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After a period of stability, oil prices started to decline in mid-2015, and this downward trend continued into early 2016. As we noted in an earlier post, it is important to assess whether these price declines reflect demand shocks or supply shocks, since the two types of shocks have different implications for the U.S. economic outlook. In this post, we again use correlations of weekly oil price changes with a broad array of financial variables to quantify the drivers of oil price movements, finding that the decline since mid-2015 is due to a mix of weaker demand and increased supply. Given strong interest in the drivers of oil prices, the oil price decomposition is information we will be sharing in a new Oil Price Dynamics Report on our public website each Monday starting today. We conclude this post using another model that finds that the higher oil supply boosted U.S. economic activity in 2015, though this impact is expected to wear off in 2016.
Changes in exchange rates directly affect import prices. Since the beginning of 2014, the U.S. dollar has strengthened by 17 percent against the currencies of its major trading partners while import prices have fallen by 4 percent. The pass-through from exchange rates into import prices in the United States is estimated to be quite low, at around 30 percent, and this is often attributed to the fact that imports are mostly invoiced in U.S. dollars. In addition to this direct impact of exchange rates on import prices, there can also be an effect on domestic prices. Suppose that a stronger U.S. dollar means that cars imported from Japan will be cheaper for U.S. consumers. If domestic auto producers do not then reduce their U.S. prices they could lose market share. By how much do they adjust their prices? In this post, we draw on a new study—“International Shocks and Domestic Prices: How Large Are Strategic Complementarities?”—that uses micro-level data for Belgian firms to shed light on this question.
Variousnewsreports have asserted that the slowdown in China was a key factor driving down commodity prices in 2015. It is true that China’s growth eased last year and, owing to its manufacturing-intensive economy, that slackening could reasonably have had repercussions for commodity prices. Still, growth in Japan and Europe accelerated in 2015, with the net result that global growth was fairly steady last year, casting doubt on the China slowdown explanation. An alternative story relies on the strong correlation between the dollar and commodity prices over time. A simple regression shows that both global growth and the dollar track commodity prices, and in this framework, it is the rise of the dollar that captures last year’s drop in commodity prices. Thus a forecast of stable global growth and a relatively unchanged dollar suggests little change in commodity prices in 2016.
The world has gone through a process of financial globalization over the past decades, with countries increasing their holdings of foreign assets and liabilities. At the same time, countries have started to have a more positive foreign currency exposure by reducing their bias toward holding assets in domestic currency instead of foreign currency. One possible reason for these changes is that nations view demand shocks as more likely than supply shocks. That is, a dip in output will be accompanied by lower inflation rather than higher inflation. Monetary policy responds to demand shocks by cutting interest rates and letting the domestic currency depreciate. As a consequence, shifting the currency composition of assets and liabilities to increase net foreign currency holdings is a hedging strategy to protect the country’s income and wealth during downturns.
Some banks are quite simple, while others are part of complex multi-layered organizations with affiliates in many industries scattered all around the world. The latter organizations are formally called bank holding companies (BHCs). In this post, we investigate changes in BHC geography, especially the rising share of BHC affiliates in tax havens and financial secrecy jurisdictions. We examine what has happened since 2000, including the period after the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, which focused attention on the size and complexity of large BHCs. Our analysis complements a growing body of work on large and complex BHCs and their global affiliates, including this blog series based on papers from the Economic Policy Review.
The dollar rose sharply against both the euro and yen in 2014 and 2015 and non-oil import prices subsequently fell. An explanation for this relationship is that a stronger dollar reduces the dollar-denominated cost of producing something in Germany or Japan, giving firms room to lower their dollar prices in order to gain sales against their U.S. competitors. A breakdown by type of good, however, shows that import prices for autos, consumer goods, and capital goods tend not to move much with changes in the dollar as foreign firms choose to keep the prices of their goods stable in the U.S. market. Instead, the connection between import prices and the dollar largely reflects the tendency for commodity prices to fall in dollar terms when the dollar strengthens. As a consequence, the dampening effect of a stronger dollar on U.S. inflation is transmitted much more through falling commodity prices than through cheaper imported cars and consumer goods.
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.
Liberty Street Economics features insight and analysis from economists working at the intersection of research and policy. The editors are Michael Fleming, Andrew Haughwout, Thomas Klitgaard, and Donald Morgan.
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