The US Federal Reserve’s balancing act | USA

Saturday

US Federal Reserve head Janet Yellen gave her verdict on the US economy under President Donald Trump as speculation over who will replace her as the world’s top banker gathers pace.

In her testimony before Congress, Yellen said the policies of Trump were adding uncertainty to the timing of future rate rises as was the outlook for inflation. Never in recent economic history have interest rates been so low for such a long period of time.

Central bankers have also been supercharging the economy on quantitative easing, which means buying up financial assets like bonds. However, as the economy is getting better, it’s time to scale back monetary policies. But it’s a balancing act. The US Federal Reserve has already lifted rates twice this year and wants to rise again – provided the conditions are in place. And there’s uncertainty about where the global economy is headed next which spells uncertainty for borrowers and mortgage holders. 

The US economy has got full employment, it’s got reasonable wage growth, it’s got inflation which is in line with its long-term average. Growth is operating around normal sorts of levels. In other words, almost everything about the US economy is normal except for the Federal Reserve’s policy.

Paul Donovan, global chief economist, UBS Bank

Paul Donovan, the global chief economist with Zurich-based UBS Wealth Management Bank, thinks it’s time for the US to scale back the measures put in place during the 2008 financial crisis.

“Now is the right time, now is perhaps a little late in the process. The US economy has got full employment, it’s got reasonable wage growth, it’s got inflation which is in line with its long-term average. Growth is operating around normal sorts of levels. In other words, almost everything about the US economy is normal except for the Federal Reserve’s policy,” says Donovan.

Asked about Yellen’s comments on Donald Trump and the economy, Donovan says, “The Fed is saying ‘nobody panic’ but now we’re strong enough to start scaling back on the stimulus. Obviously, political uncertainty is something which adds noise in the economy, it adds noise in the markets, but generally speaking, politicians aren’t as important as they think they are. They don’t have a huge impact in the short-term in terms of economic growth, in terms of employment, in terms of inflation, so I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of concern about the current state of political uncertainty in the States.”

Also on this episode of Counting the Cost:

Music industry in the digital age: Technologies like streaming and social media are changing the tune for recording artists and consumers. We now have a wider variety of music than ever at our fingertips – for a much lower cost.

The music industry has lost nearly 40 percent of its revenues in the past 15 years. Because of this, record companies, producers, studios, recording engineers and musicians are seeking new business models. Many newer artists no longer see a record deal as an integral part of their business plan at all. They’re embracing social media as a way to market their music.

Mark Mulligan, the managing director of MIDiA Research and a long-term media and technology analyst, talks about the music industry’s digital transition.

France’s electric cars: France is planning to phase out the sale of vehicles running on petrol and diesel by 2040 in order to promote electric vehicles. It’s part of a radical clean energy plan revealed by environment minister Nicolas Hulot who wants France to become the world leader in the fight against climate change. Is the future of cars really electric? Natacha Butler reports from Paris and David Bailey, professor of industrial strategy at Birmingham-based Aston Business School, offers his take.

Source: Al Jazeera

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