Pickup and economists research note from the past month and it’s likely to say the same thing — the Fed is going to hike in June.
Everyone is singing from the same hymnbook. The problem is that the Fed is the piano player and yesterday changed its tune. This is the line in the FOMC Minutes:
“Members generally judged that it would be prudent to await additional evidence indicating that the recent slowing in the pace of economic activity had been transitory before taking another step in removing accommodation.”
That can’t be misunderstood.
What it says is that if economic data continues to be soft, they’re not hiking in June.
That doesn’t mean that a hike is off the table but it certainly means that it’s not a sure thing.
Here are a few data points since the May 3 meeting:
From a global macroeconomic perspective, we encourage readers to consider that the world is experiencing an extended, rolling process of deflating its credit excesses. It is now simply China’s turn.
For context, Japan started deflating their credit bubble in the early 1990s, and has now experienced more than 20 years of deflation and very little growth since. The US began its process in 2008, and after eight years has only recently been showing signs of sustainable recovery. The euro zone entered this process in 2011 and is still struggling six years onward. We believe China is now entering the early stages of this process.
Having said that, we believe that Chinese authorities have a viable plan for deflating their credit excess in an orderly fashion. Please stay posted as we will review this multi-pronged, market-based approach in our next column.
For now, let’s turn our attention to the size of the credit excess that China created and why we estimate it to be the largest in the world.
A credit excess is created by the speed and magnitude of credit that is created – if too much is created in too short a time period, excesses inevitably occur and non-performing loans (NPLs) emerge.
To illustrate the credit excess that has been created in China, let’s review several key indicators, including the: 1) flow of new credit; 2) stock of outstanding credit; 3) credit deviation ratio (i.e., excess credit); 4) incremental capital output ratio (efficiency of credit allocation).
The chart below shows the amount of credit created as a percentage of GDP during the five years prior to major downturns globally.
Former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan today warned of “policy uncertainty” for the world economy due to there being a “bunch of new leaders” who need to prove they are strong, even as he exuded confidence about all large economies doing well. Without specifically mentioning India, Rajan said, “This is the first time in a long while we have seen all the big engines firing at the same time including the large emerging markets … We have seen trade picking up. “We are seeing early signs of investment intentions. Of course there are always clouds. There are clouds this time also,” he said. In an interview to CNBC, the Chicago Booth School professor and the outspoken economist also said the “good news is some of the fears about the (Trump) administration that it would move immediately to a more protectionist stance haven’t played out”.
“There have been noises but of course the strong action that some people feared against Mexico, against China hasn’t really materialised. That’s the good news,” he said while referring to Donald Trump administration in the US. Talking about the possible risks before the world economy, Rajan who served as RBI governor for three years, said, “There is lot of policy uncertainty right now because of the work the (US) administration is going to do and how much it can achieve.
“But also there is geo-political risk. We have a bunch of strong leaders around the world who are already well entrenched in their strength. “We have a bunch of new leaders who need to prove themselves that they are strong. And in that kind of environment, who has room to back off if in fact there is a confrontation. We have many areas of confrontation.” Rajan further said as the US monetary policy normalises, “we will see more stress” on heavily indebted entities.
Just as everyone was finally accepting the idea of deflation and negative interest rates, inflation decides to pay a return visit. In the past week, articles with the following headlines appeared in major publications around the world:
What happened? Well, towards the end of 2015 most of the world’s major governments apparently got spooked by deflation and decided to ramp up their borrowing and money creation. China, for instance, generated the following stats in 2016:
New loans totaling 12.65 trillion yuan, or $1.8 trillion.
M2 money supply growth of 11%.
Debt-to-GDP ratio jump from 254% to 277%.
In Europe, the European Central Bank ramped up its bond buying program, pumping about a trillion newly-created euros into the Continental economy:
Former Finance Minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Friday questioned the Central Statistical Organisation’s GDP growth figure and termed demonetisation a fixed match between the government and Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
He said demonetisation has interrupted India’s economic story and “to recover from this, it would take between 12-18 months, maybe right up to the end of 2017-18”.
“Look at the CSO’s numbers, it seems nothing has happened to the economy. The dazzle of the number cannot hide the fact that crores of people in the country have been devastated,” said Chidambaram.
“The government has changed the methodology. The Gross Value Addition (GVA), when they add taxes to it and subtract subsidies, they arrive at the GDP,” he added.
Chidambaram further said: “The additional tax revenue is not a reflection of growth. Equally being stingy on subsidies doesn’t impact growth.”
Giving out quarter-wise GVAs of three years, Chidambaram said: “In 2014-15, quarter-wise GVAs were 7.26, 7.91, 6.29 and 6.19 per cent. There is no particular trend. It went up and came down. In 2015-16, the numbers are 7.75, 8.44, 6.95 and 7.42 per cent. Again it doesn’t show any trend.
Moody’s on Friday became the latest ratings agency to lift its outlook on Russia’s credit rating, upgrading it from ‘negative’ to ‘stable’, citing both a fiscal strategy — that is expected to lower the country’s dependence on energy and replenish its savings — and the gradual economic recovery.
The ratings agency had confirmed Russia’s Ba1 rating, which is one notch below investment grade, in April 2016, but assigned it a negative outlook at the time to reflect an erosion of the government’s fiscal savings amid a downturn in crude prices. But on Friday, it said the recovery in the country’s economy following a nearly two-year long recession, alongside the fiscal consolidation strategy, have eased the risks that it had identified last year.
Russia’s deficit-to-GDP ratio is now forecast to narrow by roughly one percentage point per year between 2017 and 2019 and Moody’s said this new target was “achievable” because the government’s “oil price and revenue assumptions are sufficiently conservative”.
The agency, said:
Moody’s now believes that the downside risks identified in April 2016 have diminished to a level consistent with a stable outlook. The stabilization of the rating outlook partly reflects external events, and in particular the increase in oil prices to a level consistent with the government’s budget assumptions. The stable outlook also reflects the plans the government has put in place to consolidate its finances over the medium term, and the slow recovery in the economy following almost two years of recession.
Rival raters S&P and Fitch have also boosted their outlook on the country in recent months, as external risks to the oil-producing nation ease.
Amid a fresh escalation in a row over its bailout conditions, Greece’s stubbornly high unemployment rate is showing no sign of improvement.
The country’s jobless rate – which is the highest in the eurozone and has been above 20 per cent for six years – stuck at 23 per cent in November despite a general uptick in its economic prospects at the end of 2016.
It comes as the country’s creditors in the EU and the International Monetary Fund have publicly clashed over their respective forecasts for the state of the economy and the level of austerity attached to Greece’s three-year bailout programme this week.
The IMF has been accused by Athens and Brussels of an “overly pessimistic” view on the Syriza government’s ability to hit a 3.5 per cent budget surplus target over the next decade, which has led it to a wrong-headed forecast on Greece’s “explosive” debt dynamics.
The Fund’s latest report on the Greek economy suggest its debt-to-GDP mountain could reach 275 per cent over the next two decades without major debt restructuring. Unemployment meanwhile will only fall to 21.7 per cent this year, while the country’s long-term growth rate was downgraded to 1 per cent, IMF economists predict.
The Bank of Japan is poised to upgrade its three-year economic growth outlook in the final days of January in light of strong recent indicators, though stronger inflation forecasts will be a harder sell.
The central bank will compile its quarterly outlook on economic activity and prices at a two-day policy meeting beginning Monday. The report will outline the BOJ’s forecast for each of the three years through fiscal 2018,
The last report, released in November, pegged gross-domestic product growth at 1% for fiscal 2016, 1.3% for fiscal 2017 and a slim 0.9% for fiscal 2018. Discussions this time are expected to center on the first two years, with the fiscal 2017 growth forecast thought to be headed for the mid-1% range.
Signs for an upgrade are strong. The BOJ in December boosted its outlook for Japan’s economy as a whole for the first time in 19 months. Such goods as smartphone parts and automobiles are driving up exports and industrial production, while consumer spending on durable goods such as cars is on the rebound as well. Changes made late last year to the GDP calculation method will also give the figure a boost: companies’ research and development spending, which has shown consistent growth over the years, now counts as investment.
BOJ Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda said at a World Economic Forum panel discussion Jan. 20 that he expects Japan’s economy to grow by around 1.5% in fiscal 2016 and fiscal 2017, significantly exceeding the country’s potential growth rate.