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Richard Leong contributed to this post
John Kenneth Galbraith apparently joked that economic forecasting was invented to make astrology look respectable. You were warned here first that it would be especially so in the case of the first snapshot (advanced reading) of U.S. second quarter gross domestic product from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Benchmark revisions to U.S. gross domestic product made for a bit of a mayhem for forecasters, who were way off the mark in predicting just 1 percent annualized growth when in fact the rate came it at 1.7 percent. Morgan Stanley had predicted a gain of just 0.2 percent.
Hours after the GDP release, Federal Reserve officials sent a more dovish signal than markets had expected, offering no hint that a reduction in the size of its bond-buying stimulus might be imminent. In particular, they flagged the risk to the recovery from higher mortgage rates as well as the potential for low inflation to pose deflationary risks.
Little wonder: The central bank’s preferred inflation measure was just reported to have dipped to a paltry 0.8 percent, less than half the Fed’s 2 percent inflation target. The Fed said in its statement:
President Barack Obama proposed a hike in the U.S. minimum wage during his State of the Union Address in February. Since then, we haven’t really heard very much about the proposal. That’s too bad for a U.S. economy that could still use a bit of a boost, according to new research.
A paper from the Chicago Fed finds that, while there might be little impact on long-term growth prospects from a higher minimum wage, the measure could add as much as 0.3 percentage point to gross domestic product in the short-run. That’s not insignificant for an economy that expanded at a soft annualized rate of just 1.1 percent over the last two quarters.
from India Insight:
Indian shares ended in the green in three of five trading sessions but jittery market reaction to the U.S. Federal Reserve’s announcement of a gradual end to its $85 billion bond-buying stimulus took the BSE Sensex down 2.1 percent for the week. The broader 50-share Nifty lost 2.4 percent.
The U.S. central bank’s monetary programme has been a source of easy money for emerging markets such as India that used FII inflows to finance its current account deficit. The possibility of a liquidity drought and a consequent selloff by foreign investors spooked the markets with the rupee plummeting to a record low of 59.98 against the dollar on Thursday.
Is Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke avoiding the word “taper” in order to temper expectations that the U.S. central bank will ratchet down its massive bond buying program? This is one view that’s been widely bandied about in recent days.
But then why is it that the Fed officials who are most eager to "taper" have pretty much stopped using the word, too?
It’s that time of the month again: Wall Street is anxiously awaiting the monthly employment figures – less because of its interest in job creation and more because of what the numbers will mean for the Federal Reserve’s unconventional stimulus policies.
As one money manager put it all too candidly: “Bad news is good news in this market lately because it keeps the Fed buying bonds and interest rates low.”
Financial markets this will be keenly focused on congressional testimony from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and minutes from the central bank’s April 30-May 1 meeting, particularly given a thin data calendar. The latter may be the more interesting one, since it will offer hints into how far Fed officials are leaning in a direction of curbing the pace of its bond-buying stimulus, potentially late this summer.
The economic backdrop has been just mixed enough to leave policymakers cautious about taking their foot off the gas. Still, if we get a few more months of strength in the labor market, Fed officials may just be able to say “substantial progress” has been made in the outlook for the labor market – their stated precondition for an end to asset buys.
By Edward Hadas
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.
As the Great Stagnation stretches out into the indefinite future, the level of GDP and the growth rate are widely judged to be too low. Voters are unhappy and the debate on how to respond is loud but inconclusive. What is the right mix of stimulus, austerity, structural changes and monetary policy? Something better is possible. Here are five simple rules for a more productive dialogue.
All the talk of currency wars is mostly just that – talk. This week’s meeting of the Group of 20 nations at the International Monetary Fund was living proof. Despite speculation that emerging nations would redouble their criticism of extraordinarily low rates in advanced economies, the G20 ended up largely supporting the Bank of Japan’s new and bold stimulus efforts aimed at combating years of deflation.
Mr. currency wars himself, Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega, told reporters Japan’s monetary drive was understandable given its struggle with falling prices and stagnant wages, even if he called for close monitoring of its potential spillover effects.
from The Great Debate:
President Barack Obama stirred with an unexpectedly powerful inaugural address – a second effort that far surpassed his first. He summoned great themes of American history to argue cogently for his second-term agenda. Now he has a chance to deliver a State of the Union address that improves on those of his first term, too.
The key to success? Presidents still have the power of surprise. Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “I am like a cat. I make a quick stroke, and then I relax.” As in his inaugural, Obama should surprise us – this time with new policies and sharp specificity. On the budget, democracy reform and immigration, the president stands well positioned.
Jonathan Spicer contributed to this post
When the Fed adopted thresholds for its low interest-rate policy last December, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said they would make "monetary policy more transparent and predictable to the public." But now that the policy is fully in place, it doesn’t seem that the public and the Fed are predicting the same thing at all. Not even close.
In their policy statement following a two-day meeting that wrapped up Wednesday, Fed policymakers removed any reference to date-based policy guidance, saying only that exceptionally low rates would remain in place as long as unemployment remains above 6.5 percent and inflation is not seen to top 2.5 percent. But as recently as December, the Fed’s statement suggested policymakers did not believe those thresholds would be met until at least mid-2015.