Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Global Economy Has Taken Some Hits Already This Year ... And It Shows

This is quite a series of events from Fed President Lockhart.

We know that in January and early February, the world's financial markets, including our own, went through an episode of significant volatility. From the first trading day of January, investors appeared to go "risk off" and headed for safety. A number of concerns seemed to gang up on investors: the weak fourth quarter here in the United States, economic weakness globally in advanced economies and emerging markets, the apparent economic slowdown in China, Chinese currency depreciation, and the falling oil price and what that could mean for global demand.

We know that an important index that measures financial volatility—the VIX—rose to a level above 28 (a very high reading) on February 11 and has since settled back to a much calmer reading around 15. We know that financial markets here have substantially recovered lost value, but we do not know if the volatility investors experienced and the public observed in January and early February will have any extended impact on the broad economy.

We know that on March 5, the government of China stated its GDP growth target for the next measurement period at a range of 6.5 to 7.0 percent. The introduction of a range was interpreted as allowing for lower growth than recorded in the past, reinforcing the sense that China's economy is slowing.

We know that the Bank of Japan—Japan's central bank—unveiled a negative rate policy on January 29. Japan joined the eurozone in using negative official rates to spur inflation and growth.

We know that on March 10, the European Central Bank deployed Mario Draghi's "bazooka." The ECB pushed its policy rate more into negative territory and took other strong measures in an attempt to pull the eurozone out of its persistent weak state evidenced by very low inflation.

These are some highlights of a rough start to the year. As I said, the context has mutated somewhat since December, even if, all things considered, the economy remains on a positive trajectory.

Combine that with this chart of global growth from the Dallas Fed