In his latest weekly New York Times column, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman put forward arguments that were so nonsensical that the award committee should ask for its medal back.
Recent rhetoric from Washington has put the economic relationship between the U.S. and China squarely on the front burner, and Krugman is demanding that we crank up the flame. This week 130 members of Congress sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner demanding that the Obama administration designate China as a "currency manipulator". Following that, a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill that looks to force the Obama administration's hand. For its own part, Beijing invites criticism by continuing to deny its utterly obvious currency agenda.
As these tensions escalate, most economists urge Washington to tread lightly because of the negative fallout for America if China were to begin selling its enormous cache of U.S. Treasury bonds. Krugman pushes back, asserting that the U.S. risks little by playing hardball, and that China has more to lose. He asserts that a Chinese decision to end its purchases of U.S. Treasury debt would make only a marginal impact on long-term interest rates. Did you hear that Stockholm? [more]
By late 2009, as the U.S. dollar flirted with multi-year lows against most foreign currencies, big investment players crowded into trades that shorted the greenback. Commentators noted that the anti-dollar momentum had taken on a life of its own and that the trade had become too crowded. It is true that markets have a nasty tendency to move against the crowd. When a lot of traders agree on a particular trade, it's more likely that in the short-run the opposite trade will be a winner.
The 2008 "flight to safety" rally of the U.S. dollar was a once in a lifetime event that presented huge opportunities for aggressive currency traders. By December 2008, after rallying 25% over the previous five months, the dollar topped out. However, there were many speculators who had come somewhat late to the party, as well as many others who had ridden the dollar up and were thus sitting on huge unrealized gains.
Those technical reasons, combined with the re-emergence of strong growth in emerging markets and solid earnings from overseas companies, redirected investment flows away from the dollar. 2009 became a year of dollar weakness, with the buck giving back nearly all of its gains. At that point, most people made the reasonable conclusion that the decline would continue. [more]
Every month around this time, bills arrive and quickly come due. From utility and cellphone bills to credit cards and the mortgage, the envelopes arrive all at once, like clockwork – and, unlike checks, they hardly ever come late. [more]
It is astounding how many economists, government officials, and Wall Street strategists construe the current economic conditions as evidence of a bona fide recovery. It is a testament to the power of the rose colored glasses handed out by our nation’s leading universities that such a feeling could be widely held despite the clear and present danger that compounds daily. The myopia leads us to enact policies that actually exacerbate our problems. The “remedies” are postponing, perhaps indefinitely, a true recovery.
The oracles who have described the nature of this imminent recovery do so based on their conviction that consumer spending is slowly returning to levels that existed prior to the recession. New data released today seems to support this view, with consumer spending up 0.5% in January. [more]