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Monthly Archives: June 2009
By Alan Greenspan
The rise in global stock prices from early March to mid-June is arguably the primary cause of the surprising positive turn in the economic environment. The $12,000bn of newly created corporate equity value has added significantly to the capital buffer that supports the debt issued by financial and non-financial companies. Corporate debt, as a consequence, has been upgraded and yields have fallen. Previously capital-strapped companies have been able to raise considerable debt and equity in recent months. Market fears of bank insolvency, particularly, have been assuaged. Read more
Proposals for reform of financial regulation are now everywhere. The most significant have come from the US, where President Barack Obama’s administration last week put forward a comprehensive, albeit timid, set of ideas. But will such proposals make the system less crisis-prone? My answer is, no. The reason for my pessimism is that the crisis has exacerbated the sector’s weaknesses. It is unlikely that envisaged reforms will offset this danger. Read more
By Michael Pomerleano
Reforms typically take place when the urgency of now is evident in the midst of a crisis. That is when vested interests are weak, and policy makers and regulators are no longer complacent. Recently there is a sense that the financial crisis is abating, that business is returning to normal and a false sense of stability in taking hold; but it does not imply that the crisis is almost over. The belief that the world has overcome the crisis is faulty for several reasons. Read more
This chart shows what the consensus of forecasts thinks of the green shoots argument.
Abraham Lincoln famously said that “you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time”. His successor, George W. Bush, is reported to have added: “You can fool some of the people all the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on.” Some British politicians wish to follow that advice in the debate on the public finances. Alistair Darling’s refusal to do that was, it appears, the reason Gordon Brown, the prime minister, wanted to drop him. But Mr Darling is to be praised, not dropped, for his probity. Read more
By Brendan Brown
Global equity markets are understandably not taking seriously the ominous pessimism from commentators dissatisfied with the notion of an economic recovery emerging from below.
Yes the S&P 500 may be down a few per cent in recent days but that is mainly a reflection of the US dollar’s mini-rebound (which means foreign earnings become worth less in US dollar terms) and some long overdue downward correction (very small so far) in commodity markets. Read more
Green shoots are bursting out. Or so we are told. But before concluding that the recession will soon be over, we must ask what history tells us. It is one of the guides we have to our present predicament. Fortunately, we do have the data. Unfortunately, the story they tell is an unhappy one. Read more
Creditor countries are worrying about the safety of their money. That is what links two of the big economic stories of last week: Chancellor Angela Merkel’s attack on the monetary policies pursued by central banks, including her own, the European Central Bank; and the pressure on Tim Geithner, US Treasury secretary, to persuade his hosts in Beijing that their claims on his government are safe. But are they? The answer is: only if the creditor countries facilitate adjustment in the global balance of payments. Debtor countries will either export their way out of this crisis or be driven towards some sort of default. Creditors have to choose which. Read more
This financial year, the UK government is forecast to spend £4 for every £3 it raises. Never before, in peacetime, has the UK run such a deficit. This, one might imagine, would be a dominant concern in the British political debate. One would be quite wrong. The public is venting its rage over the expenses of members of parliament, instead. Read more
Is the US (and a number of other high-income countries) on the road to fiscal Armageddon? Are recent jumps in government bond rates proof that investors are worried about fiscal prospects? My answers to these questions are: No and No. This does not mean there is no reason for worry. It is rather that there are powerful arguments against fiscal retrenchment right now and strong reasons for welcoming recent moves in the bond markets. Read more
By Carolyn Sissoko
In recent years many large financial institutions have become used to the idea that governments stand ready to rescue the financial system when it gets into trouble. Swift regulatory intervention in the US whenever there was a systemic event encouraged this view. Over time, confidence in the government’s ability to act as the financial system’s executive manager resulted in a transfer of the responsibility for controlling systemic risk from the banks to the government. Read more