. Figure 2 plots the average CD5 [an index that characterizes how papers and patents change networks of citations in science and technology] over time for papers (Fig. 2a) and patents (Fig. 2b). For papers, the decrease between 1945 and 2010 ranges from 91.9% (where the average CD5 dropped from 0.52 in 1945 to 0.04 in 2010 for ‘social sciences’) to 100% (where the average CD5 decreased from 0.36 in 1945 to 0 in 2010 for ‘physical sciences’); for patents, the decrease between 1980 and 2010 ranges from 78.7% (where the average CD5 decreased from 0.30 in 1980 to 0.06 in 2010 for ‘computers and communications’) to 91.5% (where the average CD5 decreased from 0.38 in 1980 to 0.03 in 2010 for ‘drugs and medical’). For both papers and patents, the rates of decline are greatest in the earlier parts of the time series, and for patents, they appear to begin stabilizing between the years 2000 and 2005. For papers, since about 1980, the rate of decline has been more modest in ‘life sciences and biomedicine’ and physical sciences, and most marked and persistent in social sciences and ‘technology’.
New @nberpubs research finds that Americans are working 3% fewer hours annually in the aftermath of the pandemic. This reduction in hours worked means labor markets are even tighter than LFP would imply.
The negative impact of the Great Recession on aggregate hours worked and the ensuing slow recovery through 2019 materialized almost exclusively along the extensive margin. However, of the 3% decline in annual hours worked per person (including those who do not work) between 2019 and 2022, more than half is accounted for by the intensive margin. That is, focusing only on the extensive margin (lower employment and participation rates) will underestimate the total decline in labor supply by more than half. The most striking fact is the lower participation of young male cohorts without a bachelor's degree, whose participation rate is up to 7pp below that of older cohorts at the same age. The Great Recession seems to be casting a very long shadow, even on those who were in their teens when it happened.
Nonfarm payrolls increased by 223,000 in December and the unemployment rate declined to 3.5%, matching a five-decade low. @Bloomberg
Nonfarm payrolls increased 223,000 in December, capping a near-record year for job growth, a Labor Department report showed Friday. The advance followed a 256,000 gain in November. Average hourly earnings rose 0.3% from a month earlier and 4.6% from December 2021 after November’s previously eye-popping gain was revised lower. The unemployment rate decreased by 0.1 percentage point to 3.5%, matching a five-decade low, as participation inched higher. The labor force participation rate — the share of the population that is working or looking for work — ticked up to 62.3%, and the rate for workers ages 25-54 rose.
Alan Blinder notes that November’s 12-month CPI was 7.1%, however, between June-November 2022 CPI inflation ran at only a 2.5% annualized rate. Blinder concludes, “the inflation future does indeed look brighter than the inflation past.
The CPI inflation rate over the past 12 months has been an alarming 7.1%. But the U.S. economy got there by averaging an appalling 10.6% annualized inflation rate over the first seven months and a mere 2.5% over the last five. The PCE price index tells a similar story, though a somewhat less dramatic one. The 5.5% inflation rate over the past 12 months came from a 7.8% rate over the first seven months followed by a 2.4% rate over the last five. If you concentrate instead on “core” inflation, which excludes food and energy prices, annual inflation over the past five months has run higher: a 4.7% annual rate for the CPI and 3.7% for the PCE. So the Fed’s fight against inflation isn’t over.
.@sffed analysis of the jobless unemployment rate finds that it is an effective recession forecaster and that “the jobless rate does not currently signal an impending recession.”
[The above chart] plots the change in the smoothed jobless unemployment rate (first derivative) on the horizontal axis and the change in the change (second derivative) on the vertical axis. Recession months are depicted as red dots and expansion months as green dots. This predictor is almost as accurate as the slope of the yield curve but is more accurate at shorter horizons. The jobless rate does not currently signal an impending recession, nor do other macroeconomic time series analyzed using the same methodology. In general, however, examining these series suggests that the business cycle is at a maturing stage when expansions typically come to an end.
.@NewYorkFed measure of supply chain stress was 1.18 in December, up from .94 in September, as deteriorating conditions in China have led to a pause to improvements.
The Global Supply Chain Pressure Index peaked at 4.3 standard deviations above its historical mean at the end of 2021, after which it declined substantially. The initial period of decline saw it drop to 2.8 by March 2022, after which it temporarily increased in April, primarily due to pandemic lockdowns in China and the Russia-Ukraine war. The GSCPI then experienced five consecutive months of declines, reaching a low of 0.9 in September. However, the past three months have witnessed a pause in the reversion to the historical average, with the index increasing by a total of 0.29 points in October and November before declining by 0.05 points last month, leaving the total three-month increase at about a quarter point. We can partly attribute the recent slowdown of the GSCPI’s return to its historical average to worsening supply conditions in China, which have also spilled over into its neighboring trade partners.
.@FedGuy12 questions the sustainability of the QT regime, noting that American households are the current marginal buyer of short-dated Treasuries. He thinks that this pattern cannot continue without bringing banking reserves to untenable levels.
A change in the underlying plumbing of the financial system is making it unlikely that QT can run its expected 2+ year course. An ideal QT would drain liquidity in the overall financial system while keeping liquidity in the banking sector above a minimum threshold. The marginal buyer of short-dated Treasuries over 2022 Q3 appears to surprisingly be U.S. households. Federal Reserve data show that household purchases of Treasuries surged to record levels on a seasonally adjusted annual basis as [money market funds] notably shrank their holdings. Households appear to have replaced money market funds as the marginal buyer of bills and are funding their purchases out of funds held in the banking sector.
J.P. Morgan estimates consumers still have $900B of excess savings, down from a peak of $2.1B in August 2021.
From March 2020 to August 2021, consumers amassed a peak $2.1 trillion in excess savings relative to the pre-pandemic trend. Since August 2021, consumers have drawn down on these excess savings. Household debt payments were 9.8% of disposable personal income in Q4 ’22 vs. a peak of 13.2% in Q4 of ’04.
.@mfariacastro at @stlouisfed estimates that the decline in asset values in 2022 drove 170,000 workers aged 51-65 back into the labor force. This represents 16% of the increase in LFP from Jan through Oct 2022.
The figure above plots the estimated average change in net worth per head of household age category during 2022. People between the ages of 55 and 74 lost, on average, over $100,000 in net worth due to falling asset returns between January and October 2022. This partly reverses some of the net worth gains in 2020-21, which were particularly high for these age groups. This is explained by the high exposure (in absolute terms) of people in these age groups to asset classes such as stocks and bonds, which performed reasonably well in 2020-21 but posted significant negative returns during 2022. Focusing on only people between the ages of 51 and 65, whose decision to participate in the labor force tends to be more sensitive to wealth effects, we find that the decline in asset values may have caused an extra 170,000 people to return to the labor force. This corresponds to an increase in the LFP rate of 0.06 percentage points, or about 16% of the total increase observed through October 2022.
.@NewYorkFed notes evidence of an ongoing decline in core PCE inflation starting in September 2022, with the exception of housing costs.
We find evidence of a decline in the size of the persistent component of core PCE inflation starting in September 2022. The decline follows a long period of high and essentially constant inflation persistence. Dissecting the layers of aggregate inflation provides further insights: core goods and core services ex-housing have been moderating since early 2022, reflecting the evolution of the common component, while housing has continued to move up, driven by its own sector-specific trend. The chart below shows a sectoral decomposition of the increase in inflation from its pre-pandemic average. The chart shows that the persistent component of housing represents a fair amount of the overall increase in trend, comparable to the contribution of core goods and core services ex-housing.
Chinese computer scientists claimed to have used quantum computing to break the RSA algorithm that underpins the vast majority of online encryption. However, the algorithm may not be fast enough to be relevant. @FT
Computer security experts were struggling this week to assess a startling claim by Chinese researchers that they have found a way to break the [RSA algorithm,] the most common form of online encryption, using the current generation of quantum computers, years before the technology was expected to pose a threat. Peter Shor, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientist whose 1994 algorithm proving that a quantum machine could defeat online encryption, noted that the Chinese researchers had “failed to address how fast the algorithm will run”, and said that it was possible it “will still take millions of years”. He said: “In the absence of any analysis showing that it will be faster, I suspect that the most likely scenario is that it’s not much of an improvement.”
According to recent surveys, recently laid-off tech workers are quickly finding new employment with 40% accepting a new position within 30 days. @WSJ
About 79% of workers recently hired after a tech-company layoff or termination landed their new job within three months of starting their search, according to a ZipRecruiter survey of new hires. That was just below the 83% share of all laid-off workers who were re-employed in the same time frame. Nearly four in ten previously laid-off tech workers found jobs less than a month after they began searching, ZipRecruiter found in the survey.
J.P. Morgan’s Michael Cembalest argues that there may be attractive investment opportunities following last year’s tech company repricing: ~50% of large-cap tech companies that were unprofitable in 2000 were eventually able to generate profits and healthy returns.
After last year’s selloff, we’re much closer to the end of the young unprofitable companies/mega-valued unprofitable companies repricing than the beginning. By the time Peloton is priced at 1x sales rather than its peak level of 19x sales at the end of 2020, it’s time to start thinking about whether unprofitable companies can become profitable or not. Many unprofitable companies are in that position since the market did not require them to be profitable. The aftermath of the 2000-2002 dot-com crash is interesting in this regard: The chart above shows the performance of tech companies from 2000 to 2004 based on their initial and subsequent profitability. Companies that remained unprofitable continued to languish. However, unprofitable companies that became profitable by 2004 rallied sharply, catching up to companies that had been profitable all along. This incorporates the benefit of perfect hindsight; still, it does indicate that for stock pickers that sift through the wreckage to try and identify survivors, there may be attractive opportunities. The size of ["unprofitable in 2000" cohort that became profitable by 2004] was roughly 50% of the “unprofitable in 2000” universe.
Shares of privately held tech firms traded on secondary markets have collapsed in price. Platforms such as Rainmaker Securities have facilitated private security transactions and have made the price declines of private companies more transparent. @ft
Employees of embattled tech groups are flooding secondary markets — where stakeholders in a private company sell shares to third parties — as the industry’s former darlings such as Klarna and Stripe have been forced into aggressive cost-cutting measures, according to brokers and investors. For many workers who have lost their jobs, their shares vest within 60 days, forcing them to sell during the worst downturn in a decade. Some companies are offering an extension on this timeframe, according to brokers, although some sellers want to get out of their holdings over fears the market rout will get worse next year. However, trading in many of these companies showed a return to, or an improvement on, pre-pandemic prices, following a significant jump in valuations during a VC fundraising boom in 2021.
Since the start of December over 70 SPACs have liquidated, generating losses for SPAC creators of over $600M for the month and driving total losses to $1.1B. @WSJ
Roughly 70 special-purpose acquisition companies have liquidated and returned money to investors since the start of December. That is more than the total number of SPAC liquidations in the market’s history, according to data provider SPAC Research. SPAC creators have lost more than $600 million on liquidations this month and more than $1.1 billion this year, the data show. There are still nearly 400 SPACs together holding about $100 billion that have yet to find deals, according to SPAC Research. There are another roughly 150 SPACs holding about $25 billion that have reached merger agreements but haven’t closed them.
According to an analysis by @stlouisfed, tighter monetary policy did not impact consumption growth until November 2022.
The blue dots in the figure show three “normal” subperiods, in which [annualized PCE] inflation was between 1% to 3% and real consumption growth was about 2% to 3%. There is also a positive relationship between consumption growth and inflation. The red dots show two high inflation subperiods, from April 2021 to February 2022 and from March to July 2022. Although inflation was very high (about 6%) in both periods, consumption growth was average. This suggests the high inflation was because of something other than growing demand. In that case, inflation during these periods may be associated with supply disruptions, or other components of demand (e.g., government consumption), rather than high real consumption growth. Since March 2022, the Federal Reserve has raised interest rates, so the second period highlighted in red also corresponds to a period of tightening monetary policy. From March to July 2022, inflation continued at 6%, and consumption growth was slightly higher than in the previous months. This pattern suggests that monetary policy, at least during those months, didn’t yet reduce consumption growth. The last four months are depicted with green dots [with seasonally-adjusted monthly PCE and real consumption growth rates annualized.] Two patterns are clear. First, inflation is significantly lower in the four months and is now close to 1%. Second, real consumption growth was very high during August and October but finally decreased to an annual rate of just over 0% in November. Thus, only the data corresponding to November suggests that the monetary mechanism described above may be working.
Independent analyst @JosephPolitano notes that the primary driver of capacity under-utilization for American manufacturing firms has shifted from insufficient orders to insufficient supply of labor and materials.
American manufacturing firms are also citing materials and labor shortages as major constraints to production at the highest levels in decades. Everywhere you look, supply chains seem to be in disarray—and demand seems to be off the charts.
According to data from Insider Intelligence, Google and Facebook’s share of digital advertising was 48.4% in 2022, and is expected to decline to 44.9% in 2023, as Amazon, TikTok, and digital streamers gain share. @WSJ
For the first time in nearly a decade, the two largest players in online advertising are no longer raking in the majority of U.S. digital-ad dollars, a decline that industry insiders expect to continue in years to come. Alphabet Inc.’s; Google and Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc. accounted for a combined 48.4% of U.S. digital-ad spending in 2022, according to estimates from research firm Insider Intelligence Inc. Their combined U.S. market share hadn’t been under 50% since 2014, said Insider Intelligence, which expects that number to drop to 44.9% this year.
.@FiveThirtyEight analyst @geoffreyvs finds that Fetterman’s margin of victory was provided by non-college white voters: Fetterman polled 7pp better than Biden in counties dominated by non-college whites.
John Fetterman bettered Biden’s margin across almost the entire state on his way to defeating Republican Mehmet Oz by about 5 percentage points, his largest improvements over Biden tended to be in red-leaning counties with higher shares of white residents without a college degree. In counties with a population that’s at least 60 percent white without a college degree — which together produced about 36 percent of the state’s 2022 vote — Fetterman’s margin was 7 points better than Biden’s, on average, compared with just 3 points better elsewhere.
.@Nate_Cohn of @NYT notes that Republicans won the national House vote 51% to 48% but lost statewide in key Senate races where they won the statewide House vote, as candidates backed by former President Trump ran far behind mainstream Republicans in PA, AZ, GA, and NV.
Republicans won the national House popular vote by three percentage points — 51 percent to 48 percent. They still won by two points after adjusting for races in which only one major party was on the ballot. Republican candidates won the most votes for U.S. House in all four of the crucial Senate states where Republicans fell short: Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada. The “MAGA” Republicans — as characterized by The Cook Political Report, based on their backing from Mr. Trump in the primaries — ran far behind the mainstream Republicans.
.@davidautor shows high school workers’ wage growth overtaking college wage growth in the aftermath of the pandemic and argues that higher wages better reflect rising productivity as companies compete more intensively for workers.
For first time in four decades, wage inequality falling, due to rising lower tail. Despite inflation, real wages rising among young HS grads, 1st quartile workers. It’s tempting to attribute this change to ‘tight’ labor markets—but what does this mean in practice? The simplest explanation is that labor markets are operating on a higher point on the labor demand curve. Evidence indicates this explanation too simple: Competition has intensified. Distinction is critical: Rising competition means higher wages that better reflect productivity and higher aggregate productivity — a double dividend.
The American college workforce is 5% larger than in Feb 2022, whereas the high school workforce is 4% smaller. This has likely contributed to the decrease in earnings inequality in the post-pandemic period. @Greg_Ip
In the decades before the pandemic, the wages of lower-paid, less skilled hourly employees steadily lost ground to those of skilled workers, college graduates, managers, and professionals. In the two years since, those trends have sharply reversed. We don’t know if this narrowing in inequality will last. Perhaps it is a function of labor shortages that, like semiconductor shortages, will disappear as the pandemic recedes. Maybe it is the result of a tight labor market whose days are numbered as the Federal Reserve seeks to cool the economy. Some of this was catalyzed by the pandemic, which shrank the supply of people willing to do traditionally low-paid work. Many dropped out of the labor force, retired, or died from Covid-19. The college-educated labor force was 5% larger last month than in February 2020; the high school-educated and high school dropout labor force is 4% smaller. (Data between the two periods isn’t strictly comparable.)
Bank of America notes evidence of reshoring to Mexico at the expense of China with imports of Mexican low-tech goods such as plastics and textiles up ~60% relative to pre-pandemic levels.
Another big winner in the U.S.-China trade war could be Mexico. It has lower wages than China, an established manufacturing sector anchored by the automotive industry, and the perfect geographic position for serving the U.S. market—particularly since the rise of videoconferencing, which has increased the importance of being in the same time zone. Analysts at Bank of America already see some evidence that this is happening, with U.S. imports of Mexican manufactured goods roughly 60% higher than before the pandemic as of October. Interestingly, Mexico has gained share of U.S. imports in some low-tech industrial sectors such as plastics and textiles, while China has lost share.
.@michaelxpettis argues that moving production away from chronic surplus countries like China to countries like Mexico will increase global demand as Mexican export revenues are converted to imports.
There is a stronger economic reason for Washington to encourage switching production from countries with large-persistent trade surpluses to countries, like Mexico, with balanced trade, or even trade deficits. Because wages and household income comprise a higher share of Mexican output, when an American business shifts production to Mexico, this will likely increase US imports from Mexico. This is not what happens when a US business relocates to a trade surplus country. In that case, because their workers receive a much lower share of what they produce, and their businesses a higher share, part of the country's export revenues are converted into savings.
An analysis by @jburnmurdoch suggests millennials in the US and UK are breaking a historical pattern of becoming more conservative in their voting behavior as they age.
By my calculations, members of Britain’s “silent generation”, born between 1928 and 1945, were five percentage points less conservative than the national average at age 35, but around five points more conservative by age 70. The “baby boomer” generation traced the same path, and “Gen X”, born between 1965 and 1980, are now following suit. Millennials — born between 1981 and 1996 — started out on the same trajectory, but then something changed. The most likely explanation is a cohort effect — that millennials have developed different values to previous generations. This is borne out by US survey data showing that, having reached political maturity in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, millennials are tacking much further to the left on economics than previous generations did, favoring greater redistribution from rich to poor.
cording to @jmhorp Millennials are keeping pace with Baby Boomers and Gen X in terms of generational wealth per capita.
Millennials are roughly equal in wealth per capita to Baby Boomers and Gen X at the same age. Gen X is currently much wealthier than Boomers were at the same age: about $100,000 per capita or 18% greater. Wealth has declined significantly in 2022, but the hasn’t affected Millennials very much since they have very little wealth in the stock market (real estate is by far their largest wealth category.)
Americans are drinking at elevated levels in the aftermath of the pandemic with inflation-adjusted spending up 15% in 2022 vs. just before the pandemic. @foxjust
There is clear evidence that more people are drinking too much. Deaths from alcohol-induced causes rose from 39,043 in 2019 to 54,258 in 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the population-adjusted death rate is now more than double what it was in the 2000s. Provisional data also show an encouraging decline in alcohol-induced deaths in the first half of 2022, although that trend could change as final numbers become available. Even after the big increases of the past couple of years, US alcohol consumption likely still lags that of many affluent countries, especially in Europe. And yes, Americans drank lots more back in the 1970s — not to mention the 1830s, when estimated per-capita consumption was nearly three times what it was in 2020.
During Biden’s first two years in office, he has approved at least $4.8T of new borrowing according to @BudgetHawks.
Since January 2021, the Biden Administration has enacted policies through legislation and executive actions that will add more than $4.8 trillion to budget deficits between 2021 and 2031. The $4.8 trillion is the net result of roughly $4.6 trillion of new spending, about $500 billion of tax cuts and tax breaks, and $700 billion of additional interest costs that are partially offset by $400 billion of spending cuts and $600 billion of revenue increases.
.@JohnHCochrane reviews Phil Gramm, Robert Ekelund and John Early book and highlights their big finding, “The effective marginal tax rate in the lowest three quintiles is effectively 100%. Earn a dollar and lose a dollar of benefits. Why work?”
Why has work collapsed in the bottom decile? Here we might have a big debate. $11.76 per hour (2017) isn't a lot. But the previous graphs certainly contain a suggestion worth pursuing: The effective marginal tax rate in the lowest three quintiles is effectively 100%. Earn a dollar and lose a dollar of benefits. Why work? Gramm Ekelund and Early are careful, and don't make any causal assertions here. They don't really even stress the fact popping from the table as much as I have. But the fact is a fact, a nearly 100% tax rate + an income effect isn't a positive for labor supply, and the amount of work in lower quintiles has plummeted. This is a book about facing facts and this one is undeniable.
Nicholas Eberstadt @AEI notes that prior to the Russo-Ukrainian War life expectancy for a 15-year-old Russian male “was essentially indistinguishable from 15-year-old males in Haiti.”
According to World Health Organization estimates, life expectancy in 2019 for 15-year-old Russian males was essentially indistinguishable from 15-year-old males in Haiti. This is not a typo. The estimate for both Haiti and Russia was 53.7 years. That teenage Russian male stood worse survival chances in Russia than in 23 of the 46 countries the United Nations categorizes as “least developed” — among them Mali, Yemen, and even war-decimated Afghanistan. Projecting from 2019 survival trajectories, over one in four 20-year-old males will die before their 60th birthday. The corresponding risk in Europe is only half that high — and those European aggregates, remember, are distorted by including Russia in them.
The Bank of Japan shocked analysts by letting Japanese 10-Year bonds yield rise from 0.25% to 0.5%. The yen strengthened to 132.28 per dollar, compared with 137.16 immediately before the announcement. @Bloomberg
Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda shocked markets by doubling a cap on 10-year yields, sparking a jump in the yen and a slide in government bonds in a move that helps pave the way for possible policy normalization under a new governor. The BOJ will now allow Japan’s 10-year bond yields to rise to around 0.5%, up from the previous limit of 0.25%, while keeping both short- and long-term interest rates unchanged, according to a policy statement Tuesday. “Whatever the BOJ calls this, it is a step toward an exit,” said Masamichi Adachi, chief Japan economist at UBS Securities and a former BOJ official. “This opens a door for a possible rate hike in 2023 under a new governorship.”
.@tracyalloway notes that the uptick in Japanese rates risks the cheap funding that has enabled the yen carry trade and could further reduce demand for Treasuries.
The move puts the yen’s role as a cheap funding currency in doubt and potentially sets in motion a mass reshuffling of global capital. With higher rates now on offer from Japanese government bonds, there’s a chance that money is pulled from foreign investments and plowed into domestic ones. That could potentially add to worries over who will be buying US government debt in the midst of higher inflation, new regulatory requirements for big investors, and perhaps new competition from Japanese government bonds.
With the total value of new venture capital funding down 42% to $286B for the first 11 months of 2022, many private technology companies are turning to debt markets to avoid writing down their equity valuations. @ft
A sharp decline in venture capital dealmaking, alongside a closed market for initial public offerings, has resulted in a funding crunch for many private technology companies over the past year. Company founders have entered into debt-focused deals such as bridge loans, structured equity, convertible notes, participating bonds and generous liquidation preferences. These moves are designed to avoid a dreaded “down round” — accepting funding at a far lower valuation than a company had previously secured. New VC deals fell 42% in the first 11 months of this year to $286bn, compared to the same period last year, according to investment data company Preqin. Silicon Valley law firm Cooley said the total value of late-stage VC deals it advised on had slumped almost 80% this year.
A new BLS data series “New Tenant Repeat Rent Index” suggests that the highest housing inflation is behind us, and other indexes should see price deceleration soon, according to @JosephPolitano.
Researchers at the BLS and Cleveland Fed released a data series today that might be the single most important new inflation indicator. The New Tenant Repeat Rent Index uses the same microdata that goes into the official Consumer Price Index to select only samples with rental turnover and to assign price shifts to when they happened, not when the units were surveyed. The New Tenant Repeat Rent Index, therefore, leads official inflation data in the CPI by 1 year. The good news is that the New Tenant Repeat Rent Index suggests that the worst of housing inflation is likely behind us, and price decelerations should pass through to official inflation data soon. Critically, New Tenant Repeat Rent index also shows lower overall price growth than private data.
Apple will start MacBook production in Vietnam this spring as the company seeks to complete an “out of China” option for all major products. @NikkeiAsia
Apple plans to move some MacBook production to Vietnam for the first time next year as the U.S. tech group continues diversifying its production base away from China amid escalating tech tensions between Washington and Beijing. Apple has tapped its top supplier, Taiwan's Foxconn, to start making MacBooks in the Southeast Asian nation as early as around May, sources briefed on the matter said. Apple has been working to add production sites outside of China for all of its major product lines, but doing so for the final one, the MacBook has taken longer due to the complex supply chain needed for making laptop computers. "After the MacBook production shifts, all of Apple's flagship products basically will have one more production location beyond China ... iPhones in India and MacBooks, the Apple Watch and iPads in Vietnam," one person with direct knowledge of the matter told Nikkei Asia. "What Apple wants now is an 'out of China' option for at least part of production for all of its products."
First generation immigrants make up 16% of American inventors, but are responsible for 23% of total innovation output. Including the spillover effects on native born collaborators, they drive 36% of aggregate innovation. @bibipousada @shaibrn @rebeccardiamond
We link patent records to a database containing the first five digits of more than 230mm of Social Security Numbers (SSN). By combining this part of the SSN together with year of birth, we identify whether individuals are immigrants based on the age at which their Social Security Number is assigned. We find immigrants represent 16% of all US inventors, but produced 23% of total innovation output, as measured by number of patents, patent citations, and the economic value of these patents. Immigrant inventors are more likely to rely on foreign technologies, to collaborate with foreign inventors, and to be cited in foreign markets, thus contributing to the importation and diffusion of ideas across borders. A simple decomposition illustrates that immigrants are responsible for 36% of aggregate innovation, two-thirds of which is due to their innovation externalities on their native-born collaborators.
.@mjmauboussin shows capital expenditures net of depreciation as a percentage of sales peaked in 1988 at 6.9%. Over the past decade it has averaged 1.8% and fell to 0.5% in 2020 during the pandemic.
Exhibit 25 shows capital expenditures minus depreciation for the population we studied. Using this measure, investment as a percentage of sales peaked in 1988 at 6.9% and bottomed in 2020 at 0.5 percent of sales. The average of the past decade was 1.8%. The two substantial limitations to using depreciation as a proxy for maintenance capital expenditures include inflation and the risk of technological obsolescence. In periods of rising prices (such as 2022), the capital expenditures required to replace new equipment will exceed depreciation because new expenditures reflect inflation whereas depreciation is based on historical costs. Technological obsolescence introduces the likelihood that depreciation overestimates an asset’s useful life.
Britain has seen a relative decline in GDP per person, growing only 7% between 2007 and 2022 relative to 15% growth in the United States. UK GDP per hour worked productivity grew 4% during that period relative to 18% in the United States @Economist
On a per-person basis, Britain’s economy has grown by 7% in real terms since 2007. That is just ahead of Canada and France, both at 6%, but behind America, Australia, and Germany, which sit at 13-16%. Unfortunately, much of Britain’s meager growth has come not from working more efficiently but rather from working more. Over the past 15 years, British labor productivity has climbed by just 4%, slightly behind France’s 6% and far worse than the other countries’ double-digit gains.
Britain’s National Health Service is under increasing stress, with 6.8mm people on its waiting lists, up from 4.2mm prior to the pandemic. Britain has 2.9 doctors per thousand people, vs. 3.7 average for the OECD. @Economist
The NHS is in poor shape. It has 6.8m people on waiting lists, up from 4.2m before the pandemic. EU countries in the OECD, a club of mostly rich countries, have an average of 3.7 doctors per 1,000 people (Austria has 5.4). Britain has 2.9.
According to the @NewYorkFed, the reservation wage continues to climb, with the average now $73,667. Since March 2020, that’s a 19.4% increase for employed workers and 12% for the unemployed.
When we look at the series for employed and non-employed (unemployed or out of the labor force) respondents separately, as in the chart below, we observe that the average reservation wage has been increasing for both groups since late 2017, but more so since the onset of the pandemic. In addition, the chart displays the increase since the onset of the pandemic (since March 2020) to be more pronounced for employed respondents. Specifically, while the average reservation wage increased by 19.4% between March 2020 and November 2022 for employed respondents, it increased by around 12 percent for non-employed respondents in the same time period. Among the employed respondents, we observe the highest rise in this time period for those without a college degree (a 27% increase).
.@biancoresearch sees two scenarios for equities, both bad: either the stock market declines on weak recessionary earnings and the Fed pivots, or the economy stays hot, and the market declines on higher-than-expected rates.
As this chart shows, there is a big difference between what the market and the Fed thinks. And this divergence will define the first part of 2023 trading. What does the Fed see causing the funds rate to stay at 5.125% next year? Start with the labor market. The simple truth is the jobs market is NOT weakening. And the Fed is not changing unless it shows UNMISTAKABLE signs of weakening.
.@paulkrugman notes that, despite high inflation, there is a continued absence of evidence that inflation has become entrenched, with median one, three, and five-year-ahead inflation expectations declining to 5.2%, 3.0%, and 2.3%, respectively.
We do, however, have some direct evidence on inflation expectations. For example, here are the results of an ongoing survey by the New York Fed. People do expect elevated inflation over the next year, probably because they’re extrapolating from elevated gas prices earlier this year. But medium-term inflation expectations are quite low. There’s just no sign of inflation getting entrenched.
.@M_C_Klein argues that inflation is unlikely to decline until nominal wage growth slows, which it has not to this point.
There does seem to be a connection between the acceleration in wage growth over the past year or so and the acceleration in the inflation rate of services other than housing, electricity, and gas. One could reasonably quibble that “services excluding housing and energy services” is 32% health care prices charged by providers to insurers (including Medicare and Medicaid), 13% imputed financial and insurance services, plus 9% “social assistance” (excluding child care) and non-profits. None of those prices are necessarily linked to wages. But these problematic categories do not explain why inflation has accelerated. In fact, excluding those categories, along with other non-market PCE, makes core services inflation looks substantially worse, as can be seen in the difference between the green line and the orange line in the chart above.
Michael Boskin notes that tight labor markets may cause firms to respond to declining demand with fewer layoffs than in a typical recessionary cycle. @AEIecon @ProjSyn
The single biggest factor in the 2023 outlook is how firms will respond to a likely reduction in demand. Will businesses announce substantial layoffs, as usual? Or will the difficulties in finding and retaining qualified workers lead them to sacrifice short-run profits to keep people on the payroll? (Many have already been laid off in the tech sector, but that is because those companies binge-hired in 2020 and 2021.)
.@mattsclancy notes that American scientist are aging and notes research that found a sharp fall in productivity after 25 years.
Scientists are getting older. Above is the share of employed US PhD scientists and engineers in three different age ranges: early career (under 40), mid-career (ages 40-55), and late career (ages 55-75). The figure covers the 26 years from 1993-2019. Over this period, the share of mid-career scientists fell from about half to just under 40%. Most (but not all) of that decline has been offset by an increase in the share of late career scientists. And within the late career group, the share older than 65 has more than doubled to 27% over this time period. Yu and coauthors still find a sharp fall off in both productivity and citations to top papers after 25 years of career experience. For a scientist who first published at the age of 25, that’s 50 years old. The share of scientists who fall into this “late career” demographic has been on the rise.
Vietnam will displace Britain as one of the US’s top seven trading partners. Vietnam’s share of US goods trade is now 2.7%. The US’s largest trading partners are Canada at 15%, Mexico at 14.7%, and China at 13.2%. @Bloomberg
Vietnam is on track this year to bump Britain from its long-time place among the US’s top seven goods trading partners, which would be the first time the UK hasn’t been in that group in records going back at least to 2004. The UK’s share of the US merchandise trade slid to 2.6% through the first 10 months of this year, while Vietnam’s rose to 2.7%, according to Census Bureau data. The numbers reflect trends that both predate the pandemic and were accelerated by it. China’s share of US goods trade, which stood at 13.2% in October, has been edging down since it peaked on a full-year basis at 16.4% in 2017.
Germany has opened the first of five floating storage and regasification units, each with a capacity of 5B cubic meters per year of gas. Overall, Germany will soon have LNG import capacity of half the total volume of Russian gas imported last year. @FT
Germany has opened its floating liquefied natural gas terminal in the North Sea port of Wilhelmshaven, marking a crucial milestone in its quest for energy independence from Russia. Since the start of the year, the government contracted five floating storage and regasification unit, each with a capacity of 5bn cubic meters a year of gas. It also pushed through the construction of new permanent LNG import terminals, one of which will be built in Wilhelmshaven. Germany would soon have an LNG import capacity of 30B cubic meters per year on its northern coasts. “That is equivalent to more than half of the entire volume of pipeline gas that flowed to Germany from Russia last year,” Olaf Scholz, the chancellor, said.
China’s visible holdings of US bonds have stayed constant over the past 5 years at ~ $1.6T, according to an analysis by @Brad_Setser. However, he notes that Japan’s holdings have dropped by $226B since December 2021.
The most important thing to know about the US data on foreign holdings of US Treasury securities is that the US doesn't really know who holds US Treasuries. US Treasury holders, in rank order, Japan, China, the UK, Belgium, the Caymans, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Ireland Only Japan and China (and, to a degree Switzerland) are real holders; the rest are financial and custodial centers. The second most important thing to know -- apart from the continued (apparent) purchases of Treasuries from private investors abroad (even if the buyers are the Caymans and the UK in the transactional data) -- is that China isn't selling. It is, in fact, rather remarkable that after adjusting for the Belgian holdings (a euroclear account used by the PBOC it seems), China's visible holdings of US bonds have stayed constant for the last 5ys (at ~ $1.6 trillion).
Until recently, international trade of natural gas had been largely restricted to the use of cross-country pipelines, but recent investments in liquefied natural gas infrastructure will increase the global tradability of natural gas. @stlouisfed
Liquefaction capacity has been below fleet capacity for the past 18 years or so, with a growing gap that is projected to widen through 2027. These patterns suggest that liquefaction will likely be an important bottleneck for the future growth of LNG trade. Figure 3 shows that, after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, there have been increased investments in LNG fleets (new orders in Panel A) and LNG liquefaction terminals (number of terminals expected to be completed in Panel B).
In 2022, 30 Norwegians with a net worth of $3B have expatriated themselves to Switzerland to avoid Norway’s wealth tax of 1.1% on net worth annually, including unrealized capital gains. @ft
Public filings to Norway’s population registry show that at least 30 billionaires and millionaires swapped the prosperous Scandinavian nation for the lower-tax Alpine jurisdiction in 2022. The group of rich Norwegians who left for Switzerland this year had a combined fortune of NKr29B [$3B] and paid NKr550M in tax [$550M], according to the country’s open-access annual tax returns. The 2022 exodus is greater than in the previous 13 years combined, newspaper Dagens Naeringsliv calculated. At the heart of the debate is Norway’s wealth tax which is levied on all net fortunes greater than NKr1.7M ($173,000) at a rate of 1.1 per cent for the richest. Switzerland also has a wealth tax but offers deals for foreigners.
Scraping its “pacifist” post-Second World War defense strategy, Japan plans to spend $313B over the next five years to bring military expenditure to roughly 2% of GDP. @ft
Over the next five years, Tokyo plans to spend ¥43tn ($313bn) to strengthen its defense capabilities, bringing military expenditure to roughly 2% of its current gross domestic product. The budget includes ¥5tn to buy Tomahawk cruise missiles from the US, expand the range of its domestic surface-to-ship cruise missiles and develop hypersonic weapons, according to the medium-term Defence program. Another ¥3tn will be spent on enhancing integrated air and missile defense capabilities, including a radar upgrade for the Patriot missile system to counter hypersonic weapons. The largest portion of the military spending, ¥15tn, will be designated to strengthening the SDF’s basic needs, including ammunition stockpiles and fuel tanks, reflecting concerns that Japan’s armed forces will not have the capability to persevere in a prolonged conflict such as one over Taiwan.
From 2011 through early 2022, the Fed remitted $1 trillion in QE portfolio earnings to the US Treasury. Current rate mismatches mean these remittances will no longer be available, putting further stress the Treasury market. @LastBearStandng
First, remittances are a one-way street. If the Fed has positive earnings, it remits the earnings to the Treasury. But if the Fed incurs losses, the Treasury isn’t required to cut a check to the Fed to cover those losses. Instead, the Fed “prints” the difference. It simply pays the excess interest expense with newly created dollars, in the same way that it prints dollars to buy bonds in QE. The Fed keeps track of its cumulative losses, and when the Fed starts earning money again in the future, it will first go to recoup those losses before remittances to the Treasury resume. In other words, the positive balances shown in the graph above are in-period (since earnings are constantly swept to the Treasury), while the losses over the past several months are cumulative, since they accrue over time.
House races are getting more competitive according to an analysis by @JacobRubashkin. The Republican house majority rests on 6,670 votes, the cumulative margin of the 5 closest seats the Democrats lost that would have allowed them to hold the house.
The historical narrowness of the incoming GOP majority becomes clear when comparing this cycle to previous elections over the past decade. House Republicans won the majority by 6,670 votes, or 0.006 percent of the nationwide popular vote. Had Democrats won an additional 6,671 votes across five districts, they would have maintained their majority. In 2020, Democrats won 222 seats. But their majority rested on the 34,734-vote combined margin of victory in their five closest victories. Those decisive votes were just 0.023 percent of the 152,576,055 ballots cast nationwide.
According to the chief research officer at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory “If you gain a factor of 10 on the fusion and 10 on the efficiency,” fusion achieves energy breakeven. With government support, this could be achieved in 10-20 years. @WSJ
A simple ratio known as Q provides an easy and intuitive way to understand if scientists are making progress: It’s energy released divided by energy used. A Q below one means the reaction consumed more energy than it produced. A Q above one means more energy was produced than consumed. In this latest experiment, scientists put in 2.05 megajoules of energy and got 3.15 megajoules out. Q was 3.15 divided by 2.05, or about 1.5. To generate 3.15 megajoules of energy, the lab consumed about 300 megajoules of energy to fire its laser. The Q value for the entire reactor is about 0.01—roughly 1% of break-even. “If you gain a factor of 10 on the fusion and 10 on the efficiency, that gives you a factor of 100 roughly,” said Jonathan Menard, chief research officer at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. “That would be in the ballpark of break-even. Both of those are theoretically possible.” With government support that could take one to two decades, he said.
Citing CBO data, @MichaelRStrain finds that market income for the median household grew by 26% from 1990 through 2019 after adjusting for inflation. Including transfer payments and federal taxes, real median household income grew 55%. @AEIecon
Median household income from market activities – labor, business, and capital income, as well as retirement income from past services – was not stagnant from 1990 to 2019. Instead, after adjusting for inflation, it grew by 26%. This is in line with wage growth. By my calculations using Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, inflation-adjusted average wages for nonsupervisory workers grew by around one-third over this period. After factoring in social insurance benefits (from Social Security and unemployment insurance, for example), government safety-net benefits (such as food stamps), and federal taxes, the CBO finds that median household income increased by 55% from 1990 to 2019, which is significantly faster than wage growth and certainly not stagnate. The bottom 20% of households enjoyed even greater gains, with market income growth of 51% and after-tax-and-transfer income growth of 74%.
Investor @conorsen argues that worker’s prospects will improve dramatically going forward as earnings growth will be coupled with lower gas prices, easing rents, falling car prices, and fully stocked shelves. @bloomberg
While nominal levels of growth might be slowing, inflation-adjusted growth is rising as the economy slowly gets back to normal from the many disruptions that wreaked havoc during the pandemic. So even though the labor market is softer, worker fortunes are looking brighter. We normally think about real economic growth as a function of employment growth and productivity growth. What we’re now experiencing — supply chains healing, companies’ labor needs easing, and workers reaping the benefits of lower prices with a boost to their inflation-adjusted wages — could be called productivity growth.
The United States added 36 Chinese firms to a trade blacklist as it expands export controls targeted at slowing Chinese development of advanced chips and technologies for military uses such as hypersonic weapons. @FT
The US has placed three dozen Chinese companies on a trade blacklist, in another escalation of its effort to slow China’s development of advanced chips and technologies for military uses such as hypersonic weapons. The commerce department put 36 Chinese groups on the “entity list”, a move that means American companies will require extremely hard-to-obtain licenses to export critical technologies to those customers in China.
Young Americans are experiencing high levels of psychological distress relative to other adults; 58% of 18 to 29 year old’s reported being distressed in surveys conducted between March 2020 and September 2022, relative to 41% of the 50 to 64 cohort. @pewresearch
About four-in-ten U.S. adults (41%) have experienced high levels of psychological distress at least once since the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis that examines survey responses from the same Americans over time. Experiences of high psychological distress are especially widespread among young adults. A 58% majority of those ages 18 to 29 have experienced high levels of psychological distress at least once across four Center surveys conducted between March 2020 and September 2022.
.@JohnHCochrane argues that the current trajectory of inflation is coming in on the “rational expectations” side, inflation is stable. He also notes that 1975 might be good precedent – inflation did fade – but took off again with new shocks.
The November CPI is in, and inflation continues to moderate despite interest rates that, while rising, are still below current inflation. In the conventional "adaptive expectations" view, inflation is unstable unless the Fed moves interest rates quickly, and inflation will spiral away unless interest rates rise above the current rate of inflation. In the more radical "rational expectations" view, inflation is stable and will eventually go away on its own even if the Fed does nothing. (So long as fiscal policy doesn't add fuel to the fire. Also, it allows for more dynamics; inflation can go up before coming back, and the long run can take a long time.)
.@M_C_Klein argues that this week’s CPI release is consistent with inflation holding steady at 4-5% a year. “The basic problem is that the prices of services other than energy and shelter are still rising relatively quickly.”
Total CPI inflation does not look that different from CPI inflation, excluding food, energy, shelter (which weirdly includes hotels and dorms in addition to housing), and used vehicles. In both cases, the near-term picture is that prices are rising around 4-5%, which is substantially slower than in the first half of 2022 but still faster than before the pandemic. The basic problem is that the prices of services other than energy and shelter are still rising relatively quickly.
Citing the fall in labor force participation and anecdotes of “quiet quitting,” @tylercowen worries that letting inflation run at higher rates and driving down real wages will shrink the labor force and decrease productivity. @bloomberg
There is a widespread labor shortage, as evidenced by the “Help Wanted” signs everywhere, yet there are also falling after-inflation wages. We economists cannot fully explain these circumstances. But they may suggest that employers simply are not willing to agree to higher wages, perhaps due to business uncertainty. And if a labor shortage won’t push them to increase real wages, perhaps a higher rate of inflation won’t either. In short, one of the main effects of a permanently higher inflation target may be lower real wages. A lot of workers may not be too happy with their situation. There remains a risk that these workers, in lieu of bargaining for higher wages, will quit the labor force entirely, or perhaps just further disengage from their jobs.
.@swinshi argues that the changes in family formation have not been driven by changes in men’s relative earnings, as the percent of all men aged 25-29 earning at least the post-tax comp of the 25th percentile of young married fathers falls only from 63% in 1979 to 58% in 2021.
I use, as a marriageability threshold, the 25th percentile of pretax earnings among married fathers aged 25–29 who were sole breadwinners. The other choice involves what year to use as a reference point for “the past.” [The available data] is poorly suited for [estimating the tax burdens of young male sole breadwinners] before 1979. For that reason, I use 1979 as my reference point. Rather than [the share of single men earning pretax incomes less than the 25th percentile of married men] falling from 72% to 57% from 1969 to 2019, marriageability [only] falls … from 63% to 58% [from 1979 to 2019].
The White House announced a $36B bailout for the Central States Pension Fund, which will avoid benefit cuts for 40,000 workers and retirees in Michigan, 40,000 in Ohio and 22,000 in Wisconsin. Biden won WI by a 20,682 margin. @bloomberg
President Joe Biden announced a $36 billion bailout for the Central States Pension Fund, one of the nation’s biggest multi-employer plans, touting the help for union workers and retirees as he looks to mend ties with organized labor after a contentious rail deal. Biden said the aid would help 350,000 union workers and retirees, who would have faced benefit cuts estimated at 60% over the next few years. The Central States bailout would help 40,000 workers and retirees in Michigan, 40,000 in Ohio and 22,000 in Wisconsin.
Howard Marks notes the S&P 500 delivered a 10.3% compound return from August 1982 through the start of 2022. Marks suspects that the 2000 basis point decrease in interest rates over the past forty years is the primary driver of this performance.
We've gone from the low-return world of 2009-21 to a full-return world, and it may become more so in the near term. Investors can now potentially get solid returns from credit instruments, meaning they no longer have to rely as heavily on riskier investments to achieve their overall return targets. Here's one example: In the low-return world of just one year ago, high-yield bonds offered yields of 4-5%. A lot of issuances was at yields in the 3s, and at least one new bond came to the market with a "handle" of 2. Today these securities yield roughly 8%.
The fusion reaction achieved at Lawrence Livermore energy gain of 150% was greater than initially reported by the @FT, though they note that 330 MJ of electrical energy was used to produce 3.15 MJ of fusion energy.
The reaction produced about 3.15 megajoules of energy, which was about 150 percent of the 2.05MJ of energy in the lasers. Does this mean they have cracked fusion power? No. Achieving energy gain has been seen for decades as a crucial step in proving that commercial fusion power stations are possible. However, there are still several hurdles to overcome. First, energy gain in this context only compares the energy out to the energy in the lasers, not to the total amount of energy pulled off the grid to power the system. In fact, each shot requires 330MJ of electrical energy, delivered in a 400-microsecond burst. Scientists estimate that commercial fusion will require fusion reactions that generate between 30 and 100 times the energy going in.
The @FT reports a claim by Chinese researchers that they have produced hydrogen directly from seawater, without the need to desalinate or purify the seawater first, advancing a long-term goal of hydrogen power.
Researchers in China claim to have produced hydrogen by splitting seawater without the need to desalinate or purify it first. Heping Xie at Shenzhen University and Zongping Shao at Nanjing Tech kept the electrolyser separate from the seawater with a waterproof, breathable membrane. A bit like a sieve, the membrane keeps anything other than pure water vapor from entering the electrolyser. As the water vapor is drawn in and converted to hydrogen, more is pulled in from the seawater to take its place. It is, they reported recently in the journal Nature, a self-sustaining system. The scientists installed a prototype in China’s Shenzhen Bay and produced more than 1mn liters of hydrogen over 133 days without any reported deterioration.
According to the new CPI report, Core-CPI rose by 0.2% in November to 6% year-over-year, coming in under the 0.3% median estimate of a @Bloomberg survey of economists.
Excluding food and energy, the consumer price index rose 0.2% in November and was up 6% from a year earlier, according to a Labor Department report Tuesday. Economists see the gauge — known as the core CPI — as a better indicator of underlying inflation than the headline measure. The overall CPI increased 0.1% from the prior month and was up 7.1% from a year earlier, as lower energy prices helped offset rising food costs. The median estimates in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for 0.3% monthly increases in both the core and overall measures.
.@jasonfurman on today’s CPI report, which saw Headline CPI up ticking 0.1% and Core CPI 0.2%. “Some of this good news is probably transitory. But still a lot of good news.”
Terrific CPI report. This is my own concept that swaps in spot rents for all rents using the private measures from Apartment List and Zillow. This is NOT a good measure of the cost of living but may be a better way to think about where inflation is going. Overall lowest core since what turned out to be the false dawn in the summer of 2021. I feel better about it now because of what we’re seeing with commodity prices, supply chains, inventories, and housing. Some of this good news is probably transitory. But still a lot of good news.
.@calculatedrisk notes that excluding shelter, the annualized one-month change in Core-CPI was negative in both October and November and suggests inflation is easing faster than the Fed currently is projecting.
This graph shows the year-over-year change in Core CPI ex-Shelter (blue) and the one-month change annualized (red). The year-over-year change was at 5.2% in November, down from 5.9% in October. And the annualized one-month change was negative in both October and November! Core CPI ex-shelter fell at a 1.5% annual rate in November. My view is inflation will ease quicker than the Fed currently expects, and a pause in rate hikes should be considered.
The US’s debt-to-GDP ratio dropped last year to 128% from a peak of 135% in 2020, but remains well above the pre-pandemic level of 109%, according to new research from the IMF. @IMFNews @bloomberg
While total public and private debt hit a record $235 trillion last year, it plummeted when expressed as a percentage of economic output, which rebounded last year after the steep Covid-19 recession of 2020. Total debt fell to 247% of global gross domestic product last year, IMF data showed. That’s 10 percentage points less than in 2020 but is still the second-highest reading in history.
According to research published by @NBER, higher productivity growth in 1989-2017 “is more than sufficient to explain the greater wage growth that more educated workers enjoyed as compared with less educated workers.”
U.S. regression results show that there is a high implicit correlation between the rise over time of wages by skill level and the rise of productivity by skill level. Productivity in the high-education industries [orange] grew by over .34 log points between 1989 and 2017, while productivity in the low-education industries [blue] grew only .20 log points during that same 30-year period. Wages in high-education industries grew by .26 log points while those in the low-education industries half grew by .24 log points during the 1989-2017 period. It’s clear that the difference in productivity growth between the two skill groups is more pronounced than the difference in wages. This simple comparison suggests that differences in productivity growth rates between skill groups is more than sufficient to explain the greater wage growth that more educated workers enjoyed as compared with less educated workers.
.@Reuters reports that China will shortly announce a $143B package to support their semiconductor industry, largely via subsidies for the purchase of domestically-produced semiconductor equipment.
China is working on a more than 1 trillion yuan ($143 billion) support package for its semiconductor industry, three sources said, in a major step towards self-sufficiency in chips and to counter U.S. moves aimed at slowing its technological advances. Beijing plans to roll out what will be one of its biggest fiscal incentive packages over five years, mainly as subsidies and tax credits to bolster semiconductor production and research activities at home, said the sources. The majority of the financial assistance would be used to subsidize the purchases of domestic semiconductor equipment by Chinese firms, mainly semiconductor fabrication plants, or fabs, they said.
.@swinshi notes that @JacobBastian25’s latest research underestimates the disemployment effects of an enhanced Child Tax Credit. Scott view of the disemployment effects support Bruce Myers and @kefincorinth CTC estimates @UChicago. @aei
In his reconciliation of his own results with those of the Chicago team, Bastian misattributes something on the order of 200,000 of the one-million-parent difference in predicted disemployment to married parents rather than to low-income single mothers. Relative to the Chicago team, he underestimates the disemployment of low-income single mothers by a similar amount. The evidence remains consistent with the Chicago team’s claims: a permanent expansion of the CTC that resembles the temporary child allowance created in 2021 could reduce employment among single mothers by about one million, an effect that would go a long way toward reversing the employment gains among single mothers since the policy reforms of the mid-1990s.
.@ft reports that researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have achieved a net energy gain in a fusion power experiment – producing 2.5 megajoules of energy, about 120 per cent of energy used to trigger the fusion reaction.
The federal Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, which uses a process called inertial confinement fusion that involves bombarding a tiny pellet of hydrogen plasma with the world’s biggest laser, had achieved net energy gain in a fusion experiment in the past two weeks, the people said. The fusion reaction at the US government facility produced about 2.5 megajoules of energy, which was about 120% of the 2.1 megajoules of energy in the lasers, the people with knowledge of the results said, adding that the data was still being analyzed.
.@GregorMacdonald notes a new EIA report that reports “US battery storage capacity is outpacing even the early growth of the country’s utility-scale solar capacity.”
The growth rate of US utility-scale battery storage capacity is outpacing the early growth rates seen in utility scale solar. That’s according to a new EIA outlook on grid-level storage: “The remarkable growth in US battery storage capacity is outpacing even the early growth of the country’s utility-scale solar capacity. US solar capacity began expanding in 2010 and grew from less than 1.0 GW in 2010 to 13.7 GW in 2015. In comparison, we expect battery storage to increase from 1.5 GW in 2020 to 30.0 GW in 2025.” New wind and solar + storage is probably at the current line of scrimmage with new natural gas. The former comes in around $28-$30/MWh without storage, and the latter comes in around $45-$74/MWh. But natural gas has higher value to the grid compared to wind and solar when they’re not paired with storage.
.@johnauthers reports that we may have seen a trough in global liquidity, according to data from Crossborder Capital.
The above chart by Michael Howell of Crossborder Capital shows estimates of global new liquidity. The lines indicate the three-month annualized % growth in the monetary base. Globally [red line], growth in liquidity has ticked up very slightly after dropping to its lowest level since the global financial crisis. In the major G10 economies [grey and yellow], there is a pickup from outright negative growth that has been helped by the startling fall in the US dollar in recent weeks. As many countries use dollar financing, this has the effect of easing conditions everywhere. Last week’s balance sheet data from major central banks show policy liquidity shrinking at 5.3% in local currency terms [yellow] but rising by 2.7% in US dollar terms [grey.] Thus, it is possible that a pivot away from tighter money is already under way.
Brian Chingone of @verdadcap notes that deleveraging is cyclical, with firms paying down debt as the economy slows.
Deleveraging is cyclical, with a higher proportion of companies paying down debt when the economy is slowing down. The figure above illustrates this process among Decile 10 companies that have the highest likelihood of deleveraging. The solid line represents actual deleveraging, and we can see spikes in the proportion of companies that pay down debt during recessions. Another important implication of the chart above is that deleveraging outcomes in the top decile remain within a consistent band between 60% and 80% over a 50-year sample that includes a range of macro environments, from inflation spirals to stock market bubbles to financial crises.
Mainland Chinese moving assets out of China account for half of the 1,500 Singapore-based single-family offices. @ft
Wealthy mainland Chinese moving assets out of President Xi Jinping’s China account for up to half of a rise in Singapore-based single-family offices — the private wealth management firms set up for rich individuals and their relatives. Numbers have jumped nearly threefold since the coronavirus pandemic began and, according to some estimates, now total as many as 1,500. Caught by surprise by the surging numbers of family office funds, Singapore’s government this year tightened the rules, with higher minimum capital and hiring requirements.
In what @bloomberg describes as “a near-total blockade,” Japan and the Netherlands have “agreed in principle” to join new export controls on China, which would limit access to equipment from Japan’s Tokyo Electron Ltd and the Dutch lithography firm ASM.
Japan and the Netherlands have agreed in principle to join the US in tightening controls over the export of advanced chipmaking machinery to China, according to people familiar with the matter, a potentially debilitating blow to Beijing’s technology ambitions. The three-country alliance would represent a near-total blockade of China’s ability to buy the equipment necessary to make leading-edge chips. The US rules restricted the supply from American gear suppliers Applied Materials Inc., Lam Research Corp. and KLA Corp. Japan’s Tokyo Electron Ltd. and Dutch lithography specialist ASML Holding NV are the two other critical suppliers that the US needed to make the sanctions effective, making their governments’ adoption of the export curbs a significant milestone.
.@JosephEStiglitz argues that current inflationary pressure is supply-side driven and states higher interest rates may exacerbate inflationary pressures.
The pandemic gave rise to numerous sectoral supply constraints and demand shifts that – together with adjustment asymmetries – became the primary drivers of price growth. Any benefits from the extra interest-rate-driven reduction in inflation will be minimal compared to what would have happened anyway. Inflation already appears to be easing. It may be moderating more slowly than optimists hoped a year ago – before Russia’s war in Ukraine – but it is moderating nonetheless, and for the same reasons that optimists had outlined. Higher interest rates make it even more difficult to mobilize investments that could alleviate supply shortages.
In October 2022, the retired share of the American population was 1½ percentage points above its pre-pandemic trend. These 3.5 million workers account for essentially all of the shortfall in labor force participation rates. @federalreserve
Despite some improvement in the labor force participation rate for the working-age population since the early stages of the pandemic, the LFPR in October 2022 remained nearly 1½ percentage points below its pre-pandemic, February 2020 level (after making adjustments for changes in population weights introduced from the 2020 Census). The importance of retirements in accounting for this shortfall is illustrated in Figure 1, which shows the percentage of the working-age population that is not in the labor force for different reasons (black line) relative to February 2020, based on responses to the Current Population Survey. While earlier in the pandemic, factors other than retirements were an important contributor to elevated non-participation (such as non-participation while caregiving, the orange line), the percent of the population that was not in the labor force and retired (the[MRH1] “retired share”) has steadily increased and in October 2022 was almost 1½ percentage points above its pre-pandemic level, representing an increase of more than 3½ million retirees and accounting for essentially all of the total shortfall in the LFPR.
A change in the way votes are distributed has eroded a GOP edge in the House of Representatives that the party has enjoyed over the past decade. @foxjust @bloomberg
The Nov. 8 midterm election results are nearly final, and Republican candidates have received 50.6% of the votes cast for the US House of Representatives to Democrats 47.8%. It also looks as if they will end up with 222 of the 435 House seats to the Democrats’ 213, or 51% to 49%. In other words, a vote margin of 2.8 percentage points will translate into a seat margin of 2.1 percentage points. This is not how things worked from 2010 through 2016 when Republicans won a much larger share of House seats compared with the votes they received. The disconnect was most pronounced in the 2012 election when Democrats’ 1.1-percentage-point winning vote margin resulted in a 7.6-point loss in terms of seats.
The Biden administration has approved the largest oil export facility in American history. The facility will expand export capacity by 2 million barrels per day, vs. 2021 average exports of 8.5 million barrels per day. @TexasTribune
The Biden administration has approved plans to build the nation’s largest oil export terminal off the Gulf Coast of Texas, which would add 2 million barrels per day to the US oil export capacity. The administration’s move marked a major step forward for the export sector. The offshore oil export terminal, the first to be approved of four proposed along Texas’s Gulf Coast, will enable continued growth in US shale oil production and global consumption, dealing a substantial setback to the White House’s goals for drastic cuts in carbon emissions by the year 2030.
LNG import facilities in Germany are on schedule to be operational within a year, a process that usually would take five. @WSJ
In March, the German government asked energy companies to weigh a seemingly impossible engineering task. Could a new liquefied natural gas import terminal, which normally takes at least five years to build, be erected in this port town by year’s end? At the headquarters of the company asked to build the pipeline portion, technical director Thomas Hüwener posed that question to his team. “If no, then it’s a no,” he told them. “If yes, then we have to commit, with all the possible consequences for our company.” After three days of deliberations, the company concluded that if everything went perfectly, the project could be done by Christmas. Utility Uniper SE, which the German state recently agreed to nationalize and which will operate the terminal, said that if all goes according to plan, the first tanker carrying LNG will arrive at the start of next year.
Glencore’s CEO forecasts a cumulative gap between projected copper demand and supply of 50mm tons between 2022 and 2030, relative to the current demand of 25mm tons a year. @bloomberg
Glencore Plc Chief Executive Officer Gary Nagle said that while some people were assuming that the industry would lift copper supplies as it had in previous cycles to meet a forecast increase in demand driven by the energy transition, “this time it is going to be a bit different.” He presented estimates showing a cumulative gap between projected demand and supply of 50 million tons between 2022 and 2030. That compares with the current world copper demand of about 25 million tons a year. “There’s a huge deficit coming in copper, and as much as people write about it, the price is not yet reflecting it,” Nagle said.
.@PIIE analysts @GagnonMacro and @AshRose_99 argue that wage growth is likely to outpace inflation in 2023, as declining commodity prices and fewer supply chain issues drive a rapid reduction in inflation.
Figure 1 displays the growth rate of the employment cost index over the past 20 years along with a projection over the next two that is a bit higher than that of professional forecasters. Twelve-month ECI growth peaked at 5.4% in June 2022 and declined to 5.1% as of September. In the projection, ECI rises at an annualized pace of 5% from September 2022 to March 2023, 4.5% from March to December 2023, and 4% in 2024. This projection is consistent with only a modest cooling in the labor market and an unemployment rate still somewhat lower than its equilibrium rate. Further reductions in inflation beyond 2024 would require ECI growth to slow well below a 4% pace.
While the Nasdaq is down 30% from its high last year, the decline hasn’t yet stressed the financial system. @bloomberg
The monetary tightening campaign is having a major impact in deflating asset bubbles that swelled during the pandemic. This is occurring without upending the financial system. And the losses, while large, are a fraction of the scale seen in the bursting of the tech bubble at the start of the century. The Nasdaq Composite Index is down a little over 30% from its high reached last year, but that compares with an almost 80% crash two decades ago. “It’s astonishing,” said Harvard University professor Jeremy Stein “If you told any one of us a year ago, ‘we’re going to have a bunch of 75 basis-point hikes,’ you’d have said, ‘Are you nuts? You’re going to blow up the financial system.’”
.@EthanYWu at @ft shares Blackrock analysis forecasting declining American labor force participation rates driven by aging. This implies that economic activity “will need to run at a lower level to avoid persistent wage and price inflation,”
The participation rate, or the share of people aged 16 and over that have or are looking for work, nosedived when the pandemic hit [orange line above]. Some of that sharp decline has been made up as people return. But we don’t see it recovering further because the effects of an aging population account for most of the remaining shortfall. More people have hit 64 years old, the age at which most retire. That’s taken 1.3M out of the workforce as of October, we find. Another 630,000 left as the pandemic caused fewer people to work past retirement age and hastened retirement for people coming up to 64. That implies the workforce will keep shrinking relative to the population. Economic activity will need to run at a lower level to avoid persistent wage and price inflation, especially in the labor-heavy services sector.
.@Noahpinion reviews the shift of American innovation from corporate labs to university research and startups but notes that Google’s AI divisions have been an important driver of research in the frontier of machine learning innovation.
The successes of Bell Labs and other big corporate labs in the mid 20th century has many people thinking that maybe this is an important missing piece of our modern innovation ecosystem. Google’s AI divisions have been an important driver of research in the machine learning space — an extremely important frontier. All told, the research output of Google AI, Google Brain, DeepMind, etc. has been truly staggering: Big private companies (especially IBM) are also very active in quantum computing research. And some “startups” like SpaceX are big enough to do research in-house that pushes the boundaries of general-purpose technology instead of just making a quick buck.
Ibuprofen is being rationed in Beijing, and new modelling suggests that as many as 1M people could die in China in a “winter wave” in the coming months. @ft
Beijing is running out of medical supplies as the Chinese capital combats a rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak, health workers said, putting stress on limited resources just as authorities lift pandemic restrictions. Clinics designated for Covid-19 patients are quickly filling up, and some hospitals in the city of 22mn people have begun rationing ibuprofen and paracetamol. Residents of Chaoyang, the district at the center of Beijing’s Covid outbreak, have emptied chemists’ shelves of fever-reducing medicine and rapid antigen tests. New modeling revealed by the Financial Times this week showed that as many as 1M people could die in the country in a “winter wave” in the coming months.
Ruy Teixeira of @AEI notes only 1/3 of the suburban vote is made up of college whites, and suggests that the democrats’ hold on the suburbs is tenuous.
It is widely misunderstood how vital suburban white working-class (noncollege) voters were to Biden’s victory in 2020. While suburban white college voters shifted around 10 margin points toward Biden, suburban white working-class voters also had a solid 5-point pro-Democratic shift. Because of this group’s larger size, their shift toward Biden contributed almost as much to the Democrats’ improved margin over Trump in 2020 as suburban white college voters. And just how liberal are these college-educated voters anyway? Overall, according to Gallup, just 30% of adults with a four-year degree only describe themselves as liberal, and 36% of those with some postgraduate education (the less numerous group) do so. Putting this together with the data about suburban demographics, this implies that perhaps one-ninth (a third of a third) of suburban voters are white college-educated liberals.
Chinese R&D and equipment upgrade subsidies fail to generate a positive impact on firm-level total factor productivity. @nber
We estimate total-factor productivity (TFP) for Chinese listed firms and investigate the relationship between these estimates of TFP and the allocation of government subsidies. We find little evidence that the Chinese government consistently “picks winners.” Firms’ ex-ante productivity is negatively correlated with subsidies received by firms, and subsidies appear to have a negative impact on firms’ ex-post productivity growth throughout our data window, 2007 to 2018. Neither subsidies given out under the name of R&D and innovation promotion nor industrial and equipment upgrading positively affect firms’ productivity growth. On the other hand, we find a positive impact of subsidy on current-year employment, both for the aggregated and employment-related subsidies.
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