China

Normally, I write a summary of the week’s major economic events on a Sunday morning. This week I am going to leave the heart-rending events in Japan to be covered by the news teams, and instead focus on two other developments which have important ramifications for the global economy – the slowdown in China, which is becoming increasingly accepted by a previously sceptical economics profession; and the moderately promising deal on sovereign debt which was announced by EU leaders in the early hours of Saturday morning. Read more

China’s GDP growth made news this week because, on the official figures, China overtook Japan to become the second largest economy in the world in 2010. But actually, on a different way of calculating the data, this was very old news. Using purchasing power parity, China not only overtook Japan way back in 2001, but it is also quite close to overtaking the US as the biggest economy in the world – if, indeed, it has not done so already.

GDP statistics measure the amount of value added or income in the economy, measured in domestic currencies, over a given period of time. But it is more difficult to compare the GDP in one economy (China) with that in another economy (Japan), because we need to use an exchange rate which translates yuan into yen or vice versa. This is not as straightforward as it may seem. Read more

This week in global macro, the emerging markets reminded us that they are, well, emerging markets. The Egyptian crisis may have moved towards resolution, but there are risks of contagion elsewhere in the region. India continues to be the worst performing stock market of the year, and China is slowing under the weight of tightening monetary policy.

Developed equity markets continue to out-perform, although headline inflation is rising, notably in the UK. Although many people are claiming that the Bank of England is losing credibility, that is not yet showing in the gilt market. In the US, there were some signs of greater hawkishness from certain members of the FOMC, but none where it really counts – which is in the minds of Ben Bernanke and his senior lieutenants. The US equity market ended the week at its highest level since June 2008. Read more

China’s economic data for December, released on Thursday, clearly suggest that the authorities have not yet succeeded in slowing the economy enough to bring inflation pressures under control. Read more

This is the second in a series of weekend comments on what I have learned in the past 7 days about the global economy and financial markets.  This week, there has been a notable rise in inflation concerns as higher food and energy prices start to impact consumer prices. There have been signs that European governments are discussing a more comprehensive package to address the sovereign debt crisis. And China has continued down the path of gradual monetary tightening. Next week, Mr Hu visits Washington, Ecofin meets to discuss sovereign debt, and China publishes its macro data for December. Read more

The batch of new year forecasts for the world economy have been almost uniformly positive this year, at least from economists in the financial markets. Only a few months ago, forecasters were talking of increasing risks of a double dip recession, but the surge in risk assets since the Federal Reserve announced QE2 in the autumn has swept away most of this pessimism. JP Morgan this week said simply that “strong global growth is baked in the cake”. Although nothing in economic forecasting is that certain, there is plenty of evidence in favour of the recent outbreak of optimism.

First, the most reliable and timely indicators of global economic activity have recovered strongly in recent months. Although QE2 may have helped somewhat in this regard, it is much more likely that the pause in the global economy was anyway about to end when the Fed took its expansionary decisions in the early autumn. Read more

The major global manufacturing surveys for the month of October have now been published, and they are considerably more buoyant than they had been in previous months. Read more

For most of my life in macroeconomics, I have tended to be very dismissive of anecdotes from the world of business. They run the risk of exaggerating the importance of specific experiences in a small number of companies, and behavioural finance warns us that human beings tend to over-estimate the significance of events which happen directly to them, rather than to others. Read more

Martin Wolf argues in his column this morning that the world’s two superpowers are in conflict over the dollar/yuan exchange rate, and that “when such elephants fight, bystanders are likely to be trampled”. Yet in preparations for the G20 summit in Korea in November, there is no sign that any of the other participating countries – especially the Europeans – want to join the US in talking specifically about the question of yuan overvaluation. According to reports, the US is likely to be “a posse of one” on this question. Read more

There are two massive fixed exchange rate blocks operating in the world economy today, and both of them are facing severe strains and conflicts.  Read more