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Paradox of Thrift – Great Depression & GFC

November 14, 2017 Leave a comment

Although the paradox of thrift has been a regular part of the CIE A Level syllabus it is has only become more relevant since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). It has its origins in the 1714 book entitled ‘The Fable of Bees’ by Bernard Mandeville but it was John Maynard Keynes who really popularized this concept during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Classical economic theory suggests that greater levels of saving will increase the amount of loanable funds in the banks and therefore reduce the cost of money – interest rates. This allows people to put off consumption to a later date thereby avoiding the risk of taking on debt and thereby give people security if their jobs became threatened during a recessionary period

Keynes’ beliefs
Keynes argues that saving was not a virtue from a macroeconomic view as he believed that negative or pessimistic expectations during the Depression would dissuade firms from investing. Cutting the rate of interest is supposed to be the escape route from economic recession: boosting the money supply, increasing demand and thus reducing unemployment. He also suggested that sometimes cutting the rate of interest, even to zero, would not help. People, banks and firms could become so risk averse that they preferred the liquidity of cash to offering credit or using the credit that is on offer. In such circumstances, the economy would be trapped in recession, despite the best efforts of monetary policy makers. The graph below shows a liquidity trap. Increases or decreases in the supply of money at an interest rate of X do not affect interest rates, as all wealth-holders believe interest rates have reached the floor.

Liquidity Trap

All increases in money supply are simply taken up in idle balances. Since interest rates do not alter, the level of expenditure in the economy is not affected. Consequently, monetary policy under these circumstances is futile.

Keynes saw the 1930’s as a time when aggregate demand needed boosting – C+I+G+(X-M) – as the economy was in underemployment equilibrium. With the help of the multiplier, output and employment would increase – GDP. But with increased saving leading to reduced consumption and a fall in aggregate demand, a recession will worsen.

The fact that income must always move to the level where the flows of saving and investment are equal leads to one of the most important paradoxes in economics – the paradox of thrift. Keynes explains how, under certain circumstances, an attempt to increase savings may lead to a fall in total savings. Any attempt to save more which is not matched by an equal willingness to invest more will create a deficiency in demand – leakages (savings) will exceed injections (investment) and income will fall to a new equilibrium. In the graph below, the point of equilibrium is at E where the saving curve SS and investment curve II intersect each other. The level of income at equilibrium is OY and saving and Investment are equal at OH. When the aggregate saving increases, the saving curve shifts upwards from SS to S1S1. The new equilibrium point is E1 with OY1 level of income. Saving and investment are equal at point OT. As the level of saving increases, national income decreased from OY to OY1. Similarly, the volume of saving and investment also declined from OH to OT.

Paradox of Thrift

Negative Multiplier

People save more → spend less → another’s reduced income → negative multiplier → reduces demand → unemployment ↑ → incomes ↓ → AD↓ therefore planned increase in savings makes a recession worse.

Paradox of thrift today

The relevance of the paradox of thrift today is different from that during the Great Depression in the 1930’s. Back then consumers weren’t in as much debt as they are today and the government played a much smaller role in the economy with little or no welfare state to provide automatic stabilizers. Also the financial system wasn’t an interconnected as it is today and the financial engineering that evolved in the 2000’s allowed for the creation of instruments that had no real value to the economy – CDO and CDS. But after the GFC the expectations of consumers became very negative and as workers became fearful of losing their jobs what followed was an increase in savings as they wanted less exposure to debt, which negatively affected consumption.

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Categories: Debt, Growth Tags:

Have Central Bankers’ got it wrong?

October 30, 2017 Leave a comment

Below is very good video from the FT – here are the main points:

  • Central Banks – by lowering interest rates they could make savings less attractive and spending more attractive
  • After GFC low interest rate and asset purchases increased lending and avoided a global depression.
  • Now the world economy is not behaving as the central bankers’ said it would
  • Their theory was that with lose credit (lower interest rates) the economy would grow and inflation would rise.
  • Inflation is stagnant (unlike the 1960’s – see graph below) and this is worrying as a little inflation is required to lubricate the economy. It allows prices to fall in real terms.
  • The missing inflation may mean that the bankers’ theories are wrong.
  • Cheap money may have encouraged high asset prices and debt levels but it may undermine the economy without doing much for growth.

Inflation Unemployment.png

IMF’s global growth forecast

October 13, 2017 Leave a comment

Below the FT’s Chris Giles talks to Maury Obstfeld, chief economist of IMF, on how the global economy is growing at its fastest rate in almost seven years. One chart (below) shows a falling unemployment rate with stagnant wage growth – Obstfeld talks of lower labour productivity as the reason for this. Well worth a look and very useful for the prospects of global growth – including developed and developing countries.

Unemp v Wages

Categories: Growth, Macro, Unemployment

Growth from cutting capacity – Chinese way

October 7, 2017 Leave a comment

China Steel.jpgEconomic growth is normally we associate growth with capital investment and a shifting out of the production possibility curve. The Chinese have implemented an alternative policy that entails cutting capacity of its steel and coal production by at least 10% over 5 years which will reduce global supply by 5%. The rationale behind this is that:

less supply = greater scarcity = higher prices = greater profits.

Supply curve leftAlthough there have been doubters over this policy it seems to have worked. Coal and steel prices increased as have the profits in those industries and this has led global markets to be more positive about China’s economy. The higher prices has also reduced the threat of deflation coming out of China. Furthermore the Yuan has appreciated and nominal growth has close to a five year high.

Problems with this policy:

  • The higher price caused by reduced supply raised concerns that supply would lead to surplus capacity.
  • The underlying problem was that cheap loans were forthcoming from Chinese banks for certain projects run by state-owned firms. This can lead to an uncomfortable scenario with the firms being reckless as if their investment runs into trouble they will be bailed out by the government.
  • The reducing of output of steel and coal means a loss of 1.8m jobs which will concern Chinese authorities as a top priority has been to keep unemployment as low as possible and thereby limiting possible unrest that may follow.
Categories: Growth Tags:

The Multiplier explained

September 19, 2017 Leave a comment

An initial change in AE can have a greater final impact on equilibrium national income. This is known as the multiplier effect and it comes about because injections of demand into the circular flow of income stimulate further rounds of spending.

Multiplier Process

Consider a $300 million increase in business capital investment. This will set off a chain reaction of increases in expenditures. Firms who produce the capital goods that are ultimately purchased will experience an increase in their incomes. If they in turn, collectively spend about 3/5 of that additional income, then $180m will be added to the incomes of others. At this point, total income has grown by ($300m + (0.6 x $300m). The sum will continue to increase as the producers of the additional goods and services realize an increase in their

incomes, of which they in turn spend 60% on even more goods and services. The increase in total income will then be ($300m + (0.6 x $300m) + (0.6 x $180m). The process can continue indefinitely. But each time, the additional rise in spending and income is a fraction of the previous addition to the circular flow.

The value of the multiplier can be found by the equation ­1 ÷ (1-MPC)

You can also use the following formula which represents a four sector economy

1 ÷ MPS+MRT+MPM

MPS = Marginal propensity to save

MRT = Marginal rate of tax

MPM = Marginal propensity to import

MPC = Marginal Propensity to Consume (of additional income how much of it spent)

e.g. $1m initial spending; MPC=.8

=> income generated = 1/(1-.8) = 1/.2 = 5

=   $5m

=> $4m extra spending ($1m initial, $4m extra spending, $5m total)

Use different equations depending on the information given.

e.g.: a) if the MPC is 0.5 – 50% of the income will be spent, 50% will be saved.

then MPS is 0.5 then the multiplier is 2 = 1/0.5 = 2

b) if the MPC is 0.8 – 80% of the income will be spent then MPS is 0.2 then the multiplier is 1/0.2 = 5

c) if the MPC is 0.9 – 90% of the income will be spent then MPS is 0.1 then the multiplier is 1/0.1 = 10

What is the effect of MPT – the marginal propensity to tax or t.

  • greater MPT would lead to less income being spent in the economy

Below is a very informative mind map that I copied from an old textbook.

Multiplier.png

Categories: Growth Tags:

IMF World Evaluation from the FT

August 8, 2017 Leave a comment

Below is a very good video put together by the FT which summarises the recent IMF Report on the World Economy. Includes:

  • Better growth in China and the Euro zone makes up for slow US growth.
  • US infrastructure spending and tax reform still has to be approved by the senate.
  • Europe looking stronger than expected.
  • Emerging economies still face tough conditions.

Categories: Economic Cycle, Growth Tags:

Output Gap in Eastern European Countries

July 6, 2017 Leave a comment

Output GapThe Economist had a very good graphic showing the difference between the actual and potential GDP in central and eastern European countries. In Romania a 16% rise in the minimum wage is likely to lift domestic demand and inflation whilst the Ukraine and Bosnia have problems with big negative output gaps where their GDP is well below their potential GDP.

Remember to mention the output gap when doing an essay that involves the business cycle. The output gap is the difference between demand and the economy’s capacity to supply. This is the difference between the ‘actual’ level of output (GDP) and the economy’s ‘potential’ level of output (potential GDP).

  • If the economy is running above capacity (GDP > potential GDP) the output gap is positive.
  • If the economy is running below its full capacity (GDP < potential GDP) the output gap will be negative.
  • There is a sweet spot which is where the level of output is consistent with stable inflation and full employment.

Remember that ‘potential’ output is not an upper limit on the level of output. Rather, think of potential GDP as the economy’s efficient level of output. Running the economy below potential GDP is inefficient because there are some resources that are not employed. Running the economy above potential GDP is also inefficient because resources are over-utilised (eg, machinery is being made to work too hard causing it to wear out too quickly).

While it is efficient to have the economy running at potential, quite often it does not. Resources can be over- or under-utilised, which will translate into inflationary or disinflationary pressure (over-utilisation will push future inflation up, while under-utilisation pushes future inflation down).

Business Cycle.png

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