Saturday, April 09, 2005

Excessive Spending - Who do you believe?

Cato Institute - 1998

What matters to a nation's economic health is not the difference between exports and imports but the degree to which its citizens are free to trade and invest across international borders. When citizens are allowed to buy and sell goods, services, and investment assets freely in the international marketplace, a nation's productive resources will tend to flow to the best and highest use, raising the nation's overall standard of living.
U.S. Embassy Japan - 2005
A new study has found that the United States' growing trade deficit with China has had an increasingly negative impact on the U.S. economy, causing job losses that reach into the most technologically advanced industries in the manufacturing sector and affect every state, according to a January 11 press release by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC).οΎ‚
Dr. Don Boudreaux; George Mason University - 2005
The real problem is neither the nationality of America's creditors nor the size of the current-account deficit. It’s government irresponsibility -- irresponsibility that results in excessive government spending and sub-optimal means of financing this spending.
Alan Greenspan; Chairman, Federal Reserve - 2004
So far, foreigners are willing to lend the United States money to finance the current account imbalances, Greenspan pointed out. The worry, however, is that at some point foreigners might suddenly lose interest in holding dollar-denominated investments. That could cause foreigners to unload investments in U.S. stocks and bonds, sending their prices plunging and interest rates soaring.

The sliding value of the U.S. dollar has made some private economists more concerned about this potential risk.

"It seems persuasive that, given the size of the U.S. current account deficit, a diminished appetite for adding to dollar balances must occur at some point," Greenspan said. "But when, through what channels and from what level of the dollar? Regrettably, no answer to those questions is convincing," he said.
Dan Griswold; Cato Institue 2005

Indeed, in seven of the eight years in which the U.S. current account deficit "improved," the U.S. unemployment rate went up. And in 13 of the 16 years in which the current account deficit "worsened," the unemployment rate went down.

The year 2004 appears to fit the pattern comfortably. Through the first three quarters of the year — January through September 2004 — the U.S. current account deficit averaged 5.5% of GDP, a 0.6 percentage point increase compared to 2003.

That would place 2004 somewhere between a moderate and rapid growth of the current account deficit. Befitting the pattern, economic performance in 2004 was also moderate to robust.

Scott Brown, PhD; Raymond James Chief Economist

The Current Account Deficit

Capital inflows are the mirror image of the current account deficit, which is mostly the trade deficit in goods and services. The current account deficit approached 6% of GDP at the end of 2004. While this gap is large, it’s not particularly bad by itself. However, cumulative deficits have led to a sharp rise in the country’s external debt – now more than 25% of GDP. Servicing this debt will exert a larger drag on the U.S. economy as interest rates rise. In an effort to keep their currencies from appreciating, Asian central banks have purchased considerable amounts of dollar assets in the last couple of years. However, the pace has been unsustainable. A reduction in the pace of capital inflows would, all else equal, weaken the dollar and lead to higher long-term interest rates in the United States.

So, who do you believe?

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There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong.
Henry Louis Mencken (1880–1956)
“The Divine Afflatus,” A Mencken Chrestomathy, chapter 25, p. 443 (1949)
... and one could add "not all human problems really are."
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- O. Henry
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The Independent (UK)

Tracking Interest Rates

Tracking Interest Rates


SEARCH BLOG: FEDERAL RESERVE for full versions... or use the Blog Archive pulldown menu.

February 3, 2006
Go back to 1999-2000 and see what the Fed did. They are following the same pattern for 2005-06. If it ain't broke, the Fed will fix it... and good!
August 29, 2006 The Federal Reserve always acts on old information... and is the only cause of U.S. recessions.
December 5, 2006 Last spring I wrote about what I saw to be a sharp downturn in the economy in the "rustbelt" states, particularly Michigan.
March 28, 2007
The Federal Reserve sees no need to cut interest rates in the light of adverse recent economic data, Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday.
The Fed chairman said ”to date, the incoming data have supported the view that the current stance of policy is likely to foster sustainable economic growth and a gradual ebbing in core inflation”.

July 21, 2007 My guess is that if there is an interest rate change, a cut is more likely than an increase. The key variables to be watching at this point are real estate prices and the inventory of unsold homes.
August 11, 2007 I suspect that within 6 months the Federal Reserve will be forced to lower interest rates before housing becomes a black hole.
September 11, 2007 It only means that the overall process has flaws guaranteeing it will be slow in responding to changes in the economy... and tend to over-react as a result.
September 18, 2007 I think a 4% rate is really what is needed to turn the economy back on the right course. The rate may not get there, but more cuts will be needed with employment rates down and foreclosure rates up.
October 25, 2007 How long will it be before I will be able to write: "The Federal Reserve lowered its lending rate to 4% in response to the collapse of the U.S. housing market and massive numbers of foreclosures that threaten the banking and mortgage sectors."
"Should the elevated turbulence persist, it would increase the possibility of further tightening in financial conditions for households and businesses," he said.

"Uncertainties about the economic outlook are unusually high right now," he said. "These uncertainties require flexible and pragmatic policymaking -- nimble is the adjective I used a few weeks ago."

December 11, 2007 Somehow the Fed misses the obvious.
[Image from:]
December 13, 2007 [from The Christian Science Monitor]
"The odds of a recession are now above 50 percent," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's "We are right on the edge of a recession in part because of the Fed's reluctance to reduce interest rates more aggressively." [see my comments of September 11]
January 7, 2008 The real problem now is that consumers can't rescue the economy and manufacturing, which is already weakening, will continue to weaken. We've gutted the forces that could avoid a downturn. The question is not whether there will be a recession, but can it be dampened sufficiently so that it is very short.
January 11, 2008 This is death by a thousand cuts.
January 13, 2008 [N.Y. Times]
“The question is not whether we will have a recession, but how deep and prolonged it will be,” said David Rosenberg, the chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch. “Even if the Fed’s moves are going to work, it will not show up until the later part of 2008 or 2009.
January 17, 2008 A few days ago, Anna Schwartz, nonagenarian economist, implicated the Federal Reserve as the cause of the present lending crisis [from the Telegraph - UK]:
The high priestess of US monetarism - a revered figure at the Fed - says the central bank is itself the chief cause of the credit bubble, and now seems stunned as the consequences of its own actions engulf the financial system. "The new group at the Fed is not equal to the problem that faces it," she says, daring to utter a thought that fellow critics mostly utter sotto voce.
January 22, 2008 The cut has become infected and a limb is in danger. Ben Bernanke is panicking and the Fed has its emergency triage team cutting rates... this time by 3/4%. ...

What should the Federal Reserve do now? Step back... and don't be so anxious to raise rates at the first sign of economic improvement.
Individuals and businesses need stability in their financial cost structures so that they can plan effectively and keep their ships afloat. Wildly fluctuating rates... regardless of what the absolute levels are... create problems. Either too much spending or too much fear. It's just not that difficult to comprehend. Why has it been so difficult for the Fed?

About Me

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Michigan, United States
Air Force (SAC) captain 1968-72. Retired after 35 years of business and logistical planning, including running a small business. Two sons with advanced degrees; one with a business and pre-law degree. Beautiful wife who has put up with me for 4 decades. Education: B.A. (Sociology major; minors in philosopy, English literature, and German) M.S. Operations Management (like a mixture of an MBA with logistical planning)