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Archive for the 'Employment' Category

Empire State Manufacturing Survey

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 15th April 2014

Another non bounce, this time an April survey:

Empire State Mfg Survey

Highlights
The first look at the manufacturing sector this month is flat with the Empire State index barely over zero, at 1.29 vs 5.61 in March and 4.48 in February. New orders, the most important of all readings, is in the negative column at minus 2.77. Shipments show some growth, at plus 3.15, while employment shows better growth, at 8.16 vs March’s 5.88. On the negative side are unfilled orders, at minus 13.27. Inventories show a draw while price data do show some upward pressure. A positive is a more than 5 point uptick in the 6-month outlook to a very solid 38.23. This report, held back by the dip in new orders, is no better than mixed suggesting that the beginning of the spring, at least in the New York manufacturing economy, didn’t make for much of a bounce.


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Posted in Employment, Fed | No Comments »

consumer credit and a few comments

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 8th April 2014

Note the year over year rate of growth:

As previously discussed, in order for GDP to grow at last year’s pace all the pieces, ‘on average’ have to do same.

And so far, housing and cars are well below last year’s growth rates.

And the contribution of net govt spending is well below last year’s contribution.

And so far net export growth isn’t coming to the rescue.

Nor is consumer credit driving spending.

Even capex just took a hit.

And the personal income growth rate isn’t looking like it’s ‘bounced’ any.

Employment growth, a lagging indicator that’s largely a function of sales, if anything looks a tad less as well.

The ‘surveys’ are still showing positive growth, and maybe they’ll turn out to be correct. But I have noticed a tendency for their responses to be influenced by the stock market.

Hopefully we’ve just had a weather pause, and the consumer and business celebrate spring with a material surge of spending that exceeds their incomes to off set the ongoing ‘demand leakages’.

But if not, growth slips into reverse until the federal deficit again gets large enough to stop the slide.

Posted in Credit, Employment, GDP, Government Spending | No Comments »

Job charts

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 4th April 2014

Posted in Employment | No Comments »

Charts from the last few days

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 3rd April 2014

Total vehicle sales year over year showed some post winter bounce.

The narrative was that March started off slow but picked up due to large incentives for the last week.

We’ll see if it all holds up for April.


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Factory orders ‘bounced’ from large declines but not yet enough to ‘make up’ for the declines.

And regarding capital goods, as with construction measures, I remain concerned that what looked like a year end spike was tax driven and ‘borrowed’ from this year.


Highlights
Factory orders bounced back strongly in February, up 1.6 percent to edge above the high end of the Econoday consensus. The month got a major lift from a 13.4 percent upswing in commercial aircraft orders. A 3.0 percent gain in motor vehicle orders also helped the total. But the total excluding transportation orders, which is a closely tracked reading, is also healthy, up 0.7 percent following 0.1 percent declines in the prior two months.

There is, however, a negative in the February numbers and that’s a sizable 1.4 percent decline in nondefense capital goods orders excluding aircraft. This is considered a core reading on the outlook for business investment. February’s decline more than reverses a 0.8 percent rise in January. Orders for this reading were especially weak in December, at minus 1.6 percent.

Other data include a weather-related bounce in shipments, to plus 0.9 percent following January’s 0.7 percent decline. Inventories rose 0.7 percent, in line with shipments and keeping the factory sector’s inventory-to-shipment ratio unchanged at 1.30. Unfilled orders are a positive, up 0.3 percent.

This report is mostly positive if it weren’t the decline underway in core capital goods orders, a decline that points to weakness in the business outlook. Early indications on the manufacturing for March have also been mostly positive, with the exception of yesterday’s slowing in the ISM employment index.


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Highlights
Global manufacturing has softened in recent months. At 52.4 in March, down from 53.2 in February, the J.P.Morgan Global Manufacturing PMI fell to a five-month low, but remained above its average for the current 16-month sequence of expansion.

Global manufacturing production increased for the seventeenth consecutive month in March. However, the rate of expansion eased to a five-month low, mainly on the back of a slowdown in Asia. Growth of total new orders also eased slightly, despite improved inflows of new export business.


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Employment, generally a lagging indicator, was up some, but the chart still seems ‘uninspiring’ at best:

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Not to give this all that much weight, and they are limited surveys with Easter distortions as well, but the year over year lines aren’t showing any rebound yet:

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Purchase Mortgage applications up 1% for the week but down 19% vs last year.

What I’m saying is that Jan and Fed were weather depressed. And with the federal deficit now running maybe below 3% of GDP, down several % from last year, some pro active and some from the auto stabilizers, my concern is that the underlying support for a bounce is no longer there and the rate of growth continues to decelerate. Yes, lending is up some, but it could be the financing of utility bills and inventory/reduced cash flow growth, which takes away from future sales.

Posted in Economic Releases, Employment, GDP | No Comments »

Labor vs capital graph

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 31st March 2014

Notice the capital share started falling prior to the most recent recessions:


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Posted in Employment | No Comments »

Comments on Stanlely Fisher’s ‘Lessons from Crises, 1985-2014′

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 18th March 2014

Lessons from Crises, 1985-2014

Stanley Fischer[1]


It is both an honor and a pleasure to receive this years SIEPR Prize. Let me list the reasons. First, the prize, awarded for lifetime contributions to economic policy, was started by George Shultz. I got my start in serious policy work in 1984-85, as a member of the advisory group on the Israeli economy to George Shultz, then Secretary of State. I learned a great deal from that experience, particularly from Secretary Shultz and from Herb Stein, the senior member of the two-person advisory group (I was the other member). Second, it is an honor to have been selected for this prize by a selection committee consisting of George Shultz, Ken Arrow, Gary Becker, Jim Poterba and John Shoven. Third, it is an honor to receive this prize after the first two prizes, for 2010 and for 2012 respectively, were awarded to Paul Volcker and Marty Feldstein. And fourth, it is a pleasure to receive the award itself.

When John Shoven first spoke to me about the prize, he must have expected that I would speak on the economic issues of the day and I would have been delighted to oblige. However, since then I have been nominated by President Obama but not so far confirmed by the Senate for the position of Vice-Chair of the Federal Reserve Board. Accordingly I shall not speak on current events, but rather on lessons from economic crises I have seen up close during the last three decades and about which I have written in the past starting with the Israeli stabilization of 1985, continuing with the financial crises of the 1990s, during which I was the number two at the IMF, and culminating (I hope) in the Great Recession, which I observed and with which I had to deal as Governor of the Bank of Israel between 2005 and 2013.

This is scheduled to be an after-dinner speech at the end of a fine dinner and after an intensive conference that started at 8 a.m. and ran through 6 p.m. Under the circumstances I shall try to be brief. I shall start with a list of ten lessons from the last twenty years, including the crises of Mexico in 1994-95, Asia in 1997-98, Russia in 1998, Brazil in 1999-2000, Argentina in 2000-2001, and the Great Recession. I will conclude with one or two-sentence pieces of advice I have received over the years from people with whom I had the honor of working on economic policy. The last piece of advice is contained in a story from 1985, from a conversation with George Shultz.


I. Ten lessons from the last two decades.[2]


Lesson 1: Fiscal policy also matters macroeconomically. It has always been accepted that fiscal policy, in the sense of the structure of the tax system and the composition of government spending, matters for the behavior of the economy. At times in the past there has been less agreement about whether the macroeconomic aspects of fiscal policy, frequently summarized by the full employment budget deficit, have a significant impact on the level of GDP. As a result of the experience of the last two decades, it is once again accepted that cutting government spending and raising taxes in a recession to reduce the budget deficit is generally recessionary. This was clear from experience in Asia in the 1990s.[3] The same conclusion has been reached following the Great Recession.

Who would have thought?…

At the same time, it needs to be emphasized that there are circumstances in which a fiscal contraction can be expansionary particularly for a country running an unsustainable budget deficit.

Unsustainable?
He doesn’t distinguish between floating and fixed fx policy. At best this applies to fixed fx policy, where fx reserves would be exhausted supporting the peg/conversion. And as a point of logic, with floating fx this can only mean an unsustainable inflation, whatever that means.

More important, small budget deficits and smaller rather than larger national debts are preferable in normal times in part to ensure that it will be possible to run an expansionary fiscal policy should that be needed in a recession.

Again, this applies only to fixed fx regimes where a nation might need fx reserves to support conversion at the peg. With floating fx nominal spending is in no case revenue constrained.

Lesson 2: Reaching the zero interest lower bound is not the end of expansionary monetary policy. The macroeconomics I learned a long time ago, and even the macroeconomics taught in the textbooks of the 1980s and early 1990s, proclaimed that more expansionary monetary policy becomes either impossible or ineffective when the central bank interest rate reaches zero, and the economy finds itself in a liquidity trap. In that situation, it was said, fiscal policy is the only available expansionary tool of macroeconomic policy.

Now the textbooks should say that even with a zero central bank interest rate, there are at least two other available monetary policy tools. The first consists of quantitative easing operations up and down the yield curve, in particular central bank market purchases of longer term assets, with the intention of reducing the longer term interest rates that are more relevant than the shortest term interest rate to investment decisions.

Both are about altering the term structure of rates. How about the lesson that the data seems to indicate the interest income channels matter to the point where the effect is the reverse of what the mainstream believes?

That is, with the govt a net payer of interest, lower rates lower the deficit, reducing income and net financial assets credited to the economy. For example, QE resulted in some $90 billion of annual Fed profits returned to the tsy that otherwise would have been credited to the economy. That, with a positive yield curve, QE functions first as a tax.

The second consists of central bank interventions in particular markets whose operation has become significantly impaired by the crisis. Here one thinks for instance of the Feds intervening in the commercial paper market early in the crisis, through its Commercial Paper Funding Facility, to restore the functioning of that market, an important source of finance to the business sector. In these operations, the central bank operates as market maker of last resort when the operation of a particular market is severely impaired.

The most questionable and subsequently overlooked ‘bailout’- the Fed buying, for example, GE commercial paper when it couldn’t fund itself otherwise, with no ‘terms and conditions’ as were applied to select liquidity provisioning to member banks, AIG, etc. And perhaps worse, it was the failure of the Fed to provide liquidity (not equity, which is another story/lesson) to its banking system on a timely basis (it took months to get it right) that was the immediate cause of the related liquidity issues.

However, and perhaps the most bizarre of what’s called unconventional monetary policy, the Fed did provide unlimited $US liquidity to foreign banking systems with its ‘swap lines’ where were, functionally, unsecured loans to foreign central banks for the further purpose of bringing down Libor settings by lowering the marginal cost of funds to foreign banks that otherwise paid higher rates.

Lesson 3: The critical importance of having a strong and robust financial system. This is a lesson that we all thought we understood especially since the financial crises of the 1990s but whose central importance has been driven home, closer to home, by the Great Recession. The Great Recession was far worse in many of the advanced countries than it was in the leading emerging market countries. This was not what happened in the crises of the 1990s, and it was not a situation that I thought would ever happen. Reinhart and Rogoff in their important book, This Time is Different,[4] document the fact that recessions accompanied by a financial crisis tend to be deeper and longer than those in which the financial system remains operative. The reason is simple: the mechanisms that typically end a recession, among them monetary and fiscal policies, are less effective if households and corporations cannot obtain financing on terms appropriate to the state of the economy.

The lesson should have been that the private sector is necessarily pro cyclical, and that a collapse in aggregate demand that reduces the collateral value of bank assets and reduces the income required to support the credit structure triggers a downward spiral that can only be reversed with counter cyclical fiscal policy.

In the last few years, a great deal of work and effort has been devoted to understanding what went wrong and what needs to be done to maintain a strong and robust financial system. Some of the answers are to be found in the recommendations made by the Basel Committee on Bank Supervision and the Financial Stability Board (FSB). In particular, the recommendations relate to tougher and higher capital requirements for banks, a binding liquidity ratio, the use of countercyclical capital buffers, better risk management, more appropriate remuneration schemes, more effective corporate governance, and improved and usable resolution mechanisms of which more shortly. They also include recommendations for dealing with the clearing of derivative transactions, and with the shadow banking system. In the United States, many of these recommendations are included or enabled in the Dodd-Frank Act, and progress has been made on many of them.

Everything except the recognition of the need for immediate and aggressive counter cyclical fiscal policy, assuming you don’t want to wait for the automatic fiscal stabilizers to eventually turn things around.

Instead, what they’ve done with all of the above is mute the credit expansion mechanism, but without muting the ‘demand leakages’/'savings desires’ that cause income to go unspent, and output to go unsold, leaving, for all practical purposes (the export channel isn’t a practical option for the heaving lifting), only increased deficit spending to sustain high levels of output and employment.

Lesson 4: The strategy of going fast on bank restructuring and corporate debt restructuring is much better than regulatory forbearance. Some governments faced with the problem of failed financial institutions in a recession appear to believe that regulatory forbearance giving institutions time to try to restore solvency by rebuilding capital will heal their ills. Because recovery of the economy depends on having a healthy financial system, and recovery of the financial system depends on having a healthy economy, this strategy rarely works.

The ‘problem’ is bank lending to offset the demand leakages when the will to use fiscal policy isn’t there.

And today, it’s hard to make the case that us lending is being constrained by lack of bank capital, with the better case being a lack of credit worthy, qualifying borrowers, and regulatory restrictions- called ‘regulatory overreach’ on some types of lending as well. But again, this largely comes back to the understanding that the private sector is necessarily pro cyclical, with the lesson being an immediate and aggressive tax cut and/or spending increase is the way go.

This lesson was evident during the emerging market crises of the 1990s. The lesson was reinforced during the Great Recession, by the contrast between the response of the U.S. economy and that of the Eurozone economy to the low interest rate policies each implemented. One important reason that the U.S. economy recovered more rapidly than the Eurozone is that the U.S. moved very quickly, using stress tests for diagnosis and the TARP for financing, to restore bank capital levels, whereas banks in the Eurozone are still awaiting the rigorous examination of the value of their assets that needs to be the first step on the road to restoring the health of the banking system.

The lesson remaining unlearned is that with a weaker banking structure the euro zone can implement larger fiscal adjustments- larger tax cuts and/or larger increases in public goods and services.

Lesson 5: It is critical to develop now the tools needed to deal with potential future crises without injecting public funds.

Yes, it seems the value of immediate and aggressive fiscal adjustments remains unlearned.

This problem arose during both the crises of the 1990s and the Great Recession but in different forms. In the international financial crises of the 1990s, as the size of IMF packages grew, the pressure to bail in private sector lenders to countries in trouble mounted both because that would reduce the need for official financing, and because of moral hazard issues. In the 1980s and to a somewhat lesser extent in the 1990s, the bulk of international lending was by the large globally active banks. My successor as First Deputy Managing Director of the IMF, Anne Krueger, who took office in 2001, mounted a major effort to persuade the IMF that is to say, the governments of member countries of the IMF to develop and implement an SDRM (Sovereign Debt Restructuring Mechanism). The SDRM would have set out conditions under which a government could legally restructure its foreign debts, without the restructuring being regarded as a default.

The lesson is that foreign currency debt is to be avoided, and that legal recourse in the case of default should be limited.

Recent efforts to end too big to fail in the aftermath of the Great Recession are driven by similar concerns by the view that we should never again be in a situation in which the public sector has to inject public money into failing financial institutions in order to mitigate a financial crisis. In most cases in which banks have failed, shareholders lost their claims on the banks, but bond holders frequently did not. Based in part on aspects of the Dodd-Frank Act, real progress has been made in putting in place measures to deal with the too big to fail problem. Among them are: the significant increase in capital requirements, especially for SIFIs (Systemically Important Financial Institutions) and the introduction of counter-cyclical capital buffers for banks; the requirement that banks hold a cushion of bail-in-able bonds; and the sophisticated use of stress tests.

The lesson is that the entire capital structure should be explicitly at full risk and priced accordingly.

Just one more observation: whenever the IMF finds something good to say about a countrys economy, it balances the praise with the warning Complacency must be avoided. That is always true about economic policy and about life. In the case of financial sector reforms, there are two main concerns that the statement about significant progress raises: first, in designing a system to deal with crises, one can never know for sure how well the system will work when a crisis situation occurs which means that we will have to keep on subjecting the financial system to tough stress tests and to frequent re-examination of its resiliency; and second, there is the problem of generals who prepare for the last war the financial system and the economy keep evolving, and we need always to be asking ourselves not only about whether we could have done better last time, but whether we will do better next time and one thing is for sure, next time will be different.

And in any case an immediate and aggressive fiscal adjustment can always sustain output and employment. There is no public purpose in letting a financial crisis spill over to the real economy.

Lesson 6: The need for macroprudential supervision. Supervisors in different countries are well aware of the need for macroprudential supervision, where the term involves two elements: first, that the supervision relates to the financial system as a whole, and not just to the soundness of each individual institution; and second, that it involves systemic interactions. The Lehman failure touched off a massive global financial crisis, a reflection of the interconnectedness of the financial system, and a classic example of systemic interactions. Thus we are talking about regulation at a very broad level, and also the need for cooperation among regulators of different aspects of the financial system.

The lesson are that whoever insures the deposits should do the regulation, and that independent fiscal adjustments can be immediately and aggressively employed to sustain output and employment in any economy.

In practice, macroprudential policy has come to mean the deployment of non-monetary and non-traditional instruments of policy to deal with potential problems in financial institutions or a part of the financial system. For instance, in Israel, as in other countries whose financial system survived the Great Recession without serious damage, the low interest rate environment led to uncomfortably rapid rates of increase of housing prices. Rather than raise the interest rate, which would have affected the broader economy, the Bank of Israel in which bank supervision is located undertook measures whose effect was to make mortgages more expensive. These measures are called macroprudential, although their effect is mainly on the housing sector, and not directly on interactions within the financial system. But they nonetheless deserve being called macroprudential, because the real estate sector is often the source of financial crises, and deploying these measures should reduce the probability of a real estate bubble and its subsequent bursting, which would likely have macroeconomic effects.

And real effects- there would have been more houses built. The political decision is the desire for real housing construction.

The need for surveillance of the financial system as a whole has in some countries led to the establishment of a coordinating committee of regulators. In the United States, that group is the FSOC (Financial Stability Oversight Council), which is chaired by the Secretary of the Treasury. In the United Kingdom, a Financial Policy Committee, charged with the responsibility for oversight of the financial system, has been set up and placed in the Bank of England. It operates under the chairmanship of the Governor of the Bank of England, with a structure similar but not identical to the Bank of Englands Monetary Policy Committee.

Lesson 7: The best time to deal with moral hazard is in designing the system, not in the midst of a crisis.

Agreed!
Moral hazard is about the future course of events.

At the start of the Korean crisis at the end of 1997, critics including friends of mine told the IMF that it would be a mistake to enter a program with Korea, since this would increase moral hazard. I was not convinced by their argument, which at its simplest could be expressed as You should force Korea into a greater economic crisis than is necessary, in order to teach them a lesson. The issue is Who is them? It was probably not the 46 million people living in South Korea at the time. It probably was the policy-makers in Korea, and it certainly was the bankers and others who had invested in South Korea. The calculus of adding to the woes of a country already going through a traumatic experience, in order to teach policymakers, bankers and investors a lesson, did not convince the IMF, rightly so to my mind.

Agreed!
Nor did they need an IMF program!

But the question then arises: Can you ever deal with moral hazard? The answer is yes, by building a system that will as far as possible enable policymakers to deal with crises in a way that does not create moral hazard in future crisis situations. That is the goal of financial sector reforms now underway to create mechanisms and institutions that will put an end to too big to fail.

There was no too big to fail moral hazard issue. The US banks did fail when shareholders lost their capital. Failure means the owners lose and are financially punished, and new owners with new capital have a go at it.

Lesson 8: Dont overestimate the benefits of waiting for the situation to clarify.


Early in my term as Governor of the Bank of Israel, when the interest rate decision was made by the Governor alone, I faced a very difficult decision on the interest rate. I told the advisory group with whom I was sitting that my decision was to keep the interest rate unchanged and wait for the next monthly decision, when the situation would have clarified. The then Deputy Governor, Dr. Meir Sokoler, commented: It is never clear next time; it is just unclear in a different way. I cannot help but think of this as the Tolstoy rule, from the first sentence of Anna Karenina, every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

It is not literally true that all interest rate decisions are equally difficult, but it is true that we tend to underestimate the lags in receiving information and the lags with which policy decisions affect the economy. Those lags led me to try to make decisions as early as possible, even if that meant that there was more uncertainty about the correctness of the decision than would have been appropriate had the lags been absent.

The lesson is to be aggressive with fiscal adjustments when unemployment/the output gap starts to rise as the costs of waiting- massive quantities of lost output and negative externalities, particularly with regard to the lives of those punished by the government allowing aggregate demand to decline- are far higher than, worst case, a period of ‘excess demand’ that can also readily be addressed with fiscal policy.

Lesson 9: Never forget the eternal verities lessons from the IMF. A country that manages itself well in normal times is likely to be better equipped to deal with the consequences of a crisis, and likely to emerge from it at lower cost.

Thus, we should continue to believe in the good housekeeping rules that the IMF has tirelessly promoted. In normal times countries should maintain fiscal discipline and monetary and financial stability. At all times they should take into account the need to follow sustainable growth-promoting macro- and structural policies. And they need to have a decent regard for the welfare of all segments of society.

Yes, at all times they should sustain full employment policy as the real losses from anything less far exceed any other possible benefits.

The list is easy to make. It is more difficult to fill in the details, to decide what policies to
follow in practice. And it may be very difficult to implement such measures, particularly when times are good and when populist pressures are likely to be strong. But a country that does not do so is likely to pay a very high price.

Lesson 10.

In a crisis, central bankers will often find themselves deciding to implement policy actions they never thought they would have to undertake and these are frequently policy actions that they would have preferred not to have to undertake. Hence, a few final words of advice to central bankers (and to others):

Lesson for all bankers:
Proposals for the Banking System, Treasury, Fed, and FDIC

Never say never


II. The Wisdom of My Teachers

:(

Feel free to distribute, thanks.

Over the years, I have found myself remembering and repeating words of advice that I first heard from my teachers, both academics and policymakers. Herewith a selection:


1. Paul Samuelson on econometric models: I would rather have Bob Solow than an econometric model, but Id rather have Bob Solow with an econometric model than Bob Solow without one.

2. Herb Stein: (a) After listening to my long description of what was happening in the Israeli economy in 1985: Yes, but what do we want them to do?”

(b) The difference between a growth rate of 2% and a growth rate of 3% is 50%.

(c) If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.
3. Michel Camdessus (former head of the IMF):

(a) At 7 a.m., in his office, on the morning that the U.S. government turned to the IMF to raise $20 billion by 9:30 a.m: Gentlemen, this is a crisis, and in a crisis you do not panic

(b) When the IMF was under attack from politicians or the media, in response to my asking Michel, what should we do?, his inevitable answer was We must do our job.

(c) His response when I told him (his official title was Managing Director of the IMF) that life would be much easier for all of us if he would only get himself a cell phone: Cell phones are for deputy managing directors.

(d) On delegation: In August, when he was in France and I was acting head of the IMF in Washington, and had called him to explain a particularly knotty problem and ask him for a decision, You have more information than me, you decide.

4. George Shultz: This event happened in May 1985, just before Herb Stein and I were due to leave for Israel to negotiate an economic program which the United States would support with a grant of $1.5 billion. I was a professor at MIT, and living in the Boston area. Herb and I spoke on the phone about the fact that we had no authorization to impose any conditions on the receipt of the money. Herb, who lived in Washington, volunteered to talk to the Secretary of State to ask him for authorization to impose conditions. He called me after his meeting and said that the Secretary of State was not willing to impose any conditions on the aid.

We agreed this was a problem and he said to me, Why dont you try. A meeting was hastily arranged and next morning I arrived at the Secretary of States office, all ready to deliver a convincing speech to him about the necessity of conditionality. He didnt give me a chance to say a word. You want me to impose conditions on Israel? I said yes. He said I wont. I asked why not. He said Because the Congress will give them the money even if they dont carry out the program and I do not make threats that I cannot carry out.

This was convincing, and an extraordinarily important lesson. But it left the negotiating team with a problem. So I said, That is very awkward. Were going to say To stabilize the economy you need to do the following list of things. And they will be asking themselves, and if we dont? Is there anything we can say to them?

The Secretary of State thought for a while and said: You can tell them that if they do not carry out the program, I will be very disappointed.

We used that line repeatedly. The program was carried out and the program succeeded.

Thank you all very much.

[1] Council on Foreign Relations. These remarks were prepared for presentation on receipt of the SIEPR (Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research) Prize at Stanford University on March 14, 2014. The Prize is awarded for lifetime contributions to economic policy. I am grateful to Dinah Walker of the Council on Foreign Relations for her assistance.

[2] I draw here on two papers I wrote based on my experience in the IMF: Ten Tentative Conclusions from the Past Three Years, presented at the annual meeting of the Trilateral Commission in 1999, in Washington, DC; and the Robbins Lectures, The International Financial System: Crises and Reform Several other policy-related papers from that period appear in my book: IMF Essays from a Time of Crisis (MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2004). For the period of the Great Recession, I draw on Central bank lessons from the global crisis, which I presented at a conference on Lessons of the Global Crisis at the Bank of Israel in 2011.

[3] This point was made in my 1999 statement Ten Tentative Conclusions referred to above, and has of course received a great deal of focus in analyses of the Great Recession.

[4] Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, This Time is Different, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 2009.

Posted in Banking, Bonds, CBs, Credit, Currencies, Deficit, ECB, Employment, Government Spending, Housing, Interest Rates | No Comments »

ADP, purchase apps, ISM

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 5th March 2014

Prior months revised down as well:

ADP:

MBA Purchase Applications:

Highlights
Wild swings appear to be the rule for weekly mortgage application data. The purchase index jumped 9.0 percent in the February 28 week following declines of 4.0 percent and 6.0 percent in the two prior weeks. Though the latest week is higher, the year-on-year rate fell 4.0 percentage points to minus 19 percent. The refinance index jumped 10.0 percent in the week following an 11.0 percent decline in the prior week.

The latest week got a lift from a drop in mortgage rates, down 6 basis points for 30-year conforming mortgages ($417,500) to an average 4.47 percent.

It’s hard to make much of this report, but the year-on-year rate for purchase applications does point to continued weakness for home sales.

In particular, there was a significant drop in the employment index, which plunged 8.9 points to 47.5. This is its lowest level since 2010 and commentary from respondents suggests that some of this effect could be due to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Outside of the employment index, however, the new orders index climbed to 51.3 (previous: 50.9), and the headline index has now remained above the breakeven level of 50 for 49 consecutive months. Overall we would suggest that this is a softer report than January, but we do not yet think that it marks a significant slowdown in the pace of nonmanufacturing activity growth.

Note export orders down again.

Forecasters have been counting on an increase in export growth:


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Lawler on Hovnanian: Net Home Orders Far Short of Expectations; Sales Incentives Coming

By Bill McBride

March 5 — From housing economist Tom Lawler:

Hovnanian Enterprises, the nations sixth largest home builder in 2012, reported that net home orders (including unconsolidated joint ventures) in the quarter ended January 31, 2014 totaled 1,202, down 10.6% from the comparable quarter of 2013. The companys sales cancellation rate, expressed as a % of gross orders, was 18% last quarter, up from 17% a year ago. Home deliveries last quarter totaled 1,138, down 4.2% from the comparable quarter of 2013, at an average sales price of $351,279, up 6.1% from a year ago. The companys order backlog at the end of January was 2,438, up 6.0% from last January, at an average order price of $368,243, up 4.3% from a year ago.

Hovnanians net orders in California plunged by 43.4% compared to a year ago. Hovnanians average net order price in California last quarter was $653,366, up 46.8% from a year ago and up 83.2% from two years ago. Net orders in the Southwest were down 10.0% YOY.

Here is an excerpt from the companys press release.

“While our first quarter is always the slowest seasonal period for net contracts, the strong recovery trajectory from the spring selling season of 2013 has softened on a year-over-year basis. Net contracts in the months of December, January and February have not met our expectations. In addition to the lull in sales momentum, both sales and deliveries were impacted by poor weather conditions and deliveries were further impacted by shortages in labor and certain materials in some markets that have extended cycle times,” stated Ara K. Hovnanian, Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer.

“We are encouraged by the fact that we have a higher contract backlog, gross margin and community count than we did at the same point in time last year. Furthermore, we have taken steps to spur additional sales in the spring selling season, including the launch of Big Deal Days, a national sales campaign during the month of March. Our first quarter has always been the slowest seasonal period and we expect to report stronger results as the year progresses. We believe this is a temporary pause in the industry’s recovery, and based on the level of housing starts across the country, we continue to believe the homebuilding industry is still in the early stages of recovery,” concluded Mr. Hovnanian.

Posted in Employment, GDP, Housing | No Comments »

Williams Paper: Median estimate of NAIRU 6.6%

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 2nd March 2014

Seen this coming as soon as unemployment went up…
:(

Update of “What Is the New Normal Unemployment Rate?”

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A few comments on overnight news

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 27th February 2014

The threshold may be high but there is one somewhere up there:

Fed should be ‘very patient’ in cutting stimulus: Rosengren (Reuters) The high number of part-time workers who would rather work full-time, the still-high unemployment rate, and very low inflation suggest significant “slack” in labor markets and “call for a very patient approach to removing monetary policy accommodation, particularly given the softness in recent economic data,” Boston Federal Reserve Bank President Eric Rosengren said. Rosengren said that it has been difficult for economists to determine whether weak employment reports for the past two months have been influenced bad weather or if they reflect an economic slowdown, and predicted that harsh winter weather will make the February jobs report similarly difficult to interpret. “In my view, this uncertainty provides an additional strong rationale for taking a patient approach to removing the monetary policy accommodation that the Federal Reserve has been deploying.”

These are closings from contracts signed months earlier:

New home sales hit five-and-a-half year high in January (Reuters) Sales of new U.S. single-family homes jumped 9.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 468,000 units. December’s sales were revised up to a 427,000-unit pace from the previously reported 414,000-unit rate. Sales in the Northeast soared 73.7 percent to a seven-month high, while the South recorded a 10.4 percent rise in transactions to a more than five-year high. Sales tumbled 17.2 percent in the Midwest last month, while rising 11 percent in the West. New home sales rose 2.2 percent compared with January 2013. For all of 2013. Last month, the supply of new houses on the market was unchanged at 184,000 units. The median price of a new home last month rose 3.4 percent to $260,100 from January 2013. At January’s sales pace it would take 4.7 months to clear the supply of houses on the market.

I still suspect some of the q4 activity was ahead of expiring tax credits:

Hope on Horizon for Home-Supply Crunch: Builder Borrowing Picks Up (WSJ) Data released Wednesday by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. show that the outstanding balance on loans for land acquisition, development and construction rose in the fourth quarter to $209.9 billion, compared with $206 billion in the third quarter. Last year, the average price of a new U.S. home was $322,100, up 10.2% from 2012. The latest increase in construction lending “is an encouraging signal,” said David Crowe, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders. But lending remains far from peak, as outstanding land and construction loans topped out at $631.8 billion in the first quarter of 2008. According to the FDIC, outstanding loans solely for construction of homesexcluding development, land acquisition and commercial projectsincreased to $43.7 billion in the fourth quarter, up from a recent low of $40.7 billion in last year’s first quarter.

This helps support prices but doesn’t directly add much to GDP apart from commissions etc. unless it’s new construction:

Foreign appetite for US properties remains strong (FT) Last year the US maintained its position as the top destination for direct commercial property investment by foreigners with $38.7bn pouring into the country, according to a report from brokerage Jones Lang LaSalle. The total was up 44 per cent on 2012. Canadian, Chinese and Australian investors led the charge, with investors targeting top-tier areas such as Manhattan, Los Angeles and Chicago as well as secondary markets including Houston, Dallas and Seattle. Almost half all investments were in office buildings, 16 per cent in apartment blocks, 15 per cent in retail, while hotels, industrial properties and land development made up the rest. Foreign money comprises about 10 per cent of all capital for commercial property investment in the US, which JLL has said could accelerate if international investors expand beyond core assets to riskier deals that deliver higher returns.

The lack of domestic credit expansion and only very modest export growth leaves only govt. to spend more than its income and they keep pressing the wrong way on that as well:

Euro zone lending contraction compounds ECB headache (Reuters) Loans to the private sector fell by 2.2 percent in January from the same month a year earlier, ECB data released on Thursday showed. That compared to a contraction of 2.3 percent in December. Euro zone M3 money supply grew at an annual pace of 1.2 percent, picking up slightly from 1.0 percent in December. The ECB has set out two scenarios that could trigger fresh policy action: a deterioration in the medium-term inflation outlook and an “unwarranted” tightening of short-term money markets. Before the ECB gets to quantitative easing a cut in interest rates is one option for dealing with low euro zone inflation, or tight money markets. Another option the ECB has discussed is to suspend operations to soak up the money it spent buying sovereign bonds under its now-terminated Securities Markets Programme (SMP) during the euro zone’s debt crisis.

6.8% unemployment considered a successful economy?
whatever…

Lowest number of Germans out of work in Feb since Sept 2012 (Reuters) The number of people out of work in Europe’s largest economy decreased by 14,000 to 2.914 million, data from the Labour Office showed. That meant there were fewer unemployed people in Germany than at any time since September 2012. It was the third consecutive monthly drop in joblessness. Separate data from the Federal Statistics Office on Thursday showed employment climbing to a record high of almost 42 million. Berlin expects private consumption, which boosted growth in 2013, to increase by 1.4 percent as workers benefit from an increase in employment to an expected record of 42.1 million this year and a nominal 2.7 percent jump in earnings. The jobless rate held steady at 6.8 percent, its lowest level since German reunification more than two decades ago.

Germany’s wealth distribution most unequal in euro zone (Reuters) Private wealth is more unevenly distributed in Germany than in any other euro zone state. While the richest one percent of people in Germany have personal wealth of at least 800,000 euros ($1.09 million), over a quarter of adults have either no wealth or negative wealth because of debt, the study by Germany’s DIW think tank showed. According to the study, Germany’s Gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality, was 0.78 in 2012. That compared with 0.68 in France, 0.61 in Italy and 0.45 in Slovakia. A score of 0 indicates minimal inequality and 1.0 maximal inequality. Germans have total net assets worth 6.3 trillion euros, with land and real estate accounting for 5.1 trillion euros, and the average German adult has net assets worth around 83,000 euros, according to DIW. In the study, private wealth includes owned real estate, financial assets, valuables and debt.

French jobless total rises to record in January (Reuters) The number of people out of work in France rose by 8,900 in January to reach a record, as President Francois Hollande’s goal of taming unemployment eluded him yet again. Labour Ministry data showed on Wednesday that the number of people registered as out of work reached 3,316,200 in mainland France, up 0.3 percent over a month and 4.4 percent over a year. Hollande’s popularity has plummeted to record lows. He struggled and ultimately failed to live up to a pledge to get unemployment falling by the end of last year. With that promise in tatters despite at least 2 billion euros ($2.73 billion) spent on subsidized jobs, Labour Minister Michel Sapin said earlier on Wednesday that the jobless total should fall this year. Hollande offered last month to phase out 30 billion euros in payroll charges that companies have to pay, in exchange for committing to targets to create jobs.

Spanish Economic Growth Slower Than Expected (WSJ) Gross domestic product grew by 0.2% in the fourth quarter compared with the third, the country’s national statistics institute INE said Thursday. The figure was lower than the INE’s and the government’s preliminary reading, which had pegged quarterly growth at 0.3%. Public spending fell 3.9% compared with the third quarter. Household consumption was up 0.5% in the same period. Strong export growth helped Spain’s economy emerge from a nine-quarter recession in the second half of 2013, but the recovery has so far been anemic, because households remain highly indebted, unemployment still stands around 26% and the government can’t raise public spending because it is struggling to lower its budget deficit. According to the INE, economic output shrunk by 0.2% in the fourth quarter of 2013 compared with the fourth quarter of a year earlier.

Private rental surge hits benefits bill (FT) Englands housing market is seeing a seismic shift towards private rented property and away from home ownership. Figures from the official English housing survey published on Wednesday show the number of households living in the private rented sector overtook those in social housing for the first time last year. Almost 4m households now live in privately rented homes, and a quarter of the tenants are now subsidised by housing benefit, according to the annual survey. Private renting is now the second-largest tenure in England, behind home ownership. Under two-thirds of households now own their own home down from 71 per cent a decade ago. The number of households in the private rented sector receiving the benefit has risen by two-thirds in the past five years, with 390,000 more households in this category beginning to claim, the English housing survey found.

Does China want their currency to adjust to the yen the way other EM currencies have done?

China dismisses concern over sudden renminbi fall (FT) The recent movement of the renminbi exchange rate is the result of market players adjusting their near-term renminbi trading strategies, the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, an agency under the central bank, said. It added that the currencys movement was nothing unusual: The degree of exchange rate volatility is normal by the standards of developed and emerging markets. There is no need to over-interpret it. China faced immense capital inflows at the start of this year, according to data published on Tuesday by the central bank. Banks bought a net $73bn of foreign currency in the onshore market from their clients who wanted renminbi in January, the biggest monthly amount on record. Inflows have been accelerating since the middle of last year when Chinas mountain of foreign exchange reserves grew $500bn to $3.8tn.

China’s Central Bank Engineered Yuan’s Decline (WSJ) China’s central bank engineered the recent decline in the country’s currency to shake out speculators as it prepares to allow a wider trading range for the tightly tethered yuan, according to people familiar with the central bank’s thinking. In the past week, the People’s Bank of China has been guiding the yuan lower against the dollar. It has done so by setting a weaker benchmark against which the yuan can trade. It has also intervened in the currency market by directing state-owned Chinese banks to buy dollars, according to traders. China’s central bank and commercial banks purchased nearly $45 billion worth of foreign exchange in December, the fifth consecutive month of net purchases. The PBOC decided to tamp down expectations for one-way appreciation in the yuan and curb speculative trading during two-day currency-policy meeting that ended on Feb. 18, the people said.

Posted in Currencies, Economic Releases, Emerging Markets, Employment, EU, Housing | No Comments »

92mn people are not in the labor force

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 24th February 2014

Looks like it’s a lot harder to get into the labor force than it used to be!
;)

From DB:

There are 92mn people who are not in the labor force. And as the chart on Friday showed about 4.4mn of these found a job in January, up from 3.6mn in December. The best explanation we have is still the removal of emergency unemployment benefits (one family member losing benefits forces another to take a job). Also, see how the slope of the line below got steeper when the crisis hit in 2008; for the past five years we have been adding 2mn people per year to Not in the labor force.


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Fed: “Why Is the Job-Finding Rate Still Low?”

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 20th February 2014

Fed: “Why Is the Job-Finding Rate Still Low?”


We conclude that while matching efficiency has declined and remained low in virtually all industries, the most important factor in the low job-finding rate is the persistently low level of vacancies per unemployed.

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The austerity narrative

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 19th February 2014

Early in 2013 my narrative was the tax hikes as well as the subsequent sequesters were likely to cause growth to slow to maybe a 2% rate from what might have otherwise been a 4% rate, with downside risk from there.

Take a look at the charts below and notice how these key elements of the economy seemed to ‘go sideways’ during 2013.

And, unfortunately, real disposable personal income took a hit as well and doesn’t look to me like it can support any kind of ‘bounce back’:

(the last yoy print is ‘exaggerated’ by the ‘outlier’ a year earlier, but the trend is clear to me)

[note from poster: apologize for format- should be amended shortly]

Real disposable income

Architecure billings index

Housing starts

MBA purchase applications

Vehicle sales

Retail Sales

Posted in Deficit, Employment, Government Spending, Housing | No Comments »

tv interview

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 17th February 2014

Posted in Deficit, Economic Releases, Employment, GDP | No Comments »

Retail sales and jobless claims

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 13th February 2014

From CS:

JAY FELDMAN : Q4 GDP revision is now tracking 2.4 on our estimates. It was tracking 2.7 before retail sales… and down from the initially reported 3.2.


Note October/November/December all marked down lower as well in US retail sales…and even prior to this period as well – will bring down Q4 GDP tracking for consumption.

Again, the income to support sales just doesn’t seem to be there, as the sub 3% federal deficit doesn’t seem to have been providing the spending needed to offset the demand leakages (unspent income):

Retail Sales

Highlights
Overall retail sales in January fell 0.4 percent, following a decrease of 0.1 percent in December (originally up 0.2 percent). The market consensus was for a 0.1 percent dip.

Autos pulled down the total. Motor vehicle & parts declined 2.1 percent, following a decrease of 1.8 percent in December. Excluding autos, sales were unchanged after gaining 0.3 percent the month before (originally up 0.7 percent). Analysts called for a 0.1 percent rise. Gas station sales increased 1.1 percent after jumping 1.5 percent in December. Excluding both autos and gasoline, sales slipped 0.2 percent after rising 0.1 percent in December. The consensus was for a 0.2 percent rise.

In the core, strength was seen in electronics & appliance stores; building materials & garden equipment; and grocery stores. Declines were seen in furniture & home furnishings; health & personal care; clothing; sporting goods, hobby, et al; department stores; nonstore retailers; and food services & drinking places.

The latest report suggests that fourth quarter GDP may be revised down and that first quarter GDP could be soft. Again, atypically adverse weather likely affected the data. Equity futures declined on the news.

When I squint at this chart if anything it seems to have bottomed and nudging irregularly higher:

Posted in Economic Releases, Employment, GDP | No Comments »

Fed is not swayed by any single number, Fisher tells CNBC

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 10th February 2014

What about 2 consecutive numbers, like Dec and Jan jobs?
;)

Fed is not swayed by any single number, Fisher tells CNBC

February 7 (Reuters) — The U.S. central bank is unlikely to reverse its decision to wind down its bond-buying program in reaction to the weaker-than-expected January jobs report released on Friday. “I will say this about the rest of our committee, is they are not swayed by a single number. They are thoughtful people,” Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Richard Fisher said on CNBC, referring to the Fed’s policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee.

Posted in Economic Releases, Employment, Fed | No Comments »

Jobs, productivity

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 7th February 2014

It’s going to take more than two weak prints to sway the Fed…

I see the odds of this expansion cycle being over increasing with each release, as the drivers of H2 continue to fade- housing, cars, income, inventory, and, at least for now, jobs.

And the federal deficit- the economy’s ‘allowance’ from Uncle Sam- is no longer enough to offset the demand leakages/unspent income inherent in the institutional structure.

That is, we’re flying without a net.

*note that the household survey was about 1 million jobs short of the payroll survey over the last year and routinely dismissed as an inferior indicator, and the rate of growth remains well below the Nonfarm Payroll report even after today’s release:


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The jump in productivity is making the rounds. It takes a lot more top line growth to need 200,000 new employees every month with this kind of productivity growth. Could be the ‘extra’ jobs we’ve seen, implying much lower productivity increases, were due to getting ‘over lean’ during the recession, and that ‘deficiency’ may now be behind us.

And note that the lower average job growth as per the household survey has been more in line with productivity over the last year.

I’m also thinking those with expiring benefits suddenly willing to take lower paying jobs will simply displace others already working in those job, which will work to keep hourly wages lower than otherwise.

Not updated for today’s yoy print of +1.9%:


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Trade, Claims, Unit labor costs

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 6th February 2014

Dec trade deficit larger than expected= downward revisions to Q4 GDP

International Trade


Highlights
The trade deficit in December reversed course but still was relatively low. The trade gap widened to $38.7 billion from $34.6 billion in November. Market expectations were for a $36.0 billion deficit. Exports declined 1.8 percent in December, following a gain of 0.8 percent the month before. Imports edged up 0.3 percent after dropping 1.3 percent.

The expansion of the trade gap was led by goods excluding petroleum which jumped to $42.0 billion from $37.9 billion in November. The petroleum deficit worsened slightly to $15.6 billion from $15.3 billion in November. The services surplus improved to $19.8 billion from $19.5 billion.

Not impossible that claims have bottomed and are turning up.

Jobless Claims



Highlights
A clean look at initial jobless claims points to improvement. Initial claims for the February 1 week fell a sharp 20,000 to a lower-than-expected 331,000. The 4-week average, at 334,000, is trending 15,000 below the month-ago comparison.

Continuing claims, however, are not showing improvement. Continuing claims for the January 25 week rose 15,000 to 2.964 million with the 4-week average up 26,000 to a 2.986 million level that is more than 100,000 above the month-ago trend. The unemployment rate for insured workers, which had been at 2.1 percent as recently as November, is unchanged for a 4th week at 2.3 percent.

Doesn’t look like the Fed has much to worry about regarding ‘inflation’ from unit labor costs just yet:

Posted in Economic Releases, Employment, trade | No Comments »

The unconscious liberal

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 3rd February 2014

Macroeconomic Populism Returns

By Paul Krugman

February 1 (NYT) — Matthew Yglesias says what needs to be said about Argentina: theres no contradiction at all between saying that Argentina was right to follow heterodox policies in 2002, but it is wrong to be rejecting advice to curb deficits and control inflation now. I know some people find this hard to grasp, but the effects of economic policies, and the appropriate policies to follow, depend on circumstances.

Yes, unemployment- source of the greatest economic loss as well as a social tragedy and a crime against humanity, is always the evidence deficit spending is too low. There is no exception as a simple point of logic. The currency is a simple public monopoly, and the excess capacity we call unemployment- people looking to sell their labor in exchange for units of that currency- is necessarily a consequence of the monopolist restricting the supply of net financial assets.

I would add that we know what those circumstances are! Running deficits and printing lots of money are inflationary

Why the undefined ambiguous empty rhetoric?

and bad

What does ‘bad’ mean here? For example, there is no evidence that inflation rates at least up to 40% hurt real growth, and more likely help it. Politically, however, it may be ‘very bad’. But those are two different things.

in economies that are constrained by limited supply;

Limited supply of what? Labor? Hardly! In fact, full employment is even more critical, if that’s possible, when there are limited supplies of other resources. Wasn’t Rome built without electricity, oil, bulldozers, the IMF, etc. etc.? OK, it took more than a day, but it was built. There is always more to do than people to do it. Economically, unemployment is never appropriate policy.

they are good things when the problem is persistently inadequate demand.

Unemployment is the evidence of this ‘inadequate demand’ which is necessarily created by taxation, the ultimate source of all demand for a given currency. In fact, taxation functions first to create unemployment- people looking for work paid in that currency. That’s how govt provisions itself- it creates people looking for jobs with its taxation, then hires those unemployed its tax created. What sense does it make for govt to create more unemployed than it wants to hire??? Either hire the unemployed thus created, or lower the tax!!!!!!!!!!!!

Similarly, unemployment benefits probably lead to lower employment in a supply-constrained economy; they increase employment in a demand-constrained economy; and so on.

With more that needs to be done than there are people to do it, the economy isn’t supply constrained until full employment. And nominal unemployment benefits are about the level of prices, wages, and the distribution of income rather than the level of potential employment, etc.

So sometimes the relationship and money looks like this, from the best economics principles textbook:

This is more about ‘inflation’ causing ‘money’ as defined.

But sometimes it looks like this:

This is more about partially defining ‘money’ as reserve account balances at the Fed but not securities account balances (tsy secs) at the Fed.

And just to repeat a point Ive made many times, those of us who understood IS-LM predicted in advance that the actions of the Bernanke Fed wouldnt be inflationary, while the other side of the debate was screaming debasement.

It’s not about ISLM, which is fixed fx analysis. It’s about recognizing that there is always precious little difference between balances in reserve accounts at the Fed and securities accounts at the Fed.

There’s something else to be said about Argentina and, it seems, Turkey namely, that were seeing a mini-revival of what Rudi Dornbusch and Sebastian Edwards long ago called macroeconomic populism. This involves, you might say, making the symmetrical error to that of people who think that running deficits and printing money always turns you into Zimbabwe; its the belief that the orthodox rules never apply. And its an equally severe mistake.

Unfortunately most of the ‘orthodox rules’ apply to the fixed fx policies in place when they were first stated, and not to today’s floating fx.

Its not a common mistake these days; a few years ago one would have said that only Venezuela was making the old mistakes, and even now its just a handful of countries. But it is a mistake, and we need to say so.

Yes, mistakes are being made by all of the headline economists and the global economy is paying the price.

Posted in Deficit, Emerging Markets, Employment, Fed, Government Spending | No Comments »

payroll tax receipts down

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 3rd February 2014


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Employment cost index, Personal income, Spending, and Saudi output

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 31st January 2014

Still tame (with a hint of moving up some) particularly in comparison to the last cycle which was considered relatively tame:

Personal Consumption had a nice spike up in November:

But without the income to sustain it? (Ignore the latest yoy data point ‘dip’ as it’s from the spike a year ago. Just look at the last few monthly data points)

Highlights
Personal income was flat in December while spending was up. Income sluggishness may have been weather related. Personal income was unchanged after rising 0.2 percent in November. Markets expected a 0.2 percent rise. The wages & salaries component posted flat in December, following a 0.5 percent boost the month before.

Personal spending, however, was moderately strong, rising 0.4 percent after a 0.6 percent boost in November. Spending was led by a 1.5 percent jump in nondurables with services gaining 0.4 percent. Durables declined 1.8 percent after a 1.8 percent increase the month before.

The rise in personal consumption was not just price related. Real spending increased 0.2 percent in December after an increase of 0.6 percent in November.

Meanwhile, Saudi oil output, which indicates the net demand for global crude, keeps them in the sweet spot as swing producer/price setter:


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