Robert Kahn

Macro and Markets

Robert Kahn analyzes economic policies for an integrated world.

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The Geopolitical Paradox: Dangerous World, Resilient Markets

by Robert Kahn

Should we be worried by how well global markets are performing despite rising geopolitical volatility? I think so. In my September monthly, I look at the main arguments explaining the disconnect, and argue Europe is the region we should be most worried about a disruptive correction. Here are a few excerpts.

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China Chooses Growth Over Reform

by Robert Kahn

The Wall Street Journal piece on rapid credit growth in China yesterday describes the sharp tradeoff for the Chinese government: achieving growth targets in the near term comes at the expense of reform delays and further rapid debt accumulation. With growth likely to decelerate in 2015 without additional stimulus, the prospects for meaningful economic reform are receding. I’ve explored this tradeoff in my July Global Economics Monthly (here). Imposing hard budget constraints, tightening credit, recognizing losses, and addressing massive excess capacity in real estate, raw materials and other sectors is disruptive in the short term, and as long as growth is falling short of government targets the hard decisions are likely to be deferred. If it takes a crisis to force change, I argue in the GEM that the smooth rebalancing scenarios that China optimists predict will be at risk.

BRICS and Mortals

by Robert Kahn

Leaders of the BRICS–Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa–meet in Rio today to swap World Cup stories and launch a long-discussed “BRICS Bank.” The bank creates two funds–a development lending facility (New Development Bank or NDB) backed by $50 billion in capital ($10 billion from each of the BRICs), and a $100 billion rescue fund (Contingent Reserve Arrangement, CRA) for countries suffering from exogenous shocks.

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Russian Contagion, Geopolitical Risk, and Markets

by Robert Kahn

Yesterday, I published my Global Economics Monthly. I argue that further economic sanctions against Russia would have significant global economic effects because of the Russia’s connectedness to energy and financial markets. Why then, are markets apparently so sanguine? Is it because investors, by and large, expect de-escalation? Is it a view that Russia does not matter for the global economy? Could it be a search for yield? Or is it the inherent difficultly that markets face in pricing in hard-to-quantify, large geopolitical dislocations? Probably a little bit of all of the above.

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Ukraine and IMF: Step Forward Now

by Robert Kahn

The IMF announced today that it has reached an agreement in principle on a two-year program (stand-by arrangement) with Ukraine. The headline numbers are $14-18 billion of IMF money and overall financing of $27 billion, which is lower than some had hoped, but don’t be fooled. This is a three-to-six month program, designed to meet Ukraine’s critical near-term financing needs and to get reforms going. Both are essential tasks, and rightfully the focus. The program will be revised (and likely boosted) after elections. It will be at that point that thorny issues like debt restructuring will be addressed.

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Ukraine: Economy Matters

by Robert Kahn
Value of the Ukrainian hryvnia against the dollar—closely watched by Ukrainians as an economic signal—has sharply depreciated due to recent turmoil in Kiev. (Source: Oanda.com) Value of the Ukrainian hryvnia against the dollar—closely watched by Ukrainians as an economic signal—has sharply depreciated due to recent turmoil in Kiev. (Source: Oanda.com)

A deal that would end the violence in Ukraine appears to be holding. It would produce early elections, a return to the 2004 constitution, and a national unity government. It would also set the stage for an urgent western effort to provide financing supported by an IMF program. Good news on the politics, though, does not equate to good news on the economy.

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Five Financial Questions for Ukraine

by Robert Kahn

There is an interesting debate going on in Western capitals over financial support for Ukraine.  The possibility of political change, coupled with Russia’s decision to suspend disbursements on its $12 billion financial package, has created an opening for meaningful economic reforms and renewed ties with global financial bodies.  There are compelling political arguments for the West to respond with a financing program that makes it economically viable for Ukraine to choose the EU Association Agreement that it rejected last year.  But the economics make a deal hard to put together.  For now, the ball is in Ukraine’s court—tensions remain high and Western aid will require at a minimum a technocratic and reform oriented government be put in place.  But should that happen, here are five economic questions on the table. Read more »

Obama’s Modest Proposals for Growth

by Robert Kahn

As signaled in recent days, President Obama’s State of the Union address puts the spotlight firmly on domestic policy. Creating economic opportunity was a major theme. In addition to a hike in the minimum wage for government contract employees, the president called for a economy-wide minimum wage increase, an extension of unemployment benefits, immigration reform, and other measures to attack income inequality. The only surprise was a new Treasury instrument, MyRA, to encourage retirement savings.

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