MacroScope

Not again, please! Brazil and India more vulnerable now to another crisis

After bad economic news from Germany, China and the United States over the past few weeks, here are two more. Brazil and India, two of the world’s largest emerging economies, are increasingly vulnerable to another crisis or to the eventual end of the ultra-loose monetary policies in developed economies after five years of a severe global slowdown.

Weak demand for Brazil’s exports and the voracious appetite of local consumers for imported goods widened the country’s current account deficit to 2.93 percent of GDP in the 12 months through March, the widest gap in nearly eleven years. In dollar terms, that amounts to $67 billion.

To help fund this gap, Brazil could at first loosen the currency controls adopted in the past few years and let more dollars in. But if the dollar flows change too swiftly, Brazil would find itself with three other options: curb spending by growing less, allow a decline in the foreign exchange rate at the risk of fueling inflation, or burn part of its international reserves – which are large, at $377 billion, but not infinite.

Such an outlook could get even more challenging if commodities prices drop – and last week’s tumble in many products sent a reminder of how volatile these markets can be, hurting not only Brazil but many other Latin American exporters.

    ”Whereas the region entered the 2008-09 global financial crisis from a position of relative strength, it is now much more vulnerable to another external shock,” said David Rees, emerging markets economist at Capital Economics, in London.

U.S. jobs data marks gloomy hat-trick for economists

By Sarmista Sen and Sumanta Dey

 

Economists predicting jobs growth in the United States, or rather the lack of it, scored an unfortunate hat-trick on Friday – vastly overestimating the rise in payrolls for three consecutive months.

The U.S. economy added 69,000 jobs last month, less than half the Reuters median for a gain of 150,000 jobs and missing even the lowest forecast of 75,000 from nearly 80 economists .

Forecasters last achieved that feat between April and November 2008, when the actual NFP number consistently missed the lowest forecast in the survey, for eight consecutive months.

from Davos Notebook:

Will Goldman’s new BRICwork stand up?

RTXWLHHJim O'Neill, the Goldman Sachs economist who coined the term BRICs back in 2001, is adding four new countries to the elite club of emerging market economies. But does his new edifice have the same solid foundations?

In future, the BRIC economies of Brazil, Russia, China and India will be merged with those of Mexico, Indonesia, Turkey and South Korea under the banner “growth markets,” O'Neill told the Financial Times.

Hmmm.  Doesn't quite grab you like BRICs, does it? The Guardian helpfully offers an amended branding banner of  "Bric 'n Mitsk" (geddit?). But which ever way you cut it, it's hard to see a flood of investment conferences and funds floating off under the new moniker.

from Reuters Investigates:

Let’s be ethical, economists say

Last month's special report “For some professors, disclosure is academic” has been making waves in the academic world, as this story shows:

Economists urge AEA to adopt ethics code: letter

By Kristina Cooke

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Almost three hundred economists have signed a letter to the American Economic Association "strongly" urging it to adopt a code of ethics requiring disclosure of potential conflicts of interests.

The 135-year-old American Economic Association, or AEA, does not have a code of conduct for its approximately 18,000 members. Over half of its members are academics, according to its website.

The long and short of it

Fashionomics followers will be familiar with the Hemline Index, a theory presented by economist George Taylor in 1926 that suggests that hemlines on women’s dresses rise along with stock prices.

FRANCE-FASHION/

Based on this theory, micro-minis can be seen in good times as women take more risks, while maxi dresses (floor-sweeping dresses) reflect uncertainty and conservatism during a recession.

Looking forward to 2011, many analysts expect reasonable global growth of 4.5-5 percent and equities are the No.1 favoured asset class among investors after the benchmark MSCI index has risen more than 9 percent so far this year.

from Funds Hub:

Markets could be derailed again, warns Soros

CLIMATE-COPENHAGEN/Railway porter-turned-billionaire financier George Soros delivered a stark warning last night that the financial world is on the wrong track and that we may be hurtling towards an even bigger boom and bust than in the credit crisis.

The man who 'broke' the Bank of England (and who is still able to earn a cool $3.3 bln in a year) said the same strategy of borrowing and spending that had got us out of the Asian crisis could shunt us towards another crisis unless tough lessons are learned.

Soros, who worked as a porter to pay for his studies at the London School of Economics after emigrating from Hungary, warned us to heed the lesson that modern economics had got it wrong and that markets are not inherently stable.

from Changing China:

Starbucks and the overvalued yuan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is latte at Starbucks in China overpriced or is the local currency, the yuan, unexpectedly overvalued? The former is certainly more plausible, but it might be equally true that the yuan, if not overvalued, is at least not as undervalued as other measures suggest.

This conclusion would come from my proposed Grande Latte index, the caffeinated equivalent of The Economist's Big Mac index. The Grande Latte index, like its burger brother, is a light-hearted attempt to find a basket of goods that can be compared across countries to assess purchasing power parity (PPP) and, by extension, fair currency value. There are serious flaws, but I will save these for, ahem, the bottom of this blog.

The cross-country cost comparison of grande (i.e. medium in Starbucks-speak) lattes shows that the Seattle-based coffee chain's brew is rather dear in China. A grande latte costs $3.75 in the United States but $4.10 in China in dollar terms. It is even more expensive in Japan. The conclusion, that the yen is currently overvalued by 23 percent, accords well with the views of many analysts. But the idea that the yuan might be overvalued by 9 percent flies in the face of pretty much all conventional wisdom. It is also a drastically different perspective than that of the Big Mac index, which in its latest edition showed the yuan to be 49 percent undervalued.

How good are economists at forecasting CPI?

Market economists are taking a pasting worldwide for not predicting the global financial crisis. But how good is the profession at more bread-and-butter tasks, such as forecasting economic data?

 

In Australia, Reuters surveys 15-25 economists ahead of each quarterly CPI figure. A check back over analyst forecasts for the past 17 years shows:

    the median forecast mostly gets the direction right, but tends to miss the highs and lows of the cycle the median forecast is pretty close about half the time but about a quarter of the time it’s well off the mark and of those — about 10 percent of the time — it’s not even close 

Forecasts matter because financial markets closely watch surveys of analyst expectations for major data, and the consensus forecast is priced into the market well before official figures are released. So any big swings in the exchange rate or bill prices on the day are usually due to whether the result matches expectations, rather than the figure itself.

Paper? or Paperless?

Just weeks after the European Central Bank tightened its
rules on the assets banks can use as collateral in central bank
lending operations, it’s thinking about broadening them again.

At a summit in Paris on Sunday, euro zone governments
suggested the ECB follow the U.S. Federal Reserve’s lead in
accepting commercial pape
r, the short-term debt which many
companies use to fund their day-to-day operations.

Europe’s commercial paper market is worth $800 billion, and
the ECB said it would consider changing the rules on
accepting the paper, which must meet the same high standards
applied to long-term corporate and government debt.