The Great Debate UK
–Laurence Copeland is a professor of finance at Cardiff University Business School. The opinions expressed are his own.–
If the economics profession has sunk in public estimation in the last two or three years, it would hardly be surprising. Our failure to predict the crisis is something which cannot be simply brushed aside lightly, as some of my colleagues would love to do.
To ordinary folk, claiming to be quite good at explaining and even forecasting events in normal conditions, but admitting we simply can’t handle crises makes us about as much use as a doctor who knows how to treat ingrowing toenails and flatulence, but hasn’t a clue about how to deal with heart attacks or cancer.
Nor is that the only charge which could be levelled at the British profession. One could forgive any politician who felt bewildered by the sheer fluidity of the positions taken by the hordes of macro-economists offering advice, solicited and unsolicited, on the direction policy should take. After all, the overwhelming majority of the profession appears to be in favour of expansionary monetary policy (aka QE2) with an eye on keeping sterling weak against the euro and, if possible, the dollar (hence also against the yuan). Yet most of the same people were enthusiastic advocates of Britain joining the euro zone, in spite of the fact that the option of driving down our exchange rate in the way they advise is only open to us because we have stayed out of the single currency.
It is fairly commonplace at the moment for U.S. and UK financial analysts -- what continental Europeans call the Anglo-Saxons -- to predict the collapse of the euro zone, a project they were mostly sceptical about in the first place. MacroScope touched on this on two occasions in March.
The latest foray into this area comes from Alan Brown, global chief investment officer at the large UK fund firm Schroders. But he does it with twist, blaming what he sees as the eventual collapse of the euro zone not on the structure itself nor on the profligacy of peripheral economies, but on Germany's response to the crisis.
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.
from Global News Journal:
The 16 countries that share the euro single currency have agreed they will help Greece out if it needs. So far so good. But only now is the nitty-gritty of how member states will go about paying for their contributions being hammered out. And suddenly things are getting a little complicated.
Italy announced on Tuesday it would have to issue government bonds -- known as BTPs -- to raise funds for its part in any Greek assistance.
A week ago we ran a post on MacroScope noting, in part, that Britons have a strange relationship with the euro, sometimes bordering on disbelief that it exists at all. Some new numbers from the monthly Bank of America Merrill Lynch fund managers poll underline the extent of UK scepticism compared with that of others.
For two months, BofA Merrill has asked fund managers around the world what they think will eventually happen as a result of the Greek debt crisis. Four choices are on offer:
Britons have never really got the euro zone. "Its not really going to happen, is it?" was a typical question from a City analyst to Reuters back in the mid-90s. The political drive behind the creation of the monetary union was beyond many in eurosceptic Britain.
So the results of a straw poll at an event sponsored by independent City advisers Lombard Street Research were somewhat suprising. A hundred or so mainly British investors were asked whether the euro would be around in five years with its current membership. Response was about 80 percent saying yes to 20 percent saying no.
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.
from The Great Debate:
Some crises bring partners closer together. Some, as investors in the euro zone are likely to discover this year, drive them further apart.
Look for rising tensions about fiscal and monetary policy among the bloc's 16 member nations, and for a bigger penalty to be imposed on the euro and some euro zone assets against the possibility of a breakup or a secession from the currency group.