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  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 02-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The global financial and economic crisis that emerged in August 2007 has entered a dismaying fourth phase. The January 17–18, 2009, weekend edition of the Financial Times, which has been a major chronicler of the crisis and its many aspects, laid out a frightening timeline of an accelerating and intensifying oscillatory cycle of crisis and failed policy response that started just fifteen months ago. Each phase begins with a shock and ends with a seemingly decisive policy measure meant to contain or “fix” the crisis. Each phase is shorter than the previous one and culminates in a much larger policy response. Throughout the crisis, the losses of financial institutions have steadily grown at an accelerating pace as the underlying conditions in the financial sector and, since September 2008, in the underlying global economy deteriorate more rapidly. Such a disturbing pattern must be truncated by a large, coordinated global policy response to arrest the accelerating erosion of the market capitalization of multinational banks and insurance companies that has resulted.
  • Topic: Debt, Economics, Markets, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 03-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: As the global financial and economic crisis has grown increasingly dire—the deterioration just since the November U.S. election is breathtaking—market participants and policymakers alike have looked to three past crisis models as part of an intensifying search for ways out of the current crisis. First, the Great Depression of the 1930s is being examined ever more closely for possible lessons now that commentators have moved past an under- standable reluctance to mention that experience as relevant to today's situation. Second, the Scandinavian financial crisis of the early 1990s, which included a proactive move toward bank nationalization by the Swedish government, is also widely discussed. Finally, many allusions have been made to the disquieting parallels between today's U.S. experience and that of Japan during its “lost decade” (1991–2001) of recession and deflation, especially after 1998.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 04-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: On March 18, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke intensified the important battle against global deflation with a commitment to expand the Fed's balance sheet by an extra $1.15 trillion. With some luck and persistence, that step could boost growth by a percentage point or more and, even more important, substantially reduce the risk of deflation.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John H. Makin, Vincent R. Reinhart, Peter J. Wallison
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: One year ago, on September 14, Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy. The next day the Dow fell five hundred points. Soon thereafter, the government essentially nationalized AIG, made Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley into bank-holding companies, and petitioned Congress for aid. In early September, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had been placed in government conservatorship. These events followed the bursting of the housing bubble. We present here three essays written by AEI scholars in the spring and summer of 2009 on the origins of the financial crisis whose reverberations we continue to feel today. Vincent R. Reinhart sets the stage by reminding us of the importance of getting the story of what happened right, as policy recommendations flow from our understanding of what occurred. He also tells us that “the narrative first written about the Great Depression was wrong in many important respects.” John H. Makin and Peter J. Wallison focus on the misguided policies that contributed to the crisis. In a new Economic Outlook, Makin discusses three important lessons of the financial crisis that should be understood in order to enable a faster, more effective policy response to future crises.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Financial Crisis
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 08-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: China's economic statistics have become the envy of the world. On July 15, China reported a 7.9 percent growth rate for the second quarter of 2009 compared to the same period a year earlier. Meanwhile, China's stock markets are on fire, and its property markets are heating up fast as well. Shanghai's two stock markets are up 75 percent and 95 percent respectively so far this year. The more widely traded Hong Kong Index is up 27 percent, a stellar performance compared to largely flat stock markets in the United States, Europe, and Japan. In even stronger contrast, Russia, which is one of China's emerging-market peers, has seen its economy drop by 10.1 percent during the first half of this year, while its stock market has struggled as well.
  • Topic: Economics, Emerging Markets, International Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Japan, China, Europe, Hong Kong
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 05-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Governor Zhou Xiaochuan's comment is an open acknowledgement that the “adverse feedback loop,” in which financial-sector problems hurt the real economy, which in turn intensifies negative conditions in finance, has hit China hard. China's real growth rate, which peaked at 13 percent in 2007 and is heavily dependent on exports, plunged to 6.1 percent on a year-over-year basis in the first quarter of 2009. Nominal growth, a measure of the current money value of goods and services, fell even more sharply, from 21.4 percent in 2007 to 3.6 percent in the first quarter of this year. The fact that the nominal growth rate is 2.5 percent below the real growth rate suggests that, at least as far as output is concerned, deflation has taken hold at a 2.5 percent rate in China.
  • Topic: Economics, Emerging Markets, International Political Economy
  • Political Geography: China
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 07-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The recent steps by the Federal Reserve to preempt deflation have—ironically and unexpectedly— prompted a surge in inflation fears both inside the United States and abroad, especially in China. Specifically, the Fed's measures to go beyond the stimulus inherent in a zero percent federal funds rate by purchasing Treasury and mortgage securities has conjured visions—especially in the eyes of major buyers of Treasury securities, China foremost— of massive money printing to underwrite trillions of dollars of additional government borrowing at low interest rates. As markets have shown, if that were the Fed's intention—which it decidedly is not—the effort would fail because excessive money printing—creating a money supply larger than the quantity of money demanded— would push up interest rates as inflation expectations rose.
  • Topic: Economics, International Political Economy, International Trade and Finance, Monetary Policy
  • Political Geography: United States, China
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: More than two years have passed since the U.S. housing bubble burst. That event ushered in a financial crisis that was not only intense but also stunning. So stunning in fact, that in August of last year, just a month before the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the global economy was close to a crisis worthy of comparison with the Great Depression, yet neither the markets nor the Federal Reserve had much of an inkling of what was to come. The Standard and Poor's (S) 500 Index had come down to about 1,300 from its October 2007 high of 1,576. Positive growth had just been reported for the U.S. economy during the second quarter of 2008 at an annual rate of 2.8 percent (later revised down to 1.5 percent). Almost one percentage point of that growth came from U.S. consumption, and government spending also contributed. The wave of relief after the Bear Stearns scare in March 2008 had provided a nice boost to the economy and to markets. That boost was further enhanced by the substantial contribution to growth from net exports (2.9 percentage points) thanks to what was, then, continuing strength in the global economy, especially in China, which had reported blistering 10.1 percent year-over-year growth in the second quarter of 2008. These and other positive components more than offset a drag from inventories and residential investment. In short, the real economy had not shown much evidence of damage emanating from the chaos that was churning in the financial sector.
  • Topic: Economics, International Political Economy, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Monetary Policy, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States, China
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 11-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The only thing scarier than the slide of the dollar, which has dropped by 15 percent since March, would be an attempt by the Federal Reserve to stop it. Such an attempt would show that we have learned nothing from the Bank of Japan's disastrous premature exit from a zero-interest policy in August 2000. Closer to home, it would resemble the Fed's premature move to mop up “excess” reserves by doubling reserve requirements in three steps between August 1936 and May 1937, which was followed by the third-worst recession of the twentieth century, from May 1937 to June 1938.
  • Topic: Economics, International Political Economy, International Trade and Finance, Monetary Policy, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 10-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Wall Street is dancing again to the music of a sharp rise in stock prices. The question that remains is whether Main Street, currently languishing in a sad world of job losses, unavailable credit, and weakened balance sheets, will get to join the party. To put the question more precisely, will the “adverse feedback loop” that saw a financial collapse last fall that crushed the real economy work in reverse, so that a financial bounce boosts the real economy in coming quarters? The jury is still out on this important question.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States