309 Items

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

The Significance of Gold’s Record $2,000 Price

| Aug. 24, 2020

The price of gold reached an all-time record high of $2,000 per ounce this month.  Mainstream economic thinking has treated gold as a side-show since the world went off the gold standard. Nevertheless, the recent spiking in the price signals some important trends. It is not merely “sound and fury signifying nothing,” as sometimes seems true of financial markets.

There are three ready explanations for the historic increase in the price of gold: (i) monetary policy, (ii) risk, and (iii) a spreading desire for an alternative to the dollar as a safe haven.  Each of these explanations contains some truth.

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

The Impact of the Pandemic on Developing Countries

| Aug. 03, 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has had differentiated impacts across countries. This is true even among the set of Emerging Market and Developing Economies (EMDEs), which share the disadvantages of more poverty, less adequate health care, and fewer jobs that can be done remotely, compared to Advanced Economies.

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

What Determines when a Recession is a Recession?

| June 18, 2020

The Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research declared on June 9 that US economic activity had peaked in February 2020, formally marking the start of the recession.

We all knew about the recession already and even the likely date when it started.  Looking at the numbers gave the same answer as “looking out the window.”  Measures of employment had fallen sharply from February to March.  Real personal consumption expenditures (PCE) and real personal income less transfers (which are numbers that the NBER Committee looks at) both peaked sharply in February as well.  Official measures of GDP only exist on a quarterly basis, but the economic freefall in late March was enough to pull first-quarter GDP growth down to an annual rate of -4.8 %  (relative to the last quarter of 2019). Why did the NBER wait until now to declare something that had already been so clear?

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

How China Compares Internationally in New GDP Figures

| May 31, 2020

The World Bank on May 19, as it does every six years, released the results of the most recent International Comparison Program (ICP), which measures price levels and GDPs across 176 countries.  The new results are striking.  It is surprising that they have received almost no attention so far, perhaps overshadowed by all things coronavirus.

For the first time, the ICP shows China’s total real income as slightly larger than the US.  It reports that China’s GDP was $19,617 billion in 2017, in Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) terms, while the United States’ GDP stood at $19,519 billion.

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World El Pais

What is Different About the Coronavirus Recession?

| May 09, 2020

In the GFC of 2008/2009 the world fell into recession for a while (one year), but the emerging world almost didn’t suffer: they kept growing, mostly thanks to commodity prices. Now, the story looks pretty different: even emerging countries will experience negative growth in 2020… It seems to be a truly global crisis. Should this worry us more?

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

History Warns Us to Avoid a W-shaped Recession

| May 03, 2020

“Those who do not study history are condemned to repeat it.”  And the rest of us are condemned to repeat George Santayana.

Will the Coronavirus Recession of 2020 be V-shaped?  Or U-shaped?  If we fail to heed the lessons of history it is likely to be W-shaped, with incipient recovery followed by successive relapses into sickness and recession.

As has been widely noted, we would have been better prepared to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic in the first place if everyone had paid more attention to the past history of epidemics. Be that as it may, the world is now deep into the pandemic and its economic consequences, the most severe such events since the interwar period, 1918-1939.  As decision-makers in every country contemplate their next steps, they would do well to ponder the precedents of that interwar period.

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

Black Swans Like COVID-19 are Predictable

| Mar. 30, 2020

Events like the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, the US housing crash of 2007-09, and the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, are called “black swans”: in each case, few people were able to predict them reliably, at least not with precision.  But they were known unknowns, not unknown unknowns.  That is, in each case, knowledgeable analysts were fully aware that such a thing could happen, even that it was likely to happen eventually.  They could not predict that the event would happen with high probability in any given year.  But the consequences of each of these events were severe, and predictably so.  Thus, policymakers should have listened to the warnings and should have taken steps in advance. They could have helped avert or mitigate disaster if they had done so.