The Great Debate UK
from Felix Salmon:
The new Basel III capital ratios are going to be announced this weekend, and the banks are going to complain about how much the new ratios are going to raise lending costs and hurt economic growth. The BIS, of course, has taken these complaints seriously, and has released two monster reports calculating exactly what the impact of higher capital standards will be.
The first report looks at the long-term effects of higher capital standards. They look something like this:
On the x-axis, you have the capital ratio; on the y-axis, you have the long-term effect on GDP growth rates. (The effect is zero at a 7% capital ratio, since that's what the BIS is assuming we have, globally, right now.) As you can see, at just about any realistic point on the graph, higher capital ratios increase the long-term growth rate. The green line is the conservative one: that's the line which assumes that while financial crises are harmful in the short term, they have no long-term repercussions. The red line, more realistically, assumes that financial crises result in a permanent, if moderate, reduction in GDP.
Most of the benefit comes from smaller and less harmful financial crises. But there is cost, if a modest one, in higher loan spreads: the report calculates that each 1 percentage point increase in the capital ratio raises loan spreads by 13 basis points. And that's assuming that banks keep their return on equity at a high 15%. If the new safer banks are OK with a 10% return on equity, then the rise in lending spreads drops to just 7bp for every percentage point increase in equity.
Mike Dicks, chief economist and blogger at Barclays Wealth, has identified what he sees as the three biggest problems facing the global economy, and conveniently found that they are linked with three separate regions.
First, there is the risk that U.S., t consumers won't increase spending. Dicks notes that the increase in U.S. consumption has been "extremely moderate" and far less than after previous recessions. His firm has lowered is U.S. GDP forecast for 2011 to 2.7 percent from a bit over 3 percent.
The reality of 'political economy' is something that irritates many economists -- the "purists", if you like. The political element is impossible to model; it often flies in the face of textbook economics; and democratic decision-making and backroom horse trading can be notoriously difficult to predict and painfully slow. And political economy is all pervasive in 2010 -- Barack Obama's proposals to rein in the banks is rooted in public outrage; reading China's monetary and currency policies is like Kremlinology; capital curbs being introduced in Brazil and elsewhere aim to prevent market overshoot; and British budgetary policies are becoming the political football ahead of this spring's UK election. The list is long, the outcomes uncertain, the market risk high.
But nowhere is this more apparent than in well-worn arguments over the validity and future of Europe's single currency -- the new milennium's posterchild for political economy.
Our recent post on the End of Capitalism triggered much interest and comment. There were plenty of diverse views, as one would expect. But one thread that came out was that what we are now seeing is not true capitalism (nor, of course, is it old-style communism). Ok, but what is it?
Anthony Conforti suggested in a comment that we need a name for what is happening,:
What do you do when you are trained as an economist, but find economics too complex?
Become a freakonomist, of course.
Steven D. Levitt, co-author of the freshly published SuperFreakonomics, decided to “take the tools of economics and apply them to the kind of questions that no self-respecting economist would ever want to be related to — like: does the name that you give your children affect their life outcomes; what are the underlying economics of prostitution; or, is your estate agent ripping you off?”
from UK News:
- Sumeet Desai, Reuters senior UK economics correspondent. -
Inflation unexpectedly held steady in July, official data showed Tuesday, but economists still expect big falls in the annual rate this year and monetary policy to stay loose for some time to come.
Is a 1.8 percent inflation rate good or bad news?
- Peter Dixon is a guest columnist, the views expressed are his own. He is global financial economist at Commerzbank -
The popular image of economists is one of pointy-headed analysts, poring over data and running models in order to make predictions about the future which will invariably prove to be wrong.
- Alan Beattie is world trade editor at the Financial Times, and author of the recent book “False Economy: A Surprising Economic History of the World”. He studied history at Oxford and economics at Cambridge, and worked as a Bank of England economist before joining the FT. The opinions expressed are his own. -
Those who forget history are condemned to listen to historians going on and on about it, a fate almost as bad as listening to economists doing the same. (And I write as a double agent with a foot in both camps attempting the delicate task of bringing the two together in my new book)