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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.
World trade fell 20 percent relative to world GDP in 2008 and 2009. Since then, there has been much debate about the role of trade finance in the Great Trade Collapse. Distress in the financial sector can have a strong impact on international trade because exporters require additional working capital and rely on specific financial products, in particular letters of credit, to cope with risks when selling abroad. In this post, which is based on a recent Staff Report, we shed new light on the link between finance and trade, showing that changes in banks’ supply of letters of credit have economically significant effects on firms’ export behavior. Our research suggests that trade finance helps explain the drop in exports in 2008–2009, especially to smaller and poorer markets.
Linda Goldberg, John Rogers, Luca Dedola, and Livio Stracca
International financial flows are a key feature of the global landscape and are relevant in many ways for central banks. With these themes as a backdrop and with swings in some capital flows across countries in response to global economic and financial conditions, the second biannual Global Research Forum on International Macroeconomics and Finance was held at the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, D.C., in November. The purpose of the forum, which is organized by the European Central Bank, the Federal Reserve Board, and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, is to promote the discussion of topics at the frontier of research in international finance, banking and macroeconomics, with a special focus on their relevance for monetary policy.
Global asset market developments during the summer of 2013 have been attributed to changes in the outlook for U.S. monetary policy, starting with former Chairman Bernanke’s May 22 comments concerning future curtailing of the Federal Reserve’s asset purchase programs. A previous post found that the signal of a possible change in U.S. monetary policy coincided with an increase in global risk aversion which put downward pressure on global asset prices. This post revisits this episode by measuring the impact of changes in Fed’s expected policy rate path and in the economic outlook on the U.S. dollar and emerging market equity prices. The analysis suggests that changes in the U.S. and foreign outlooks had a meaningful role in explaining global asset price movements during the so-called taper tantrum.
Japan’s population is shrinking and getting older, with the population falling at a 0.2 percent rate this year and the working-age population (ages 16 to 64) falling at a much faster rate of almost 1.5 percent. In contrast, the U.S. population is rising at a 0.7 percent annual rate and the working-age population is rising at a 0.2 percent rate. So far, supporting the growing share of Japan’s population that is 65 and over has been the substantial increase in the share of working-age women entering the labor force. In contrast, U.S. labor force participation rates have been falling for both men and women. Japan’s labor market adjustments help explain the steady, albeit, modest growth in output per person despite the surge in the 65 and over cohort. Indeed, Japan has been able to match U.S. per capita growth since 2000.
Claudia M. Buch, James Chapman, and Linda Goldberg
Over the past thirty years, the typical large bank has become a global entity with subsidiaries in many countries. In parallel, financial liberalization has increased the interconnectedness of banking systems, with domestic banking systems becoming more exposed to shocks transmitted through foreign banks. This globalization of banking propagated liquidity risk during the global financial crisis and subsequent euro area crisis. Unfortunately, little is known about how cross-border operations of global banks transmit liquidity shocks between countries. The seminal work by Peek and Rosengren (1997, 2000) provides early examples of how bank-level data can help identify the specific transmission channels. There are, however, two limitations to conducting this line of research. First, there is a lack of public data on the balance sheets of global banks. Second, it is difficult to compare the results of different research projects that use sensitive supervisory data collected by banking supervisors and central banks. Together with other scholars, we established the International Banking Research Network (IBRN) to overcome these limitations.
The United States has been borrowing from the rest of the world since the mid-1980s. From 2000 to 2008, this borrowing averaged over $600 billion per year, which translates into U.S. spending exceeding income by almost 5.0 percent of GDP. Borrowing fell during the recent recession, as would be expected, and then rebounded with the recovery. Since 2011, however, borrowing has trended down and fell to 2.4 percent of GDP in 2013, the smallest amount as a share of GDP since 1997. A reduced dependency on foreign funds can be viewed as a favorable development to the extent that it reflects an improvement in the fiscal balance to a more easily sustainable level. However, it also reflects the lackluster recovery in residential investment, which is one reason the economy has yet to get back to its full operating potential.
inflation as dependent on inflation expectations and the level of economic slack, with changes in expectations or slack leading to changes in the inflation rate. The global slowdown and the subsequent sovereign debt crisis caused the greatest divergence in unemployment rates among euro area member countries since the monetary union was founded in 1999. The pronounced differences in economic performances of euro area countries since 2008 should have led to significant differences in price behavior. That turned out to be the case, with a strong correlation evident between disinflation and labor market deterioration in euro area countries.
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