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  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 07-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The recent steps by the Federal Reserve to preempt deflation have—ironically and unexpectedly— prompted a surge in inflation fears both inside the United States and abroad, especially in China. Specifically, the Fed's measures to go beyond the stimulus inherent in a zero percent federal funds rate by purchasing Treasury and mortgage securities has conjured visions—especially in the eyes of major buyers of Treasury securities, China foremost— of massive money printing to underwrite trillions of dollars of additional government borrowing at low interest rates. As markets have shown, if that were the Fed's intention—which it decidedly is not—the effort would fail because excessive money printing—creating a money supply larger than the quantity of money demanded— would push up interest rates as inflation expectations rose.
  • Topic: Economics, International Political Economy, International Trade and Finance, Monetary Policy
  • Political Geography: United States, China
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: More than two years have passed since the U.S. housing bubble burst. That event ushered in a financial crisis that was not only intense but also stunning. So stunning in fact, that in August of last year, just a month before the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the global economy was close to a crisis worthy of comparison with the Great Depression, yet neither the markets nor the Federal Reserve had much of an inkling of what was to come. The Standard and Poor's (S) 500 Index had come down to about 1,300 from its October 2007 high of 1,576. Positive growth had just been reported for the U.S. economy during the second quarter of 2008 at an annual rate of 2.8 percent (later revised down to 1.5 percent). Almost one percentage point of that growth came from U.S. consumption, and government spending also contributed. The wave of relief after the Bear Stearns scare in March 2008 had provided a nice boost to the economy and to markets. That boost was further enhanced by the substantial contribution to growth from net exports (2.9 percentage points) thanks to what was, then, continuing strength in the global economy, especially in China, which had reported blistering 10.1 percent year-over-year growth in the second quarter of 2008. These and other positive components more than offset a drag from inventories and residential investment. In short, the real economy had not shown much evidence of damage emanating from the chaos that was churning in the financial sector.
  • Topic: Economics, International Political Economy, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Monetary Policy, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States, China
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 11-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The only thing scarier than the slide of the dollar, which has dropped by 15 percent since March, would be an attempt by the Federal Reserve to stop it. Such an attempt would show that we have learned nothing from the Bank of Japan's disastrous premature exit from a zero-interest policy in August 2000. Closer to home, it would resemble the Fed's premature move to mop up “excess” reserves by doubling reserve requirements in three steps between August 1936 and May 1937, which was followed by the third-worst recession of the twentieth century, from May 1937 to June 1938.
  • Topic: Economics, International Political Economy, International Trade and Finance, Monetary Policy, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 01-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The bursting of every bubble is followed by statements suggesting that the worst is over and that the real economy will be unharmed. The weeks since mid-March have been such a period in the United States. The underlying problem—a bust in the residential real-estate market—has, however, grown worse, with peak-to-trough estimates of the drop in home prices having gone from 20 to 30 percent in the span of just two months. Meanwhile, the attendant damage to the housing sector and to the balance sheets tied to it has grown worse and spread beyond the subprime subsector.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 07-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The Fed is in a bind, pulled toward easier monetary policy by a weak economy and fragile credit markets, while simultaneously needing to resist higher inflation. On Monday, June 9, after a weekend of headlines regarding a half-percentage-point rise in the unemployment rate, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke gave a pathbreaking speech entitled "Outstanding Issues in the Analysis of Inflation" at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston's fifty-third Annual Economic Conference. In that speech, after suggesting that the risks of a substantial  economic downturn had diminished over the past month and citing further progress in the repair of financial and credit markets, he proceeded to address the problem of rising inflation. In two sentences, he contributed to a sharp, fifty-basis-point rise in two-year bond yields and boosted the market's assessment of the chance of a fifty-basis-point rise in the federal-funds target rate at the September 16 meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) from virtually zero to nearly 70 percent.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 01-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The good news about the problems in the financial sector and the larger economy in the United States emanating from the persistent drop in house prices is that they will eventually end, and the underlying resiliency of the U.S. economy will reemerge. The bad news about these problems is that they are going to continue for some time and get worse before they improve. Efforts to address them so far have been ineffective because they have been aimed at containing a subprime credit crisis, not at containing a rapidly spreading primecredit, solvency crisis that is leading the U.S. economy into recession.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Roger Noriega
  • Publication Date: 08-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: U.S. policy in Latin America and the Caribbean always seems to inspire criticism: Too much, too little, too late. Back off. Get in the game. Don't just stand there, do something. Don't do something, just stand there. Our geographic closeness has meant a rich, natural partnership, but this proximity easily stirs concerns over sovereignty. When the United States is preoccupied with events in other parts of the world, regional pundits accuse Washington of indifference. If we speak clearly on the issues in Latin America, we are excoriated for poking our nose “where it doesn't belong.” So where does this leave U.S. foreign policy in the region? It could be that what we do may not be as important as how we do it. The first step in developing a new paradigm for engaging the Americas is using the 2008 election cycle here at home to develop a serious domestic constituency for our policy. Then we should shape that policy through a conscientious dialogue with stakeholders in the region.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Political Economy, Regional Cooperation
  • Political Geography: United States, America, Washington, Moscow, Latin America
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 12-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: It is important at the outset to define the terms “financial firms” and “too much risk.” By “financial firms,” I mean commercial banks, investment banks, brokerages, and insurance companies that solicit and manage funds for the public. By “too much risk,” I mean actions undertaken by managers of financial firms that result in substantial losses for the shareholders (owners) of such firms. On an aggregate level, I call “systemic risks” those that emerge when regulators and policymakers are forced to choose between either reinforcing (with bailouts) the venturesome investing that created the problem or allowing substantial damage to depositors and shareholders in financial firms, and possibly to the economy as a whole.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 11-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Just as Wall Street was celebrating the presumed end of the latest financial crisis by pushing stocks to record highs, proclaiming continued strong earnings growth, and continuing to recite the mantra “slowdown, but no recession,” Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson provided a vivid reminder that the housing and mortgage crisis is not over. On Monday, October 15, while Citibank was reporting that compared with last year's results its third-quarter earnings had fallen by 57 percent, the Treasury's “super-SIV” plan was revealed. It seems that the Goldman Sachs alumni at Treasury—Paulson and his under secretary for domestic finance, Robert Steel—had become concerned that the offbalance- sheet special investment vehicles (SIVs) held by commercial banks might not be financeable. That would mean that not enough investors could be found to provide the short-term financing necessary to sustain SIVs, the repositories of hardto- value securitized mortgages that continue to plague bank balance sheets.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 10-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The global economic and financial picture is changing rapidly. A review of some of the key elements is in order, as the U.S. economy has slowed rapidly and the Federal Reserve has responded aggressively with rate cuts, while the Bank of England's tough policies pushed one of the United Kingdom's largest mortgage lenders, Northern Rock, to the brink of collapse as a bank run on that suddenly beleaguered institution ensued. Meanwhile, Japan, still the world's second-largest economy—though perhaps the least dynamic of the major ones—slipped into negative growth at a 1.2 percent annual rate in the second quarter after having initially reported growth over 2 percent. The rate-boost-obsessed Bank of Japan finally decided to stop raising rates, and, to add to the complexity of the picture, Japan's relatively new prime minister Shinzo Abe resigned, unable to provide the leadership sorely needed in a nation lacking economic and political direction.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, United Kingdom, England