“Unintended Consequences is full of substance, it is one of the must-read books of the year, and once I finish it I will be giving it a second read through right away.” - Tyler Cowen, Professor, George Mason University
.@Birdyword reports that Asian alternatives to China (including India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Vietnam) have larger working age populations and exported more goods to the United States in the 12 months ending Q3 ‘22: $634B vs. China’s $614B.
Chinese labor is no longer that cheap: between 2013 and 2022 manufacturing wages doubled, to an average of $8.27 per hour. More important, the deepening techno-decoupling between Beijing and Washington is forcing manufacturers of high-tech products, especially those involving advanced semiconductors, to reconsider their reliance on China. Alternative Asian supply chain—call it Altasia—looks evenly matched with China in heft, or better. Its collective working-age population of 1.4bn dwarfs even China’s 980m. Altasia is home to 154m people aged between 25 and 54 with a tertiary education, compared with 145m in China—and, in contrast to ageing China, their ranks look poised to expand. In many parts of Altasia wages are considerably lower than in China: hourly manufacturing wages in India, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam are below $3.
The billionaire founder of investment bank China Renaissance was in the process of setting up a family office in Singapore when he disappeared in February. @FT
Missing Chinese investment banker Bao Fan was preparing to move some of his fortune from China and Hong Kong to Singapore in the months leading up to his disappearance, according to four people with knowledge of his plans. The billionaire founder and chair of investment bank China Renaissance, who brokered some of China’s biggest tech deals, was establishing a family office in the city-state to manage his personal wealth in the final months of 2022, the people said. The number of family offices has grown from a handful in 2018 to an estimated 1,500 by the end of last year, according to Singaporean data analysis firm Handshakes.
US Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro argues that the US lacks the capacity to keep up with China’s plan to field up to 400 ships vs. the US fleet’s 300. “One [Chinese] shipyard has more capacity than all of our shipyards combined.” @CNN
Speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, US Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro said China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy could be fielding up to 400 ships in the coming years, up from about 340 now. Meanwhile, the US fleet sits at under 300 ships. Del Toro said Tuesday that US naval shipyards can’t match the output of Chinese ones. As with fleet size, it’s about numbers. “They have 13 shipyards, in some cases their shipyard has more capacity – one shipyard has more capacity than all of our shipyards combined."
South Korea’s fertility rate, the world’s lowest for years, has fallen again. The number of babies expected per woman fell to 0.78 last year, from .81 in 2021. @bloomberg
South Korea’s fertility rate, the world’s lowest for years, has fallen again the number of babies expected per woman fell to 0.78 last year, according to data released by the statistics office on Wednesday. At 0.81 in 2021, it was already the lowest among more than 260 nations tracked by the World Bank. The working-age population peaked at 37.3 million in 2020 and is set to fall by almost half by 2070, according to Statistics Korea. The number of newborns declined last year to 249,000 from 260,600 a year earlier, the statistics office said. That’s less than 5% of the population. In contrast, about 373,000 people died last year, extending what one policymaker called a “death cross.”
.@M_C_Klein sees signs of stress in Russian government financing: federal spending up 67% year-over-year in December ’22, and the government withdrew $47B from the national wealth fund in Q4 ‘22, leaving assets worth $155B.
Russian government spending is soaring. Federal spending was 40% higher in 2022 than in 2021 in U.S. dollars, while spending by subnational governments was up at least 32% as of November. Federal spending in December 2022 was 67% higher than in December 2021. In practice, this additional spending has been (and will continue to be) financed by seizing resources from the Russian private sector, which will become increasingly painful as the economy continues to stagnate. Conscription—forced labor at below-market rates—is holding down some of the fiscal costs of the war. But forced labor cannot care for Russia’s rapidly growing population of widows, orphans, and the disabled, nor can it be employed to build the machinery and equipment the military will need to keep fighting against the motivated and heavily-armed Ukrainians. And forced labor cannot compensate for the long-term costs of emigration.
A “demand reallocation shock” associated with the pandemic was responsible for 3.5 percentage points of the rise in inflation. @FedResearch
Our main finding is that the shift in consumption demand from services towards goods can explain a large proportion of the rise in U.S. inflation between 2019:Q4 and 2021:Q4. This demand reallocation shock is inflationary due to the costs of increasing production in goods-producing sectors and because such sectors tend to have more flexible prices than those producing services. The aggregate labor supply shock provides a smaller inflationary impulse, despite the fact that it explains the majority of the decline in employment. The sectoral productivity shocks actually lower inflation slightly, as average productivity grew strongly over this period. Our confidence in the model and its predictions is boosted by the fact that it provides an excellent description of cross-sectional developments in prices and quantities
Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans under age 45, driven by illicit fentanyl. There is now one overdose fatality every five minutes in the US. @FinancialTimes
Tens of thousands of American parents are mourning the deaths of their children amid an unprecedented drugs crisis, which has claimed 107,000 lives in the year to August 2022. About two-thirds of those deaths were caused by fentanyl. Illicit fentanyl has displaced legally prescribed painkillers as the main cause of overdoses in the US. The skyrocketing death rate — equivalent to one American overdosing every five minutes alongside Covid-19, has helped drive US life expectancy down to a 25-year low of 76.4 years. Unintentional overdose deaths among 15- to 19-year-olds surged by 150% between 2018 and 2021. Overdoses have replaced suicide as the leading cause of death for Americans under 45 years of age, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
Labor’s share of output is shrinking across advanced economies as inflation continues to outpace wage gains. US average hourly earnings growth in the 12 months ending January was 4.4% vs. consumer price inflation of 6.4%. @WSJecon
Workers’ purchasing power—their average inflation-adjusted wage—was lower last year than in 2019, before the pandemic, according to the report. So, despite strong demand for workers and ultralow unemployment, labor’s share of economic output shrank in many advanced economies. Average hourly earnings for private-sector nonfarm workers rose 4.4% in the 12 months through January, down from 5.6% last March and less than the 6.4% rise in consumer prices in the year through January.
.@M_C_Klein notes that, relative to pre-pandemic, there are more Americans in higher wage jobs and fewer in lower paid jobs. This helps explain strong wage growth, but “the puzzle is why productivity has not increased commensurately.”
In theory, the shifting mix of employment towards higher-value jobs and industries should be supporting more production and help attenuate the link between aggregate pay growth and inflation. But that has not happened yet, even if overall productivity growth remains broadly on trend, despite the volatility attributable to the pandemic. The net result is that the U.S. economy is growing briskly, adding millions of jobs, and producing more goods and services—but with persistently faster inflation (about 1-2pp) than recent generations are used to. That could be a sustainable outcome, if Fed officials are willing to tolerate it, but it is probably not sustainable with the set of interest rates and asset price multiples we became accustomed to in the 2010s.
Lake Powell, the second largest US reservoir, dropped to a new record low, raising the risk for 40M people who depend on the reservoir for water and 5M who depend on its hydroelectric power. @Sltrib
Water levels in Lake Powell dropped to a record low last week, with continued pressure from climate change and steady demand pushing the nation’s second-largest reservoir to the lowest level since it was first filled in the 1960s. The lake fell to 3,522 feet above sea level, just below the previous record set in April 2022. The reservoir is currently about 22% full, and is expected to keep declining until around May, when mountain snowmelt rushes into the streams that flow into the lake. At 3,490 feet, the “minimum power pool” level, the bureau may be unable to generate hydropower from the dam. At 3,370 feet, the reservoir hits “dead pool,” at which point water is no longer able to pass through the dam through gravity.
The @NewYorkFed introduces the Net Global Supply Chain Pressure Index (Net GSPCI), which shows that global supply chain pressure is now lower than pre-pandemic levels.
In a January 2022 post, we first presented the Global Supply Chain Pressure Index (GSCPI), a parsimonious global measure designed to capture supply chain disruptions using a range of indicators. The spirit of our index was to isolate supply factors, such as shutdowns in response to the pandemic, that put pressure on the global supply chain. Here we describe an auxiliary index, the Net GSCPI, which differs from the GSCPI by not filtering out demand factors. This “net” index is meant to capture global supply chain stress from both the supply and demand sides. Currently, a mix of supply and demand forces is driving the easing of net pressure at the level of the global supply chain.
.@MichaelRStrain argues that if Biden’s reelection campaign follows the roadmap laid out in his State of the Union address his campaign will share “much, in both contour and tone, with Trump’s brand of economic nationalism.”
Biden’s re-election roadmap shares much, in both contour and tone, with Trump’s brand of economic nationalism. First, he advocated “buy American” policies for government contracts, championed domestic manufacturing workers, and criticized previous administrations for not doing enough on this front. Second, Biden championed the “record number of personnel working to secure the border, arresting 8,000 human smugglers and seizing over 23,000 pounds of fentanyl in just the last several months.” Third, he took a hawkish tone on China, arguing that the US is now “in the strongest position in decades to compete with” the Chinese. Lastly, Biden criticized Republicans for allegedly wanting to cut spending on Medicare and Social Security, thus positioning himself as the protector of those programs.
.@Dimi reports that senior Taiwanese security officials are in Washington this week holding secret talks with American officials. @ft
The White House will hold secret talks this week with Taiwan’s foreign minister Joseph Wu and national security adviser Wellington Koo as part of a special diplomatic dialogue intended to remain private to avoid sparking an angry reaction from China. The special channel meeting also comes just days after Michael Chase, the top Pentagon China official, traveled to Taiwan in what was only the second visit to the country by a senior US defense policymaker since 1979 when Washington switched its diplomatic recognition for China from Taipei to Beijing.
.@GregObenshain highlights Edward McQuarrie research showing that, after a full account of survivorship bias, stocks only modestly outperform bonds, with most of the outperformance concentrated in 1943-1982 (where stocks outperformed bonds by 8.4%/yr).
For stocks, McQuarrie made major revisions to the pre-1871 data by including more stocks, cap-weighting returns, and, most importantly, correcting significant survivorship bias in the original data. According to McQuarrie, “Banks failed during panics, turnpikes and canals succumbed to railroads, and struggling railroads went bust in the 1840s and 1850s to an extent not previously understood. In short, Jeremy Siegel’s sources had left out the bad parts, producing an overly rosy picture of antebellum stock returns.” For bonds, McQuarrie engages in an impressive forensic effort to build a new and more accurate data set of investment-grade bonds available to the public. The first observation is that [geometric real] stock returns are lower (5.9% versus Siegel’s 6.6%) and bond returns are higher (4.1% versus 3.6%) in the revised data.
Households earning under $50,000 a year expect to increase their spending by 8% next year, while households earning $100,000 a year are expecting their spending to increase by only 5%. @wsj
Early in the pandemic, several rounds of government relief allowed Americans in general, and lower-income Americans in particular, to build up their finances. Then the job market came roaring back and poorer workers found they could get paid a lot more than they did before. Many white-collar professionals haven’t seen their wages outstrip inflation, but people doing lower-paying work have, and the latter group’s wealth has risen more, too.
The median return on capital for an American firm in January 2023 is 7.4%, which is above the 5.6% cost of capital at the start of 2022, but below the 9.6% cost of capital at the start of 2023. @AswathDamodaran
The after-tax returns on capital, at least in the aggregate, are unimpressive, with the median return on capital of a US (global) firm being 7.44% (5.19%). There are a significant number of outliers in both directions, with about 10% of all firms having returns on capital that exceed 50% and 10% of all firms delivering returns that are worse than -50%. A combination of rising risk-free rates and surging risk premiums (equity risk premiums and default spreads) has conspired to push the cost of capital of both US and global companies more than any year in my recorded history (which goes back to 1960). A company generating a 7.44% return on capital (the median value at the start of 2023) in the US, would have comfortably cleared the 5.60% cost of capital that prevailed at the start of 2022, but not the 9.63% cost of capital at the start of 2023.
.@fuxianyi estimates that the Chinese population is currently 1.28 billion (vs 1.43 billion estimated by World Population Prospects).
While the United Nations’ 2022 World Population Prospects puts the Chinese population at 1.43 billion people, I estimate that it is now smaller than 1.28 billion. Even if China succeeds in increasing its fertility rate to 1.1 and prevents it from declining, its population will likely fall to 1.08 billion by 2050 and 440 million by 2100. The country’s share of the world’s population, which declined from 37% in 1820 to 22% in 1950-80, will fall to 11% in 2050 and 4% by 2100. The share of Chinese people aged 65 and older will rise from 14% in 2020 to 35% in 2050. Whereas five workers aged 20-64 supported every senior citizen aged 65 and older in 2020, the ratio will continue to decline to 2.4 workers in 2035 and 1.6 in 2050.
Credit Suisse forecasts that the Inflation Reduction Act could generate investments of $800B in public spending and another $900B of private spending generated by loans and grants by 2031. @FinancialTimes
Last year’s colossal Inflation Reduction Act [IRA] and its hundreds of billions of dollars in cleantech subsidies are designed to spur private-sector investment and accelerate the country’s decarbonization effort. All told, the IRA offers $369bn of tax credits, grants, loans, and subsidies, many of them guaranteed past 2030. The credits can be sold, too, allowing deep-pocketed investors with enough tax liability to buy the credit — a way to get more capital to developers, quickly. Credit Suisse thinks the public spending enabled by the IRA could eventually reach $800bn, and $1.7tn once the private spending generated by the loans and grants is included.
The US Geological Survey finds evidence of large stores of natural hydrogen, a source of carbon-free energy which might be enough to meet global demand for thousands of years. @erichand @ScienceMagazine
Contrary to conventional wisdom, large stores of natural hydrogen may exist all over the world, like oil and gas—but not in the same places. These researchers say water-rock reactions deep within the Earth continuously generate hydrogen, which percolates up through the crust and sometimes accumulates in underground traps. Critically, natural hydrogen may be not only clean, but also renewable. It takes millions of years for buried and compressed organic deposits to turn into oil and gas. By contrast, natural hydrogen is always being made afresh, when underground water reacts with iron minerals at elevated temperatures and pressures. There might be enough natural hydrogen to meet burgeoning global demand for thousands of years, according to a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) model that was presented in October 2022 at a meeting of the Geological Society of America.
.@JosephPolitano notes that short term inflationary expectations are still largely consistent with the Fed’s target despite the Intercontinental Exchange’s inflation expectations index rising to almost 3% relative to 2.5% at the start of the year.
Market-based measures of 5-year inflation expectations are nearly square in the midrange of what would be consistent with the Fed’s target, and longer-run expectations actually remain below target. But the path to disinflation now looks longer and a bit bumpier than before. Revisions to seasonal adjustments have made recent inflation data look stronger than we thought, nominal income and spending growth remain elevated, and nearly all of the rate cuts previously expected for 2023 have been priced out by financial markets. Intercontinental Exchange’s inflation expectations index, derived from a variety of market data, now expects CPI inflation to end the year at nearly 3% instead of the 2.5% it expected in early January. Inflation may still not look permanent and structural, but it looks a bit more common and persistent.
The @sffed estimates that historically a 1pp increase in the federal funds rate reduced rent inflation by 3.2pp over two and a half years suggesting the current tightening will bring rent inflation down.
We estimate that, during the period from 1988 to 2019, a policy tightening equivalent to a 1 percentage point increase in the federal funds rate can reduce rent inflation—measured by 12-month percentage changes in the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) housing price index—by about 3.2 percentage points, but the full impact takes about 2½ years to materialize. Based on housing costs’ share in total PCE, this translates to a reduction in headline PCE inflation of about 0.5 percentage point over the same time horizon. Although average rents are slow to respond to policy changes, growth of asking rents on new leases has started to slow following recent monetary policy tightening. Our finding suggests that this tightening will gradually bring rent inflation down over time, thereby helping to reduce overall inflation.
The @USCBO now projects the 2023 deficit to be $1.4T (vs $1T in the 2022 forecast) and revises the ten-year deficit projection (2023-2032) to $18.8T, $3.1T higher than was projected in 2022.
In CBO’s projections, the deficit amounts to 5.3% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2023. Deficits fluctuate over the next four years, averaging 5.8% of GDP. Starting in 2028, they grow steadily; the projected shortfall in 2033 is 6.9% of GDP—significantly larger than the 3.6% of GDP that deficits have averaged over the past 50 years. In CBO’s projections, net interest outlays increase by 1.2% of GDP from 2023 to 2033 and are a major contributor to the growth of total deficits. Primary deficits (that is, revenues minus noninterest outlays) increase by 0.4% of GDP over that period. Federal debt held by the public is projected to rise from 98% of GDP in 2023 to 118% in 2033. Over that period, the growth of interest costs and mandatory spending outpaces the growth of revenues and the economy, driving up debt. Those factors persist beyond 2033, pushing federal debt higher still, to 195% of GDP in 2053.
.@michaelxpettis argues that “rising income inequality pushes up the savings of the rich, and if this cannot be matched with higher investment or a lower trade deficit, it must be matched with either higher unemployment or higher debt.”
While there are many reasons for the surge in US debt over the past four decades, one of the main reasons has to do with the economic impact of the rise in US income inequality during this period. Rising debt was the nearly automatic consequence of rising income inequality. Because the rich save a larger share of their income, rising income inequality tends to force up ex-ante savings. But this increase in the savings of the rich must be balanced. Today what mainly drives investment are increases in expected demand, and rising income inequality normally reduces expected demand by reducing the share of income that goes to consumption (all income is either consumed or saved). If the higher savings of the rich cannot be balanced by higher investment or lower trade deficits, they must be balanced by lower savings elsewhere in the economy. Policymakers don't want to see higher unemployment, so either the Fed will respond by encouraging a surge in household borrowing, or Washington will respond by increasing the fiscal deficit.
The quantity of reserves held by banks on deposit at the Fed is 30% lower than the pandemic era peak of ~$4.3T as savers move money out of banks in favor of higher yielding assets. @M_C_Klein
The end of 2021 was also when the quantity of reserves held by banks on deposit at the Fed began to shrink from the pandemic-era peak of ~$4.3 trillion. As of this writing, reserves are about $1.2 trillion (30%) lower now than then. The underlying explanation for all this seems to be that U.S.-based banks are refusing to raise the rates they offer on deposits. As savers move cash from zero-yielding deposits to higher-yielding money funds, banks have to sell assets (mainly reserves, apparently) and/or find alternative sources of financing to replace the lost deposits. Since the start of 2022, U.S. commercial banks have lost almost $400 billion in deposits and replaced them with about $400 billion of “borrowings”.
Researchers at @NewYorkFed report that delinquencies rates for credit card borrowers under age 50 are now above the pre-pandemic level, and they suggest that this may be driven by higher prices and higher interest rates.
Total debt balances grew by $394 billion in the fourth quarter of 2022, the largest nominal quarterly increase in twenty years. As borrower-level delinquency rates approach or surpass pre-COVID norms, many look to the historical culprit: the labor market. However, employment and income gaps are not likely triggers for this recent trend. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were just under 6 million unemployed in the fourth quarter of 2022, roughly unchanged from the previous quarter and near a fifty-year low (even as the population and labor force have grown). Meanwhile, there were 18.3 million borrowers behind on a credit card at the end of 2022 compared to 15.8 million at the end of 2019. Instead, the evidence suggests that higher prices and higher interest rates are the more likely culprits driving delinquencies. While person-level delinquencies are high, we do not anticipate widespread stress for lender portfolios as balance weighted delinquencies remain at or below pre-pandemic levels. But, on a person-level, this financial distress is real, and the delinquent marks will impact their access to credit for years to come.
As American crude exports hit new records West Texas Intermediate “has become the most important marginal pricing barrel on the globe,” said Peter Keavey, CME Group’s global head of energy. @WSJecon
Crude exports hit a record of 5.1 million barrels a day the week that ended Oct. 21, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, a roughly 10-fold increase since President Barack Obama signed a bill opening the door to such shipments. West Texas Intermediate crude, or WTI, “has become the most important marginal pricing barrel on the globe,” said Peter Keavey, CME Group’s global head of energy and environmental products. “We have gone from a very domestically focused market into an international powerhouse,” he added.
.@davidfickling notes that Saudi Aramco drilling activity is 30% below pre-Covid levels and argues that the company’s reduced capex spend is consistent with an internal forecast of declining global oil consumption by 2030. @bloomberg
Saudi Aramco's operating cashflows in the 12 months through September came to $181 billion — more than was posted in the same period by Exxon Mobil, Shell and Chevron put together. Saudi Aramco could never do anything but paint a bright future for oil consumption — but its revealed preference is more cautious. If it invests too aggressively now, it risks flooding a market that is gradually turning its back on petroleum, driving down prices and the kingdom’s own oil revenues. Its warning that oil supply will fall to about 80 million daily barrels in 2030 without more capex is pretty much in line with the levels of demand that BP expects at that point, in a world which manages to keep global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius.
In an interview with the @ft, General Mark Milley noted one lesson from the Russo-Ukranian War is a “very high consumption rates of conventional munitions,” which may require increased spending to augment munitions stocks.
The Pentagon is reviewing its weapons stockpiles and may need to boost military spending after seeing how quickly ammunition has been used during the war in Ukraine. General Mark Milley said the return of 20th-century ground warfare tactics in Europe was forcing US planners to reconsider assumptions made in recent decades that had led military strategists to retool capabilities for counter-terrorism and irregular combat. “One of the lessons of this war is the very high consumption rates of conventional munitions, and we are re-examining our own stockages and our own plans to make sure that we got it right. We’re trying to do the analysis so that we can then estimate what we think the true requirement would be. And then we have to put that in the budget. Ammunition is very expensive.”
.@akorinek reports on how large language models (LLMs) such as ChatGPT could increase productivity in economics research by focusing human effort on posing questions and providing feedback and editing of drafts from LLMs.
LLMs have become useful research tools for tasks ranging from ideation, writing and background research to data analysis, coding, and mathematical derivations. In the short term, cognitive automation via LLMs will allow researchers to become significantly more productive. I expect that a growing number of researchers will incorporate LLMs into their workflow. This could help to increase the overall speed of progress in economics, although it risks leaving behind those who do not take advantage of LLMs. In the medium term, I anticipate that LLM-based assistants and tutors will become increasingly useful for generating the content that makes up research papers. Human researchers will focus on their comparative advantage by posing the questions, suggesting directions for obtaining answers, discriminating which parts of the produced content are useful, editing, and providing feedback, akin to an advisor.
.@johnauthers notes that net of food and energy, goods inflation is now under the Fed’s target, but services inflation remains high and disinflation in services has not yet started.
Disinflation is well under way for goods, but services inflation is looking obdurate. If we strip out food and energy, goods inflation surged and then plummeted. It’s now below the Fed target of 2%. Services inflation keeps rising. Goods inflation was indeed transitory, but that’s no longer what matters.
The @AtlantaFed Wage Growth Tracker shows that less than 50% of workers in the sample saw real wage growth relative to CPI during most of 2021 and 2022.
The Wage Growth Tracker in terms of median wage growth, has been below the average rate of inflation for most of 2021 and 2022. Prior to that period, the last time the real WGT had been negative was during 2011—a short period when CPI inflation reached 4 percent while the WGT was hovering around 2 percent. The fact that the real WGT is negative tells us that less than 50 percent of the people in the WGT sample had real wage increases, relative to the CPI.
.@EtraAlex reports that the OPEC+ current account surpluses likely peaked in Q3 of 2022.
We think the current account surpluses of other major OPEC+ members likely peaked in Q3/Q4 as well. Obviously, the outlook is heavily dependent on oil prices remaining in their current range around $80/bbl. For now, however, the terms of trade have swung back against energy exporters. The chart below, which is based on Exante Data’s Trade Balance Nowcast shows the projected changed in countries’ annualized current account balance based on current commodity prices. For the first time in 18 months, it is net commodity importers that are seeing their external positions improving. Whether this remains the case will depend on the extent of the recovery in Chinese demand following reopening, recession (or lack thereof) in major advanced economies, and of course the production decisions of OPEC+.
.@mjmauboussin notes the mean weighted average cost of capital for companies in the Russell 3000 at the end of 2022 was 8.8%, up from the 1985-2022 average of 7.9%.
The average weighted average cost of capital for companies in the Russell 3000, a good proxy for the overall U.S. equity market, from 1985 to 2022 was 7.9 percent, and the estimate at the end of 2022 was 8.8 percent. Financial executives rely heavily on the capital asset pricing model (CAPM) but the investment community, led by quantitative funds, uses six factors widely. These include beta (stocks of companies with high betas earn higher returns than those with low betas), size (stocks of companies with small capitalizations generate higher returns than stocks of companies with large capitalizations), value (stocks with low multiples outperform those with high multiples), momentum (stocks that have done well continue to do well in the short term), quality (companies of high quality provide higher returns than companies of low quality), and asset growth (companies with low asset growth outperform those with high asset growth). Fama and French now recommend a five-factor model that includes all of the factors above except for momentum.
.@caseybmulligan estimates that decarbonization in the US will result in recurring costs of up to $483Bper year, including $186B for auto fuel efficiency standards, and will lower real GDP by between 2-3% by 2035.
Advocates in several countries have promoted a “green recovery” from the pandemic, with an emphasis on measures to address climate objectives. We evaluate proposals for the United States and find that as stated, ambitious plans to further cut emissions from transportation and electricity will require more inputs to produce the same outputs, resulting in recurring costs of up to $483 billion per year. We forecast that real GDP and consumption will be 2-3 percent less in the long run if policies are implemented as stated, underscoring the opportunity costs of achieving green objectives when resources might be more efficiently deployed. We quantify the opportunity costs of four climate policies that are likely the most impactful among Biden’s proposals. The first would reduce fossil fuel consumption by light- and medium-duty vehicles by raising average fuel economy regulations, in an effort to erode the reliance of the transportation sector on petroleum and avoid associated emissions. The second would increase the share of electricity generation from renewable sources, displacing fossil generation in an effort to reduce emissions. The third would require additional renewable electricity generation to help satisfy the electrification of transport. A fourth, holding companies financially liable for historically emitted carbon and other pollutants, may help finance subsidies for renewables, but would impose additional opportunity costs, such as the impact of the implied higher uncertainty regarding future after-tax profits.
CPI was up 6.4% year-over-year in January. Core CPI at 5.6% year-over-year is running well above the Fed’s target. @WSJ
The consumer-price index, a closely watched measure of inflation, climbed 6.4% in January from a year earlier, down from 6.5% in December. That marked the seventh straight month of cooling in annual inflation since peaking at 9.1% in June, the highest reading since 1981. January’s inflation rate was still much higher than the 2.1% average in the three years before the pandemic. Core CPI, which excludes volatile energy and food prices, rose 5.6% from a year earlier, down from 5.7% in December. Many economists see the core measure as a better predictor of future inflation. Core prices rose 0.4% on the month in January, the same as in December. Core prices increased at a 4.6% annualized rate in the three months ended in January, reversing a trend of steady decline at the end of the year.
.@jasonfurman notes, “Most anyway you look at it underlying inflation is well above 3%. And underlying inflation may not even be coming down.”
A month ago, 3-month-annualized supercore inflation (i.e., ex food, energy, shelter and used cars) was 1.8%. Now with new seasonal adjustment and an additional month of data it is 3.7%. Time to update your inflation views. Most anyway you look at it underlying inflation is well above 3%. And underlying inflation may not even be coming down. And that is even before you start to think about the upward pressure that could be exerted from the extremely tight labor market. I have a hard time seeing how the implied market breakeven of 2% inflation this year makes any sense. Absent a recession inflation below 3% is unlikely. And even with [a recession,] inflation below 3% is far from guaranteed.
.@Brad_Setser suggests that, while China is running down its Treasury portfolio, it is adding to its holdings from government-sponsored agencies.
China is on track to buy around $75 billion of Agencies—likely accounting for nearly all central bank demand for Agencies and for about half of all foreign demand for Agencies. In some deep sense, the relationship between China, the housing Agencies (U.S. policy banks, in effect), and the Federal Reserve has come full circle. In late 2008 and 2009, China sold Agencies and the Fed stepped in and bought them. Then in 2022, the Fed stopped buying Agencies and now is letting its portfolio run down—and China is buying many of them. A small irony of financial history.
Bain, the global consultancy, estimates that manufacturing exports from India could more than double from $418bn in 2022 to more than $1tn in 2028. Bain expects electronics exports alone will grow at an annual rate of up to 40 percent. @ft
Apple is hitting stumbling blocks in its effort to increase production in India, as the US tech giant faces pressure to cut its manufacturing reliance on China. At a casings factory in Hosur run by Indian conglomerate Tata, one of Apple’s suppliers, just about one out of every two components coming off the production line is in good enough shape to eventually be sent to Foxconn, Apple’s assembly partner for building iPhones, according to a person familiar with the matter. This 50 per cent “yield” fares badly compared with Apple’s goal for zero defects. Two people that have worked in Apple’s offshore operations said the factory is on a plan towards improving proficiency but the road ahead is long.
The price of shipping goods from eastern China to the west coast of the United States on a short-term basis has returned to pre-COVID levels, down 85% from the March 2022 peak. @FT
The price of shipping goods on vital global trade routes has fallen 85% below its peak as the cost of living crisis hits consumer spending and pandemic-related supply chain disruption eases. In the US, spending on goods is now down 5.4% in real terms from the March 2021 peak. This month it cost $1,444 to ship a standard 40ft steel container from eastern China to the US west coast at short notice, according to shipping data specialist Xeneta, down from a peak of $9,682 in March last year. The widespread delays and queues, which hit ports at the height of the pandemic, have also dissipated.
Quantitative tightening shifts investors into financial assets that are more sensitive to the Federal Funds rate. @FedGuy12
The Fed cannot force banks to offer depositors higher rates, but QT side steps them and does the job by brute force. Every month $60b in deposits yielding around 0% are replaced with $60b in Treasuries yielding around 4%, and deposit rates are also slowly rising. The sizable yield upgrade being forced onto the market may indicate a more impactful QT. When rates were low, Treasuries and deposits were plausible substitutes. But rates are not low anymore.
According to a @CDCgov survey, 57% of female high school students in 2021 experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness up from 36% in 2011. Male students saw only an 8 percentage point increase.
As we saw in the 10 years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health among students overall continues to worsen, with more than 40% of high school students feeling so sad or hopeless that they could not engage in their regular activities for at least two weeks during the previous year—a possible indication of the experience of depressive symptoms. We also saw significant increases in the percentage of youth who seriously considered suicide, made a suicide plan, and attempted suicide. Across almost all measures of substance use, experiences of violence, mental health, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors, female students are faring more poorly than male students. These differences, and the rates at which female students are reporting such negative experiences, are stark.
.@TheEconomist argues that “The crunch caused by the war in Ukraine may, in fact, have fast-tracked the green transition by an astonishing five to ten years” via increased subsidies.
The crunch caused by the war in Ukraine may, in fact, have fast-tracked the green transition by an astonishing five to ten years. Last year global capital expenditure on wind and solar assets grew from $357bn to $490bn, surpassing investment in new and existing oil and gas wells for the first time. America’s Inflation Reduction Act earmarks $369bn of subsidies for green tech; the European Commission has unveiled a “Net-Zero Industry Act”, which will provide at least €250bn ($270bn) to clean-tech companies. China’s 14th five-year plan for energy, released in June, for the first time sets a goal for the share of renewables in power generation (of 33% by 2025). All told, the IEA expects global renewable-energy capacity to rise by 2,400gw between 2022 and 2027, an amount equivalent to China’s entire installed power capacity today. That is almost 30% higher than the agency’s forecast in 2021, released before the war. Renewables are set to account for 90% of the increase in global generation capacity over the period. Carbon-dioxide emissions look set to fall considerably faster than expected just 12 months ago. S&PGlobal, a data firm, thinks emissions from energy combustion will peak in 2027, at a level the world would still be producing in 2028 had the war not happened.
Analysts from the @NewYorkFed argue that while climate policies will assuredly impact the relative prices of clean and dirty energy, these policies will not cause a change in the general price level in the absence of price rigidities.
In terms of price developments, the outcome of these policies is to raise the price of dirty sectors such as oil and gas, and lower those of green sectors such as renewable energy, relative to those of the rest of the economy. But since these are adjustments in relative prices, not absolute ones, they can in principle take place with any level of overall inflation. In fact, if prices in the rest of the economy fall, and prices for green sectors fall even more, we could even have deflation for the economy as a whole and still achieve the required adjustment in relative prices.
.@GeneralTheorist notes that the prevalence of 30-year fixed mortgages makes the US less sensitive to policy rate changes than peer economies.
The average maturity of household debt differs across countries due to structural characteristics. This is reflected in the share of fixed and flexible rate mortgages, for one. But the average maturity of fixed-rate mortgages also differs—being only 5 years in the UK, for example, but about 30 years in the US. The US shows limited sensitivity to the policy rate through mortgage payments historically—though the marginal buyer could be impacted still, impacting house prices through this channel.
.@stlouisfed researchers examined components of the CPI since 2000 and found wide differences by sector: the overall basket increased 1.8X from January 2000 to December 2022, while education prices grew to 2.6X and communication prices fell to 0.8X.
The figure below shows the U.S. consumer price index (CPI) for various expenditure types, as computed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For each series, the units are chosen to equal $1 in January 2000 so that their evolution over time can be compared. The “All” line (solid red) increased from $1 in January 2000 to about $1.80 in December 2022. This means that a person needed about $1.80 in December 2022 to purchase the same basket as he or she could have purchased with $1 in January 2000. One extreme case is that of education-related expenditures (solid gray line): Their prices have multiplied by 2.6 since January 2000. Another extreme case is communication-related expenditures (solid blue line): Their prices have decreased from $1 to about $0.80.
.@paulkrugman argues that while he’s “cautious… about fully embracing the doctrine of immaculate disinflation, inflation does seem to be coming down as quickly and easily as it went up, and without too much economic pain.”
A lot of effort has been going into estimating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin — I mean, “true” underlying inflation. Everyone working with the data these days knows that traditional core has become problematic in the plague years. The numbers have been buffeted by new sources of volatility, such as used car prices; the official measure of shelter prices, which mostly reflect rents but with a long lag, has been distorted by a huge rent surge in 2021-22 that ended months ago but is still filtering into the published numbers. The bigger picture is the speed with which inflation, however one imperfectly defines it, first soared, then plunged. My point is that we obviously aren’t rerunning the ’70s. While I’m cautious, on the other hand, about fully embracing the doctrine of immaculate disinflation, inflation does seem to be coming down as quickly and easily as it went up, and without too much economic pain.
.@JonHaidt cites the percent of undergraduates diagnosed with a mental illness and argues that an epidemic of anxiety and depression started impacting young Americans in 2012.
There was no sign of a problem before 2010, and the epidemic is well underway by 2015. You can also see that the rate of depression is much higher in girls, as is the absolute increase (since 2010 an additional 18% of girls suffered from depression in 2021, compared to an additional 6% of boys), however, the relative increase is similar in both sexes: around 150%. The rate had more than doubled before the covid epidemic. The 2020 data were collected in early 2020, just before covid restrictions, and the 2021 data were collected a year later before vaccines were widely available. You can see that covid accelerated the rise in depression in that last year, but it was already rising really fast.
.@M_C_Klein argues about $300B may have left China in the past two years that isn’t reflected in the balance of payments statistics, suggesting capital flight possibly to the UK.
One possibility is that the “net errors and omissions” in the balance of payments have been understated. These unexplained financial flows, generally corresponding to capital flight and other surreptitious efforts to get money out of the country, have been relatively low in recent years, but that could be an illusion caused by SAFE’s reporting. Official NEO estimates only go through 2022Q3, but the picture is illustrative. It is not easy to find corresponding unexplained financial flows in other countries that would line up with these numbers. But there is one intriguing case: the U.K. has experienced a surge in net errors and omissions in 2022.
.@robinsonmeyer argues that Biden’s decarbonization based industrial policy faces three significant challenges: spending money efficiently, coordinating across multiple government agencies, and making policy adjustments over time.
The U.S. financial system persistently struggles to fund projects that take a long time to turn a profit and that can expect to have only modest returns. Unfortunately, the biggest and most important physical infrastructure—factories, transmission lines—often fall under that category. Second, the government may lack the ability to coordinate its own actions. Late last year, the Biden administration declined to help reopen a “green” aluminum factory in Ferndale, Wash., that was exactly the kind of low-carbon industry it wants to champion. Never mind the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing: The right hand couldn’t get the left hand to plug the cord in. Finally, the government may not understand enough about the companies it’s trying to help. In Taiwan and South Korea, industrial-policy agencies... constantly gather information from the private sector and use it to adjust goals and policies over time. The I.R.A.’s main incentives are tax credits, which are hard to repeal once they’re in place and hard to fix if they’re not working. They are an unusually mindless way to incentivize companies to change their behavior.
The Taiwanese military has tracked dozens of Chinese military balloon flights in its airspace in recent years likely used for optimizing “radar and missile systems.” @FinancialTimes
Taiwan has observed dozens of Chinese military balloon flights in its airspace in recent years. “Some of the balloons are fielded by the PLA Air Force and some by the Rocket Force,” said one Taiwanese official, adding that military aircraft were regularly sent up to observe the balloons. According to people briefed on the matter in Taiwan and one US ally, the balloons have been collecting atmospheric data for use in radar and missile systems.
Evidence from Finland suggests that expansion of a home care allowance decreases maternal employment in both the short and long term and results in lower educational attainment and increased youth crime for impacted children. @nberpubs
We study the impacts of a policy designed to reward mothers who stay at home rather than join the labor force when their children are under age three. We use regional and over time variation to show that the Finnish Home Care Allowance (HCA) decreases maternal employment in both the short and long term. The effects are large enough for the existence of home care benefit system to explain the higher short-term child penalty in Finland than comparable nations. Home care benefits also negatively affect the early childhood cognitive test results of children, decrease the likelihood of choosing academic high school, and increase youth crimes. [Our analysis shows a] dynamic DiD for two key long term outcomes, enrolling to academic high school (instead of vocational high school or dropping out completely) at ages 15 to 17 years old, and committing a youth crime between ages 15 to 18 years old. The two outcomes occur at similar ages, although those who respond in the margin may be very different individuals. The pre-trend for high school enrollment is relatively flat, but there are some deviations from zero for youth crime, although not statistically significant. After an increase in supplement when one year old, enrolling to academic high school declines and committing a youth crime increases. There is some decline in the effect of enrolling to academic high school three years after the supplement change which we cannot fully explain but may be due to consequent change in supplement policies. For youth crime there is a clear upward shift at year 0; the noise in pre-trends likely reflects the much smaller incidence of this outcome, with a baseline youth crime rate of only 4%. We confirm that the mechanism of action is changing work/home care arrangements by studying a day care fee reform that had the opposite effect of raising incentives to work – with corresponding opposite effects on mothers and children compared to HCA. Our findings suggest that shifting childcare from the home to the market increases labor force participation and improves child outcomes.
Treasury’s spending on the interest on the debt is up 41% year-over-year (to $198 billion from $140 billion) for the first four months of the fiscal year. CBO will update their estimate of net interest on the debt as a percentage of U.S. GDP next week. @wsj
The Treasury’s spending on interest on the debt is up 41% to $198 billion in the first four months of this fiscal year compared with $140 billion in the same period last year, according to a Congressional Budget Office estimate of spending through January. In projections last year, the CBO said that spending on net interest on the debt as a percentage of U.S. gross domestic product would roughly double from 1.6% in 2022 to 3.3% in 2032. Those estimates, which the nonpartisan agency will update next week, assumed that the Fed would raise the federal-funds rate to 1.9% by the end of 2022 and reach 2.6% by the end of 2023.
.@B_Eichengreen argues that projected debt levels are sustainable, noting that CBO’s real GDP growth rate of 1.7% over the next ten years exceeds their 1.2% real interest rate forecast (3.6% ten-year bond rate less 2.4% inflation forecast).
Interest costs are not exploding. To be sure, inflation remains elevated, which pushes up short-term interest rates. But, because the US Treasury issues long-term bonds, debt-servicing costs depend on long-term rates, which have risen by less. Currently, the interest rate on ten-year government bonds is 3.6%, while the CBO’s inflation forecast for that horizon is 2.4%, so the real (inflation-adjusted) interest rate relevant for calculating the interest burden is still only 1.2%. What matters is the difference between the real interest rate and the growth rate of the economy. If the real interest rate is lower than the growth rate of inflation-adjusted GDP, then the debt ratio can fall even when the government runs budget deficits. The CBO’s forecast for growth over the next ten years is 1.7% – higher than the real interest rate. This is not a license to engage in unlimited spending. But it implies that, given a debt-to-GDP ratio of 100%, the federal government can run deficits of 0.5% of GDP (the difference between 1.7% and 1.2%) over and above its interest payments without causing the debt ratio to rise.
Since 2011 Google has generated $300B in cash, but their dominant position in search under threat as Microsoft announced plans to supplement Bing search results with an AI-generated side box summarizing pertinent information. @TheEconomist
The revenue of Google’s parent company, now called Alphabet, has grown at an average annual rate of over 20% since 2011. In that period, it has generated more than $300bn in cash after operating expenses. On February 7th Microsoft, which recently announced an investment of $10bn in OpenAI, showed off how it plans to go after those profits. Results from the software giant’s search engine, Bing, will now be accompanied by an ai-generated side box summarizing pertinent information. Alphabet this week unveiled its own chatbot, Bard, and has reportedly invested $300m in Anthropic, a generative-ai startup. On February 8th, while presenting some non-chatty ai search features, it confirmed that Bard will be integrated into search within weeks. Investors were unimpressed; Alphabet’s share price tumbled by 8% after the announcement. Google’s share of revenue from search advertising in America will fall to 54% this year, down from 67% in 2016, according to eMarketer, a research firm.
.@pmarca argues there’s a “massive supply-demand imbalance between the amount of capital that needs to generate a return and the actual number of viable investable projects and great entrepreneurs to actually create those projects.”
Andreessen: “The nature of the modern economy is we have what Ben Bernanke called the global savings glut. We've just got this massive oversupply of capital that was generated by the last few hundred years of economic activity, and there's only one Elon. There's just this massive supply-demand imbalance between the amount of capital that needs to generate a return and the actual number of viable investable projects and great entrepreneurs to actually create those projects We certainly don’t have enough flying car startups, we also don't have enough art startups. We need more of all of this. I don't think there's a trade-off, we need more of all of it.”
China has withdrawn from a new cable project linking Asia to Europe after an American firm was selected to lay the Sea-Me-We 6 pipeline. @ft
China has cut its participation in an internet cable project to link Asia with Europe. Two of China’s biggest telecoms groups, China Telecom and China Mobile, withdrew their combined investment of roughly 20 per cent from the subsea cable project last year after a US company was selected to build the line over Hengtong Marine, the country’s biggest provider in the sector. Their exit from the Sea-Me-We 6 pipeline — which is estimated to cost around $500mn to lay 19,200km of cables connecting south-east Asia to western Europe. Since 2020, the US has denied permission for several subsea telecoms cables that involved Chinese companies or directly connected the US to mainland China or Hong Kong, citing national security concerns.
.@ernietedeschi builds a new measure of average hourly earnings (AHE) gains in non-housing services (NHS) sectors. The measure suggests that wage growth is coming down rapidly, contributing to declining overall inflation.
This blog post presents a wage measure that Council of Economic Advisors has constructed to be specific to NHS industries, called “NHS AHE.” To summarize, NHS AHE [non-housing services average hourly earnings] is a weighted average of the hourly wage in 175 detailed nonfarm payroll sectors from the monthly Establishment Survey, weighted by each sector’s share of 2019 labor costs in final demand consumption of services excluding food, energy, and housing. Because the weights are based on NHS labor costs, the index better reflects the dynamics of wages serving as inputs into NHS production than commonly-cited wage measures like AHE and ECI. And because the weights are fixed to 2019 levels, the index is less sensitive to compositional shifts than unadjusted average measures like AHE. Figure 2 plots the yearly percent change in the NHS wage series for production and nonsupervisory workers and NHS inflation.
.@greg_ip reports on @ernietedeschi new wage tracking measure which finds “supercore” wage growth has declined from 9.7%, annualized in the three months ended October 2021 to 4% in January 2023.
CEA economists constructed a wage series tracking only wages that go into “supercore” prices. By this measure, supercore wage growth for nonmanagement workers has ebbed significantly in the past year, from 8% on a 12-month basis last March to 5.2% in January, the CEA calculates. That is much steeper than the drop in wage growth for all private-sector workers from 5.9% to 4.4%, in the same period, and for nonmanagement workers, from 7% to 5.1%. The drop is even sharper looking at shorter periods. According to the CEA’s measure, such wages were growing at 9.7%, annualized, in the three months ended October 2021. By January, growth had slowed to 4%, below that for all private-sector workers, at 4.6%, and private production workers, at 4.4%, in the same period. (
The 13M Americans working in the manufacturing sector in January surpassed the peak set during the previous business cycle in February of 2020, a first since the 1970s. This growth has been accompanied by a decline in real output per hour worked. @foxjust
For the first time since the late 1970s, US employment in manufacturing has surpassed the peak set during the previous business cycle. This happened in May 2022, according to the revised 2022 payroll jobs data released last week by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. As of January 2023, the sector employed just short of 13 million Americans on a seasonally adjusted basis, the biggest number since November 2008. The huge manufacturing productivity gains of the 1990s and 2000s appear to have given way to a situation where producing more stuff actually requires hiring more workers.
Between October ‘22 and February ‘23 over 100M chickens have died or been culled, more than 3X the rate in the previous season. The virus has spread to minks, sparking questions about potential transmission to humans. @bloomberg
Just over 100 million poultry died or were culled due to avian influenza between the start of October and Feb. 3, according to the World Organization for Animal Health. That’s more than triple the number in the same period in the previous season, which ended with record losses from the disease. There have also recently been signs of the virus adapting to different animal species, including minks in Spain — sparking questions of whether the outbreak could spread to humans.
The share of single men who are looking for a relationship and/or casual dates has declined from 61% in 2019 to 50% in 2022. 32% of American men and 28% of women were single in 2022. @pewresearch
The percentage of single Americans who are looking for a relationship or casual dates is lower than in 2019, especially among men. Some 42% of single Americans say they’re looking for a committed romantic relationship and/or casual dates, down from 49% in 2019 (but similar to the proportion found in the Center’s February 2022 survey). This drop is largely driven by single men, who are now 11 percentage points less likely than in 2019 to say they are looking for a committed relationship and/or casual dates (50% in July 2022, down from 61% in 2019). During the same time frame, there has been no significant change in the share of single women who are looking for a relationship or casual dates: 35% said this in 2022, compared with 38% in 2019.
A new @NBERpubs study finds that in 2020 ~ 1/3 of children between the ages of 18-34 lived with their parents, but found no clear evidence that this impacts parents’ current or future labor market choices, or their wealth, health, or life satisfaction.
The share of U.S. adult children living with their parents has increased since the 1960s. Figure 1 shows that in 2020, approximately one-third of children between ages 18 and 34 lived with their parents, with men and 18-24 year-olds, respectively, more likely to co-reside than women and 25-34 year-olds. We examine the relationship between adult children returning home and parental retirement outcomes using data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a nationally representative panel of individuals over the age of 50 and their spouses; the HRS also tracks children of respondents. Our child-level analysis suggests that a boomerang event is likely associated with negative shocks to a child’s marriage, income, and employment. The event study analysis suggests that many of these shocks are temporary, and correspondingly most boomerang events are transitory. At the parent level, we find no clear, statistically significant association between boomerang children and parental health, wealth, probability of working, hours worked, or well-being. However, we do find an increase in the self-reported probability of working full-time after age 65. That increase is concentrated among men, those under the age of 62, and those in the top half of the initial wealth distribution. Overall, our results provide evidence that parents may delay their anticipated retirement when children return home.
According to @sffed, the pace of the current tightening cycle has been unprecedented, and the magnitude of the tightening cycle ranks second in the postwar era (as proxied by the increase in the 10-year Treasury rate), with possibly more to run.
The current increase in the 10-year Treasury rate is the second largest increase of all tightening cycles, shown by the blue bars. Moreover, the green bars show that the speed of this increase has been unprecedented. Current increases in the federal funds rate are expected to reverse a historically large negative real funds rate gap at the beginning of the cycle. We compute the real funds rate gap by subtracting the inflation rate and the real neutral rate from the nominal federal funds rate. The smaller or more negative the real funds rate gap is, the more monetary accommodation is in the economy. Successfully closing the real funds rate gap will hinge on substantially reducing the inflation rate.
.@JosephPolitano argues that financial conditions might be loosening, citing the decline in the Chicago Fed’s National Financial Conditions Index since October 2022.
Over the last four months, the Chicago Fed’s National Financial Conditions Index has eased considerably from its very tight readings in early October. While there have been some improvements in credit conditions, thanks in part to improvements in mortgage rates and bond spreads—the bigger contributor has been the improvements in risk sentiment. Longer-term real interest rates have fallen slowly over the last couple of months, and are now only a bit above early-2019 levels. The real yield curve is still very flat, with 5-year real yields moving alongside 30-year real yields, indicating weak growth expectations and relatively tight short-run monetary policy, but the fact that real rates are declining alongside corporate bond spreads suggests a partial easing of financial conditions.
.@M_C_Klein notes that China has been pursuing successful import substitution for some time. As of 2018 (the last year with comprehensive data), China could domestically produce 81% of critical manufactured goods, up from 67% in 2004.
As of 2018—the last year for which we have comprehensive data—Chinese production of critical manufactured goods is now sufficient to cover more than 81% of its domestic demand, up from 67% in 2004. The Chinese shift towards self-sufficiency since 2004 was unmatched by any of the other major economies, developing or advanced. China’s transition was achieved via forced technology transfer (including theft), massive subsidies for domestic producers, and a range of (often hidden) restrictions on imports. Combined, China’s investment slowdown and its push for self-sufficiency have driven down total trade (exports plus imports) from nearly 65% of Chinese GDP in 2007 to less than 40% as of 2022.
Taiwan is testing a domestically developed cruise missile with the capacity to hit targets in mainland China. @SCMPNews
Taiwan’s top weapons builder has test-fired a missile believed to be capable of hitting mainland China, as cross-strait tensions show no sign of abating. The surface-to-surface missile is an extended-range version of the Hsiung Feng IIE, which is able to hit targets up to 1,200km (746 miles) – far enough to reach major mainland cities such as Qingdao on the east coast or Wuhan in the center.
.@DrDaronAcemoglu finds that negative externalities and excessive focus on high-margin technologies can distort the path of innovation and reduce welfare gains by 10-50%. @nberpubs
In the presence of markup differences, externalities and other social considerations, the equilibrium direction of innovation can be systematically distorted. This paper builds a simple model of endogenous technology, which generalizes existing comparative static results and characterizes potential distortions in the direction of innovation. From a positive perspective, the framework links the direction of technology to relevant market sizes (supplies of factors of production working with these technologies and consumer demand), the price of other inputs into the production process (for example, natural resources used in different sectors), markups and regulations. I show that empirical findings across a number of different areas are consistent with this framework's predictions and I use data from several studies to estimate its key parameters. Combining these numbers with rough estimates of differential externalities and markups, I provide suggestive evidence that equilibrium distortions in the direction of technology can be substantial in the context of industrial automation, health care, and energy, and correcting these distortions could have sizable welfare benefits.
The US trade deficit hit a record $948.1B in 2022 as a strong dollar hurt American exporters and encouraged Americans to buy more imported goods. @WSJ
The U.S. trade deficit for all of 2022 rose 12.2% to $948.1 billion, the widest gap on record, as the U.S. continued to depend heavily on imports from other countries to meet domestic demand. Exports also rose last year as global demand for U.S.-made products picked up. A U.S. dollar rally last year drove up the cost of U.S. goods and helped widen the annual deficit. A wider trade deficit is consistent with a U.S. economy growing faster than other parts of the world, as people with higher incomes in the U.S. buy more imported goods.
.@Brad_Setser notes while measured imports have shifted towards other Asian trading partners, US trade with China is “basically unchanged (in aggregate) despite the pandemic and trade war.”
The persistence of the pandemic distortions makes assessing broad structural shifts - notably with respect to China - difficult. There is no doubt that measured imported (on the US side) have shifted toward other Asian trade partners. There is no doubt that the increase in imports from Asia (setting China aside) is actually pretty broad based. Vietnam has outperformed but it is far from alone. On the other hand I don‘t think anyone would have forecast back in early 2019 that the intensification of Trump‘s tariffs and a global pandemic would leave US trade with China basically unchanged (in aggregate). So while there is no doubt that the post-pandemic surge in US goods demand (which is now fading) led to a large increase US demand for a host of imports, I at least am not convinced that there has (yet) been a significant shift away from the Chinese supply chain. And I do expect the traditional drives of US trade -- including the (still) strong dollar -- to reassert themselves in 2023.
Evidence from Norway shows internet expansion reduced friction associated with finding a job and reduced the steady state unemployment rate by 14%. @AndreasKostol @nberpubs
We found that the internet led more firms to recruit online. It further caused a 9% decline in the duration of posted vacancies and 13% fewer unsuccessful hiring attempts. Next, we showed that the expansion increased job finding rates by 2.4% and starting wages by 6% among the unemployed. However, we found no evidence of changes in job-to-job mobility or wage growth for the employed. Through the lens of the calibrated model, we found that search technology is the primary mechanism behind the quasi-experimental evidence. Our calculations indicated that the broadband internet expansion may have caused a 14% decline in the steady-state unemployment rate. Our paper sheds light on two recent macroeconomic trends. First, the falling rates of worker mobility in the US have fueled a concern about the causes and consequences of declining labor market mobility. Our results suggest that online job search and recruitment may have improved match quality by providing more information about potential jobs and better tools to screen potential candidates. In turn, this improvement may have reduced the need to switch employers in search for a better match – consistent with a more optimistic view of recent trends in job mobility. Second, our evidence helps explain the inward shift in the Beveridge curve observed in Norway and in other countries from the 1990s to the early 2000s. Our evidence suggests that without the near-universal internet adoption rates, the unemployment rate after the Great Recession would have reached even higher levels.
Goldman Sachs estimates that American’s monthly savings rate will rise to 4.5% by end of year from 2022’s 3.3%. Wage gains and declining inflation will reduce pressure to tap savings to maintain real consumption levels @wsj
Early in the pandemic, Americans were socking away money at unprecedented rates. In 2020, they collectively saved 16.8% of their disposable income, well above the 8.8% they saved in 2019. But in 2022, the saving rate fell to 3.3%. Americans have spent down about 35% of the extra savings they accumulated during the pandemic as of mid-January, according to an estimate from Goldman Sachs. By the end of the year, the company forecasts that they will have exhausted roughly 65% of that money. “At the exact same moment you lost the government transfer payments, you got hit with very high inflation, which made your real spending power lower,” said David Mericle, Goldman Sachs’s chief U.S. economist.“ You shouldn’t need to tap your wealth as much, hopefully, in 2023 as you needed to in 2022 in order to avoid a big decline in your real consumption level,” he said. His team at Goldman Sachs estimates that the monthly saving rate will rise modestly by the end of the year, to about 4.5%.
.@martinwolf_ notes that M2 is now 2.5% under its March 2022 peak which suggests inflation could soon fall – but notes by most measures core inflation remains “sticky” and suggests a “monetary overhang.”
Measures of US broad money are now actually falling. In December 2022, for example, US M2 was 2.5 per cent below its peak in March. Data on broader measures provided by the Center for Financial Stability show the same picture. This suggests that inflation might fall faster than expected. It is even possible that if the aim is only to stabilize inflation rather than make the price level fall back, policy is too tight. Yet there still seems to be a monetary overhang. Inflation might also prove stickier downwards than hoped. Whatever happens, do not repeat what happened in the 1970s: get inflation down and then keep it down.
An analysis of obituaries of elite Chinese scientists and engineers finds that during December 2022 and January 2023 they were dying at 4x the rate of the previous four years, giving a glimpse into the scale of Chinese covid surge. @nytimes
We examined the obituaries published over the past four years by the state-backed Chinese Academy of Engineering and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The academies’ members, who are drawn from research institutions across the country, help shape national policy and steer research priorities. The engineering academy currently has about 900 members, and the science academy about 800, according to their websites. The obituaries did not specify the scholars’ causes of death beyond “illness,” and the academies did not answer requests for more specifics. But the spike late last year coincided with the coronavirus’s rapid spread across the country. From 2019 to 2021, the Harbin Institute of Technology, one of the top engineering schools in the world, had published between one and three obituaries for professors and staff members in those months. Between December and last month, it announced 29 deaths.
Evidence from Sweden finds a strong relationship between cognitive ability and earnings up to annual earnings of ~$64k. There are no significant differences among the top three income percentiles. @ECSR_Soc
The figure above shows cognitive ability levels expressed with annual wage on the horizontal axis. Cognitive ability plateaus at high levels of occupational success. Precisely in the part of the wage distribution where cognitive ability can make the biggest difference, its right tail, cognitive ability ceases to play any role. Cognitive ability plateaus around €60,000 [$64,200] at under a standard deviation above the mean. There are no significant differences in ability between the three top income percentiles, despite there being 594 cases in each percentile bin and despite those in the 100th percentile earning more than double the wage of those in the 98th percentile. Past a certain wage threshold, having a higher wage is no longer telling of cognitive ability. The average score individuals in the top percentile achieved as adolescents on the cognitive-ability test is 7.15 ± 0.11 (95% confidence interval). On a stanine scale this amounts to less than a standard deviation (+0.86) above average.
.@generaltheorist notes that during the pandemic for every additional $1T in currency and deposits, American households saw $6T in non-monetary wealth driven by equities and real estate.
Household net worth expanded by USD34 trillion from end-2019 through end-2021, an increase of >150% of end-2019 GDP in only 2 years. This wealth increase was mainly due to the increase in financial and non-financial assets (housing). The chart below shows the change in the value of outstanding assets held by households for select items from end-2019. Currency and deposits held by households began the sharp increase in the first quarter of 2020, during the initial lockdowns, and increased by about USD4½ trillion in total. The increase in equity and real estate assets, mainly due to valuation adjustments, followed—and in value terms was a much larger influence on household net worth. At its peak, equity and investment fund shares, which fell in value by USD6 trillion by end-March 2020, increased nearly USD18 trillion by end-2021 on end-2019, or USD24 trillion peak-to-trough. The declines experienced last year during the interest rate normalization have weighed on such wealth since, but the levels remained above pre-pandemic norms. Real estate assets continued to increase in value still in 2022Q3, though at a diminishing pace as housing feels the strain of higher rates. Still, nearly USD13 trillion was added to household wealth through real estate since end-2019. Put another way, at its peak, every additional USD1 trillion in monetary wealth during the pandemic came to be reflected in roughly USD6 trillion in non-monetary wealth, mainly equities and housing.
.@TheEconomist reports that between mid-2020-2022 America’s lower earners saw cumulative inflation of 13.5% whereas middle earners saw 15.5%. The difference was largely driven by car prices and fuel expenditures. @XJaravel
Middle-income earners, not the poorest, appear to have borne the brunt of America’s current bout of inflation. Research by Xavier Jaravel of the London School of Economics has yielded a distinctive shape—an inverted-U curve—that illustrates the distributional effects of inflation in America from mid-2020 to mid-2022. For the lowest earners, inflation was about 13.5%. For those in the middle of the spectrum, inflation was closer to 15.5%. The wealthiest faced inflation of about 14%. Since 2020 nominal wages have increased at an average annual rate of about 4.2% for Americans as a whole. The lowest-earning quartile, however, has seen the biggest gains, with their wages up by 5.3% on average during the same period.
Michael Spence and Belinda Azenui note that labor productivity between the tradable and non-tradable sectors started to diverge in 1998, and by 2021 per-employee value-added in tradable sectors was nearly double the non-tradable sectors. @ProSyn
Value-added per employee is a measure of labor productivity. In America’s tradable sector, it has risen steadily over the last two decades in both manufacturing and services, reaching roughly $185,000 (in chained 2012 dollars) in 2021. Over the same period, productivity growth in this sector averaged nearly 3%. The non-tradable economy [net government] is just 0.57% per annum over the last 20 years. This reflects below-average productivity levels and, in most cases, low-to-moderate productivity growth in the large-employment sectors. There was not always a large gap between the tradable and non-tradable sectors. On the contrary, as the chart shows, labor productivity was about $100,000 across the economy in 1998. But by 2021, after more than two decades of steady divergence, per-employee value-added in the tradable sector was nearly double the level in the non-tradable sector.
.@zeynep argues that given the increasing spread of the H5N1 bird flu, which has a 56% mortality rate, the United States and WHO should expand their influenza surveillance networks.
Bird flu — known more formally as avian influenza — has long hovered on the horizons of scientists’ fears. This pathogen, especially the H5N1 strain, hasn’t often infected humans, but when it has, 56 percent of those known to have contracted it have died. Its inability to spread easily, if at all, from one person to another has kept it from causing a pandemic. But things are changing. The virus, which has long caused outbreaks among poultry, is infecting more and more migratory birds, allowing it to spread more widely, even to various mammals, raising the risk that a new variant could spread to and among people.
.@Dimi reports that one purpose of the Chinese balloon campaign is collecting data to improve the accuracy of their over-the-horizon radar systems that are used for long-range targeting for missile, air, and naval operations.
In February last year, four groups of high-altitude balloons were detected over northern Taiwan, home to most of the country’s population and some of its most important air defense sites. The same month, the US Air Force scrambled fighters to intercept an unmanned balloon off Kauai, a Hawaiian island that has a key missile-testing range. The PLA’s balloons have been doing much more than spy on whatever country they are flying over. According to a military official from another Asian country, one focus area in the Chinese military’s balloon flights in recent years is to collect data that can enhance the accuracy of over-the-horizon and other radar systems used for targeting in wartime. Military analysts said data points such as atmospheric density would help the PLA develop software tools known as advanced refractive effects prediction systems, which are critical for advanced radars that aid missile, air, and naval operations.
CIA Director William Burns notes that Xi ordered the Chinese military to be ready to conduct an invasion of Taiwan by 2027, “as a matter of intelligence.” @Reuters
U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns said that Chinese President Xi Jinping's ambitions toward Taiwan should not be underestimated, despite him likely being sobered by the performance of Russia's military in Ukraine. Burns said that the United States knew "as a matter of intelligence" that Xi had ordered his military to be ready to conduct an invasion of self-governed Taiwan by 2027. "Now, that does not mean that he's decided to conduct an invasion in 2027, or any other year, but it's a reminder of the seriousness of his focus and his ambition," Burns told an event at Georgetown University in Washington.
.@KaplAnalysis examines large US companies purchased in LBO transactions and finds that 71% of the companies hired new CEOs, and more than 75% of these were external hires. He concludes that “firm-specific human capital is relatively unimportant.”
We study the market for CEOs among larger U.S. companies (enterprise value greater than $1 billion) purchased by private equity firms between 2010 and 2016. More than 70% of those companies hire new CEOs. Of these, more than 75% are external hires with 67% being complete outsiders. These results are strikingly different from studies that look at public companies, who find that 72% of new CEOs are internal promotions while 80% are internal promotions, former executives, or board members. The most recent experience of 70% of the outside CEOs was at a public company with 32% at an S&P 500 company. Almost 50% of the external hires have some previous experience at an S&P 500 company. The median and average buyout in our sample earned roughly 2.5 times on its equity investment. This is interesting given that the public-to-private deals in our sample were not particularly poor performers before they were bought. Because private equity investors are paid strongly for performance (through their carried interest or profit share of 20% on most funds), private equity investors have strong incentives not to provide rents to their CEOs. The pay of CEOs in private-equity funded companies, therefore, should be relatively rent-free. Using the performance of the buyouts and survey evidence on buyout equity incentives, we estimate the compensation buyout CEOs earn and find that the magnitude is much higher than that for similar-sized public companies and comparable to or slightly lower than that of S&P 500 CEOs. The results that top executives move from public companies to private equity funded companies at competitive compensation levels suggest that the broader market for CEOs is quite active and that, at least for private equity-funded companies, firm-specific human capital is relatively unimportant.
The unemployment rate fell to a 53-year low at 3.4%, but nominal average hourly earnings slowed to 4.4% year-over-year down from 4.8% in December. @WSJ
U.S. hiring accelerated sharply to 517,000 jobs in January and the unemployment fell to 3.4%, the lowest rate in more than 53 years, the Labor Department said Friday. Average hourly earnings grew 4.4% in January from a year earlier, down from a revised 4.8% in December, the Labor Department said Friday. Wage increases have been gradually slowing, suggesting employers are finding it easier to recruit new workers.
.@M_C_Klein notes that PCE is running at ~4.5% a year vs. 2% before the pandemic, and suggests that the Fed needs to do more if it is to reach its 2% target. There has been a reversal of temporary factors,” but services PCE inflation remains stubborn.
If excessive price increases were “transitory” on the way up, then they are also “transitory” on the way down. Monthly data suggest that the price impact of normalization in the production, distribution, and demand for manufactured goods may already have peaked. Fed officials have repeatedly said that they are now focusing on PCE services prices excluding energy and housing. This is a relatively broad swathe of the economy that should be relatively—although not completely—shielded from idiosyncratic forces and should therefore represent underlying inflationary conditions.
.@JohnHCochrane argues that our existing tax system of “high statutory rates with a Swiss cheese of exemptions, immense cost, unfairness and distortion” should be replaced; he thinks a consumption tax would be more transparent and efficient.
Our income and estate tax system is broken. It has high statutory rates with a Swiss cheese of exemptions, immense cost, unfairness, and distortion. A consumption tax, with none of the absurd complexity of our current taxes, is the answer. It funds the government with the least economic distortion. A consumption tax need not be regressive. It’s easy enough to exempt the first few thousand dollars of consumption or add to the rebate. Taxes overall must finance what the government spends. Collecting it in one tax rather than lots of smaller taxes doesn’t change the overall rate. It’s better for voters to see how much the government takes.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has canceled a weekend visit to China after a Chinese spy balloon violated American airspace. @Dimi
US secretary of state Antony Blinken has canceled his weekend visit to China after the Pentagon said it discovered a Chinese spy balloon that has been flying over sensitive nuclear missile sites in the western state of Montana. China rejected suggestions that it was a spy balloon, saying it is rather a “civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes” that deviated from its planned course because of winds and “limited self-steering capability” “The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into US airspace due to force majeure,” it said in an unusual statement. American officials said China had previously flown spy balloons over the country but that this one spent more time overhead. Canada separately said it was monitoring a “potential second incident” without providing any details. Canada’s foreign ministry said it had summoned China’s ambassador to Ottawa to protest against the balloon and that it would “continue to vigorously express our position to Chinese officials through multiple channels.”
The PLA used a social media post to announce the performance of its new anti-ship missile with a terminal speed of Mach 10, claiming the missile cannot be intercepted by any anti-missile weapons systems. @SCMPNews
For the first time, the PLA has officially revealed the performance of its advanced anti-ship hypersonic missile, sending a warning to the US amid high tensions in the Taiwan Strait, Chinese analysts said. China’s YJ-21, or Eagle Strike-21, has a terminal speed of Mach 10, cannot be intercepted by any anti-missile weapons system in the world, and can launch lethal strikes toward enemy ships, according to an article posted by the official Weibo account of the People’s Liberation Army Strategic Support Force.
Matt Rognlie @ludwigstraub @a_auclert argue that it will take up to five years for excess savings to work though the systems as individuals with higher marginal propensity to consume generate income for individuals with higher savings rates.
Deficit-financed fiscal transfers generate excess savings. One person’s spending is another person’s income. As we show, taking this fact into account implies that excess savings from debt-financed transfers have much longer-lasting effects than a naive calculation would suggest. In a closed economy, unless the government pays down the debt used to finance the transfers, excess savings do not go away as households spend them down. Instead, the effect of excess savings on aggregate demand slowly dissipates as they “trickle up” the wealth distribution to agents with lower MPCs. Tight monetary policy speeds up this process, but this effect is likely to be quantitatively modest. The partial equilibrium scenario summarizes the conventional wisdom according to which the effect of excess savings will dissipate in a few quarters. By contrast, our benchmark scenario suggests that these effects will stick around for roughly 5 years.
Phil Gramm and Michael Solon argue that officially ending the pandemic emergency, clawing back unspent emergency funds, and eliminating eligibility expansions would save at least $255 billion in 2023-24 alone. @WSJ
The Covid health emergency, like a war, enabled the government to vastly expand its power and spending. Now that the “war” is over, government resists receding to its pre-pandemic level. The debt-limit amendment should not only claw back unspent funds from the $6 trillion pandemic spending orgy, which would save $255 billion in 2023-24 alone. By repeatedly extending the pandemic emergency every 90 days, the Biden administration has expanded the number of households eligible for food stamps and dramatically increased average benefits, more than doubling food-stamp spending. The administration has used the Covid emergency to add 20 million people to the Medicaid and State Children’s Health Insurance Program rolls, sending costs up by $135 billion. The administrative deadline for the moratorium on student-debt payments has been extended eight times, at a cost approaching $275 billion.
.@TheEconomist cites World Management Survey data showing that American firms are better managed than their peers. @I_Am_NickBloom and @johnvanreenan argue that half of the productivity gap btw Britain and US can be attributed to poor management.
Since 2003 John Van Reenen and Nicholas Bloom have been developing and running the World Management Survey (WMS). To date, the WMS has carried out over 20,000 interviews with medium-sized firms, hospitals, and schools in 35 countries, some rich economies, and others emerging markets. The results allow for a ranking of countries based on differences in their firms’ management practices. Such differences are not just large; they also persist across borders. Among the WMS’s findings is the fact that companies’ offices abroad tend to be managed as well as those in their home country, meaning that the London branch of an American business, say, will typically be managed to the same standard as its offices in New York or Chicago. (Multinationals achieve higher management scores than domestic firms wherever they locate.)
Noting that globalization has had ebbs and flows, @IMFNews argues that “geoeconomic fragmentation” (GEF) or policy-driven deglobalization is underway that could put an end to 2008-2021 “Slowbalization” period.
The “Slowbalization” that followed the global financial crisis (2008–10) has been characterized by a slower expansion of cross-border lending and trade. Globalization has plateaued. While fragmentation may entail strategic advantages for some countries in selected cases, it is very likely to involve significant economic costs in the aggregate. The costs would include higher import prices, segmented markets, diminished access to technology and to both skilled and unskilled labor, and ultimately reduced productivity which may result in lower living standards. GEF is likely to complicate multilateral cooperation in critical areas such as climate change mitigation and pandemic preparedness.
China’s private sector share of the top 100 firms’ market capitalization declined to 42.8% at the end of 2022, down from 55.4% in 2021. @PIIE
Latest data from PIIE’s semiannual tracker, “China’s state vs. private company tracker: Which sector dominates?”—which tracks market value of China’s top 100 listed companies (ranked by market value)—show a continued decline of the share of the private sector, from 44.5 percent at mid-2022 to 42.8 percent at year-end, continuing the downward trend of the previous two half-year periods from the 55.4 percent peak observed in mid-2021. Still, the private sector share remains higher than it was throughout the 2010s, when it rose dramatically from 8 percent at end-2010 to 36 percent at end-2019.
In real terms the Case-Shiller National Index is 3.6% below last year’s peak, but remains 14% above its prior peak level in 2006. @calculatedrisk
In real terms, the National index is 3.6% below the recent peak, and the Composite 20 index is 5.2% 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 about 17 years since the previous peak. Affordability improved slightly in November as both mortgage rates and house prices declined. In October, houses were the least “affordable” since 1982 when 30-year mortgage rates were over 14%.
Officials are increasingly confident the technology transfer hurdles to the Australia/UK/US (Aukus) nuclear submarine deal will be overcome, and that the partners are “close to an announcement. @ft”
Australian deputy prime minister Richard Marles told the FT that the partners were “close to an announcement” following an 18-month planning phase to determine how and where to build the boats and what US technology and information would be required. But the planning has been complicated by longstanding US curbs on technology and information sharing, which apply to Australia and the UK even though the countries are members of the Washington-led Five Eyes intelligence sharing network that also includes Canada and New Zealand. Two crucial decisions will be the choice of submarine design and where the submarines will be built, given concerns that America’s shipyards do not have the capacity to take on more work.
February 1, 2023
Profit PuzzlesCarter Davis, Alexandre Sollaci and James Traina Social Science Research Network
Public firms’ returns on the book value of assets are down ~ 50% from 1980 and private firms’ returns have doubled. @EconTraina @ASollaci @CarterDavisFin
Why have US aggregate profit rates increased while financial market rates decreased since 1980? We propose a mismatch hypothesis: Profit rates in the national accounts track the return on capital for all firms, while financial market rates track the cost of capital for public firms only. We show public-firm profit rates halved since 1980, matching trends in financial markets and suggesting low market power. Mechanically, this residual private capital return series shows private capital returns had to have increased substantially to account for this secular break between aggregate and public firm profitability. The degree of this shift is significant: Private firms’ profit rates are on average 10% higher than public firms’ in the post-2000 period. Nonfinancial domestic private-firm profit rates doubled, suggesting high market power or risk. Size and sector differences cannot explain the divergence, though intangible-intensity might. Our results indicate substantial biases in extrapolating public-firm trends to the aggregate economy.
.@ScottSumnerTMI argues the employment cost index (ECI) running at 4% annualized is consistent with roughly 3% trend inflation. Scott thinks getting the ECI down another 1% will require “something closer to 4% or 5% unemployment.”
Once the public adjusts its expectations to the high trend inflation, the economy returns to the natural rate. This explains why the economy today is more overheated than before the Volcker disinflation. By the early 1980s, the public had adjusted to a long period of high inflation and unemployment had returned close to its natural rate. Each year, both wages and prices rose rapidly—but the economy was not in “disequilibrium”. In contrast, today’s economy has still not adjusted to the very fast NGDP growth of 2022. Thus, the labor market is more overheated than in early 1981, despite much less inflation. I still believe that some pain will be imposed on the labor market in bringing inflation down, but perhaps something closer to 4% or 5% unemployment, not the double-digit unemployment of late 1982.
.@JosephPolitano notes real fixed investments have dropped persistently throughout 2022 which raises the risk of a recession in 2023-2024. Recent data “raises the chances of a soft landing,” though “recession risks remain high.”
Over the last year aggregate real consumption growth has moderated, but real private fixed investment declined substantially. Housing was the big casualty with single-family residential investment falling to an 8-year low amidst rapid increases in mortgage rates, but fixed investment in nonresidential structures also sank while investment in equipment and R&D stagnated. Higher interest rates, macroeconomic uncertainty, global growth drags, and weakening US real consumption have hurt domestic investment the most—a worrying sign given how critical fixed investments are to increasing long-run economic capacity. Fixed investment is a key economic signal and an important growth indicator, but it is unfortunately not a be-all-end-all recession indicator.
.@mattsclancy highlights evidence that major productivity gains in research result from allowing scientists & researchers to cluster with other highly skilled inventors. Allowing more high-skilled immigration could boost per capita GDP growth rates by 9%.
Moving to the USA raises citations to math publications four-fold, or 2.5-fold if you restrict attention to people who become a math academic at home or abroad. Comparing New Zealander migrants who return or stay abroad - the ones who stay abroad get up to four times as many citations as those who return. PhD students who stay in the USA get 4-6 times as many citations to their work as their peers in the same program who end up moving back to a country with GDP per capita outside the top 25%. That’s a pretty consistently large effect. And we get similar kinds of results when we look at other proxies for scientific achievement, whether it’s counting publications, patents, or becoming an invited speaker to the International Congress of Mathematicians. A model of the innovation/immigration/trade economy between the US and EU...implies if the USA doubled the H-1B visa cap from 65,000 to 130,000, it would raise the real GDP per capita growth rate in each region by 9% in the long run.
Foreign direct investment in Mexico reached $32B during the first 9 months of 2022 relative to $31B in 2021, suggesting that nearshoring might be underway. @WSJ
After a decline to $28.2 billion in 2020 during the pandemic, foreign direct investment in Mexico rose to $31.4 billion in 2021 and reached $32.1 billion during the first nine months of 2022, the most for the period since 2013. Of that amount, around $11.6 billion was in manufacturing, similar to 2021 levels. The Mexican government says more than 400 companies currently have shown interest in moving production from Asia to Mexico. “This is an enormous opportunity for Mexico, one that only happens once in a generation,” said Carlos Capistrán, chief economist for Mexico and Canada at Bank of America. “It’s starting to happen, but we don’t know if it will be a home run or just a hit.”
The US government is deepening security ties with India. Plans include joint weapons production in India, as well as cooperation in areas including quantum computing, artificial intelligence, 5G wireless networks, and semiconductors. @ft
The US is launching a series of ambitious technology, space and defense initiatives with India, in an effort designed to counter China in the Indo-Pacific and wean New Delhi off its reliance on Russia for weapons. The Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies marks the latest move by US President Joe Biden to work more closely with allies and partners to counter China. The two countries unveiled cooperation in a number of areas, including quantum computing, artificial intelligence, 5G wireless networks and semiconductors. They also created a mechanism to facilitate joint weapons production.
.@RyanDEnos argues the Democratic coalition is not stable as college-educated white’s interests diverge from the rest of their working class coalition. @Edsall
College-educated whites, especially those with higher incomes, are not clear coalitional partners for anyone — they don’t favor economic policies, such as increasing housing supply or even higher taxes on the rich, that are beneficial to the working class, of any race. And many college-educated whites are motivated by social issues that are also not largely supported by the working class, of any race. It’s not clear that, with their current ideological positions, socially liberal and economically centrist or rightist college-educated whites are natural coalition partners with anybody but themselves. My sense is that much of the college-educated liberal political rhetoric is focused on social signaling to satisfy their own psychological needs and improve their social standing with other college-educated liberals, rather than policies that would actually reduce racial gaps in economic well-being, civil rights protections, and other quality of life issues.
.@jasonfurman notes the new employment cost index numbers are not consistent with target inflation of 2%. “If the labor market stays in the same shape,…I would expect inflation to be 3.5% and likely drifting up from that.”
Good news for prospects for sustained lower inflation from the latest Employment Cost Index (ECI) data. But, the growth in Q4 was still higher than any quarter in the previous cycle. So still not likely to be compatible with 2% inflation and probably not even 3% inflation. In terms of the well-being of the average worker, ECI wages are 2% below their pre-COVID peak and 5% below their pre-COVID trend. This is an average--wages up more for lower-wage workers and down more for higher-wage workers. Real wages are lower today than they were in December 2019 for every industry except retail trade and leisure and hospitality. And they are below trend in every industry. If the labor market stays in similar shape (measured in terms of the unemployment rate, job openings and the quits rate) then I would expect inflation to be 3.5% and likely drifting up from that--nothing says this need to continue its monotonic decline.
.@AswathDamodaran estimates the cost of capital at the start of 2023 for the median American firm rose 3.86pp from 5.77% to 9.63% year over year, making it more difficult to fund new investments and acquisitions.
Bringing in the changes in both components, debt, and equity, into the assessment, we computed the costs of capital for US and global companies in US dollar terms. The cost of capital for a median US (global) company rose from 5.77% (6.33%) at the start of 2022 to 9.63% (10.60%) at the start of 2023. To understand the implications of a rising cost of capital, it is worth remembering that the cost of capital is the Swiss Army knife of corporate finance, affecting almost every decision within a business.
.@M_C_Klein argues that the decline in excess savings has largely been driven by high-income households. In 2022, these households had above-normal spending, low interest and dividend receipts, and high tax payments for 2021 capital gains.
Americans liquidated more than $1Tof “excess” savings in 2022, eliminating more than half of the surplus accumulated since the pandemic began. If the current pace continues, the entire stock will vanish by the end of this year. The great dissaving of 2022 can be explained by the (relative) misfortunes afflicting high earners as society normalized. First, dividend and interest income were unusually weak. U.S. post-tax corporate profits in 2022 were roughly 40% higher than in 2019, but dividend payments to shareholders were up just 14% because companies opted for buybacks. Meanwhile, the combination of soaring asset values and the relative preference for buybacks has meant that wealthy Americans owed substantial taxes in 2022 based on 2021 capital gains. Personal income tax payments, which include capital gains, are currently running 26% above what would be expected based on the 2018-2019 trend. Employee pay is 2% above trend while payroll tax receipts are about 0.5% above trend.
The @economist notes that “almost all” recent AI breakthroughs have come from large firms, in large part due to their access to the computing power required to develop state-of-the-art AI models.
Almost all recent breakthroughs in artificial intelligence globally have come from large companies, in large part because they have the computing power. Amazon, whose AI powers its Alexa voice assistant, and Meta, which made waves recently when one of its models beat human players at “Diplomacy,” a strategy board game, respectively produce two-thirds and four-fifths as much AI research as Stanford University, a bastion of computer-science eggheads. Alphabet and Microsoft churn out considerably more, and that is not including DeepMind, Google Research’s sister lab which the parent company acquired in 2014, and the Microsoft-affiliated OpenAI.
Central banks purchased the largest amount of gold since 1967 as Middle Eastern nations and China sought to diversify their reserves. @ft (130)
Annual gold demand increased 18 per cent last year to 4,741 tonnes, the largest amount since 2011, driven by a 55-year high in central bank purchases, according to the World Gold Council, an industry-backed group. Central bank purchases of gold hit 417 tonnes in the final three months of the year, roughly 12 times higher than the same quarter a year ago. It took the annual total to more than double of the previous year at 1,136 tonnes. Only about a quarter of the fourth-quarter central bank purchases were reported to the IMF. Reported purchases in 2022 were led by Turkey taking in almost 400 tonnes, China, which reported buying 62 tonnes in November and December, and Middle Eastern nations.
.@adwooldridge worries that America’s work ethic can be destroyed by cultural change, pointing to the 11%, or 7M men 25-64 who have left the labor market and are not working or looking for a job.
Is that ubiquitous smell in America’s great cities the smell of sensible liberal drug policy? Or is it the smell of America’s work ethic going up in smoke? If the work ethic is the product of cultural change, it can be destroyed by cultural change. America is the world’s leading example of the power of the work ethic. “The US work ethic is really strong and healthy,” Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute quipped to me in an interview, “except where it isn’t.” The post-work revolution was led by men without college degrees. Eberstadt produces some astonishing statistics on the number of prime-age men (25 to 64) who have fallen out of the labor market. More than 11% of these men — some seven million souls — are neither working nor looking for a job. Barely half of native-born prime-age men with no high school degree are in the job market. The “not in labor force” number has gone up by a percentage point every seven years since 1965 regardless of the state of the economy or the number of job vacancies.
The United States is set to gain access to bases on Luzon in the Philippines which would be strategically important in a Sino-American conflict. @washingtonpost
The U.S. military is poised to secure expanded access to key bases in the Philippines. While negotiations are still ongoing, an announcement is expected as soon as this week when Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin meets in Manila with his counterpart and then with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. The expansion involves access to Philippine military bases, likely including two on the northern island of Luzon — which, analysts said, could give U.S. forces a strategic position from which to mount operations in the event of a conflict in Taiwan or the South China Sea.
The James Webb Space Telescope may have captured evidence of the universe’s first generation of stars. @QuantaMagazine
A group of astronomers poring over data from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has glimpsed light from ionized helium in a distant galaxy, which could indicate the presence of the universe’s very first generation of stars. These long-sought, inaptly named “Population III” stars would have been very large balls of hydrogen and helium sculpted from the universe’s primordial gas. Theorists started imagining these first fireballs in the 1970s, hypothesizing that, after short lifetimes, they exploded as supernovas, forging heavier elements and spewing them into the cosmos. Xin Wang, an astronomer at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, and his colleagues think they’ve found them. “It’s really surreal,” Wang said. Confirmation is still needed; the team’s paper, posted on the preprint server arxiv.org on December 8, is awaiting peer review at Nature.
In 2022 consumer spending, which makes up about 70% of the American economy, has outpaced price increases by 2pp, but has fallen for three of the last four months. @WSJ
Retail purchases have fallen in three of the past four months. Spending on services, including rent, haircuts, and the bulk of bills, was flat in December, after adjusting for inflation, the worst monthly reading in nearly a year. The saving rate has fallen to roughly 3% of monthly income, from more than 30% at the start of lockdowns. In 2019, the year before the pandemic, the rate was 8.8%. Credit-card balances were up 15% on the year in the third quarter, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the largest increase in more than two decades.
.@davidautor finds that foreign-born populations were more likely than native workers to leave commuting zones that were most impacted by the China Shock. However, the foreign-born population was concentrated in zones with low China trade exposure.
U.S. commuting zones (CZs) that were more exposed to the China trade shock had substantially larger net reductions in the population of foreign-born workers but not in the population of native-born workers. The small and insignificant native-born responses have narrow confidence intervals, which is suggestive of modest heterogeneity in native-born adjustment across places. For foreign-born workers, comparing CZs at the 75th versus 25th percentiles of exposure to the trade shock, the more exposed CZ would have seen 1.7 and 2.3 percentage-point larger [10 yr] reductions, respectively, in the foreign-born population with a high school education or less and in the foreign-born population with some college education or more. Within trade-exposed CZs, foreign-born and native-born workers had comparably sized reductions in employment-population ratios. These trade-induced reductions in employment rates were larger in CZ initial foreign-born population shares were above (relative to below) the nation median. At the time of the surge in import competition from China, foreign-born workers were in the wrong locations to contribute much to regional changes in labor supply.
.@BIS_org finds that the relationship between money growth and inflation during periods of high inflation is close to “one to one” during periods of high inflation, but they find little relationship during non-inflationary periods.
The strength of the link between money growth and inflation depends on the inflation regime: it is one-to-one when inflation is high and virtually non-existent when it is low. Panel A illustrates the long-run relationship between inflation and “excess money growth” – the difference between money growth and real GDP growth. The graph displays the relationship between these two variables based on non-overlapping 10-year averages. When the observations from all countries are pooled, the standard relationship emerges clearly: there is a precisely estimated one-to-one link between excess money growth and inflation. But, as shown in panel B, if we split the observations into high- and low-inflation ones using different 10-year average inflation rate thresholds, we see that this relationship exists only when inflation is relatively high. As expected, the difference narrows noticeably as the inflation threshold increases.
According to a @Bloomberg analysis, 2022 saw global investment in green energy sources equal investments in fossil fuels for the first time (both were $1.1T.)
2022 was the first year when investment in the energy transition equaled global investment in fossil fuels, according to the latest data released from clean energy research group BloombergNEF. The money flowing into the upstream, midstream, and downstream segments of oil and gas, and into fossil fuel-fired power generation without emissions reduction technology, was $1.1 trillion last year. Likewise, annual investment in renewable energy, electrified transport and heat, energy storage and other technologies reached $1.1 trillion.
The commodity sector will require an investment of $300-$500B in working capital going forward due to higher interest rates and volatility related to the Russo-Ukrainian War, according to @McKinsey. @ft
Changing trade patterns have made the global flow of raw materials less efficient and more costly to finance and are also likely to push up the price of commodities for consumers, according to a new study by consultancy McKinsey. “Since the end of 2020, we have seen a doubling of the working capital requirements in the commodity trading sector,” said Roland Rechtsteiner, McKinsey partner and lead author of the report. The McKinsey report predicts average shipping times will increase by 8%, energy prices will rise three-fold, and interest costs will rise seven-fold, between the end of 2020 and 2024, and that working capital requirements for commodity trading globally will increase between $300bn and $500bn as a result.
A four-star American air force general fears that the US and China may go to war in 2025. In a leaked memo to his top commanders, he wrote, “I hope I am wrong. My gut tells me we will fight in 2025.“ @ft @dimi
General Mike Minihan, head of US Air Mobility Command, said the two military powers were likely to end up at war because of a series of circumstances that would embolden Chinese president Xi Jinping. “I hope I am wrong. My gut tells me we will fight in 2025,” Minihan wrote in a private memo to his top commanders. As head of Air Mobility Command, Minihan oversees air-related logistics across the US military. The four-star general previously served as deputy head of Indo-Pacific Command, which would be directly responsible for commanding US forces in any conflict with China.
As rates rise the percentage of subprime auto borrowers who are delinquent on their bills rose to 5.7%, higher than the Great Recession peak of 5.0% in January 2009. Though repossessions are still under pre-pandemic levels. @Bloomberg
In December, the percentage of subprime auto borrowers who were at least 60 days late on their bills rose to 5.67%, up from a seven-year low of 2.58% in April 2021, according to Fitch Ratings. That compares to 5.04% in January 2009, the peak during the Great Recession. Higher interest rates are making it even more difficult to make the monthly payments. The average new auto loan rate was 8.02% in December, up from 5.15% a year earlier, according to Cox Automotive. The rate can be much higher for subprime borrowers. While the number of vehicle repossessions is rising, it’s still below pre-pandemic levels. At Manheim, an auto auction company, the number of repossessed cars increased 11% in 2022 compared to the prior year, but that was still down 26% from 2019.
.@calculatedrisk argues housing prices in real terms will be under pressure for some time as the bottom in prices can lag the bottom in investment by years. He expects at least 10% decline in nominal prices from peak with 2.4% already having occurred.
My expectation is residential investment will decline further in 2023, although the largest percentage decline was in 2022. If we look at the most comparable period to the current cycle, the 1978 to 1982 period, we see that real house prices bottomed several years after activity bottomed. Activity bottomed in 1981 or early 1982, but house prices didn’t return to the previous peak (inflation adjusted) until mid-1986. The timing and extent of nominal price declines is difficult to predict. I’ve guessed that we will see 10%+ in nominal price declines nationally. We’ve already seen national price declines of 2.4% seasonally adjusted (Case-Shiller National Index) as sellers appear to be willing to give back some of the extraordinary gains over the last two years (not completely “sticky”). The bottom line is that there will be two bottoms for housing: one for activity and the other for prices. Existing home sales may have already bottomed, but we will see further declines in residential investment. Prices - especially in real terms - will be under pressure for some time.
The Colorado’s River’s flow has averaged less than 10M acre-feet a year in the past three years vs. a long-term average of under 15M. The reduced flows may force the Federal government to impose water use restrictions affecting 40M Americans. @Cflav
The states that rely on water from the shrinking Colorado River are unlikely to agree to voluntarily make deep reductions in their water use which would force the federal government to impose cuts for the first time in the water supply for 40 million Americans. The Colorado River Compact apportioned the water among two groups of states. The so-called upper basin states would get 7.5 million acre-feet a year. The lower basin got a total of 8.5 million acre-feet. A later treaty guaranteed Mexico, where the river reaches the sea, 1.5 million acre-feet. The premise that the river’s flow would average 17.5 million acre-feet each year turned out to be faulty. Over the past century, the river’s actual flow has averaged less than 15 million acre-feet each year. From 2000 through 2022, the river’s annual flow averaged just over 12 million acre-feet; in each of the past three years, the total flow was less than 10 million.
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.
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