31 May 2010

1937 Again, Again

It is not just fiscal policy which is heading in the wrong direction, influential voices now want monetary policy to retreat from supporting the economy. The OECD wants the UK to start raising interest rates this year and to as much as 3.5% by the end of next year.
Interest rates are lifted to reduce inflation, so where does the OECD think inflation is going?
Inflation is high, but is projected to fall below the 2% target, once the temporary effects of the increase in the VAT rate wane, due to significant economic slack.
No inflation, but raise rates anyway, just in case? I think not.

27 May 2010

Oh My Gawd, They Killed Recovery!

Not yet, perhaps but 2010 is beginning to look like 1937.

In 1937, Roosevelt cut government spending in the belief that the Great Depression was over. The result was a new recession and the Depression went on.

This week, Italy has announced cuts of €24 billion targeting pensions, public sector wages and recruitment. Spain is cutting €15 billion with public sector pay again in the firing line. Portugal announced its austerity measures back in March. Even Germany is preparing cuts - apparently to set an example for the others.

One difference between Europe today and the US in 1937 is that the Fed tightened monetary policy while European interest rates are unchanged. That is a little deceptive since interest rates are at their lower bound. It is difficult to loosen monetary policy when interest rates are almost at zero, otherwise monetary policy would be looser.

Back in January, Paul Krugman was warning of the danger that the US might replay 1937.

26 May 2010

A Bigger Cut

On Monday the government took bold action to cut the deficit by annoucing £6.2 billion of cuts to public expenditure in this financial year. 

The previous Friday, The Office of National Statistics cut the deficit by £7.4 billion.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revised down the amount borrowed by the government last year from £163.4bn to £156bn.

17 May 2010

Euro-Brady Bonds

There is one aspect I don't get about the €110 billion Greek bailout (which is big enough to save Greece the bother of going to the bond market for a few years).
Why have the Eurozone countries agreed to lend money to Greece before it defaults? Would it not be better to have the default (or rescheduling if you prefer) first and then offer guarantees for new borrowing?
That would work a bit like the Brady bonds issued following the Latin American defaults in the 80s. The US guaranteed the Bradies which were backed by debtor country assets and IMF receipts.

See Wikipedia for more on Bradies.