“…reminds us that inequality sends a signal of what society lacks most, in America’s case, entrepreneurship and risk taking.” - Lawrence Lindsey, CEO, The Lindsey Group, former Director of the National Economic Council
“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.
The average hourly wage for auto workers has dropped 30% since 2003 and has converged with non-auto production workers. The UAW is attempting to arrest the trend, but the Big Three’s profits would be erased if they meet the UAW’s demands. @foxjust
During the past 20 years, the inflation-adjusted average hourly wage of non-management US workers, also known as production and nonsupervisory employees, has risen 13%. That’s not exactly a rip-roaring pace — 0.6% a year. Then again, real hourly wages for production and nonsupervisory employees fell in the 1970s and 1980s and rose at only a 0.3% annual pace in the 1990s. The average hourly wage for autoworkers on the production line has dropped 30% since 2003. GM, Ford and Stellantis are all profitable, with a combined net income of $42B for the 12 months ended in June and the amount coming from their US operations probably adding up to somewhat less than $30B. Bloomberg reported last month that Ford and GM’s internal estimates of the costs of the UAW’s demands peg them at $80B per company over the next four years, which would wipe out all those profits and then some.
The typical Asian-American household in the US earns just over $100,000, 3x a typical Japanese family’s earnings.
Even after a planned rise in October, the minimum wage in Tokyo will be the equivalent of just $7.65, compared with $15 in New York City. Median household income in Japan in 2021, the most recent year for which data are available, was equivalent to about $29,000 at the current exchange rate, compared with $70,784 in the U.S. that year, according to government statistics in the two countries. The typical Asian-American household brought in just over $100,000—more than triple what the typical Japanese family made.
Damages from US weather events that cost >$1B have risen from $20B annually during the 1980s to $95B a year between 2010-2019, and $153B in 2021. Property insurers, who bear 48% of these costs, are beginning to reduce coverage. @FedResearch
Nationally, the real cost of [weather and climate] disasters has risen from $20B per year in the 1980s to nearly $95B per year during the period 2010–19. In 2021, damages increased to about $153B. Costs were absorbed by four entities: property insurers (48%), uninsured or underinsured homeowners, businesses, and agricultural entities (37%), the federal government (11%), and state and local governments (4%). If property insurers were to exit certain markets or decrease coverage in states with greater exposure to physical risks due to decreased profitability, a larger share of damages would not be fully insured. Two major insurers recently announced that they will no longer accept new applications for business and personal property insurance coverage in California, citing increasing wildfire risk as a key factor in that decision. In addition, several major hurricanes during 2020-22 forced numerous insurance companies into bankruptcy in Louisiana and Florida.
Capital inflows into North American markets have contributed to a 3.9x Price/Book value relative to market averages of 1.9x in Europe and 1.4x in Japan according to @verdadcap_quant. He believes this offers opportunities in both Europe and Japan.
We’ve found reasons to think more highly of Europe and Japan. Notably, we find that value stocks in Europe and Japan are more profitable, with Europe being particularly impressive. Among firms that trade at a discount to book value, Europe has a Gross Profit/Assets ratio of 18.5%, which is 1.5x the profitability of North American value firms. The differences are even more stark in terms of EBITDA/Assets, with Europe’s value firms delivering a 6.4% return on assets, almost 3x higher than North America’s profitability among value firms. We believe that the combination of historically wide valuation spreads in Europe and higher levels of profitability among Europe’s value stocks bolster the case for upward mean reversion going forward. Historically, mean reversion in multiples has supported significant outperformance of value relative to growth.
Racial polarization in voting has been declining since 2012 in the US. @Nate_Cohn finds Biden underperforming relative to 2020 in current polling with non-white voters; 5% of 2020 non-white Biden voters now say they support Trump.
Mr. Biden’s weakness among nonwhite voters is broad, spanning virtually every demographic category and racial group, including a 72-11 lead among Black voters and a 47-35 lead among Hispanic registrants. The sample of Asian voters is not large enough to report, though nonwhite voters who aren’t Black or Hispanic — whether Asian, Native American, multiracial or something else — back Mr. Biden by just 40-39. In all three cases, Mr. Biden’s tallies are well beneath his standing in the last election. The survey finds evidence that a modest but important 5% of nonwhite Biden voters now support Mr. Trump, including 8% of Hispanic voters who say they backed Mr. Biden in 2020.
.@cwcalomiris argues high American public debt levels and chronic deficits may lead toward an era of “fiscal dominance,” in which the government forces banks to hold non-interest-bearing debt.
The essence of fiscal dominance is the need for the government to fund its deficits on the margin with non-interest-bearing debts. Inflation taxation has two components: expected and unexpected inflation taxation. Both are limited in their ability to fund real government expenditures. The expected component of inflation taxation (per period) is the product of the nominal interest rate and the inflation tax base, which consists of all non-interest bearing government debt. Unexpected inflation taxation occurs when the nominal value of outstanding government debt falls unexpectedly (thereby taxing government debtholders), and this component is also limited by the ability of government to surprise markets by creating unanticipated inflation. It is quite possible that a fiscal dominance episode in the US would result in not only the end of the policy of paying interest on reserves, but also a return to requiring banks to hold a large fraction of their deposit liabilities as zero-interest reserves.
.@B_Eichengreen argues that high public debt levels are here to stay and that methods to suppress interest rates are “less feasible than in the past.” This means chronic fiscal deficits will need to be reduced even in countries that issue safe assets.
Large, persistent primary budget surpluses are not in the political cards. It is difficult to imagine more favorable interest-rate-growth-rate differentials (favorable interest-rate-growth-rate differentials reducing debt ratios in an accounting sense). Real interest rates have trended downward to very low levels. It is hard to foresee them falling still lower. Faster global growth is pleasant to imagine but difficult to engineer. Inflation is not a sustainable route to reducing high public debts. Statutory ceilings on interest rates and related measures of financial repression are less feasible than in the past. Investors opposed to the widespread application of repressive policies are a more powerful lobby. Financial liberalization, internal and external, is an economic fact of life. The genie is out of the bottle. All of which is to say that, for better or worse, high public debts are here to stay.
Since 2007, the ratio of Treasuries outstanding to primary dealer assets has increased by a factor of four. @DuffieDarrell argues that this will drive increasing illiquidity in the Treasury market.
The total amount of Treasuries outstanding will continue to grow rapidly relative to the intermediation capacity of the market because of large and persistent US fiscal deficits and the limited flexibility of dealer balance sheets, unless there are significant improvements in market structure. Broad central clearing and all-to-all trade have the potential to add importantly to market capacity and resilience. Additional improvements in intermediation capacity can likely be achieved with real-time post-trade transaction reporting and improvements in the form of capital regulation, especially the Supplementary Leverage Ratio. Backstopping the liquidity of this market with transparent official-sector purchase programs will further buttress market resilience.
.@PaulKrugman notes that after a long period of general agreement that r* was very low, there is now active disagreement about the level of r*, with some, including the Richmond Fed, believing that r* has increased substantially.
Many of us thought we had a pretty good understanding of the forces behind low r* before Covid struck. Investment demand is largely driven by expectations about future economic growth, and prospects for U.S. growth seemed low in part because of demography — growth in the working-age population has stalled — and in part because, despite all the hype about technology, productivity has grown slowly since the mid-2000s. The demographic story hasn’t changed. There are a couple of other forces that might have increased r*. Budget deficits have gotten bigger, which could be providing a fiscal boost. The Biden administration’s industrial policies seem to be catalyzing a boom in manufacturing investment. But manufacturing investment isn’t that big a part of overall investment spending, so it’s not clear how much this matters for interest rates. One possible reason to think that r* may have risen is the surprising resilience of the economy in the face of Fed rate hikes.
Noting high nominal wage growth, Bridgewater argues that inflation is likely leveling out at its current rate which implies downside risk to asset prices.
Today, about 2.5% wage growth would be consistent with 2% inflation, as recent-trend productivity growth has been low and other sources of income (from assets and government-deficit-financed transfers) are more neutral. With wage growth currently running at around 4.5%, we’re far away from this level. We’re more likely to see inflation level out at its current rate rather than continue to decline like it has over the past year. This would push the Fed to continue tightening and, with a short pause and return toward easing being priced in, could come through the form of either rate rises or holding rates at high levels. This makes assets especially vulnerable to another round of tighter policy.
Alan Auerbach @Kotlikoff argue that the global savings glut was a “myth.” The market return on capital, which would show a decline if there were a capital glut, increased in the 2000s and 2010s.
There has been no major increase in the US capital-output ratio, nor has there been a major decline in the US marginal product of capital – the economy’s real return to capital. The US capital-output ratio remains close to its postwar average and capital’s real return has remained roughly constant -- around 6%. During the 2000s the marginal product of U.S. capital (MPK) was a healthy 5.84%. In the 2010s it was even higher at 6.42%. The market return to capital would show a decline if there were a capital glut and investors expected lower rates of return, It shows no such decline. The market return to capital’s real return averaged 5.52% between 1950 and 1989. Btw 1990 and 2019 it averaged 6.95. Hence, the broadest market-based real return data shows a rise, not a fall in returns in the recent decades during which capital has allegedly been in vast oversupply. The real return to US wealth between 2010 and 2019 averaged 8.25% – the highest average return of any postwar decade.
Jesper Rangvid notes that, so far this year, seven stocks generated 70% of the S&P 500 return; they now constitute 27.5% of the S&P 500.
In this analysis, I look at the performance of stocks referred to by some as the “Magnificent Seven” (Mag7). These are: Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta, Microsoft, Nvidia, and Tesla. The combined market value of all 500 stocks in the S&P 500 has increased by $5 trillion or 15.3% in 2023, as mentioned. Leaving Mag7 out of the equation, the value of the remaining 493 shares has risen from $26 trillion to $27 trillion today, a return of only 4.5%. Consequently, Mag7 stocks have provided a 10.8% increase in the S&P 500. This means that only 7 out of 500 stocks generated 10.8%/15.3% = 71% of the return of the S&P 500 in 2023. The remaining 493 stocks delivered the remaining 29%. One can only speculate whether these shares are bubbles. The spectacular performance of Nvidia, for example, is reminiscent of the performance of hyped stocks during the dot.com bubble at the turn of the millennium.
Ideologically driven donors of $200 or less are driving political polarization in the US, as small donors hold far more extreme views than those of the mean voter. @Edsall
A 2022 paper, “Small Campaign Donors,” documents the striking increase in low-dollar ($200 or less) campaign contributions in recent years. The total number of individual donors grew from 5.2mm in 2006 to 195mm in 2020. The appeal of extreme candidates can be seen in the OpenSecrets listing of the top members of the House and Senate ranked by the percentage of contributions they have received from small donors in the 2021-22 election cycle: Bernie Sanders raised $38.3mm, of which 70%, came from small donors; Marjorie Taylor Greene raised $12.5mm, of which 68% came from small donors; and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez raised $12.3mm, of which 68%, came from small donors. House Republicans who backed Trump and voted to reject the Electoral College count on Jan. 6 received an average of $140,000 in small contributions, while House Republicans who opposed Trump and voted to accept Biden’s victory received far less in small donations, an average of $40,000.
Half the world’s oceans are experiencing a marine heatwave. As the Gulf of Maine warms, the lobster catch has fallen by 26% since 2016 and is now “162 miles northward and nearly 70 feet deeper.”
This summer, nearly half the world’s oceans are experiencing a marine heatwave, defined as warmer than 90% of previous temperature observations on the same date. There are other possible explanations in addition to climate change and the El Niño/La Niña cycle. New pollution rules have cut airborne sulfur aerosol particles released by commercial ships over parts of the ocean, clearing the air and allowing more sunlight to reach the ocean surface. That in turn might be heating the water along some shipping routes, although the amount is in dispute. In January 2022, an underwater volcano near Tonga blasted 50 million tons of water vapor into the stratosphere. Some researchers believe that vapor might be acting as a planet-warming greenhouse gas and nudging up ocean temperatures. Both theories are still under investigation, and their overall impact is up for debate.
Depletion of groundwater reserves is causing significant reductions in crop yields and puts at risk one-third of America’s total volume of drinking water that comes from groundwater.
A wealth of underground water helped create America, its vast cities and bountiful farmland. Now, Americans are squandering that inheritance. The Times analyzed water levels reported at tens of thousands of sites, revealing a crisis that threatens American prosperity - 84,544 monitoring wells examined for trends since 1920. Nearly half the sites have declined significantly over the past 40 years as more water has been pumped out than nature can replenish. In the past decade, four of every 10 sites hit all-time lows. And last year was the worst yet.
Treasury yields are 75bps above the CBO’s baseline projection. If rates remain at this level interest costs will exceed defense spending in 2024.
The ten-year Treasury Note interest rate closed at 4.30% on Thursday, the highest since 2007. Meanwhile, the three-month Treasury Bill rate closed at 5.56% and the 30-year Treasury Bond at 4.41%. All three are at or near their highest level in 16 years. CBO's most recent baseline projections are based on a ten-year rate of 3.9% and a three-month rate of 4.6% this quarter. Based on this, we estimate that interest rates across the yield curve average about 75bps above baseline projections. If rates remain 75bps above CBO’s projections, it could add $2.3T (6% of GDP) to the debt over the next ten years and $350B (0.9% of debt-to-GDP) to the deficit in 2033. Under that scenario, interest costs would exceed combined spending on Medicaid, SSI, and SNAP as well as spending on defense by next year. By 2026, the cost of interest would reach a record high 3.3% of the economy.
Improvement in the US debt-GDP ratio from 1946-1974 was driven primarily by primary government surpluses and distortions of real interest rates from surprise inflation and from pegged nominal rates, not overall economic growth. @AcalinJulien
We decompose the movements of debt/GDP into the effects of primary surpluses and deficits; distortions of real interest rates from surprise inflation and from pegged nominal rates; and the difference between the undistorted real interest rate and the growth rate of output (r⋆ − g). For the period up to 1974, we find that the fall in the debt-GDP ratio is explained mostly by primary surpluse and interest-rate distortions. Absent those factors, with the path of the ratio determined entirely by r⋆ − g, the ratio of 106% in 1946 would have fallen only to 74% in 1974 rather than the actual trough of 23%. As of the end of fiscal year 2022, the actual debt/GDP ratio stands at 102%, close to its peak of 106% in 1946. Over the last 76 years, however, g > r⋆ has contributed only modestly to debt reduction. History should not make us optimistic that the U.S. will grow out of its debt.
Torsten Sløk @apolloglobal notes higher interest payments aren’t flowing back into the American economy as foreigners and the Fed own 50% of Treasuries.
When interest rates increase, holders of fixed income get a higher cash flow. The problem is that the Fed and foreigners own 50% of Treasuries outstanding, and foreigners own 28% of [investment grade and high-yield corporate] credit outstanding, so a lot of the additional cash flow created by higher US yields is not boosting US GDP growth. The bottom line is that higher interest rates are a net negative for the US economy.
The Fortune 500 is less dynamic than many think: only 52 of the firms that make up the Fortune 500 were born after 1990. However, this likely reflects the dynamism of the component firms.
We found that only 52 of the [Fortune] 500 were born after 1990, our yardstick for the internet era. That includes Alphabet, Amazon and Meta, but misses Apple and Microsoft. Merely seven of the 500 were created after Apple unveiled the first iPhone in 2007, while 280 predate America’s entry into the second world war. In 1990 just 66 firms in the Fortune 500 were 30 years old or younger and since then the average age has crept up from 75 to 90. One explanation is that the digital revolution has not been all that revolutionary in some parts of the economy. Another is that inertia has slowed the pace of competitive upheaval in many industries, buying time for incumbents to adapt to digital technologies. A third explanation is that [incumbents’] scale creates a momentum of its own around innovation.
.@TheEconomist notes that American firms collect 41% of “excess profits” globally as measured by firms’ return on invested capital above a hurdle rate of 10%.
Out of some 900 sectors in America the number where the four biggest firms have a market share above two-thirds grew from 65 in 1997 to 97 by 2017. The Economist has come up with a crude estimate of “excess” profits for the world’s 3,000 largest listed companies by market value (excluding financial firms). Using reported figures from Bloomberg we calculate a firm’s return on invested capital above a hurdle rate of 10% (excluding goodwill and treating research and development, R&D, as an asset with a ten-year lifespan). This is the rate of return one might expect in a competitive market. In the past year excess profits reached $4trn, or nearly 4% of global GDP. American firms collect 41% of the total, with European ones taking 21%. The energy, technology and, in America, health-care industries stand out as excess-profit pools relative to their size.
The labor force participation rate for prime-age women (ages 25-54) is at an all-time high 77.8%, driven by mothers whose youngest child is under 5 years old. @laurenlbauer
Since February 2023, the labor force participation rate for prime-age women––those between the ages of 25 and 54––has exceeded its all-time high. As of the most recent jobs report, prime-age women had a labor force participation rate of 77.8%. We find that those who have contributed most to the rebound in overall labor force participation in April and May of 2023, three years after the nadir of pandemic-era participation, are in fact prime-age women. Moreover, among prime-age women and indeed among all groups, women whose youngest child is under the age of five are powering the pack’s upward trajectory.
The German economic model is under increasing stress due to higher energy costs, China’s import substitution strategy, and competition from American and Chinese electric car makers.
Germany will be the world’s only major economy to contract in 2023, with even sanctioned Russia experiencing growth, according to the International Monetary Fund. China was for years a major driver of Germany’s export boom. A rapidly industrializing China bought up all the capital goods that Germany could make. But China’s investment-heavy growth model has been approaching its limits for years. Growth and demand for imports have faltered. Energy prices in Europe have declined from last year’s peak as EU countries scrambled to replace Russian gas, but German industry still faces higher costs than competitors in the U.S. and Asia.
Since 2018, auto manufacturers have announced at least $110 billion of EV-related domestic investment, about half in Southern states, driven by lower labor and energy costs. Unionizing southern auto workers is a priority for the UAW.
Auto companies have announced more than $110 billion in EV-related investments in the U.S. since 2018, with about half that sum destined for Southern states, according to the Center for Automotive Research. The rest is mostly planned for states in the Great Lakes region, including Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. Auto employment in the Great Lakes region, while still nearly double that of southern states, has slid 34% in the last two decades to 382,000 workers as of 2021, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Full-time unionized jobs in the industry currently range between $18 to $32 an hour. There is no guarantee the [southern] Ford plants will be unionized, and the company has said this decision is up to its workers. The United Auto Workers union is currently in talks with the Detroit automakers and is prioritizing organizing these joint-venture battery plants.
.@GoldmanSachs finds that 20-25% of US workers are working from home at least part of the week, well above the pre-pandemic average of 2.6%. This exerts upward pressure on office vacancy rates, partially offset by a decline in new office construction.
Work from home has reduced office utilization rates but has not yet led to substantial declines in office occupancy rates because most firms are locked in long-duration leases. Going forward, 17% of all office leases are scheduled to expire by the end of 2024, 47% between 2024-2029, and the rest after 2030. Our baseline estimates suggest that remote work will likely exert 0.8pp of upward pressure on the office vacancy rate by 2024, an additional 2.3pp over 2025-2029, and another 1.8pp in 2030 and beyond, though this is likely to be partially offset by a decline in new construction. The share of employees working remotely remains remarkably elevated in industries like information that require less face-to-face interaction, while it is much lower in contact-heavy sectors like retail and hospitality.
Historically monetary tightening has had an impact on risk capital: 100bps of tightening is associated with a 1-3pp decline in R&D spending and a 25% decline in VC investment over the following 1-3 year period.
We normalize the shock to tightening by 100bps. Investment in intellectual property products (IPP) in the national accounts (NIPA) declines by about 1%. The magnitude is comparable to the decline in traditional investment in physical assets. R&D spending in Compustat data for public firms declines by about 3%. VC investment is more volatile, and declines by as much as 25% at a horizon of 1 to 3 years after the monetary policy shock. Patenting in important technologies declines by up to 9% 2 to 4 years after the shock. An aggregate innovation index constructed using estimates of the economic value of patents also declines by up to 9%. Based on estimates of the output and total factor productivity (TFP) sensitivity to the aggregate innovation index, a 9% decline in the index can contribute to 1% lower real output and 0.5% lower TFP 5 years later.
The decline in the college wage premium has been driven by faster wage growth for high school workers rather than slower wage growth for college graduates. @sffed
The college wage premium is especially large for Asian workers, with college graduates earning more than twice what high school graduates earn. This reflects about a 120% premium, compared with about a 70–80% premium for the other three racial/ethnic groups. The college wage gap is also somewhat larger for Black workers than for Hispanic and White workers, although the premiums for those groups have largely converged in recent years. All four groups saw gains through at least the early part of the recovery from the 2007–09 recession. While the premium continued to rise for Asian workers, the premium flattened for White workers in the latter half of the recovery and fell for Hispanic and Black workers. Moreover, since the 2020 pandemic recession, the college wage premium edged down slightly for all groups except Hispanic workers.
Xi Jinping is opposed to domestic consumption growth, according to well-sourced reporters @Lingling_Wei and @yifanxie. This implies that persistent imbalances with the West are a goal of the central government.
Xi Jinping has deep-rooted philosophical objections to Western-style consumption-driven growth, people familiar with decision-making in Beijing say. Xi sees such growth as wasteful and at odds with his goal of making China a world-leading industrial and technological powerhouse. Chinese officials also emphasized avoiding a current-account deficit, which would signal greater dependence on the outside world at a time of simmering tensions between Beijing and the West. Chinese officials told their counterparts at multinational institutions that the many hardships Xi survived during the Cultural Revolution—when he lived in a cave and dug ditches—helped shape his view that austerity breeds prosperity, the people said. “The message from the Chinese is that Western-style social support would only encourage laziness,” one person familiar with the meetings said.
.@fuxianyi expects fewer than eight million newborns in China this year, based on indicators including marriage and newborn-medical-checkup data, less than half the number in 2016 when China scrapped its one-child policy.
China’s total fertility rate—a snapshot of the average number of babies a woman would have over her lifetime—fell to 1.09 last year, from 1.30 in 2020, according to a study by a unit of the National Health Commission cited this week by National Business Daily, a media outlet managed by the municipal government of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province. At 1.09, China’s rate would be below the 1.26 of Japan. Yi Fuxian, a scientist at the University of Wisconsin who has studied China’s demographics expects fewer than eight million newborns in China this year, based on indicators including marriage and newborn-medical-checkup data. That would be less than half the number in 2016, when China scrapped its one-child policy and recorded around 18 million births. By last year, the figure had fallen below 10 million.
Labor force participation is down 1pp since the start of the pandemic. A @sffed analysis finds that two-thirds of the decline was driven by changes in population, largely aging, and forecasts a further 1pp decline between 2022 and 2032.
.@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
.@JohnHCochrane takes a victory lap, arguing that the fiscal theory of the price level is the most descriptive theory of inflation.
A one-time $5 trillion fiscal blowout causes a one-time rise in the level of prices, just enough to inflate away the value of the debt by $5 trillion. Then inflation stops, even if the Federal Reserve does nothing. The Fed is still important in fiscal theory. The Fed bought about $3 trillion of the new debt and converted it to interest-paying reserves. Giving people checks backed by reserves is arguably a more powerful inducement to spend than giving people Treasury bonds. Now, by raising interest rates, the Fed lowers current inflation but at the cost of more-persistent inflation. That smoothing is beneficial. These are core propositions of fiscal theory, stated ahead of time and at odds with conventional theories. Related: Waning Inflation, Supply and Demand and The Second Great Experiment Update
As firms have stayed private longer wealth creation has shifted from public to private markets. @mjmauboussin
The median age at IPO was 7.9 years from 1976 to 2000 and rose to 9.5 years from 2001 to 2022. One implication of companies staying private longer is that wealth creation has shifted to private markets from the public markets. To illustrate the point, Amazon’s market capitalization was $749 million when it went public in 1997 and $1.3 trillion as of June 30, 2023 (in 2022 dollars). The company was three years old when it did its IPO. Essentially all of its wealth creation occurred when it was public. Hendrik Bessembinder, a professor of finance, has measured the wealth creation of more than 28,000 U.S.listed companies since 1926. A company creates wealth if it generates returns in excess of one-month Treasury bill rates. He found that from 1926 to 2022, just under 60% of them destroyed $9.1 trillion and the other 40% or so created $64.2 trillion. Just 2% of the sample created $50 trillion of the net total of $55.1 trillion, and the top 3 firms (Apple, Microsoft, and ExxonMobil) created almost $6 trillion. Related: Mr. Toad's Wild Ride: The Impact Of Underperforming 2020 and 2021 US IPOsand The Economics of Inequality in High-Wage Economies
Based on first-half new business formation, 2023 will be just shy of 2021’s record number of new firms likely to hire employees. @InnovateEconomy
Early-stage business activity across the United States remains robust through the first half of 2023, as the pace of new business formation strengthened over last year. Individuals filed nearly 2.7 million applications to start a business between January and June of this year, a 5% increase over 2022 and a staggering 52% increase over the same period in 2019. One-third of those filings were for new businesses likely to hire employees—a key subset of applications from the Census Bureau’s Business Formation Statistics demonstrating a “high propensity” to hire staff, if and when the business becomes operational. The volume of likely employer applications also remained well above prepandemic levels, surpassing the total from the first six months of 2019 by 36%. Related: Startup Surge Stood Firm Against Economic Headwinds in 2022 and Like the Broader Economy, the High Tech Sector is Becoming Less Dynamic and The Economics of Inequality in High-Wage Economies
Rebecca Patterson argues US equity outperformance is likely to continue as US firms are positioned to capture a sizable share of productivity benefits from new technologies like AI, and the US is likely to experience stronger relative economic growth.
American equity exceptionalism is possible, for at least two reasons. First, the US is set to capture a sizeable share of productivity benefits from technology such as artificial intelligence. Second, a moderating global economy could work against more cyclically biased equity markets overseas, favouring those geared towards organic growth drivers. Over multi-year periods, domestic growth has been found to dominate local equity returns. A 2011 study by Clifford Asness, Roni Israelov and John Liew suggests that 39% of 15-year returns could be explained by domestic economic performance. Growth is fundamentally a function of labour and productivity. Given that most of the developed world (and China) faces at least directionally similar labour constraints, the US seems likely to be a relative growth winner thanks to prospects for greater productivity gains. Related: Market Resilience or Investors in Denial: The Market at Mid-Year 2023 and Most Global Economies Remain in Disequilibrium, Requiring Policy Action and Birth, Death, and Wealth Creation
.@charlesmurray argues that urban disorder has increased since 2013, when cities abandoned broken-windows policing.
I created a “broken-windows arrest rate” analogous to the violent and property crime rates by summing arrests in the eight categories, dividing them by the size of the city’s population, and expressing the result as the number of arrests per 100,000 population. To ensure that all these qualified as minor crimes, I included only arrests that were charged as misdemeanors, violations, or infractions, excluding arrests charged as felonies. The graph below shows the proportional change in those arrest rates using 2013 as the baseline. In New York and Los Angeles, the fall in arrests for broken-windows offenses was steep and steady from 2013 to 2020. Washington is different, with a sudden rise in broken-windows arrests in Washington in 2019. The anomaly was created entirely by a one-year spike in arrests for prostitution and solicitation, the result of a policy decision to clear the streets of prostitutes near hotels. If arrests for prostitution and solicitation are deleted from the Washington data, the trendline of broken-windows offenses shows the same unbroken decline as the trendlines for New York and Los Angeles. As of 2022, arrests for broken-windows offenses since 2013 had fallen by 74% in New York, 77% in Washington, and 81% in Los Angeles. There was no apparent “Floyd effect” in New York or Los Angeles. A case for a small effect can be made for Washington. Related: Pandemic Murder Wave Has Crested. Here’s the Postmortem
While wages are still accelerating, @jasonfurman notes cooling jobs/hours and thinks today’s job report is consistent with a soft landing.
The unemployment rate fell back to 3.5%. Has been in a 3.4% to 3.7% band for 17 straight months. The last time this happened was Nov 2007. Given the recovery in the (age-adjusted) participation rate this has brought the employment-population rate for prime age workers (25-54) above the pre-pandemic rate. The wage growth slowdown earlier this year has largely gone away. Earlier this year average hourly earnings were growing at a 3.5% annual rate, now they're up to a 5% annual rate--unchanged since early 2022. Note, these are noisy and can be revised a lot. Overall this report is mixed for the inflation outlook: Jobs/hours: Cooling Unemployment rate: Neutral Wages: Heating I tend to think the order I listed them above is roughly right for what signals matter so think this report is slightly favorable for inflation.
Michael Smolyansky @federalreserve argues the decline in interest and corporate tax rates mechanically explains 40% of real growth in corporate profits between 1989-2019 suggesting lower returns going forward.
The reduction in interest and corporate tax rates was responsible for over 40% of the growth in real corporate profits from 1989 to 2019. Moreover, the decline in risk-free rates over this period explains the entirety of the expansion in price-to-earnings (P/E) multiples. These two factors therefore account for the majority of this period’s exceptional stock market performance. From 1989 to 2019, real corporate profits grew at the robust rate of 3.8% per year. This was almost double the pace seen from 1962 to 1989. The difference in profit growth between these two periods is entirely due to the decline in interest and corporate tax rates from 1989 to 2019. One way to see this is to compare the growth of earnings before subtracting interest and tax expenses (EBIT). In fact, real EBIT growth was slightly lower from 1989 to 2019 compared to 1962 to 1989: 2.2% versus 2.4% per year. The outlook for stock price growth is bleak. Related: The Curious Incident of the Elevated Profit Margins and Charlie Munger: US Banks Are ‘Full of’ Bad Commercial Property Loans
.@OppInsights finds that the “Ivy-Plus” (Ivy League, plus UChicago, Duke, MIT, Stanford) admit students from the highest income families scoring in the top 1% of SAT/ACT at far greater rates than those from lower-income families.
Children from families in the top 1% are more than twice as likely to attend an Ivy-Plus college (Ivy League, Stanford, MIT, Duke, and Chicago) as those from middle-class families with comparable SAT/ACT scores. Two-thirds of this gap is due to higher admissions rates for students with comparable test scores from high-income families; the remaining third is due to differences in rates of application and matriculation. The high-income admissions advantage at private colleges is driven by three factors: (1) preferences for children of alumni, (2) weight placed on non-academic credentials, which tend to be stronger for students applying from private high schools that have affluent student bodies, and (3) recruitment of athletes, who tend to come from higher-income families. Highly selective public colleges that follow more standardized processes to evaluate applications exhibit smaller disparities in admissions rates by parental income than private colleges that use more holistic evaluations. Related: Why Do Wages Grow Faster for Educated Workers? and Multidimensional Human Capital and the Wage Structure and The Economics of Inequality in High-Wage Economies
.@JoshZumbrun, evaluating the differences between @OppInsights recent research on elite schools and Krueger’s earlier findings, shows that elite schools don’t have that much impact outside of lottery-like tail outcomes.
Dale and Krueger had classified everyone who earned more than $200,000 into the same category, making no distinction between an affluent doctor earning $250,000 and Jeff Bezos. Chetty and his authors use a slightly different approach. They classify everyone’s income into percentiles—80th, 81st, etc. Among top students, 19% who attend the top schools make it to the richest 1% of the income distribution, versus 12% who didn’t attend. Chetty’s co-author Deming compares those upper-tail outcomes to winning the lottery: Elite schools have lots of lottery tickets lying on the ground, whereas most other colleges only have a few. For most people, the lottery ticket will be worth nothing. For a few, it is a jackpot. Related: Diversifying Society’s Leaders? The Determinants and Causal Effects of Admission to Highly Selective Private Colleges