Assessing the Business Cycle, Mid-May 2019

Several key series look like they have peaked; nowcasts indicate slowing growth. Forward looking indicators look “iffy”.

Figure 1: Nonfarm payroll employment (blue), industrial production (red), personal income excluding transfers in Ch.2012$ (green), manufacturing and trade sales in Ch.2012$ (black), and monthly GDP in Ch.2012$ (pink), all log normalized to 2019M01=0.  Source: BLS, Federal Reserve, BEA, via FRED, Macroeconomic Advisers (5/3 release), and author’s calculations.

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Driving to War in a Ford Fiesta!

That’s the rationale, according to the Association of Global Automakers, as quoted in Car and Driver! Mr. Trump declares Section 232 tariffs for automobiles.

Thus, the Secretary found that American-owned automotive R&D and manufacturing are vital to national security.  Yet, increases in imports of automobiles and automobile parts, combined with other circumstances, have over the past three decades given foreign-owned producers a competitive advantage over American-owned producers.

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Phill Swagel to Head CBO

That’s the news, according to Roll Call:

Senate and House budget leaders have chosen Phillip L. Swagel, a University of Maryland economist and former Treasury official in the George W. Bush administration, as the next director of the Congressional Budget Office, according to several sources with knowledge of the discussions.

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Tools of monetary policy

I just finished a new paper on current U.S. monetary policy operating procedures. Here’s the abstract:

The Federal Reserve characterizes its current policy decisions in terms of targets for the fed funds rate and the size of its balance sheet. The fed funds rate today is essentially an administered rate that is heavily influenced by regulatory arbitrage and divorced from its traditional role as a signal of liquidity in the banking system. The size of the Fed’s balance sheet is at best a very blunt instrument for influencing interest rates. In this paper I compare the current operating system with the historical U.S. system and the procedures of other central banks. I then examine strategies for transitioning from the current system to one that would give the Federal Reserve better tools with which to achieve its strategic objective of influencing inflation and output.

Here’s a link to a video of my presentation of the paper at a conference at Stanford last week.