Reuters | Aug 27, 2010 | 10:45pm IST
It could be 10 years before economic growth in the United States and elsewhere returns to pre-recession norms and employment rates may never regain lost ground if past history is any guide, two prominent economists said in a paper presented on Friday. Carmen Reinhart and Vincent Reinhart, in a paper presented at an annual conference hosted by the Federal Reserve, found that growth in gross domestic product is significantly lower during the decade after a severe financial crisis that is felt world-wide, as was the case with the recent meltdown. Their assessment could damp the spirits of central bankers gathered at the annual Fed enclave in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, who are already anxious that the recovery from the painful recession has run out of gas and they may be forced to take further steps to stimulate growth.
The authors, a husband and wife team — she is an economics professor at the University of Maryland and he is a former director of the Fed’s division of monetary affairs who is now a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute — drew their conclusions from studying global and country-specific crashes, including the 2007 subprime mortgage collapse, the 1973 oil shock, and the 1929 Great Depression. Policy makers should consider that growth, employment and credit may never regain levels attained before 2007, they said. "Recent discussions about the ‘new normal’ in reference to the post-crisis landscape leave the impression that the pre-crisis environment was ‘normal,’" they wrote. "In fact, there are reasons to believe that the pre-crisis decade set a high water-mark distorted by a variety of forces."
Bloomberg | March 29, 2010 | 10:44 EDT
The strengthening US. economy, subdued inflation and rising stock prices are propelling the dollar rally into its fifth month as traders seek refuge from Europe’s fiscal crisis and Japanese deflation. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Citigroup Inc. ended bets on a falling dollar last week after the trades lost 2.8 percent. Strategists are raising greenback forecasts at the fastest pace since last March, just before US stimulus efforts that poured as much as $12.8 trillion into the economy ended the currency’s strongest rally in 28 years. Median predictions for the dollar against 47 currencies tracked in Bloomberg surveys rose an average of 1.4 percentage points in the month to March 24. A year after correctly predicting the currency’s decline and likening it to the fall of Rome, Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc’s Alan Ruskin said it may soar 22 percent to $1.10 per euro if Greece defaults.
“We’ve moved away from the worst fears,” said Ruskin, the head of currency strategy for RBS Capital Markets in Stamford, Connecticut. “In the US, the economy picked itself up off the ground,” he said in an interview. “Compared to what it might have looked like from the view of March 2009, March 2010 looks very good.” The US Labor Department will report on April 2 that 190,000 jobs were created this month, the most in three years, according to the median estimate of 62 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has gained 5.6 percent in March, and the latest report on consumer prices showed the cost of living was unchanged in February, ensuring inflation won’t cut off the recovery.
Consumer prices in Japan, meanwhile, fell for a 12th month in February, the government reported March 26. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said the same day that the nation’s potential growth rate between 2011 and 2017 will be the lowest among Group of Seven at 0.9 percent. Leaders of the 16-nation euro region sought International Monetary Fund help to respond to Greece’s budget crisis. Portugal’s credit rating was cut one step by Fitch Ratings to AA- with a “negative”
NYT | 6:15 am ET | Feb. 21, 2010
Even as the American economy shows tentative signs of a rebound, the human toll of the recession continues to mount, with millions of Americans remaining out of work, out of savings and nearing the end of their unemployment benefits. Economists fear that the nascent recovery will leave more people behind than in past recessions, failing to create jobs in sufficient numbers to absorb the record-setting ranks of the long-term unemployed. Call them the new poor: people long accustomed to the comforts of middle-class life who are now relying on public assistance for the first time in their lives — potentially for years to come. Yet the social safety net is already showing severe strains. Roughly 2.7 million jobless people will lose their unemployment check before the end of April unless Congress approves the Obama administration’s proposal to extend the payments, according to the Labor Department.
Here in Southern California, Jean Eisen has been without work since she lost her job selling beauty salon equipment more than two years ago. In the several months she has endured with neither a paycheck nor an unemployment check, she has relied on local food banks for her groceries. She has learned to live without the prescription medications she is supposed to take for high blood pressure and cholesterol. She has become effusively religious — an unexpected turn for this onetime standup comic with X-rated material — finding in Christianity her only form of health insurance. “I pray for healing,” says Ms. Eisen, 57. “When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got to go with what you know.” Warm, outgoing and prone to the positive, Ms. Eisen has worked much of her life. Now, she is one of 6.3 million Americans who have been unemployed for six months or longer, the largest number since the government began keeping track in 1948. That is more than double the toll in the next-worst period, in the early 1980s. Continue reading
BBC NEWS | 2009/12/22 | 22:00:40 GMT
The US economy grew by less than originally estimated between July and September, official figures show. The latest estimate said the economy grew at an annual pace of 2.2%, down from the previous estimate of 2.8%. The first reading had shown growth of 3.5%. It is the first quarter in which the US economy returned to growth, after four quarters of decline. Separately, a report showed new home sales rose 7.4% in November, spurred on by government incentives. The National Association of Realtors said sales rose to an annual rate of 6.5 million – the highest level in more than two years.
“This clearly is a rush of first-time buyers not wanting to miss out on the tax credit, but there are many more potential buyers who can enter the market in the months ahead,” said the National Association of Realtors’ chief economist Lawrence Yun. The original deadline for the US government’s tax credits was 30 November. It was later extended. Mr. Yun said: “We expect a temporary sales drop while buying activity Continue reading
Bloomberg | December 17, 2009 | 09:37 EST
The dollar rose to the highest level in three months against the euro while stocks and commodities fell as Greece’s debt downgrade fanned concern that spiraling national debts may hamper the global economic recovery. The U.S. currency advanced against all of the 16 most- traded peers at 9:32 a.m. in New York after the Federal Reserve indicated yesterday that it may begin to scale back emergency lending programs. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index lost 0.7 percent as Citigroup Inc. sold stock at a discount; FedEx Corp.’s profit forecast trailed estimates and initial jobless claims unexpectedly increased. The MSCI World Index of 23 developed nations’ stocks slipped 1.3 percent. Oil and gold led declines in commodities.
Standard & Poor’s decision yesterday to reduce Greece’s credit rating for the second time this year raised concern among investors that the worst global recession since World War II is still weighing on some economies. At the same time, the Fed said after a two-day meeting that most of its lending programs will expire as scheduled Feb. 1 because of ‘improvements in the functioning of financial markets.’ “All eyes are on Greece, and to a lesser extent Spain and the U.K.,” said Luca Cazzulani, a fixed-income strategist at UniCredit SpA in Milan. “The situation requires a lot of prudence right now” from investors, he said. Continue reading
Bloomberg | December 2, 2009 | 19:01 EST
European banks are emerging from the credit crisis bigger than before, posing more risk to their national economies. BNP Paribas SA, Barclays Plc and Banco Santander SA are among at least 353 European lenders that have increased in size since the beginning of 2007, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Fifteen European banks now have assets larger than their home economies, compared with 10 lenders three years ago. While the European Union has grabbed headlines for breaking up bailed-out banks, regulators haven’t reined in firms that shunned state aid and are too big to fail. European bank assets have grown 25 percent since the start of 2007, compared with a 20 percent increase at U.S. lenders, Bloomberg data show.
“We are sowing the seeds for the next crisis,” said David Lascelles, senior fellow at the London-based Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation, a research group. “What we have been doing in the last two years is making banks much bigger. It really goes against the currents of the time.” Banks expanded their balance sheets during the credit bubble, borrowing cheap money in the wholesale market to fund loans and investments. Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc’s assets ballooned 2,914 percent in the 10 years through 2008 as it made acquisitions, boosted trading and increased lending. Edinburgh- based RBS spent $140 billion on takeovers during the period, culminating in the purchase of ABN Amro Holding NV in 2007 that triggered the world’s biggest bank bailout. Continue reading
BBC NEWS | 2009/11/27 | 11:46:02 GMT
Chancellor Alistair Darling will say in his pre-Budget report that the economy performed worse in 2009 than he first predicted, Treasury sources have said. Mr. Darling is expected to say that the UK economy shrank by 4.75% this year – more than the 3.5% originally forecast in the Budget in March. The adjustment follows the economy’s unexpectedly poor performance in the first three months of the year. But he is likely to stick to 2010 forecasts of growth between 1-1.5%.
Return to growth
On Thursday, Mr. Darling said that since the Budget forecasts were made, “new data has shown that most economies, ours included, suffered a severe shock in the first quarter of this year”. He added that he still expected a return to growth around the turn of the year. The UK economy has contracted for the past six quarters, but the economies of the US, Japan, France and Germany have all started growing again. Recent UK economic figures, such as retail sales and manufacturing output, have indicated signs of recovery. October’s retail sales were up 0.4% from September, according to the Office for National Statistics. And the latest Purchasing Managers Index showed manufacturing output increased at its fastest rate for almost two years in October.
Jim Genova | Facebook | Friday, November 13, 2009 | 11:40pm
This morning the U.S. Department of Labor released its weekly jobless claims figures for the week ending 7 November. Coming in at 502,000 new initial jobless claims, the number marked a slight decrease over the previous week (about 12,000) and continued a recent trend of almost microscopic incremental decreases in the weekly claims over the past month or so. However, the figure is still historically very high – at the depths of the economic crisis earlier this year weekly claims peaked at about 690,000. Moreover, an economics reporter on CNBC noted this morning that the “lower” tally of 502,000 still indicates that every week in the U.S. as many people file for initial unemployment claims as live in a medium sized city like Atlanta, Georgia (population circa 567,000). This is a staggering concept – the idea that each week a medium-sized U.S. city joins the ranks of the unemployed. Yet, this is touted as evidence of economic “improvement.”
Reflecting on this morning’s “improved,” but “disappointing” report President Obama announced that he will convene a “Jobs Summit” in December to explore the means for tackling this seemingly intractable problem of mounting unemployment even in the face of positive GDP (Gross Domestic Product) numbers from the third quarter of 2009. It is unclear from this morning’s announcement who will be invited to Continue reading
Bloomberg | November 25, 2009 | 09:17 EST
Spending by U.S. consumers rebounded in October more than anticipated, an indication that mounting unemployment has yet to stifle American’s willingness to buy. The 0.7 percent increase in purchases was larger than the median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News and followed a 0.6 percent September drop, Commerce Department figures showed today in Washington. Incomes climbed 0.2 percent, also exceeding expectations. A jobless rate that is projected to exceed 10 percent through the first half of next year means households will probably contribute less to growth as the economy recovers. Nonetheless, retailers such as J.Crew Group Inc. are among companies seeing improving demand heading into the holiday shopping season.
“People have been too negative for too long on the consumer,” said John Herrmann, chief economist at Herrmann Forecasting in Summit, New Jersey, who accurately forecast the gain in spending. “We’re seeing very positive spending signals for November.” A separate report from the Labor Department today showed the number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level since September 2008. Claims declined to 466,000 in the week ended Nov. 21 from 501,000 a week earlier, the report showed. Continue reading
Bloomberg | November 25, 2009 | 00:00 EST
Federal Reserve policy makers said for the first time that their decision to cut interest rates to zero may be fueling undue financial-market speculation even as they called the dollar’s decline ‘orderly.’ The Federal Open Market Committee said its policy of keeping rates low might cause “excessive risk-taking” or an “unanchoring of inflation expectations,” according to minutes of its Nov. 3-4 meeting released yesterday. Central bankers also said further dollar depreciation that might “put significant upward pressure on inflation would bear close watching.” The dollar weakened as investors wagered the central bank will tolerate further declines in a currency that has slid more than 6 percent against the yen in three months. Policy makers are wary of fueling a third asset-price bubble in about a decade as they hold the benchmark interest rate near a record low to revive growth, economists said.
“Financial markets have been doing much better than people might have expected,” said Marvin Goodfriend, a former policy adviser at the Richmond Fed who is now a professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. “The Fed is saying to markets, ‘Don’t overdo it.’” Fed Chairman Continue reading
Bloomberg | November 25, 2009 | 05:12 EST
The U.K. economy shrank less than previously estimated in the third quarter as consumer spending stopped falling and the service industries slump eased, bringing the longest recession on record closer to an end. Gross domestic product fell 0.3 percent from the previous three months, compared with a prior measurement of a 0.4 percent drop, the Office for National Statistics said today in London. The result matched the median prediction of 28 economists in a Bloomberg News survey. Prime Minister Gordon Brown this week called for stimulus to stay in place to avoid “choking off recovery” as an election looms within six months. The Bank of England has expanded its bond-purchase plan three times since March to ensure Britain’s escape from recession and Governor Mervyn King said yesterday the pickup isn’t “particularly strong.”
“Over the coming quarters the economy will accelerate pretty sharply,” said Nick Kounis, chief European economist at Fortis Bank Nederland NV in Amsterdam and a former U.K. Treasury official. “In third quarter the U.K. was one of the sick men of Europe but it’s going to step up a few gears and will be one of the stronger performers in Europe next year.” The pound erased gains against the dollar and was trading at $1.6702 as of 10:05 a.m. in London. U.K. government bonds extended gains, pushing yields lower. The yield on the 2-year gilt fell 5 basis points to 1.17 percent. Continue reading
ABC News | Tue Nov 24, 2009 | 7:57pm AEDT
It has warned that the global economy is improving but it is still highly vulnerable to shocks such as more loan losses from banks. IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn has told a conference in London that stimulus spending by governments should be maintained until a global recovery is entrenched. “Exit too soon and you kill the recovery. Exit too late and you sow the seeds for the next crisis,” he said. “This kind of support will have to last some time more until we will be sure that the recovery is firmly established which in our view will happen.” Mr. Strauss-Kahn says high unemployment, large budget deficits and weak household finances make the global economy vulnerable.
“We don’t see a high probability for a double dip but it doesn’t mean it’s a done deal and one of the biggest risks would be to withdraw [stimulus] too early,” he said. Westpac senior international economist Huw McKay thinks a double dip recession in the US is still a possibility. “It is still very much is in the frame. We’re still in a situation where fiscal stimulus is helping activity,” he said. “The challenge for 2010 in the United States is that household balance sheets are very weak,” he said. Mr. McKay says the US banking system is also weak and that is not helping the economy to grow. “We also have the fact that the US banking system is not actually extending credit in a way that is going to be a great help to financing economic recovery,” he said. Continue reading
BBC NEWS | 2009/10/29 | 00:03:07 GMT
America slowly appears to be emerging from recession, rebounding from its worst slump in decades. For many Americans the pain is still dragging on. More than 200 years ago, Slater Mill in Rhode Island helped kick off America’s industrial revolution. For centuries, manufacturing, mainly in textile mills, provided jobs in this small north-eastern state, but not anymore. Rhode Island now has the third highest unemployment rate in the country, after Michigan and Nevada. According to the US Labor Department, the rate of unemployment climbed to 13% in September. This does not come as a surprise to Jon Polis. Each day, he searches for work on his computer and in the local newspaper. He says his eight years working for a medical supplies company was over in eight minutes. He was laid off a year-and-a-half ago. Now his benefits have run out and he is living on his savings. “I can last maybe next March or April,” says Jon. “After that I’ll just have to go to my family and ask for money.” At age 53, this is not the first recession he has lived through, but it is the worst. “I’ve been out of work a few months here or there but never like this,” he says. Continue reading
BBC NEWS | 2009/11/18 | 14:21:13 GMT
The construction of new homes and apartments in the US showed a surprise fall in October. New US housing starts tumbled 10.6% to an annual rate of 529,000 homes – the lowest level since April. The decline in construction was led by a fall in demand for both single-family and multi-family occupancies. Separately, a report showed prices edging up in October. The consumer price index rose 0.3%, pushed up by higher energy prices.
‘A weak number’
The housing figures are a blow to recent signs of recovery in the market. David Resler from Nomura Securities in New York said they were “really disappointing.” “I had convinced myself that we had turned the corner on housing,” he added. “I am no longer convinced. This is really a quite weak number.” Congress has voted to extend a tax credit of up to $8,000 for first-time buyers. It had been due to expire at the end of November. Some analysts said that the uncertainty over whether it would be renewed could have held back construction. Continue reading
Lawmakers on both sides question power, handling of Wall Street bailouts
The Associated Press | Washington | Nov. 22, 2009 | 2:01 p.m. ET
Suddenly the Federal Reserve is everybody’s punching bag. Strip the Fed of its bank regulation powers, some in Congress are demanding. Get probing audits of its behind-the-scenes operations, others say. The chairman of the Federal Reserve Board is always fair game for criticism and second-guessing, usually over interest rate actions. But this year the criticism is much broader as Congress responds to widespread public anger that the Fed bailed out Wall Street but not ordinary Americans, and with unemployment in double digits. Former Fed Chairman William McChesney Martin Jr. famously said that the central bank’s job was to yank away the punchbowl just when everybody is starting to party. And while Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has signaled the Fed will keep interest rates low for now, a round of higher rates inevitably will come.
The Fed finds itself both the punchbowl keeper and the punching bag. Imagine the outcry when it does begin to crank up rates — perhaps just ahead of next year’s midterm elections. Fireworks seem likely at Senate confirmation hearings early next month on President Barack Obama’s nomination of Bernanke to a second four-year term as chairman. Many economists and Fed watchers say congressional efforts to rein in the Fed’s powers could interfere with the central bank’s ability to help guide the fragile economy to recovery. The Fed’s very independence and its Continue reading