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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Book Review - Money: The Unauthorized Biography


The book "Money: The Unauthorized Biography" by Felix Martin is a comprehensive popular history of money. Money and banking are topics of considerable interest since the end of the financial crisis, and they are also areas of great confusion. In this book, Felix Martin offers a clear history of the subject.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Weakness Of Conventional Fiscal Policy

Brad DeLong has a good discussion on the convergence of views between New Keynesian and Market Monetarist theories of why economies face aggregate demand shortfalls. (Real Business Cycle theorists do not recognise the concept of an aggregate demand shortfall, so they are obviously not going to converge with the other groups.) The idea is that monetary and fiscal policy need to be coordinated, instead of a monetary policy-centric viewpoint that was the consensus before the crisis. In this article, I augment his analysis by applying the labour market analysis Minsky originally developed in the 1960s.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My Initial Reaction To Optimal Fiscal Policy Theory

I am giving my first impressions of the literature on "Optimal Fiscal Policy", which is yet another sub-field of Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium (DSGE) models. Like any other area of academic enquiry, there is a huge wave of articles that are variations on a few themes. It appears that this field represents steps towards a more realistic model framework for DSGE models, but it is unclear whether they represent a practical advance over Functional Finance insights into fiscal policy.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Bond Bear Market Of 2014 Has Been Delayed

Chart: 10-Year JGB Yield
Strategists went into 2014 with a consensus bearish view on bonds (as was also the case in 2010-2013...). The market action so far has not been kind to that view, with yields plunging in the developed markets. It may be that I have fallen into a too mellow summertime mood, but my guess is that this is largely a squeeze of the bond bears during quiet markets (although there are obvious geopolitical concerns).

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Yes, Interest Rates Are Artificial

Noah Smith discusses at the Bloomberg View the strange idea that floats around on the internet - that the current low interest rate regime is "artificial". The idea being that "the market", if left to its own devices, would set interest rates higher. He discusses why that view makes little sense. However, I would amplify his arguments to state that it is almost impossible for "markets" to set interest rates, other than by completely restructuring the economy in a fashion where the government and existing pools of finance capital largely disappear.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Canada - Sluggishness Reigns

Chart: Canadian Unemployment Rate
I am just catching up some data, and I wanted to highlight the rather tepid Canadian employment data for June. There is no sign that the economy is building up towards "escape velocity"; rather, the job market is decelerating. Given the magnitude of the Canadian housing bubble, that is not what policy makers want to hear.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Are Fed Rate Hikes Coming Sooner?

There has been a run of stronger data in the United States, and there have been some calls for an acceleration of monetary policy tightening. It seems like the timing will be set by the personalities of the policy makers, and my guess is that the middle of 2015 remains a reasonable base line forecast. Higher inflation in Canada has whip-sawed the Bank of Canada, but I doubt that this is too meaningful.