VACACIONES OCTUBRE 2016 (CLICK ON LINK)
Coming and going
Truth and myth about the effects of openness to trade
IN MARCH 2000, two months before a crucial vote in America’s Congress on whether to make normal trading relations with China permanent, Bill Clinton gave a press conference. In the first year of his presidency, 1993, he had made a bold case for the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico, claiming it would create 200,000 jobs in America. Now, in the final year of his second term, he was even more bullish about a trade pact with China, which would allow that country to join the WTO. It would require China quickly to cut its average import tariff from 24% to 9%, to abolish import quotas and licences and to open up some industries to American investment. America, for its part, would not have to do anything. “This is a hundred-to-nothing deal for America when it comes to the economic consequences,” said Mr Clinton.
Sixteen years on the mood is rather different. Job losses in manufacturing states such as Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania have made trade a key issue in America’s presidential election. Donald Trump has risen to prominence in part by promising to impose steep tariffs on imports from China and Mexico, claiming America’s trade deficit with both countries (see chart) shows it is “losing”.
Hillary Clinton is no longer supporting the TPP trade deal she had earlier favoured. The demise of furniture-makers and textile firms, unable to compete with low-cost imports, belies the predictions made by her husband. Bernie Sanders, Mrs Clinton’s opponent in the Democratic Party primaries, said trade deals had been “a disaster for American workers”. A YouTube clip earlier this year showing the graceless manner in which bosses of Carrier, a maker of air-conditioners, told its workforce that it was moving production to Mexico seemed to confirm every fear about the exodus of jobs and the heartlessness of capitalism.
What is behind the change in mood? The years after the NAFTA agreement came into force, in 1994, were actually rather good ones for America’s economy, including manufacturing. But China’s accession to the WTO caused a big shock. The country’s size, and the speed at which it conquered rich-world markets for low-cost manufacturing, makes it unique. By 2013 it had captured one-fifth of all manufacturing exports worldwide, compared with a share of only 2% in 1991.
This coincided with a fresh decline in factory jobs in America. Between 1999 and 2011 America lost almost 6m manufacturing jobs in net terms. That may not be as dramatic as it sounds, since America is a large and dynamic place where around 5m jobs come and go every month. Still, when David Autor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), David Dorn of the University of Zurich and Gordon Hanson of the University of California, San Diego, looked into the job losses more closely, they found something worrying. At least one-fifth of the drop in factory jobs during that period was the direct result of competition from China.
Moreover, the American workers who had lost those jobs neither found new ones close by nor searched for work farther afield. They either swelled the ranks of the unemployed or, more often, left the workforce. That contradicts the widespread belief that America’s jobs market is fluid and flexible.
When men lose a factory job, they often stay put. Those who managed to find new jobs were paid less than before and were working in industries that were vulnerable to competition from imports. In subsequent research, the authors found that lost factory jobs also had a depressing effect on aggregate demand (and thus non-manufacturing jobs) in the affected areas. In total, up to 2.4m jobs may have been lost, directly and indirectly, as a consequence of imports from China.
In other rich countries, regions or industries with heavy exposure to Chinese imports also suffered material losses in factory jobs. A study of Spain’s jobs market by Vicente Donoso, of the Complutense University of Madrid, and others found that provinces with the greatest exposure to Chinese imports saw the largest falls in the share of manufacturing employment between 1999 and 2007, but this was compensated for by an increase in non-factory jobs.
Research in Norway, though, found that the main effect was to raise unemployment. João Paulo Pessoa of the London School of Economics found that British workers in industries exposed to high levels of import competition from China spent more time out of work than those in other industries. A wide-ranging study of the effect on Germany of more trade with China and eastern Europe in the two decades after 1988 concluded that industries competing with imports suffered job losses, but these were outweighed by job gains in regions focused on export industries. Those gains were due almost entirely to trade with eastern Europe, not China.
China’s accession to the WTO was supposed to be a great bonus for America. So why was its impact on trade and jobs so unexpectedly large? One reason was that China got a very significant advantage out of the pact. A paper by Justin Pierce, of the Federal Reserve, and Peter Schott, of Yale School of Management, argues that joining the WTO removed the risk for China of a steep increase in America’s tariffs, making it less perilous for its companies to invest in new factories. The authors found that industries where the threat of tariff increases was most reduced suffered the greatest job losses in America. But the lopsided nature of trade between China and the rich world also played a part. After China joined the WTO, its current-account surplus widened from an average of around 2% of GDP in the 1990s to about 5% in the following decade. In other words, China saved more. That helps explain the modest offsetting gains in exports in the regions affected by Chinese imports.
It shows that in the mid-1960s almost all men aged between 25 and 54 were either in work or looking for a job, but that in the past half-century the participation rate for this group has dropped below 90%.
In every recession the rate falls more sharply, and when the economy picks up again it fails to make up all the lost ground.
But there are big differences between the participation rates of different groups of men. In 1964 male high-school graduates were about as likely to be in the workforce as college-educated men, but now only 83% of those with a high-school degree or less are in the workforce, against 94% of those who finished college (see chart). This mirrors a growing divergence in wages. In the mid-1960s the pay of less educated men averaged 80% of college-educated ones, but by 2014 that proportion had fallen to 60%.
It is unlikely that men are dropping out of work voluntarily. More than a third of inactive men live in poverty; less than a quarter have a working spouse. So the most obvious explanation is a fall in demand for less-skilled men. That in turn is partly linked to a long-term decline in manufacturing, whose share of the jobs market peaked in the days when almost all prime-age men worked. The CEA study found that states with a higher-than-average share of jobs in construction, mining and (to a lesser degree) manufacturing tend to have more prime-age men in the workforce. It does not help that men who lose their jobs are increasingly rooted in unemployment black spots. The propensity of people to move in search of work has dropped sharply since the early 1990s, for reasons that are not yet fully understood.
A steady drop in the share of prime-age men in the workforce going back half a century cannot be pinned on America signing free-trade agreements or China’s emergence as an exporter of manufactures, both of which happened fairly recently. Factory jobs peaked in the 1970s, but manufacturing output has continued to increase. Indeed, America’s share of world manufacturing output, on a value-added basis, has been fairly stable at a bit under a fifth for the past four decades.
Thanks to advances in technology, fewer workers are needed to produce the same quantity of goods.
But since trade with lower-cost countries and technological change have similar effects on labour-intensive production in the rich world, it is hard to disentangle their effects.
Still, some rich countries, such as Germany, Britain and Canada, have done rather better than America at keeping prime-age men in work, though others, including France, Italy and Spain, have done even worse. That is partly a matter of policy. Members of the OECD, a club of mostly rich countries, set aside an average of 0.6% of GDP a year for “active labour-market policies”—job centres, retraining schemes and employment subsidies—to ease the transition to new types of work. America spends just 0.1% of GDP. By neglecting those whose jobs have been swallowed by technology or imports, America’s policymakers have fuelled some of the anger about freer trade.
Have trade deals really been a disaster for American workers? Trade with China seems to have had an unusually large effect. Since 1985, America has signed 15 free-trade agreements (FTAs) covering 20 countries. Exports to these countries account for nearly half of all the goods America sells abroad, even though FTA countries make up just a tenth of GDP outside America. In the five years after a new trade pact comes into force, America’s exports to new FTA partners typically grow around three times as fast as its overall exports, at least keeping pace with imports. In 2012, exports to the 20 countries covered by FTAs grew twice as fast as the average. In America, exporting firms pay a wage premium of between 13% and 18%, compared with non-exporters. This is hardly a disaster.
America has run a trade deficit every year since 1976. On the other side of the global ledger are countries that consistently run big trade surpluses. These days the record is held not by China but by Germany, which last year had a current-account surplus of 8% of GDP (see chart). But this does not mean that America is “losing” at trade, as Mr Trump suggests, and China and Germany are winning.
The purpose of exports is to pay for imports, either now or later. A trade surplus is not a virility symbol. In some cases, it is a sign of a strong national preference for saving (though other countries might describe it as a symptom of weak domestic demand). Countries rarely have balanced trade, where the value of exports and imports is exactly the same. It might seem plausible that restricting trade to eliminate deficits will create jobs, channelling existing demand towards goods made at home.
But the reality is more complicated. In most rich countries, particularly America, the trade deficit widens when GDP growth is strong, and shrinks during recessions. The factors that drive demand for imports are the same as those that drive overall demand, and thus jobs. To balance trade, Americans would have to invest less or save more. Neither would create jobs.
It would help a sluggish world economy if surplus countries, like China and Germany, were to spend more on imports. But for America to aim to balance trade with any one country would be pointless.
In any case, a finished product exported from China to America, say, will include components made in third countries, and probably only a small fraction of the value will have been added in China itself. Four-fifths of all trade takes place along supply chains within, or organised by, multinational firms. Slapping a tariff on imports of intermediate goods from, say, Mexico would raise the price of America’s exports, which would probably be bad for its trade balance.
Around 40% of the value of Mexico’s exports of final goods to America, for instance, was added in America itself.
Sober advocates of free trade know that over time the gains from it come from greater efficiency, not from more jobs, the number of which is largely determined by demography and the strength of aggregate demand. It is easier to spot the link between freer trade and factory closures than the more dispersed benefits trade brings to workers across other industries.
Exporting firms in all countries and across a variety of industries are more productive, grow faster and pay higher wages than non-exporting firms. But a lot of the gains from trade come from the direct benefit of cheaper imports and their indirect effect on productivity.
Taken together, these are large and permanent benefits. What is clear from the studies of Mr Autor and others is that the one-off integration of China had bigger and more lasting effects than expected. Too little attention has been paid in America to those whose jobs are displaced by new technology or imports. That has given an opening to protectionists, who are peddling a solution that will hurt the poor most. A similar sort of populism is rearing its head in Europe in response to migration.
The End of Monetary Policy Ushers in a Messy New Age
Central banks have ruled the roost. Investors might find that frustrating, but what comes next?
By Richard Barley
Markets are increasingly questioning the ability of central bankers to address the problems facing advanced economies. Investors should also consider that a world where monetary policy is less central may be even more uncomfortable.
Central banks have held sway in markets. The introduction of quantitative easing in the U.S. halted the collapse of late 2008 and early 2009. Further rounds of QE and its widespread adoption, including by the European Central Bank, have powered markets onward, taking bond prices to dizzying heights.
Markets are central to the implementation of monetary policy. Influencing asset prices is at the heart of the attempt to shift financing conditions to improve prospects for the real economy.
Central bankers need to keep markets onside.
Yet asset-price inflation hasn't delivered a powerful economic recovery.
The persistent problems that many countries have faced since the global financial crisis are causing shifts in politics away from the established orthodoxy. From Donald Trump in the U.S. to the 5 Star Movement in Italy, politics is getting more volatile.
The U.K. is a clear example. The Brexit vote was a rejection of the status quo that has caused politics to become the primary consideration for investors. Look at the value of sterling, which until this year was driven largely by expectations of changes in U.K. monetary policy relative to policy elsewhere.
The regime shift has been seismic, in part because the U.K. was previously a highly conventional, market-friendly economy.
Even less dramatic shifts than Brexit, such as the much-discussed move to make greater use of fiscal policy, will change the terms of engagement for investors. Financial markets may no longer be “front and center,” asset allocation strategists at HSBC think. They will be more the reflection of policy rather than the target of it. That may sound like a subtle distinction, but it is a potentially important one.
A world centered on central banks offers a great deal of opportunity for careful communication tailored to investors. The flow of information is organized, with calendars of meetings, news conferences and speeches, reams of research and publications. Investors can obsess over tiny shifts, for instance in the Federal Reserve’s so-called dot plot. Monetary policy tends to work incrementally and involve a great deal of signaling.
Politics can be far messier. Markets will be keenly interested in fiscal policy, but may also have to cope with accompanying shifts on trade, immigration and industrial policies. Decisions may be less timely, and market expectations and responses less important, unless they are extreme.
Central banks have fixed mandates, but the political script can be rewritten rapidly.
The shift away from the established economic and political order increases the risk of outcomes for which markets aren’t prepared. Investors might feel frustrated at the way that central banks have come to dominate markets. But politics may make predictable returns harder to come by.
Managing the Economic Consequences of Nationalism
Mohamed A. El-Erian
LAGUNA BEACH – The aftermath of the United Kingdom’s unexpected vote in June to leave the European Union is being monitored closely. People all over the world – and particularly in Europe – want to know how Brexit will unfold, not just to manage its specific effects, but also to gain insight into what is likely to happen if other upcoming votes tip in favor of nationalist agendas.
The Next Recession Looms Large
By: Peter Schiff
Currently economists and market watchers roughly fall into two camps: Those who believe that the Federal Reserve must begin raising interest rates now so that it will have enough rate cutting firepower to fight the next recession, and those who believe that raising rates now will simply precipitate an immediate recession and force the Fed into battle without the tools it has traditionally used to stimulate growth. Both camps are delusional, but for different reasons.
Most mainstream analysts believe that the current economy can survive with more normalized rates and that the Fed’s timidity is unwarranted. These people just haven’t been paying attention. The “recovery” of the past eight years hasn’t been just “helped along” by deeply negative real interest rates, it is a singular creation of those policies. Since June 2009, when the current recovery began, traditional economic metrics, such as GDP growth, productivity, business investment, labor force participation, and wage growth, have all been significantly below trend. The only strong positives have been gains in the stock, bond and real estate markets. We have had an “asset price” recovery rather than a bona fide economic recovery. This presents unique risks.
Asset price gains have been made possible in recent years because ultra-low rates have driven down the cost of borrowing, encouraged speculation, and pushed people into riskier assets.
Donald Trump was right in the presidential debate when he noted that the whole economy is “a big fat ugly bubble.” Any rate hike could hit those markets hard across the financial spectrum and can tip the economy into contraction. Look what happened this January when the market had a chance to digest the first rate increase in 10 years. The 25 basis point increase in December 2015 led to one of the worst January's in the history of the stock market. Since then, the Fed has held off from further tightening and the markets have treaded water. There is every reason to believe that the sell-off could resume if the Fed presses ahead.
Our current “expansion,“ which began in June of 2009 is 88 months old, and is already the fourth longest since the end of the Second World War (post-war expansions have averaged 61 months) (based on data from National Bureau of Economic Research and Bureau of Labor Statistics). But although it is one of the longest it has also been the weakest. Despite fresh optimism nearly every year, we have not had a single year of 3 percent GDP growth since 2007.
More ominously, the already weak expansion is beginning to slow rapidly. GDP growth has been decelerating, averaging just 1% in the past three quarters. (Bureau of Economic Analysis) And while hopes were high for a significant rebound in Q3, as has been the pattern all year, rosy estimates have recently been sharply reduced.
Typically rate-tightening cycles start in the early stages of a recovery when the economy is still gathering momentum. As I have argued before, a rate tightening campaign that begins in the decelerating tail end of an old and feeble recovery is bound to unleash problems.
So I agree with those who believe that rate hikes now will bring on recession, but I disagree that we should keep rates where they are. They believe we need to keep the stimulus pedal to the metal…and when that’s not enough, to cut a hole in the metal and push harder. I believe that despite the short term pain that will surely follow, we need to raise rates now to break the addiction before it gets worse.
The “keep rates at zero camp” argues that global economic developments have made traditional GDP growth nearly impossible to achieve. These believers in “the new normal” fear that the Fed is mistakenly waiting for growth that will never come. Larry Summers, the leader of this group, recently argued in the Washington Post that the Fed will never be able to raise rates enough in the short term (without plunging the economy into recession) to gather enough ammunition to effectively fight the next recession. In his view, to raise rates now would be to risk everything and get nothing.
Summers knows that central bankers now do not have the caliber of bazookas that their predecessors once carried (Bernanke was able to slash interest rates over 400 basis points in a few months). So he advocates continued stimulus until newer means can be developed to head off the next recession before it develops. (He promises to reveal those new ideas soon…really).
Given all the economic realities that central banking has attempted to suspend in recent years (such as the antiquated belief that lenders should be paid to lend rather than being charged for the privilege), it’s no great stretch for them to consider the next big leap and call for an age of permanent expansion.
To do this they must short-circuit the business cycle, which up until now has regulated prior monetary mismanagement. Rather than being some naturally occurring process, the business cycle actually results from artificially low interest rates. Mistakes are made during the booms, when rates are held artificially low, and are then corrected during the bust, once those rates are allowed to normalize. Ironically, the busts are actually the benign part of the process, and should not be resisted, but embraced. But to mitigate the short-term pain associated with actually correcting those mistakes, central banks typically opt to paper them over for as long as possible. The problem is that this time the papering over process has gone on for so long, and involved a record amount of paper, that correcting the mistakes now will necessitate a recession so severe that it is unthinkable. The only apparent “solution” is to make sure one never arrives.
To do so Fed must replace the “ups and downs” of the economy with the “ups and ups.” This futile process will likely involve the Fed intervening directly in the equity markets (by actually buying shares), or in the real estate market (by buying properties or making loans) or into the consumer economy by directly distributing money to citizens. But since contractions are necessary and healthy, especially when markets have gotten ahead of themselves, attempting to short-circuit them does more harm than good. Yet despite how crazy such a policy sounds, Yellen just suggested that she thinks it’s not only a good idea, but that the Fed is already giving it serious study. Given the damage our crazy monetary policy has already inflicted in the past, one can only imagine what kind of devastation awaits.
Just this week the International Monetary Fund issued a report about the dangers of global debt growth, which has reached $152 Trillion, or roughly twice the size of global GDP. They noted that the growth of private debt has recently led the upswing. With negative rates actually paying some companies to borrow, should this be a surprise? And while it’s nice that the IMF raised a red flag, it’s pathetic that their only proposed solution is to call for governments to increase public debt through fiscal stimulus (based on what should now be the debunked theory that deficit spending creates growth).
Even more pathetic is Alan Greenspan attempt on CNBC this week to blame the current low growth economy on Congress, and its failure to reign in entitlements. Greenspan is correct in his determination that "the new normal" results from the plunge in productivity gains that is a function of drops in savings and capital investment. But he can’t absolve the Fed. Had they not monetized the ever growing Federal deficits, or kept interest rates artificially low for so long, market forces would have forced cuts in entitlement spending years ago. These actions, originated with Greenspan himself, enabled Congress to repeatedly kick the can down the road.
According to Greenspan, to spare the public the pain of higher interest rates the Fed has no choice but to hold its nose and accommodate any level of debt Congress chooses to accumulate. But the ability to pursue unpopular policy is precisely they are supposed to be politically independent. What good is an independent central bank that simply helps incumbents win reelection?
Given that the Fed has already unsuccessfully exhausted so much firepower, it is unfortunate that it never seriously questions whether their policies are actually harmful. Modern economists simply can’t imagine that throwing ever more debt on the back of a weak economy actually prevents it from recovering.
I think it’s high time the Fed finally moves rates well into positive territory. The next recession has been on its way for years, and it will arrive no matter what the Fed does, if it’s not already here. Sometimes reality hurts, but fantasy can be more damaging in the long run.
The real choice is not between recession now or recession later. It’s between a massive recession now, or an even more devastating one later. Either way, there is no Fed policy that will be able to fight it. But that is not because the Fed is out of bullets, but because it never had any real bullets to fire in the first place. All it had was morphine to numb the pain as the wound festered. Now is the time to bite the bullet, endure the pain, and allow the wound to actually heal. This will also allow us to finally bury the idea of a new normal, enjoy a real recovery with all of its traditional benefits, and actually make America great again.
Les doy cordialmente la bienvenida a este Blog informativo con artículos, análisis y comentarios de publicaciones especializadas y especialmente seleccionadas, principalmente sobre temas económicos, financieros y políticos de actualidad, que esperamos y deseamos, sean de su máximo interés, utilidad y conveniencia.
Pensamos que solo comprendiendo cabalmente el presente, es que podemos proyectarnos acertadamente hacia el futuro.
Gonzalo Raffo de Lavalle
Las convicciones son mas peligrosos enemigos de la verdad que las mentiras.
Quien conoce su ignorancia revela la mas profunda sabiduría. Quien ignora su ignorancia vive en la mas profunda ilusión.
“There are decades when nothing happens and there are weeks when decades happen.”
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
You only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out.
No soy alguien que sabe, sino alguien que busca.
Only Gold is money. Everything else is debt.
Las grandes almas tienen voluntades; las débiles tan solo deseos.
Quien no lo ha dado todo no ha dado nada.
History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.
We are travelers on a cosmic journey, stardust, swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share.This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.
Archivo del blog
- VACACIONES OCTUBRE 2016
- FREE TRADE: COMING AND GOING / THE ECONOMIST
- THE END OF MONETARY POLICY USHERS IN A MESSY NEW A...
- MANAGING THE ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCES OF NATIONALISM ...
- THE NEXT RECESSION LOOMS LARGE / EURO PACIFIC CAPI...
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