Benn Steil

Geo-Graphics

A graphical take on geoeconomic issues, with links to the news and expert commentary.

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Are Fed Doves Mucking with Future Unemployment Estimates to Justify Dovishness?

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker
fed changing unemployment projections 2

Do Fed doves and hawks get their aviary classifications based on their cold, hard analysis of data, or is it the reverse – do they select data points to justify their dovish or hawkish perspectives?

The history of the Fed’s post-crisis focus on unemployment suggests the latter.  After June of 2013, as the figure above shows, the Fed’s estimate of the natural long-term unemployment rate begins declining in sync with the decline in the actual unemployment rate.  This suggests that FOMC members are lowering their estimates of the natural rate of unemployment to justify keeping interest rates at zero longer than they could if they stuck by their initial estimates, the 6% consensus upper bound of which is now above today’s actual 5.9% rate. Read more »

Can Russia Escape Dollar Dependence?

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker
Russia investment in BICS

Russian president Vladimir Putin is determined to wean his country off the dollar, or so he says.

In July, after insisting that the international monetary system depended too much “on the U.S. dollar, or, to be precise, on the monetary and financial policy of the U.S. authorities,” Putin signed off on a new BRICS development bank whose initial paid-in capital would be entirely in dollars – unlike the World Bank, where only 10% of paid-in capital was in dollars.  So the new BRICS bank actually creates a new source of demand for dollar assets. Read more »

A Dovish Market Has History on Its Side in Tuning Out the Fed

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker
Fed Transition Times

Market expectations for Fed policy have been decidedly more dovish than the Fed itself, a conundrum that is concerning San Francisco Fed economists.  As the Fed debates its rate-liftoff forward guidance this week, however, it is worth asking how much it really matters. Read more »

Notable Quotables From THE BATTLE OF BRETTON WOODS

by Benn Steil
J. M. Keynes, flanked by Soviet delegation head M. S. Stepanov (left) and U.S. delegation head Henry Morgenthau, Jr. (right), addressing delegates at the Bretton Woods conference, July 1944 (Bettmann/CORBIS). J. M. Keynes, flanked by Soviet delegation head M. S. Stepanov (left) and U.S. delegation head Henry Morgenthau, Jr. (right), addressing delegates at the Bretton Woods conference, July 1944 (Bettmann/CORBIS).

“The various currencies, which were all maintained on a stable basis in relation to gold and to one another, facilitated the easy flow of capital and of trade to an extent the full value of which we only realize now, when we are deprived of its advantages.”
- Keynes on the classical gold standard (72) Read more »

Bullard Has Fed History on His Side in Rate-Hike Debate with Yellen

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker
unemployment and inflation august update

St. Louis Fed President James Bullard has moved decisively and vocally from the dove to hawk camp over the past year, and is now predicting a rate hike in the first quarter of next year – in contrast to Fed Chair Janet Yellen, who still does not appear to see one coming before the middle of the year.  The economy, Bullard said, was “way ahead of schedule for labor-market improvement.” But it’s not just the unemployment picture that’s changed dramatically over the past half-year; the inflation picture has as well. Read more »

Is the BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement a Substitute for the IMF?

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker
BRICS CRA vs IMF borrowing

Russian President Vladimir Putin has hailed the new BRICS contingent reserve arrangement (CRA) as a substitute for the IMF, saying that it “creates the foundation for an effective protection of our national economies from a crisis in financial markets.” But does it? Read more »

Is the BRICS Bank More “Democratic” Than the World Bank?

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker
brics bank world bank founders vs non founding members

The launch of the new BRICS development bank “reflects the disparity and democratic deficiency in the global governance and is trying to restart, to rethink that,” according to Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz.  But is the BRICS bank really more “democratic” than the World Bank, whose governance legitimacy its founders are challenging? Read more »

Hurling BRICS at the World Bank and the $

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker
brics bank world bank

Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (the “BRICS”) made a splash last week with the official launch of their new development bank.  The backers made no secret of their intention to challenge the way things are done in the established international financial and monetary architecture. Read more »

China, not Piketty, Explains “Confused Signals” in U.S. Asset Prices

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker
china drives down treasury yields

The FT’s Ed Luce recently took on the “confused signals” being sent by U.S. stock and bond prices moving in sync (upward).

Which is it, he asks?  Are economic prospects good, as stock prices suggest, or bleak, as bond prices suggest? Read more »