The Census Bureau of the US Department of Commerce announced on August 18 that U.S. retail e-commerce sales for the second quarter of 2020, adjusted for seasonal variation, was $211.5 billion, an increase of 31.8 percent from the first quarter of 2020.
The Federal Reserve has so far resisted the general compulsion to implement negative interest rates among the world’s major advanced central banks. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell has repeatedly insisted that the Fed is not considering a negative interest rates policy (NIRP). But what if there is a sudden policy turnaround? Beyond what it has already done, the Fed has quite a limited number of policy options it might consider to prop up the US economy and foster its recovery from the Great Virus Crisis. As prominent economists like Kenneth Rogoff convincingly argue, NIRP might be the most efficient option at the Fed’s disposal. A turnaround on this issue is far from granted, but were it to happen it would usher a new era with tremendous economic, financial and geopolitical consequences for the world.
The GCC countries have been hit hard by the most severe macroeconomic shock in their history as independent nations. The collapse of oil prices earlier this year dealt a heavy blow to oil exporters all around the world. While some of the GCC countries are among the most wealthy nations on earth, the oil crisis caused their fiscal balances and their current accounts to deteriorate sharply in the face of the twin oil shock and demand crisis provoked by the coronavirus. Beyond some common features, there are disparities in terms of resilience to the crisis and capacity to deal with its consequences. Leaving appart the special case of Dubai and to some extent Bahrain, the GCC governments must accelerate their efforts to transform their economies.
From its latest moves, it appears that the Federal Reserve has two important messages for the markets and for everyone else. 1. Don’t fight the Fed. 2. Don’t expect any guidance from the Fed.
These two messages are two facets of the same “puzzle and conquer” strategy that seeks to provide support to the economy and to the markets while preventing the spread moral hazard and the build-up of self-fulfilling market bubbles. This strategy is risky as it may err on either side by untertaining a haze of uncertainty over its course of actions. However, it is probably the best strategy as long as the macro outlook and the fiscal side of the policy mix equation remain difficult to project.
Following the meeting of its Governing Council on June 4, the ECB announced an extension of its Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP) with an additional enveloppe of €600 billion. The total asset purchases made by the Eurosystem (ECB+ National Central Banks) to counter the coronavirus crisis including PEPP and additional APP purchases is now expected to reach almost €1.5 trillion. The bleak outlook for inflation shows the profound deflationary forces at work in the Euro area. Judging from the experience of the last few years, we believe the ECB’s assessment of an uptick in core inflation by 2022 to be too optimistic.
the European Commission unveiled a €750 billion “Next Generation” recovery programme (€440 billion grants, €60 billion guarantees and €250 billion loans) over the 2021-2024 period. The Next Generation programme would preallocate funds to the Member States prioritising the green and digital transitions mainly through the Recovery and Resilience Facility (€560 billion). It includes additional cohesion funding for €45 billion. As we show in our analysis, Italy, Spain, Poland, Greece, Romania and Portugal would be the main beneficiaries of this proposal which is likely to meet resistance from the “Frugal four” (Netherlands, Austria, Sweden, Denmark).
For the first time in EU history, fiscal expenditure would be financed through debt issued by the European Commission and backed by all the Member states, along the line of a French-German proposal. However, while this proposal is a welcome step toward fiscal integration, it is still short of a Hamiltonian moment for Europe”. The countercyclical policies needed to close the output gap left by the coronavirus crisis will still have to be conducted at the Member State level.
Our nowcasting model shows that US GDP might fall by -29% in 2Q 2020 and that unemployment might take up to three years to return to its pre-crisis levels. These results cast additional shadows over the assumption of a V-shape recovery for the US economy, which has already been abandoned by the Federal Reserve.
There are at least two ways to read the decision rendered by the German Constitutional Court – BundesVerfassungsGericht or BVerfG – on May 5, 2020 (BVerfG, Urteil des Zweiten Senats vom 5. Mai 2020), in the case opposing the ECB to a group of complainants claiming that the Frankfurt-based monetary institution went beyond its legal mandate, when it decided in March 2015 to launch a large scale asset purchase programme (APP) targeting first and foremost government bonds. We can read it through the lenses of an Economic Policy or through the lenses of a Constitutional law and Politics. From both perspectives, the ruling contains useful insights that clarify some complicated institutional questions and shed light on economic policy options available to the ECB and to EU/Eurozone Member States. The fact that this ruling comes in the midst of an unprecedented global economic crisis, stemming from the radical measures enacted all over the world to combat the coronavirus pandemic, makes it even more critical for investors to understand its rationale and contending claims.
A Pandemic OMT – P-OMT – might well be the most appropriate solution in the current context – and perhaps the only one that is available, especially if discussions around a common Eurozone fiscal package fail to produce meaningful results – in order to support individual Eurozone member countries, while preserving the overall financial stability of the Eurozone and the autonomy and credibility of the ECB.
Economist Alexandre Kateb explains how the state has had to go into debt over the last thirty years, via its central bank, to attract foreign capital. Since trust has been broken, the banking system has been beset by numerous requests to withdraw money.
Consultant and specialist in the Arab world, Alexandre Kateb is a lecturer at Sciences-Po.