10 Items

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

Will the GameStop Game Stop?

| Feb. 06, 2021

Whether one thinks that the overall equity market is currently valued properly or not, something very unusual happened in the last week of January to GameStop stock.  Its price rose 323 percent for the week, and 1,700 percent for the month (that is, an 18-fold increase). This was a speculative bubble. That is, the price departed from fundamentals.

Some investors who got in early and got out early made a lot of money. Just as many people, who got in too late or stayed in too long, lost a lot of money, as valuations came back to earth.

We focus on GameStop, an ailing bricks-and-mortar retailer of video games and consoles, for concreteness.  But a similar phenomenon has affected the prices of a number of other assets.

Participating in a speculative bubble is like playing roulette in a casino.  The role of “the house” in this casino is played by brokers such as retail-investment platform Robinhood or financial-services company Charles Schwab.  So far, not so unusual. Speculative bubbles happen from time to time.

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

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.

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

Let’s Go Back to Good Old Tariff-Cutting

| Dec. 02, 2019

The “bicycle theory” used to be a metaphor for international trade policy.  Just as standing still on a bicycle is not an option — one has to keep moving forward or else the bike will fall over – so it was said that international trade negotiators must continue to engage in successive rounds of liberalization, or else the open global trading system would be pulled down by protectionist interests.  I don’t know if the theory was ever right.  (And, to be honest, I don’t entirely understand why forward movement keeps a bicycle from falling over.)  But if we had stood still on trade policy over the last three years we would be a lot better off than where we are now.

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

Moore on Gold and Commodities

| May 01, 2019

A century ago, the gold standard was considered a guarantor of monetary stability.  That golden era is long-gone.  (If it ever really existed at all.  The general price level fell 53% in US and 45% in the UK during 1873-1896 due to a dearth of gold deposit discoveries.)

Continuing my thoughts on the Fed candidacy of Stephen Moore: he has said several times that he favors a return to gold.  In true Trumpian fashion, he recently denied having said it despite the clear video evidence.

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

Seven Reasons China Won’t Yield in Trump’s Trade War

| Apr. 23, 2018

President Trump enacted steel and aluminum tariffs in March, citing national security.  China is the intended target, as most other major suppliers were eventually exempted. On April 2, China retaliated by imposing tariffs on 128 American products (representing about $3 billion of trade), ranging from 15% on fruits to 25% on pork.  Trump April 3 announced 25% tariffs on another 1300 Chinese products [representing some $50 billion of trade], citing forced transfer of US technology and IPR. China on April 4 responded with plans for retaliatory 25% tariffs on 106 US exports -- including soybeans, autos, and airplanes -- to go into effect when the US tariffs do.  On April 5, the White House announced it was considering $100 billion of additional tariffs on China.

If these tariffs go ahead, yes, it is a trade war. How will it end?

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

Fiscal Education for the G-7

| May 26, 2016
As the G-7 Leaders gather in Ise-Shima, Japan, on May 26-27, the still fragile global economy is on their minds.  They would like a road map to address stagnant growth. Their approach should be to talk less about currency wars and more about fiscal policy.Fiscal policy vs. monetary policyUnder the conditions that have prevailed in most major countries over the last ten years, we have reason to think that fiscal policy is a more powerful tool for affecting the level of economic activity, as compared to monetary policy.

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

Escaping The Oil Curse

| Dec. 15, 2011
Libyans have a new lease on life, a feeling that, at long last, they are the masters of their own fate. Perhaps Iraqis, after a decade of warfare, feel the same way. Both countries are oil producers, and there is widespread expectation among their citizens that that wealth will be a big advantage in rebuilding their societies.Meanwhile, in Africa, Ghana has begun pumping oil for the first time, and Uganda is about to do so as well. Indeed, from West Africa to Mongolia, countries are experiencing windfalls from new sources of oil and mineral wealth.