For Your Weekend Procrastination – Around The Net Saturday Edition

Noted for your weekend ruminations or procrastinations – take your pick. Here is what I read or perused on Friday and weekend. Hope you will find it interesting and intellectually stimulating.

  1. The Dollar and the Recovery (Wonkish) – So, what’s actually happening? The dollar is rising a lot, which suggests that markets regard the relative rise in US demand as a fairly long-term phenomenon – which in turn should mean that a lot of the rise in US demand ends up benefiting other countries. In other words, the strong dollar probably is going to be a major drag on recovery.
  2. Something economists thought was impossible is happening in Europe – The other is that European governments are very reluctant to increase the supply of debt available. Germany, for example, is now running a budget surplus, which makes German debt scarce. A lot of people around the world would be happy if Germany went and gave a bunch of money to Greece and Spain, or announced a massive infrastructure building plan, or sharply reduced sales taxes. And if it did that, it would entail a lot of new debt, which would soak up demand. But northern European countries aren’t responding to high demand for their debt with more borrowing. So prices just keep falling.
  3. Greece’s crazy new debt plan might just work – But a growing number of economists say that it could be the right method to give Greece’s new leftist government the breathing space on its hefty debt payments that it says it needs to get the economy back on track after its financial crisis.
  4. Those mountains of debt (and assets) – What is going on? As the government of Singapore explains here, debt is not issued to deal with funding needs but to generate a set of Singapore government securities in order to develop a safe asset for the Singapore financial markets as well as for the compulsory national savings system called the Central Provident Fund. So while debt is very high, the value of assets is even higher and the balance sheet of the government of Singapore looks very healthy.
  5. Upbeat Jobs Report – Plus, the Fed is aware of its past history, and in 2004 “patient” turned to “moderate” just one meeting before the hike. But it was technically the second meeting after “patient” was dropped, so is that two meetings?  Also, as we saw with the “considerable” to “patient” transition, the Fed has its own unique way of wordsmithing that can deliver something for everyone. And finally, Yellen has the press conference to redefine her interpretation of “patient.”  But maybe I am wrong. In any event, I am not taking a fixed stand on what “patient” means until the press conference.
  6. Push Greece Off the Cliff? – Boy, I hope Frances is right! The alternative interpretation, United Creditors Against Greece, would mean the end of the Euro. And it is true that the practical implications of yesterday’s decision are in the end limited.  But I remain worried, for at least two reasons.
  7. What the ECB’s Move on Greek Government Debt Is Really All About – The Greek banking system is not particularly reliant on Greek sovereign debt as collateral. Figures from the Bank of Greece show that Greek financial institutions currently have about €21 billion ($24 billion) of Greek sovereign exposure. Furthermore, this debt has already been subject to valuation haircuts of up to 40 percent when used as collateral at the ECB.
  8. Economy Adds 257,000 Jobs in January – The January report provides further evidence of a strengthening labor market. However, the weak 4th quarter GDP growth, coupled with a rising trade deficit and continued weakness in investment, should raise concerns about its durability. The labor market is not yet tight enough to produce substantial wage growth, which means that future consumption growth will be limited.
  9. Stunned Wall Street Cries: ‘Sell Treasuries!’ – The bond market is now pricing in annual inflation of 1.49 percent for the next five years, up from 1.07 percent just a month ago, according to break-even rates on Treasury Inflation Protected Securities. That’s a lot closer to the Fed’s 2 percent target.
  10. Why the Bank of England may need to boost quantitative easing? – “Should we at some point see the U.K. economy slow down, then I think the Bank of England would come under quite a lot of pressure to ease policy,” said Shaun Richards, economist and writer of the Notayesmaneconomics blog. “Now that might not come as an actual base-rate cut. We could see more QE or an expansion of the funding-for-lending scheme.”
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