Wednesday, November 11, 2009


The latest macroeconomic data from major world economies suggested that the recessionary contraction is likely to be ended in the light of positive news on GDP growth and midterm macroeconomic outlook. However, the road of the economic recovery remains uncertain. The policymakers responded to the great contraction of 2008 by decreasing interest rates close to zero rate. Massive injections of monetary stimulus boosted liquidity and attempted to accelerate credit expansion. However, monetary stimulus such as TARP in the U.S encouraged excess reserves. Thus, the banking sector published significant quarterly results as the stimulus package covered the overall losses from the credit crunch and subprime mortgage crisis of the previous year. In this brief article, I outline the economic recovery in the U.S in the ongoing year.

In Q3, the U.S economy grew by 2.4 percent despite the negative unemployment figures. While the U.S productivity grew by 6.8 percent in Q2:09 and by 9.8 percent in Q3:09, the unemployment rate is expected to reach 10.5 percent in December. The $787 billion stimulus from Obama administration to the ailing industries did little to prevent the fallout of demand and the financial difficulties of many firms. In fact, most of the stimulus has not already been spent. In spite of enormous fiscal emergency aid, the Obama administration effectively nationalized the auto industry as Detroit's auto industry declared bankruptcy. The auto industry is likely to recover gradually. Eventually, the fall of Detroit's giants was more likely a consequence of auto industry's inability to cope with high labor cost and fringe health and pension benefits.

The underlying economic theory and evidence teach that massive government intervention in the economy is inefficient as if government bailout hadn't occured. In Q3:09, financial industry posted significant quarterly earnings. Monetary stimulus inflated another asset bubble which translated into highly prospective annual data and higher volatility. Morgan Stanley's annual stock return currently stands at 133.4 percent (link). On the other hand, stock markets rallied in the light of significant quarterly earnings of the banking and financial sector. In one year, Dow Jones Industrial Average grew by 18.27 percent (link), S&P 500 increased by 22.16 percent (link) while Nasdaq Composite's annual growth rate stands at 36.91 percent (link). Stock markets rallied in the light of favorable earnings projections and cost reductions.

On the macroeconomic level, the U.S economy is likely to face a long L-shaped recovery. The underlying conditions are extremely low interest rate, high unemployment rate and high quarterly productivity growth rate. Much of the confidence in fiscal stimulus and expansionary fiscal policy was based on the initial assumption that spending multipliers will exceed 1 and boost short-term output and investment to reduce the negative output gap. Nevertheless, fiscal policy outlook remains sluggish and the prevailing evidence suggests that spending multipliers are hardly positive, except for when the unemployment rate exceeds 12 percent, causing a major fallout of capacity utilization. Robert Barro and Charles Redlick recently estimated the cost of fiscal stimulus. The Obama administration has already expressed commitment to raising the marginal tax rates. Tax increases are the unfortunate midterm alternative because excessive borrowing and the estimated 9.9 percent of the GDP fiscal deficit in 2009 (link) has already downgraded sovereign U.S debt outlook. Redlick and Barro showed that one-period lagged increase in the average marginal tax rate reduces, GDP growth by 0.56 percentage point. The overall effect on consumption purchases is -0.29 and the overall effect on investment is -0.35, both statistically significant at 99 percent.

The U.S dollar further depreciated against the euro (link), increasing the U.S inflation rate above the expected target, partly as a result of the increase in short-term yield on Treasury bonds. Purchases of Treasury bonds effectively increased demand for U.S dollars and triggered short-term depreciation trend. An effective reduction of fiscal deficit in the coming years is a necessary condition for mitigating the negative effects of U.S current account deficit. As fiscal deficit raises demand for imports in the U.S, real depreciation of the real effective exchange rate raises relative prices in the tradable sector compared to non-tradable sector. The main highlights of U.S economy recovery will be focused on restrictive fiscal policy and policy interest rates. Zero interest ground is a real disadvantage in economic recovery, mainly because the negative output gap and the Fed is likely to face hard time trading-off between higher inflation if interest rates remains at historic lows while the real sector's credit demand could surge and potential output contraction in the coming quarterly periods if the Fed will raised targeted federal funds rates. In the latter scenario, the U.S economy could repeat the Japanese disease from the 1990s, being faced with long, sluggish and slow economic recovery that could last for several years.

1 comment:

graspthemarket said...

Can we really call this an economic recovery? It is hard for me to accept that. I wrote an article about the "Official Definition of Econmonic Recovery"--

notice the quotes on the title...