REALITY CHECK: While many (including myself) agree with the US president’s stance on China Trade, specifically the need to stop forced technology transfers and IP theft (the trade imbalance is not actually an issue; certainly not one that can be or ever has been solved through a race to the bottom tariff war. Trade imbalances between nations of different sizes have always and will always exist. Attempting to equalize Trade monetarily is ill advised. The US president either doesn’t know this yet or refuses to acknowledge it publicly), all who actually work in business, finance and economics wholeheartedly believe that he, and we, would be much better served if he stopped attacking and blaming Jerome Powell and the Federal Reserve for the extreme volatility in global bond and equity markets and the general economic slowdown and instead acknowledged that it is indeed the current trade war with China.
Main-streeters may be entertained by these daily twitter shenanigans (since when is a US president allowed to tweet? Didn’t President Obama have to relinquish his BlackBerry when he took office?) But Wall Street, economists and big business are shocked and horrified. There’s something palpably disturbing about having a commander and chief who knows less than you do about business and finance. Which is why markets have been headed nowhere or down for a year and half and why global bond yields are tanking.
Just because someone is standing in front of you confidently asserting they see a pink elephant doesn’t mean there’s a pink elephant in the room with you. No matter how many times they scream or tweet it. There is never a time when it’s not important to remember this.
The biggest economic conundrum the United States faces at the moment regarding interest rates is that economic conditions are doing well by all measures that The (not)Fed uses to address its dual mandate of maintaining stable inflation and keeping unemployment low. The United States is at record low unemployment. Even by the president’s own accounts… And yes this seeming disconnect in his understanding of basic economics is frustrating. And disturbing. So the (not)Fed has absolutely no realistic fundamental reasons to lower rates based on their long running mandate.
While it’s true that the global economy seems to be heading toward a recession, or worse (over 30 countries now have negative yielding interest rates — with a record 15 TRILLION dollars in global debt that is yielding negative interest! This is historically unprecedented in human civilization), and many now have inverted yield curves (including the US)), the US is still doing impressively well. Meaning lowering rates is not justifiable.
Further rate cuts by the US central bank based solely on other countries’ lowering theirs may excite markets for a day or two, but will ultimately lead to a sell off as investors lose faith in the US central bank’s normally independent, rational and clear headed process. It could also lead to a very fast race to the bottom of treasury rates globally, gut savings and retirement accounts, castrate bank’s’ ability to make money, and further exacerbate the growing global economic slowdown. At that point the world would no longer have the US economy or markets to run to. And THAT would be a major problem considering it’s the last TINA Trade left on earth right now to grow money.
Furthermore if the world does continue to shrink economically and the Federal Reserve suddenly needs to actually lower rates or resort to QE again to save us from impending doom, they’ll have no ammunition left if they lower rates now in a “booming economy”. It’s an illogical argument. And it’s sad that there are decent hardworking Americans out there who are literally learning about these issues from someone who’s either extremely ignorant about them or overtly attempting to deceive them. It’s blatantly irresponsible.
So… what to do? Because most informed people agree with the noble goal of addressing the problems with China trade, most support the president’s courageous attempt to do so at this time. Including me. Tariff wars might not be the best way to do it. Historically they’ve rarely worked. But just starting the process is a good intention. Can’t fault him for his willingness to take this bold step. He’s swimming in uncharted waters. And despite our political leanings he needs our support. Just as we need his.
What he needs to do is stop tweeting insults, attacks, false facts and conspiracy theories and instead sit down behind his desk on live TV and address the nation, to honestly and passionately tell the American people and the world how important this battle is, why we’re doing it and that we all need to pitch in and prepare for some serious pain now in order to secure a better fairer trade agreement with China for our future.
If he did this, the confusion would abate and so too might the market volatility. Hell, markets might even rally just to show support for his newfound diplomacy and honesty and the stability it portends. In addition he might even rally the American people to unify for even a brief period while we face this important challenge. Just a thought.
— Ambassador out