8 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

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?

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Blog Post - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Trade and Inequality Within Countries

| Jan. 05, 2018

Inequality has been on the rise within the United States and other advanced countries since the 1980s and especially since the turn of the century.  The possibility that trade is responsible for the widening gap between the rich and the rest of the population has of course become a major political preoccupation