Monthly Archives: November 2012

Canadian Central Bank governor Mark Carney has been appointed as Sir Mervyn King's successor. Getty

Congratulations and best wishes to Mark Carney. When he becomes governor of the Bank of England next June, he will assume one of the three or four most important roles in global finance.

In fact, it will be a role much broader than that of his immediate predecessors at the Bank, who have not been directly responsible either for microprudential supervision of financial entities, or for the macro-prudential supervision of the financial system as a whole. Under the new regulatory structure designed by Chancellor George Osborne, the new governor will now assume responsibility for both of these tasks, as well as for monetary policy. Read more

The transfer of power in China from the outgoing regime led by Hu Jintao to the incoming leadership of Xi Jinping has occurred without a hitch. This is a mark of increased political maturity in China.

In fact, the handover has been described by Citigroup economists as the first complete and orderly transition of power in the 91-year history of the Chinese Communist party.

During President Hu’s decade, China’s real GDP per capita rose at 9.9 per cent per annum. China accounted for 24 per cent of the entire growth in the global economy, and Chinese annual consumption of many basic commodities now stands at about half of the world total. Perhaps the most important question in the world economy today is whether China’s economic miracle can continue in the decade of Xi Jinping. The IMF forecasts shown in the graph above suggest that the miracle will persist, but many western economists disagree. Read more

Ben Bernanke speaks at the Economic Club, New York. Image by Getty

Ben Bernanke’s speech to the New York Economic Club on Tuesday has been widely viewed as confirming his dovish intentions for US monetary policy in early 2013. This is justified. The Fed Chairman clearly intended to send out a message that monetary policy would try to support the economy if the fiscal cliff results in a significant tightening in the budgetary stance next year.

While this overall message represents no change in the Fed’s thinking, Mr Bernanke did shift his ground on one very important matter. He now seems to have accepted that the rate of growth in potential GDP has fallen sharply in recent years, which is not something he has emphasised in the past. If he persists with this more pessimistic interpretation of potential GDP growth, it would imply that there is a speed limit on the pace at which the economy can recover in the next few years, and that the Fed might need to tighten policy earlier than previously assumed. Read more

©J. McHugh

The UK coalition government has reached almost exactly the halfway point in its electoral term. Quite soon, it will be too late for it to change its economic approach in time for the results to be seen before it goes to the polls on May 7 2015. Whether the prime minister recognises it or not, he is therefore facing a major strategic choice. Should the government change tack, while there is still time?

The strategy chosen by chancellor George Osborne in 2010 was based on a more rapid tightening in budgetary policy than was adopted in most other developed economies. The chancellor knew that the Bank of England would aggressively ease monetary policy in support of his plan, and hoped that this would result in a sharp depreciation of the real exchange rate, though he did not say this in public.

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The disappointing performance of UK GDP in the past couple of years has become a matter of international interest. Many economists, unsurprisingly, have concluded that the UK government has pursued totally the wrong economic strategy, especially with regard to the speed of fiscal consolidation. The adverse comparison of UK performance with the US, a country with similar exposure to housing, financial services and the bursting of the credit bubble, but with less fiscal tightening since 2010, has been widely emphasised. A consensus has developed that the fiscal multiplier has proven to be much higher than was expected in 2010, and many economists have concluded that fiscal consolidation in the developed economies should be reversed or slowed down. Read more

As Barack Obama is re-elected, he faces political wrangling over the US fiscal cliff. Image by Getty

The re-election of President Obama last Tuesday has triggered a fairly sharp fall in US equity prices, along with a decline in bond yields. Although I argued in this blog last weekend that bonds would prefer an Obama win, while equities would prefer a Romney victory, the extent of the decline in equities in mid week came as a surprise. To some extent, the market was reacting to prospective increases in capital gains taxes, and to tighter regulation of the financial sector, in the president’s second term. But undoubtedly the main factor was uncertainty about the fiscal cliff.

Most investors are assuming that Washington will agree to postpone most of the fiscal tightening which is implied by the “cliff”, but only after prolonged negotiations that could continue past the initial deadline at the year end, when the lame duck Congress departs from the Hill, and which might even be extended past the president’s inauguration on January 21. Read more

The two candidates in the American Presidential election are ideologically as far apart as any I can remember since Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter in 1980. In fact, it is hard to imagine the US political system throwing up a greater divide, unless the Republicans were to choose a Tea Party candidate. This gap is producing exceptionally strong personal sentiments from voters on both sides of the fence as the election approaches.

Yet the financial markets seem to be completely unfazed by the decision which the American electorate will make on Tuesday. Asset prices are acting as if they do not care very much who wins. Does this attitude make sense, and will it survive the election? Read more