September 30, 2008
Real GDP likely fell in Q3
Calculated Risk observes that we already know the values for a significant chunk of 2008:Q3 GDP. And it doesn't look good.
September 29, 2008
Detroit gets in on the action
With all the excitement in financial markets, I almost missed this story on the bailout for automakers.
September 28, 2008
Understanding the TED spread
One measure that is being used to summarize the strain in financial markets is the TED spread. This is calculated as the gap between 3-month LIBOR (an average of interest rates offered in the London interbank market for 3-month dollar-denominated loans) and the 3-month Treasury bill rate. The size of this gap presumably reflects some sort of risk or liquidity premium. I was interested to break the TED spread down into identifiable components to try to get a better understanding of what may be responsible for its recent behavior.
Gross domestic income and recessions
The "final" values for 2008:Q2 GDP released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis on Friday were more disappointing than the earlier estimates. Still, the 2.8% annual growth rate for real GDP that we're now told characterized the second quarter doesn't sound like a recession. Or does it?
September 26, 2008
Last Quarter's Fundamentals...
Weren't as strong as some of us thought.
I was surprised; so were market observers. From Bloomberg:
U.S. Economic Growth Slower Than Initially Estimated (Update2)
By Timothy R. Homan
Sept. 26 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. economy expanded more slowly than previously estimated in the second quarter, showing consumer spending was weakening before the credit crisis intensified.
Peterson Institute for International Economics Joins the Blogosphere
From the Peterson Institute comes the "Real Time Economics Watch". The latest posts are on how each crisis is different and yet the same , by Ted Truman, and the US/Japan parallels (or lack thereof) , authored by Adam Posen.
(The Peterson Institute doesn't call it a weblog, but it seems like one...)
September 25, 2008
Does House Republican Resistance Make Sense for Their Constituency?
From the Justin Fox, regarding House Republicans' plan:
...that of the House Republican Study Committee, seems to be a joke. It calls for a two-year suspension of the capital gains tax to "encourag[e] corporations to sell unwanted assets." But the toxic mortgage securities clogging up bank balance sheets are worth less now than when they were acquired. Meaning that no capital gains tax would be owed on them anyway. If you repealed the tax, banks would have even less incentive to sell them because they wouldn't be able use the losses to offset capital gains elsewhere. Seriously, where do these people come up with this stuff?
Eric Cantor, the Republican chief deputy whip, has a more reasonable-sounding if still pretty vague plan to insure more mortgages rather than buy mortgage securities. ....
I'm in agreement with Justin that guaranteeing even more mortgages won't be any better than the original Paulson plan.
My observation here is that the obstructionism of this group is either a manifestion of denial of reality, or a sheer indifference to the needs of their constituents -- to the extent that House Republicans purport to represent small business Main Street.
September 24, 2008
The Financial Crisis and Entrepreneurship
Most of the discussion surrounding the current crisis has focused on the implications for major businesses and their hiring and investment decisions, or households and their employment possibilities, or consumer behavior. One overlooked (or underemphasized) aspect of the issue is the impact on small firms. Fortunately, my former colleague (and coauthor), Rob Fairlie has just published a book that can inform one's thinking on this subject.
September 23, 2008
Who'll Be the Next Treasury Secretary?
As the Congress was debating how much power and how many hundreds of billions to the US Treasury, I was pondering who would be in charge of all that come January 20th.
What happened to oil markets on Monday?
Here's how it was reported, for example, in the Wall Street Journal:
Reaction to the Wall Street bailout and frenzied last-minute trading in the oil market sent crude prices soaring by more than $16 a barrel, the biggest one-day jump ever.
The late-day spike, which shoved oil up 16% to $120.92 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, offered an illustration of Wall Street's hard-to-predict moves amid broad market turmoil.
And here's what really happened.
September 22, 2008
Housing Prices: How Far to Go until Bottom?
I'll just take the market's view here; using the futures prices from the CME (via ino.com), prices will fall about another 16% from June (or 17% in log terms):
"The government's bailout efforts" on MPR
Brad DeLong on Bernanke and Paulson
Brad DeLong had some insightful and amusing observations on the priorities of Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. I can't resist reproducing Brad's comments with some annotations of my own.
September 21, 2008
Let me begin with the point on which I am in complete agreement with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke-- it is hard to overstate just how scary this week's developments in financial markets could be.
September 20, 2008
The housing meltdown: Why did it happen in the US?
From a timely BIS working paper by Lucy Ellis released on Thursday:
Mortgage lending standards eased in many countries in recent years, but the limited available cross-country evidence does suggest that the process went further in the United States. Standards are difficult to measure because different aspects need not all move together (Gorton 2008), but the observed increase in early payment defaults in the United States (but not elsewhere) provides direct evidence that it occurred (Kiff and Mills 2007); Gerardi, Lehnert, Sherlund and Willen (2008) provide additional detail on the easing in lending standards.
Two developments seem to have spurred the easing in US standards. First, a range of legislative and policy changes had been made to encourage the development of a non-conforming (Alt-A and subprime) lending sector, lying outside the model defined by the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac). Part of the motivation for this was a desire to ensure that home ownership was accessible to households who had historically been underserved by mortgage lenders (Gramlich 2007). In addition, the administration had wanted to reduce the GSEs' domination of the mortgage market. Following problems with accounting and governance at both institutions, the GSEs' capacity to expand lending was capped by new regulatory limits on their activities (Kiff and Mills 2007, Blundell-Wignall and Atkinson 2008). [emphasis added -- mdc]
September 19, 2008
Some Observations on the Ongoing Crisis: Causes and Opportunity Cost Again
There's a lot of commentary -- more comprehensive and up to date than I can provide -- on the crisis and the attempts to resolve the logjam in the financial markets.,  But I stilll have a couple of thoughts about the causes, and the implications, of the process that has resulted in so much turmoil this week.
September 18, 2008
Implications of Repricing of Dollar Denominated Assets
In the wake of global financial events, a couple of articles have caught my attention in terms of implications for the dollar. First was this Reuters account of a People's Daily editorial, suggesting "diversification". But it's hard to discern the underlying message given the low signal to noise ratio in official publications. Today's article in the IHT is a little more informative, not just about what's going on in China but in Asia (where a lot of that "saving glut" was alleged to come from):
September 17, 2008
Scott Irwin takes down Michael Masters
Econbrowser is pleased to host another contribution from Scott Irwin, who holds the Laurence J. Norton Chair of Agricultural Marketing at the University of Illinois. Today Scott offers a critique of a recent report by Michael Masters on the role of commodity speculation.
September 15, 2008
Back to the Real Side of the Economy: Recession Watch
Only on a day like today does an over 1 percent decrease in industrial output move to third page. But this item (and this hilarious article h/t Economists View) reminded me to update the indicators used by the NBER BCDC are headed. Their trajectories are, in general, not too comforting.
September 14, 2008
Effects of Hurricane Ike on oil and gas markets
As Hurricane Ike took over the Gulf of Mexico, I watched with unusual interest, since I had been scheduled to fly through Houston to give a lecture in Baton Rouge on Friday. We had to cancel that visit to LSU, which left me to contemplate the consequences of Hurricane Ike for oil and gas markets from the comfort of my warm, snug home in San Diego.
September 12, 2008
Recessions and Output Gaps, Updated
In "Redefining Recession", The Economist discusses some of the difficulties in interpreting the "R" word. Since the article juxtaposed output gaps against the conventional NBER definition, I thought this would be a good time to update my post on output gaps, using the latest GDP data, CBO estimates, augmented with the latest WSJ survey of forecasters.
September 11, 2008
Trade Deficit Reduction via Changes in Exports, Imports or Prices
Today's July trade release was a little bit of a surprise, due to oil ; Haver covers the numbers. Calculated Risk discussed the release, and actually took the outcome as a fairly positive, albeit with some anxiety about whether exports will keep up the robust growth necessary to continue shrinking the deficit.
I want to focus on a couple of other aspects of the release which seem to make me worry a bit more.
September 09, 2008
Taylor Rules, Synchronized Recession and the Potential for Competitive Depreciation
In yesterday's FT, "All in this together" assessed the possibility of a roughly synchronized downturn in the world's major economies, with the United States, ironically enough, suffering the smallest hit. This brings up all sorts of interesting questions regarding exchange rates, if one believes that Taylor rules define monetary policy making to some degree, and that interest differentials affect exchange rates.
September 08, 2008
Palin, on the Ongoing Financial Crisis
Saturday in Colorado Springs, Colo., Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said, "The fact is that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have gotten too big and too expensive to the taxpayers. The McCain-Palin administration will make them smaller and smarter and more effective for homeowners who need help."
September 07, 2008
Three Pictures from the August Employment Situation Release
The employment situation release seems like old news, and Jim has already teased out some of the most important aspects in his post. However, I thought a little more context would be useful, given that some observers still think a recession can be avoided. From the White House economy fact sheet (accessed 9/7/08):
On September 5, 2008, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released new jobs figures for August. Nonfarm payroll employment decreased by 84,000 jobs in August, and the unemployment rate rose to 6.1 percent. While these numbers are disappointing, what is most important is the overall direction the economy is headed. Last week, the economy posted a strong gain of 3.3 percent at an annual rate in the second quarter, led by growth in consumer spending, exports, and a well-timed and appropriately sized stimulus package. This level of growth demonstrates the resilience of the economy in the face of high energy prices, a weak housing market, and difficulties in the financial markets. Orders for durable goods have been rising in recent months. In addition, productivity growth over the past four quarters has been strong at 3.4 percent -- above the averages for each of the past three decades over the course of the Administration.
See as well .
September 06, 2008
A rebound for autos?
August auto sales were less dismal than July. But don't uncork the champagne quite yet.
September 05, 2008
Is there anything good to say about today's report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that the U.S. unemployment rate jumped up to 6.1% while seasonally adjusted nonfarm payrolls declined by another 84,000 jobs? Well, here's one thing. It gives us some real clarity as to just where the economy stands.
September 04, 2008
I've yet to find someone who has been able to reproduce the claims made by Shadow Government Statistics about the extent to which government agencies are grossly misreporting the U.S. inflation rate. Apparently, neither has the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as detailed in an article by BLS economists John Greenlees and Robert McClelland in the latest issue of Monthly Labor Review.
September 03, 2008
Corporate tax policy, budget deficits and the capital stock in a neoclassical model of investment
Or, What would be the net effect on investment of the McCain tax plan?
September 02, 2008
A new dynamic for the Middle East
Maybe it's time to try something new. And maybe it's already starting.
September 01, 2008
Extending JGTRRA and EGTRRA under the CBO's March 2008 Baseline
There are many moving parts to McCain's budget policy (see McCain site on the economy, ), so I can only undertake a partial analysis. That being said, extension of JGTRRA and EGTRRA is the most concrete, and easy to score, component, exactly because the CBO has already done it.
Figure 1 depicts the impact of making permanent the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, relative to the March 2008 CBO baseline.