May 31, 2012
China and the Impending Global Slowdown
Even before the newest portents of a slowdown,  it was clear that 2012 gains in world output were going to be highly reliant on Chinese growth. Figure 1 shows that the Eurozone switches to a net drag on world growth. China’s contribution is thus a much larger share of total world growth.
May 30, 2012
Links for 2012-05-30
Quick links to a few items of interest.
May 28, 2012
Alexander Field (and Santayana) on Financial Regulation
As some in policy circles advocate unilateral financial disarmament, I think it is useful to think about what history tells us about the financial crisis of 2008, which seems to have already receded in people’s collective consciousness. Here I turn to Alexander Field’s new volume on the Great Depression, A Great Leap Forward. From Chapter 10, "Financial Fragility and Recovery":
The regulatory or policy failure was not simply or primarily a matter of interest rate policy. Rather it was a failure to control, or really be interested in controlling, the growth of leverage. ...
May 27, 2012
Commodity index funds and oil prices
In my previous post I described a new research paper with University of Chicago Professor Cynthia Wu on the Effects of Index-Fund Investing on Commodity Futures Prices. Previously I discussed what we found for the prices of agricultural commodities. Here I review our findings about oil prices.
May 25, 2012
Dispatches XXIII: Wisconsin Government Diverts Funds from Foreclosure Relief
Unsurprising to me, but still of note.
From ProPublica, insight into Wisconsin (among other states):
States have diverted $974 million from this year’s landmark mortgage settlement to pay down budget deficits or fund programs unrelated to the foreclosure crisis, according to a ProPublica analysis. That’s nearly forty percent of the $2.5 billion in penalties paid to the states under the agreement.
May 24, 2012
Expansionary Fiscal Contraction in Action (or Not)
The recession in the UK is even worse than first reported.
Dispatches XXII: Wisconsin and US Employment Growth Compared
Updated 5/27 -- added Figure 2 showing Wisconsin's poor performance vis a vis US as measured by coincident indices.
Governor Walker has been touting on numerous (!) radio and television ads employment gains using the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) based figures , and (apparently) adding on reported changes in employment, as recorded by BLS. I wanted to highlight exactly how lackluster the record looks even with Governor Walker’s preferred numbers.
May 23, 2012
Commodity index funds and agricultural prices
I've just completed a new research paper with University of Chicago Professor Cynthia Wu on the Effects of Index-Fund Investing on Commodity Futures Prices. Here was our motivation for writing the paper:
The last decade has seen a phenomenal increased participation by financial investors in commodity futures markets. A typical strategy is to take a long position in a near futures contract, and as the contract nears maturity, sell the position and assume a new long position in the next contract, with the goal being to create an artificial asset that tracks price changes in the underlying commodity. Barclays Capital estimated that exchange traded financial products following such strategies grew from negligible amounts in 2003 to a quarter trillion dollars by 2008 (Irwin and Sanders (2011)). Stoll and Whaley (2010) found that in recent years up to half of the open interest in outstanding agricultural commodity futures contracts was held by institutions characterized by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) as commodity index traders.
May 22, 2012
State Dependence and Fiscal Multipliers
Or, are there nonlinearities in the real (macro) world?
May 20, 2012
My colleague UCSD Professor Valerie Ramey has an interesting new paper looking at the effects of higher government spending on GDP.
May 18, 2012
BLS: Wisconsin Private and Total Nonfarm Payroll Employment Decline in April
Official figures indicate employment declines in April, according to the BLS. Private payrolls are 4700 below January 2011 Levels
May 17, 2012
Ignorance Is Strength: House of Representatives Edition
The War on Data Collection Continues!
From the National Association for Business Economics (NABE):
[t]he U.S. House of Representatives was considering an appropriations bill for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (H.R. 5326) that would drastically reduce funding for the Census Bureau and make participation in the American Community Survey voluntary.
May 16, 2012
Governor Walker’s Revised Employment Data in Context
(Updated at 5/17 12 noon Pacific: Wisconsin DWD reports April Loss of 5.9K NFP Jobs (6.2K Private); March NFP numbers revised up 7.3K, private payroll numbers revised up 0.7K. Total civilian employment rises by 6.8K according to household survey. Complete information at bottom of post).
Today, the Wisconsin DWD took the unusual -- one might say unprecedented   -- step of announcing their estimates of what they call “actual job numbers” (see press release here). These are based on the unemployment insurance covered employment. From the press release:
Oil and gasoline prices
Here I comment on some recent developments affecting oil and gasoline prices.
May 15, 2012
The housing market and the case for higher inflation targets
Might more inflation be good for the US and Europe? This column looks at the housing market in the US and argues that, with houses dropping in price, buyers are playing a waiting game. And as buyers keep delaying, the price drops further. Given the importance of property in many economies, the knock-on effects are severe. Yet one way to break this vicious cycle is with inflation.
May 14, 2012
Gasoline Prices Implied by Futures
Downward, and downwardly revised.
May 13, 2012
JP Morgan and systemic risk
For some time, financial observers have been discussing the large positions in bond-index derivatives amassed by a trader known as the London Whale, now revealed to be Bruno Iksil working for JP Morgan Chase. On Thursday we learned that JP Morgan has lost over $2 billion in the space of two weeks as a result of the trades. On Friday the stock price fell by 9.3%, wiping out $14.4 billion of the company's value.
May 12, 2012
Dispatches (XXI): Governor Walker only 244,100 Short of 250,000 New Private Sector Jobs by 2015!
Gov. Scott Walker recommitted Saturday to his pledge to create 250,000 private-sector jobs by 2015, a promise all the more difficult to achieve since he first made it because of anemic job growth during his tenure.
May 11, 2012
Dispatches (XX): "Divide and Conquer"
A filmmaker released a video Thursday that shows Gov. Scott Walker saying he would use "divide and conquer" as a strategy against unions.
May 10, 2012
The Unbearable Lightweightness of Being David Brooks
Or, I know columnists have deadlines, but really...
In Tuesday’s NYT column, entitled “The Structural Revolution”, David Brooks writes:
May 08, 2012
Conditional Inflation Now!
Back in January, Jeffry Frieden and I argued for higher inflation, conditioned on macro conditions, in a Foreign Policy article. The roster of economists in favor expands: Nobel laureates Rob Engle and Paul Krugman join Chicago Fed President Charles Evans, for the US.
May 07, 2012
The War on Data Collection
Ignorance is bliss edition.
[The Census Bureau, BEA and BLS] have always had to fight for more funding. Now they may have to fight just to keep their budgets intact. As part of $19 billion in nondefense discretionary cuts in Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget—recently passed by the House of Representatives—the agencies are likely to get less funding.
May 06, 2012
Yes, the Fed could produce a higher inflation rate
From the responses to my remarks last week on monetary policy, I see that my words were interpreted by some readers differently than I'd intended, for which I apologize. Let me try again.
May 05, 2012
More on Governor Romney’s 500,000 job creation target, expressed as a percentage growth rate
Governor Romney has said that 500,000 is the monthly job creation he expects as normal during a recovery . It actually last happened in May 2010 but is otherwise pretty rare. Reader Rick Stryker argues that the 500K should be expressed in percentage terms, accounting for the size of employment. Nonetheless, breaching the equivalent in percentage terms never happened during the eight years of the G.W. Bush administrations.
May 04, 2012
A Few Observations on the April Employment Situation
According to the BLS, nonfarm employment rose only 115,000, as government payrolls shed 15,000. The household series adjusted to conform to the NFP concept indicates an additional 1.6 million employed relative to the official series. Private sector employment now exceeds levels of 2009M01, while aggregate hours worked exceeds by 1.9% (in log terms). With revisions to the February and March data, average employment growth is 207 thousand in the first four months, as compared to 210 thousand, from the first three months indicated in the March release.
May 03, 2012
Thinking about the Double Dip Recession in the UK
The news is well-known now: There the UK is in the first double dip recession since 1975 thanks to among other things the government’s contractionary fiscal policies. This recovery is in fact worse than that of the Great Depression [Macroscope] Here are three other observations that might not be so obvious: (1) Growth has been lackluster ever since the election of the coalition government in May 2010; (2) growth under the program of austerity has compared poorly against the (admittedly insufficiently stimulative) fiscal policy framework in the US, and; (3) UK GDP growth has been lackluster even with the depreciated pound, which is interesting given that exchange rates can act as a shock absorber.
May 02, 2012
Should the Fed do more?
Johns Hopkins University Professor Larry Ball, Princeton Professor Paul Krugman, U.C. Berkeley Professor Brad DeLong, University of Oregon Professor Tim Duy and Texas State University Professor David Beckworth are among those recently arguing that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is neglecting his own earlier academic insights into what the central bank should be doing in a situation such as the United States presently finds itself. Here's what I think they're overlooking.