Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Dollar rise under Trump could hurt US manufacturers

When Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, stock markets rallied impressively. Investors were initially giddy about Trump’s promises of fiscal stimulus, deregulation of energy, health care, and financial services, and steep cuts in corporate, personal, estate, and capital-gains taxes. But will the reality of Trumponomics sustain a continued rise in equity prices?

It is little wonder that corporations and investors have been happy. This traditional Republican embrace of trickle-down supply-side economics will mostly favor corporations and wealthy individuals, while doing almost nothing to create jobs or raise blue-collar workers’ incomes. According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, almost half of the benefits from Trump’s proposed tax cuts would go to the top 1% of income earners.

Yet the corporate sector’s animal spirits may soon give way to primal fear: the market rally is already running out of steam, and Trump’s honeymoon with investors might be coming to an end. There are several reasons for this.

For starters, the anticipation of fiscal stimulus may have pushed stock prices up, but it also led to higher long-term interest rates, which hurts capital spending and interest-sensitive sectors such as real estate. Meanwhile, the strengthening dollar will destroy more of the jobs typically held by Trump’s blue-collar base. The president may have “saved” 1,000 jobs in Indiana by bullying and cajoling the air-conditioner manufacturer Carrier; but the US dollar’s appreciation since the election could destroy almost 400,000 manufacturing jobs over time.

Moreover, Trump’s fiscal-stimulus package might end up being much larger than the market’s current pricing suggests. As Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush showed, Republicans can rarely resist the temptation to cut corporate, income, and other taxes, even when they have no way to make up for the lost revenue and no desire to cut spending. If this happens again under Trump, fiscal deficits will push up interest rates and the dollar even further, and hurt the economy in the long term.

A second reason for investors to curb their enthusiasm is the specter of inflation. With the US economy already close to full employment, Trump’s fiscal stimulus will fuel inflation more than it does growth. Inflation will then force even Janet Yellen’s dovish Federal Reserve to hike up interest rates sooner and faster than it otherwise would have done, which will drive up long-term interest rates and the value of the dollar still more.

Third, this undesirable policy mix of excessively loose fiscal policy and tight monetary policy will tighten financial conditions, hurting blue-collar workers’ incomes and employment prospects. An already protectionist Trump administration will then have to pursue additional protectionist measures to maintain these workers’ support, thereby further hampering economic growth and diminishing corporate profits.

If Trump takes his protectionism too far, he will undoubtedly spark trade wars. America’s trading partners will have little choice but to respond to US import restrictions by imposing their own tariffs on US exports. The ensuing tit-for-tat will hinder global economic growth, and damage economies and markets everywhere. It is worth remembering how America’s 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act triggered global trade wars that exacerbated the Great Depression.

Fourth, Trump’s actions suggest that his administration’s economic interventionism will go beyond traditional protectionism. Trump has already shown his willingness to target firms’ foreign operations with the threat of import levies, public accusations of price gouging, and immigration restrictions (which make it harder to attract talent).

The Nobel laureate economist Edmund S. Phelps has described Trump’s direct interference in the corporate sector as reminiscent of corporatist Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. Indeed, if former President Barack Obama had treated the corporate sector in the way that Trump has, he would have been smeared as a communist; but for some reason when Trump does it, corporate America puts its tail between its legs.

Fifth, Trump is questioning US alliances, cozying up to American rivals such as Russia, and antagonizing important global powers such as China. His erratic foreign policies are spooking world leaders, multinational corporations, and global markets generally.

Finally, Trump may pursue damage-control methods that only make matters worse. For example, he and his advisers have already made verbal pronouncements intended to weaken the dollar. But talk is cheap, and open-mouth operations have only a temporary effect on the currency.

This means that Trump might take a more radical and heterodox approach. During the campaign, he bashed the Fed for being too dovish, and creating a “false economy.” And yet he may now be tempted to appoint new members to the Fed Board who are even more dovish, and less independent, than Yellen, in order to boost credit to the private sector.
Fake news or real views Learn More

If that fails, Trump could unilaterally intervene to weaken the dollar, or impose capital controls to limit dollar-strengthening capital inflows. Markets are already becoming wary; full-blown panic is likely if protectionism and reckless, politicized monetary policy precipitate trade, currency, and capital-control wars.

To be sure, expectations of stimulus, lower taxes, and deregulation could still boost the economy and the market’s performance in the short term. But, as the vacillation in financial markets since Trump’s inauguration indicates, the president’s inconsistent, erratic, and destructive policies will take their toll on domestic and global economic growth in the long run. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Monday, January 9, 2017

Protectionism and Nationalist policies could lead to more conflict around the world

Donald Trump’s election as president of the United States does not just represent a mounting populist backlash against globalization. It may also portend the end of Pax Americana — the international order of free exchange and shared security the U.S. and its allies built after World War II.

That U.S.-led global order has enabled 70 years of prosperity. It rests on market-oriented regimes of trade liberalization, increased capital mobility, and appropriate social-welfare policies; backed by American security guarantees in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, through NATO and various other alliances.

Trump, however, may pursue populist, anti-globalization, and protectionist policies that hinder trade and restrict the movement of labor and capital. And he has cast doubt on existing U.S. security guarantees by suggesting he will force America’s allies to pay for more of their own defense. If Trump is serious about putting “America first,” his administration will shift U.S. geopolitical strategy toward isolationism and unilateralism, pursuing only the national interests of the homeland.

When the U.S. pursued similar policies in the 1920s and 1930s, it helped sow the seeds of World War II. Protectionism, starting with the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, which affected thousands of imported goods, triggered retaliatory trade and currency wars that worsened the Great Depression. More important, American isolationism — based on a false belief that the U.S. was safely protected by two oceans — allowed Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan to wage aggressive war and threaten the entire world. With the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the U.S. was finally forced to take its head out of the sand.

Today, too, a U.S. turn to isolationism and the pursuit of strictly U.S. national interests may eventually lead to a global conflict. Even without the prospect of American disengagement from Europe, the European Union and the eurozone already appear to be disintegrating, particularly in the wake of the United Kingdom’s June Brexit vote and Italy’s failed referendum on constitutional reforms in December. Moreover, in 2017, extreme anti-Europe left- or right-wing populist parties could come to power in France and Italy, and possibly in other parts of Europe.

Without active U.S. engagement in Europe, an aggressively revanchist Russia will step in. Russia is already challenging the U.S. and the EU in Ukraine, Syria, the Baltics, and the Balkans, and it may capitalize on the EU’s looming collapse by reasserting its influence in the former Soviet bloc countries, and supporting pro-Russia movements within Europe. If Europe gradually loses its U.S. security umbrella, no one stands to benefit more than Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump’s proposals also threaten to exacerbate the situation in the Middle East. He has said that he will make America energy independent, which entails abandoning U.S. interests in the region and becoming more reliant on domestically produced greenhouse-gas-emitting fossil fuels. And he has maintained his position that Islam itself, rather than just radical militant Islam, is dangerous. This view, shared by Trump’s incoming national security adviser, General Michael Flynn, plays directly into Islamist militants’ own narrative of a clash of civilizations.

Meanwhile, an “America first” approach under Trump will likely worsen the longstanding Sunni-Shia proxy wars between Saudi Arabia and Iran. And if the U.S. no longer guarantees its Sunni allies’ security, all regional powers — including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Egypt — might decide that they can defend themselves only by acquiring nuclear weapons, and even more deadly conflict will ensue.

In Asia, U.S. economic and military primacy has provided decades of stability; but a rising China is now challenging the status quo. U.S. President Barack Obama’s strategic “pivot” to Asia depended primarily on enacting the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Trump has promised to scrap on his first day in office. Meanwhile, China is quickly strengthening its own economic ties in Asia, the Pacific, and Latin America through its “one belt, one road” policy, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the New Development Bank (formerly known as the BRICS bank), and its own regional free-trade proposal to rival the TPP.

If the U.S. gives up on its Asian allies such as the Philippines, South Korea, and Taiwan, those countries may have no choice but to prostrate themselves before China; and other U.S. allies, such as Japan and India, may be forced to militarize and challenge China openly. Thus, an American withdrawal from the region could very well eventually precipitate a military conflict there.

As in the 1930s, when protectionist and isolationist U.S. policies hampered global economic growth and trade, and created the conditions for rising revisionist powers to start a world war, similar policy impulses could set the stage for new powers to challenge and undermine the American-led international order. An isolationist Trump administration may see the wide oceans to its east and west, and think that increasingly ambitious powers such as Russia, China, and Iran pose no direct threat to the homeland.

But the U.S. is still a global economic and financial power in a deeply interconnected world. If left unchecked, these countries will eventually be able to threaten core U.S. economic and security interests — at home and abroad — especially if they expand their nuclear and cyber-warfare capacities. The historical record is clear: protectionism, isolationism, and “America first” policies are a recipe for economic and military disaster.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Roubini on Trumps Carrier deal and US Dollar


Trump saved 1K jobs in Indiana and already DESTROYED 370K jobs given the Trump-led dollar appreciation.
Trump pictured with Robert Kiyosaki of the Rich Dad Poor Dad author

Monday, December 12, 2016

Asians wondering about the political changes and Trump tsunami

Monday, November 21, 2016

Donald Trump, Markets and Janet Yellen


When Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the United States’ presidential election, the market’s immediate negative response was to be expected. But by the next day, the market’s downward turn had already reversed itself.

US equities and bond yields rallied after Trump delivered a victory speech that seemed to signal that he was tacking to the center, which investors had originally expected him to do this summer, after he won the Republican nomination and entered the general election campaign. In his speech, Trump promised to be a president for all Americans, praised Clinton for her past public service, and vowed to pursue massive fiscal-stimulus policies centered on infrastructure spending and tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.

Markets will give Trump the benefit of the doubt, for now; but investors are now watching whom he appoints to his administration, what shape his fiscal policies actually take, and what course he charts for monetary policy.

They may be watching monetary policy most closely. During his campaign, Trump threatened the US Federal Reserve’s independence, and heaped criticism on Fed Chair Janet Yellen. But Trump is a real-estate mogul, so we cannot immediately assume that he is a true monetary-policy hawk, and not a closet dove. His campaign rhetoric may have been directed at the Republican Party base, which is full of Fed-bashing gold bugs.

Trump could appoint hawks to the two Fed Board seats that are currently vacant, and he will certainly replace Yellen when her term expires in 2018. But it is unlikely that he will force her to resign before then, because markets would punish such an obvious violation of central-bank independence.

Even if Trump does choose a hawk to replace Yellen, his appointee would be only primus inter pares on the Federal Open Market Committee. Yellen’s successor would not be able simply to impose his or her view on the FOMC’s seven-member Board of Governors and five Reserve Bank presidents.

While the Fed did resemble an absolute monarchy under former Chairman Alan Greenspan, it became more of a constitutional monarchy under Greenspan’s successor, Ben Bernanke. Under Yellen, it might best be described as a democratic republic. This transformation cannot be reversed: each FOMC member holds strong views about which direction monetary policy should take, and each is willing to dissent when needed.

This means that a radical hawk appointed by Trump could end up in the minority, and would be consistently outvoted by the FOMC’s dovish majority. Of course, Trump may be able to change the Fed Board’s composition over time, by appointing new governors when Stanley Fischer, Lael Brainard, Daniel K. Tarullo, and Jerome H. Powell’s terms end. But if he takes this route, the market will still police the Fed’s actions. If continued low growth and low inflation do not justify rapid interest-rate increases, a hawkish Fed that raises rates anyway will face harsh disciplining by the market – and, by extension, so will Trump.

Moreover, premature and excessive hawkishness would strengthen the US dollar and sharply increase the US trade deficit, undermining Trump’s stated goal of creating jobs and boosting incomes for his blue-collar, working-class electoral base. If Trump cares about his base – or if he at least wants to avoid a political backlash from it – he should appoint dovish Fed governors who will favor easy-money policies that weaken the dollar. Ironically, President Barack Obama’s appointees, such as Brainard and Tarullo, are actually ideal for Trump’s agenda.

If Trump does choose a more hawkish monetary-policy approach, it will have an ambiguous impact on the dollar, owing to his other proposals’ downstream effects. Looser fiscal policy and tighter monetary policy should, as in former President Ronald Reagan’s first term, strengthen the dollar; but if Trump pushes the US toward protectionism, he will generate economic and geopolitical tail risks that would weaken the dollar and increase US country risk.

Similarly, Trump’s fiscal policies would also weaken the dollar over time – after an initial significant appreciation – as the substantially higher deficit spending would be financed either with easy money or bond issues that increase US sovereign risk. The net impact of all these factors on the dollar will all depend on how loose fiscal policy becomes, and on how tight monetary policy becomes.
Fake news or real views Learn more

Trump’s proposed policy mix would also have an ambiguous – and modest – impact on growth, if he appoints hawks to the Fed. Looser fiscal policy would help short-term economic growth; but tighter monetary policy would undercut those gains. Similarly, if Trump really does want to redistribute some income from capital to labor, and from corporate profits to wages (admittedly a big “if”), his policies could boost consumption; but his populist, protectionist policies would undermine business confidence, and thus capital expenditures, while reducing consumers’ purchasing power through higher inflation.

Equity markets will undoubtedly favor Trump’s proposals to loosen fiscal policy, deregulate business and finance, and cut taxes. But investors will be on the lookout for protectionism, Wall Street- and immigrant-bashing, and overly aggressive monetary hawkishness. Only time – and the market – will tell if Trump has struck the right balance.