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Bianca De Paoli, Thomas Klitgaard, and Harry Wheeler
Japan offers a preview of future U.S. demographic trends, having already seen a large increase in the population over 65. So, how has the Japanese economy dealt with this change? A look at the data shows that women of all ages have been pulled into the labor force and that more people are working longer. This transformation of the work force has not been enough to prevent a very tight labor market in a slowly growing economy, and it may help explain why inflation remains minimal. Namely, wages are not responding as much as they might to the tight labor market because women and older workers tend to have lower bargaining power than prime-age males.
Mary Amiti, Tyler Bodine-Smith, Colin Hottman, and Logan Lewis
The growth in U.S. imports of goods has been stubbornly low since the second quarter of 2015, with an average annual growth rate of 0.7 percent. Growth has been even weaker for non-oil imports, which have increased at an average annual rate of only 0.1 percent. This is in sharp contrast to the pattern in the five quarters preceding the second quarter of 2015, when real non-oil imports were growing at an annualized rate of 8 percent per quarter. The timing of the weakness in import growth is particularly puzzling in light of the strong U.S. dollar, which appreciated 12 percent in 2015, lowering the price of imported goods relative to domestically produced goods. The trajectory for imports can affect the variety of goods consumed in the United States and could, if it is evolving independently, have implications for overall economic growth. To understand the consequences of lower import growth, it is important to understand what is behind this recent trend. In this blog post, we explore what has been driving the recent slump in U.S. imports of non-oil goods.
Moreno Bertoldi, Paolo Pesenti, Hélène Rey, and Valérie Rouxel-Laxton
On April 18, 2016, the New York Fed hosted a conference on current and future policy directions for the linked economies of Europe and the United States. "The Transatlantic Economy: Convergence or Divergence?"—organized jointly with the Centre for Economic Policy Research and the European Commission—brought together U.S. and Europe-based policymakers, regulators, and academics to discuss a series of important issues: Are the economies of the euro area and the United States on a convergent or divergent path? Are financial regulatory reforms making the banking and financial structures more similar? Will this imply a convergence in macroprudential policies? Which instruments do the United States and the euro area have at their disposal to raise investment, spur productivity, and avoid secular stagnation? In this post, we summarize the principal themes and findings of the conference discussion.
Sushant Acharya, Ozge Akinci, Julien Bengui, and Bianca De Paoli
Prompted by the U.S. financial crisis and subsequent global recession, policymakers in advanced economies slashed interest rates dramatically, hitting the zero lower bound (ZLB), and then implemented unconventional policies such as large-scale asset purchases. In emerging economies, however, the policy response was more subdued since they were less affected by the financial crisis. As a result, capital flows from advanced to emerging economies increased markedly in response to widening interest rate differentials. Some emerging economies reacted by adopting measures to slow down capital inflows, acting under the presumption that these flows were harmful. This type of policy response has reignited the debate over how to moderate international spillovers.
In recent years, policymakers in advanced and emerging economies have employed a variety of macroprudential policy tools—targeted rules or requirements that enhance the stability of the financial system as a whole by addressing the interconnectedness of individual financial institutions and their common exposure to economic risk factors. To examine the foreign experience with these tools, we constructed a novel macroprudential policy (MAPP) index. This index allows us to quantify the effects of these policies on bank credit and house prices, two variables that are often the target of policymakers because of their links to boom-bust leverage cycles. We then used the index in the empirical analysis to measure the effectiveness of these policies in emerging market countries and advanced economies. Our estimates suggest that macroprudential tightening can significantly reduce credit growth and house price appreciation.
China lends to the rest of the world because it saves much more than it needs to fund its high level of physical investment spending. For years, the public sector accounted for this lending through the Chinese central bank’s purchase of foreign assets, but this changed in 2015. The country still had substantial net financial outflows, but unlike in previous years, more private money was pouring out of China than was flowing in. This shift in private sector behavior forced the central bank to sell foreign assets so that the sum of net private and public outflows would equal the saving surplus at prevailing exchange rates. Explanations for this turnaround by private investors include lower returns on domestic investment spending and a less optimistic outlook for China’s currency.
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.
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, and Donald Morgan, 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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