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from Breakingviews:

Review: “House of Debt” diagnosis beats remedies

By Martin Hutchinson

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Atif Mian and Amir Sufi are better at diagnosis than cure. In their book, “House of Debt: How They (and You) Caused the Great Recession, and How We Can Prevent It from Happening Again,” the two professors make a compelling case that excess consumer debt caused the severity of the U.S. Great Recession. Unfortunately their mortgage bailout proposal would worsen future such problems. Another idea, shared value mortgages, might work partially – but tighter monetary policy would work better still.

The authors use sophisticated techniques to demonstrate their central contention that consumer debt loads, especially in housing, were the primary cause of the 2008 decline. For example, they show that households in U.S. counties with the highest quintile of house price declines cut their spending by 20 percent in the first half of 2008 - before the Lehman Brothers collapse and the resulting banking crisis.

The granular analysis is complemented by plausible estimates of the so-called wealth effect of house price movements. The most indebted households fell into a private financial crisis well before the national one hit. The book also explains how the foreclosure process, which primarily hits the most leveraged buyers, is a substantial destroyer of wealth for both homeowners and lenders.

from Breakingviews:

Fed fundamentalists deserve fresh listen

By Rob Cox

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

A portrait of Milton Friedman hangs at the entrance to the Stauffer Auditorium at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. It carries no identification, and doesn’t need any. All who enter here can be counted on to recognize the patron saint of contemporary free-market economics. And so it was two days last week, when the leaders of what might be dubbed monetary fundamentalism gathered under Friedman’s watchful gaze.

from The Great Debate:

Fed tightening will help stem inequality

The Federal Reserve Building is reflected on a car in Washington September 16, 2008. REUTERS/Jim Young

Just as quantitative easing by the U.S. Federal Reserve has inadvertently increased the country’s wealth gap, so should tapering limit its rise.

from Global Investing:

Buying back into emerging markets

After almost a year of selling emerging markets, investors seem to be returning in force. The latest to turn positive on the asset class is asset and wealth manager Pictet Group (AUM: 265 billion pounds) which said on Tuesday its asset management division (clarifies division of Pictet) was starting to build positions on emerging equities and local currency debt. It has an overweight position on the latter for the first time since it went underweight last July.

Local emerging debt has been out of favour with investors because of how volatile currencies have been since last May, For an investor who is funding an emerging market investments from dollars or euros, a fast-falling rand can wipe out any gains he makes on a South African bond. But the rand and its peers such as the Turkish lira, Indian rupee, Indonesian rupiah and Brazilan real -- at the forefront of last year's selloff --  have stabilised from the lows hit in recent months.  According to Pictet Asset Management:

from Global Investing:

Indian shares: disappointment may lurk

Should Indian shares really be at record highs?

The index is up 3.6 percent this year. Foreign funds have been pouring money into Mumbai shares, betting that the opposition BJP, seen as more reform-friendly than the incumbent Congress, will form the next government. They purchased $420 million worth of Indian stocks last Friday, having bought $1.4 billion over the past 15 trading sessions.

There is also the fact that the rolling crisis in emerging markets, having smacked India during its first round last May, has now moved on and is ravaging places such as Russia and Nigeria instead. The rupee has firmed almost 2 percent this year to the dollar, as last year's 6.5 percent/GDP current account deficit has contracted to just 0.9 percent of GDP.  Many international funds such as Blackrock and JPMorgan Asset Management have Indian stocks on overweight and Bank of America/Merrill Lynch's monthly survey showed investors'  underweight on India was one of the smallest for emerging markets.

from Breakingviews:

Just ditch forward guidance

By Edward Hadas

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Central banks’ forward guidance provides modest gains with significant risks. That judgment, already common among economists, has just received an authoritative endorsement from the Bank for International Settlements. The implication is that this policy experiment should be abandoned.

from Expert Zone:

Why the Fed is not worried by emerging market moves

(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

Several emerging market central banks have been forced to react to market events already this year. Interest rate increases in India, Turkey and South Africa followed bond or currency market volatility. Argentina has endured dramatic moves in its currency, and Brazil has been forced to tighten policy.

from Expert Zone:

As liquidity dries, time for fundamentals

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

The focus is back where it should be for equity investors - fundamentals.

In the past few years,  markets around the world have swayed to the wave of liquidity unleashed by central banks in a bid to get their economies back on track. The U.S. Federal Reserve, for one, was buying as much as $85 billion of bonds a month since September 2012. But that tap is beginning to taper with the Fed reducing purchases by $10 billion in January and another $10 billion in February.

We feel that this, together with a host of factors at home, sets the stage for a more sanguine approach to equities. I indicated in my note last month that we expect 2014 to be a year of fragile recovery for the Indian economy. The scenario will be similar for Indian equities.

from Breakingviews:

ECB might be the most effective big central bank

By Edward Hadas

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Of the world’s three most important central banks, which one is doing the best job? Of course, it’s too early to tell - the distinguished economist Alan Blinder may now regret describing Alan Greenspan as “the greatest central banker who ever lived” in 2005. But there’s a good case that the European Central Bank under Mario Draghi deserves the prize.

from Counterparties:

Morning Bid: Dollar Bills and Dollar Bulls

The dollar’s performance hasn’t been anything to write home about in the last few years. It has weakened against major currencies like the euro and the Swiss franc, and been held back by lower interest rates thanks to the Federal Reserve’s triple-dose of quantitative easing, but there’s been a turn of late, though it’s too early to say whether it will have lasting power.

In 2013, the dollar was at least better than the yen, amassing a 35 percent move against the Japanese currency, which countered the Fed’s QE with Abenomics and a massive monetary dose of its own.

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