Robert Kahn

Macro and Markets

Robert Kahn analyzes economic policies for an integrated world.

After the Italian referendum: a treacherous period for banks and growth

by Robert Kahn Monday, December 5, 2016

The post-referendum market response to Italy’s referendum mirrored the reaction following the Brexit and U.S. election votes: calm after a knee-jerk negative reaction.  After all, not much has changed—Prime Minister Renzi stays on in a caretaker role (perhaps through end year), after which it is expected a new government with similar political orientation would take over with a rather narrow mandate to pursue a revised constitutional reform plan, address critical governing issues such as migration, and complete a fix of the banks. Most market participants do not expect snap new elections. Italy today in this sense does not look much different than it did yesterday.

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The President’s (Economic) Inbox

by Robert Kahn Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The election of Donald Trump creates extraordinary uncertainty about the future course of U.S. economic policy. Markets don’t like extreme unknowns, and there are valid reasons to fear that Trump’s policy proposals on trade and our economic alliances would be seriously disruptive to the global economy. Global stocks fell sharply when signs of a Trump victory emerged Tuesday, but by mid afternoon Wednesday U.S. stocks were up as markets found their footing on hopes of fiscal stimulus.  Meanwhile, U.S. Treasury yields were up and the Mexican peso weakened. It is reasonable to expect that substantial market volatility will be the norm in coming weeks.

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Brexit, Emerging Markets, and Venezuela in the News

by Robert Kahn Thursday, June 30, 2016

Three things to think about today.

  1.  If you haven’t already done so, subscribe now to my colleague Brad Setser’s blog, which provides excellent commentary on global macro issues. His most recent piece makes a compelling case for European fiscal action against the backdrop of a meaningful UK and European growth shock, a point that I very much agree with (listen also to my conversation with Jim Lindsay and Sebastian Mallaby here).
  2. I remain puzzled that this industrial country growth shock has not had a broader effect on emerging markets. Reports are that portfolio outflows from EM were minor on Friday, with some recovery this week. One view is that as long as China’s economy remains on track, commodity prices hold up, and the Fed is on hold, emerging markets should weather the Brexit shock. Conversely, the IMF has worried that declining trend growth in the emerging world reflects a rising vulnerability to globalization.
  3. The humanitarian situation in Venezuela has become critical. I have focused in past blogs on the severe economic consequences of the crisis, and the need for a comprehensive, IMF-backed reform effort, supported by substantial financing and debt restructuring. China’s recent agreement to push back debt payments due recognizes the inevitable but is unlikely to provide additional free cash flow to the government or the state energy company PDVSA. For investors, default now looks to be coming soon.

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Brexit’s Threat to Global Growth

by Robert Kahn Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Thursday’s Brexit vote wasn’t a “Lehman moment”, as some have feared. Instead, it was a growth moment. And that may be the greater threat. If policymakers respond effectively, the benefits could be substantial: a stronger global economy, and an ebbing of the political and economic forces now pressuring UK and European policymakers. Conversely, failure to address the growth risks could cause broader and deeper global economic contagion.

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Britain’s Bold Leap into the Unknown

by Robert Kahn Friday, June 24, 2016

Britain’s vote to leave the European Union was fueled by a broad range of social and political concerns, including a fear of immigration, resurgent nationalism, and a populist rejection of UK and European policies, institutions and policymakers. But is also an extraordinary economic experiment. Here are a few things to look for in coming days as the global economy tries to absorb the implications of this leap into the unknown.

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Venezuela’s Descent Into Crisis

by Robert Kahn Thursday, May 5, 2016

In my May monthly, I make the case that the crisis in Venezuela has intensified to the point where a chaotic default is a question of when, not if. Economic activity is falling sharply and the seeds of hyperinflation have been planted, a downward spiral reinforced by political paralysis, widespread electricity shortages, and a breakdown in social order. Reserves are falling sharply, driven by capital flight and a fiscal deficit that has swelled to over 20 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Although the government has made enormous efforts to continue making debt payments, a default now appears likely sooner rather than later, and possibly even ahead of large debt service payments due this fall

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G20 Hopes for a Cure

by Robert Kahn Sunday, February 28, 2016

Five things we learned from this weekend’s G20 meeting of finance ministers and central bankers.

  1. A desire for better. The communiqué candidly acknowledges growing threats to the global economy, and signals a desire for stronger growth at a time when “downside risks and vulnerabilities have risen.” There also was recognition that monetary policy has carried most of the load in recent years, and going forward more responsibility rests on governments to accelerate long-promised fiscal and structural reforms.

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Venezuela on the Edge

by Robert Kahn Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Venezuelan government has a $2.3 billion debt payment due this Friday. Most believe the government has the resources to make the payment, though it is hard to see a coherent economic reason to do so. The economy is descending into a deep and profound crisis—reflected in severe shortages, hyperinflation, and a collapse in economic activity. It faces a widening financing gap, and has imposed highly distortive foreign exchange controls. Debt service far outstrips dwindling international reserves. Recent policy measures by the government, including a rise in gasoline prices, fail to meaningfully address the imbalances. A default increasingly appears to be a question not of “if,” but “when.”

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