Trump’s trade war is poised for a Pyrrhic victory
The flip side of the Trump administration’s drive to reduce the U.S. foreign trade deficit is that it will leave the rest of the world with fewer dollars to finance its budget deficit. President Trump could cut spending drastically or persuade the Federal Reserve to buy more bonds, but neither seems likely. More probably, he will do nothing as domestic rates rise and the dollar strengthens – widening the trade deficit again.
Opinion: A lost opportunity for cryptocurrencies
Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are volatile, but could prove useful by injecting a needed element of competition into the realm of monetary policy and finance. Rather than allow this, however, governments will probably step in to regulate them, perhaps under global supervision. If that happens, we will have missed an opportunity to foster new business and job creation in a healthier monetary environment.
The consequences of prolonged low interest rates in Europe
Monetary policymakers are becoming preoccupied with the risks of persistently low interest rates to Europe’s still fragile economic recovery. Ultra-easy credit is creating growing economic distortions and asset bubbles, while reviving volatility and risk in financial markets. The European Central Bank realizes it must “normalize” rates, but it worries that sudden tightening could precipitate a financial crisis that could be as bad or worse than 2008-2009.
Global Outlook 2018: Dangerous waters ahead for the world economy
All around, the wind seems to have filled the sails of the world economy. From consumer spending to investment to stock market indices, the sailing seems smooth. But some dangerous currents, including debt-fueled liquidity and low productivity, are converging below the surface. Without an effort by the captains of the world economy to right the ship, it could be pulled under.
Opinion: Mario Centeno’s useful ambiguities
New Eurogroup Chairman Mario Centeno is known as a socialist, but despite his “anti-austerity” reputation, he slashed government spending and deficits while he was finance minister of Portugal. This earned him trust on both sides of the fiscal policy divide, and will allow him either to keep the Eurogroup as a low-profile talking shop, or to help it raise its stature to eurozone policymaking body.
Janet Yellen considers her last act
Janet Yellen has done what was needed to leave behind fond memories of her term as Fed chief. She waited until the U.S. economy showed vigorous signs of recovery before announcing a soft-landing solution from the excessive liquidity inherited from Ben Bernanke. In part, this was a conscious choice to do what markets expected. But it may have been governed more by a long-term pessimism about the outlook for the economy.
GIS Dossier: Shinzo Abe’s Japan
Shinzo Abe is not popular, but this consummate political insider has become just the second prime minister in Japan’s history to win three general elections. He managed this feat by skillfully juggling factions in the dominant Liberal Democratic Party, stirring life into Japan’s stagnant economy, and pledging vigorous leadership in the face of a nuclear-armed Korea. Can Mr. Abe turn around a country widely seen to be in irreversible decline?
The Swiss franc 2.0
The Swiss economy is doing remarkably well. Though it is growing only slowly, its companies are competitive, unemployment is virtually absent, inflation is close to zero and public debt is under control. One would therefore expect the Swiss National Bank to abstain from taking an active role in monetary policy or manipulating interest rates and exchange rates. Yet, last June the SNB announced that it intends to play an active role, and that it will expand its money supply to enhance growth and avoid deflation. These explanations are not convincing – the key is somewhere else: bruised Swiss manufacturers.
Shinzo Abe’s underappreciated recovery
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appears to have made good on his promise to pull Japan out of deflation and slow growth. A large part of the credit goes to the central bank, which stepped in with aggressive bond-buying. But equally crucial has been the role of middle-aged women, who are reentering the job market in droves.
Opinion: Conventional measures give false reassurance on global risk
Conventional measures could be the wrong ones to gauge the risk of a financial shock to the global economy. Imbalances created by cheap money are building up in the economy. A close look at market capitalization, share buybacks, and interest-rate spreads presents a troubling picture.