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When the U.S. Civil War broke out in 1861, cotton was king. The southern United States produced and exported much of the world’s cotton, England was a major textile producer, and cotton textiles were exported from England around the world. At the time, many around the world depended on cotton for their livelihood. The South believed this so deeply that when the North blocked Southern ports to cut off the South’s primary means of financing war—cotton sales—Southern leaders were sure that Britain would enter the war on their side. That never happened. So when cotton supplies dried up in late 1862, thousands in Manchester and Lancashire who either directly or indirectly depended on cotton for a living found themselves without work. In this post, we describe the British cotton famine of 1862-63 and the stoic British national response. We draw primarily from a fascinating BBC Radio broadcast on the subject and John Watts’ matter-of-factly named Facts of the Cotton Famine, published in 1866.
The October 2015 Business Leaders Survey of regional service firms, released today, paints a considerably more benign picture of local business conditions than the more troubling October 2015 Empire State Manufacturing Survey, released yesterday. The two surveys point to diverging trends in the regional economy: manufacturing firms report that business activity has weakened, on balance, for the third month in a row, while regional service firms, though far from euphoric, remain slightly positive, on balance, about business trends. One of the reasons for this divergence seems to be the strong dollar, which has had negative effects on far more manufacturers than service firms, according to our surveys.
Euro area sovereign bond yields fell to record lows and the euro weakened after the European Central Bank (ECB) dramatically expanded its asset purchase program in early 2015. Some analysts predicted massive financial outflows spilling out of the euro area and affecting global markets as investors sought higher yields abroad. These arguments ignore balance of payments accounting, which requires any financial outflow from the euro area to be matched by a similar-sized inflow, absent a quick and substantial current account improvement. The focus on cross-border financial flows also is misguided since, according to asset pricing principles, the euro and global asset prices can move without any change in financial outflows.
The largest U.S. financial institutions conduct business around the world, maintaining a strong presence through branches and subsidiaries in foreign countries. This blog post highlights trends in their foreign ownership over the past twenty-five years, complementing recent research from the New York Fed on large and complex banks. We document a constant decline in the importance of foreign branches for U.S. financial institutions, an increase in the complexity of foreign subsidiary networks, and a shift of activity from Latin America and the Caribbean to Europe and other regions.
Correction: This post was updated on July 17 to replace the term “export volumes” with “real export values.” Although the terms are often used interchangeably, the term “real export values” is deemed more precise. We have updated the post accordingly.
The recent strengthening of the U.S. dollar has raised concerns about its impact on U.S. GDP growth. The U.S. dollar has appreciated around 12 percent since mid-2014, rising against almost all of our trading partners, with the largest gains against Japan, Mexico, Canada, and the euro area. There was far less movement against newly industrial Asian economies and hardly any change against China. In this blog, we ask how the strength of the dollar affects U.S. GDP growth. Although the dollar can impact the U.S. growth through a number of different channels, we focus on the direct impact through the U.S. trade balance. Our analysis shows that a 10 percent appreciation in one quarter shaves 0.5 percentage point off GDP growth over one year and an additional 0.2 percentage point in the following year if the strength of the dollar persists.
Mary Amiti, Tyler Bodine-Smith, Michele Cavallo, and Logan Lewis
The decline in U.S. GDP of 0.2 percent in the first quarter of 2015 was much larger than market analysts expected, with net exports subtracting a staggering 1.9 percentage points (seasonally adjusted annualized rate). A range of factors is being discussed in policy circles to try to understand what contributed to this decline. Factors such as the strong U.S. dollar and weak foreign demand are usually incorporated in forecasters’ models. However, the effects of unusual events such as extremely cold weather and labor disputes are more difficult to quantify in standard models. In this post, we examine how the labor dispute at the West Coast ports, which began in the middle of 2014, might have affected GDP growth. Although the dispute started as early as July 2014, major disruptions to international trade did not surface until 2015:Q1. By that time, export and import growth through the West Coast ports in the first quarter were 14 percentage points to 20 percentage points lower than growth through other ports.
The rise in oil prices from near $30 per barrel in 2000 to around $110 per barrel in mid-2014 was a dramatic reallocation of global income to oil producers. So what did oil producers do with this bounty? Trade data show that they spent about half of the increase in total export revenues on imports and the other half to buy foreign assets. The drop in oil prices will unwind this process. Oil-importing countries will gain from lower oil bills, but they will also see a decline in their exports to oil-producing countries and in purchases of their assets by investors in these countries. Indeed, one can make the case that the drop in oil prices, by itself, is putting upward pressure on interest rates as income shifts away from countries that have had a relatively high propensity to save.
Oil prices have declined substantially since the summer of 2014. If these price declines reflect demand shocks, then this would suggest a slowdown in global economic activity. Alternatively, if the declines are driven by supply shocks, then the drop in prices might indicate a forthcoming boost in spending as firms and households benefit from lower energy costs. In this post, we use correlations of oil price changes with a broad array of financial variables to confirm that this recent fall in oil prices has been mostly the result of increased global oil supply. We then use a model to assess how this supply shock will affect U.S. economic conditions in 2015.
Today, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRBNY) is hosting the spring meeting of its Economic Advisory Panel (EAP). As has become custom at this meeting, FRBNY staff are presenting their forecast for U.S. growth, inflation, and unemployment through the end of 2016. Following the presentation, members of the EAP, which consists of leading economists in academia and the private sector, are asked to discuss the staff forecast. Such feedback helps the staff evaluate the assumptions and reasoning underlying the forecast and the key risks to it. Subjecting the staff forecast to periodic evaluation is also important because it informs the staff’s discussions with New York Fed President William Dudley about economic conditions. In that same spirit, we are sharing a short summary of the staff forecast in this post. For more detail, please see the material from the EAP meeting on our website.
The April 2015 Empire State Manufacturing Survey, released today, points to continued weakness in New York’s manufacturing sector. The survey’s headline general business conditions index turned slightly negative for the first time since December, falling 8 points to -1.2 in a sign that the growth in manufacturing had paused. The new orders index—a bellwether of demand for manufactured goods—was also negative, pointing to a modest decline in orders for a second consecutive month. Employment growth slowed, too. The Empire Survey has been signaling sluggish growth since October of last year after fairly strong readings from May through September.
Liberty Street Economics features insight and analysis from New York Fed economists working at the intersection of research and policy. Launched in 2011, the blog takes its name from the Bank’s headquarters at 33 Liberty Street in Manhattan’s Financial District.
The editors are Michael Fleming, Andrew Haughwout, Thomas Klitgaard, Donald Morgan, and Asani Sarkar, all economists in the Bank’s Research Group.
The views expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the position of the New York Fed or the Federal Reserve System.
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