Archive for the 'Business Cycle' Category

Feb 11 2008

Could a US recession be good for China?

FT.com / Asia-Pacific / China – China ‘on course for growth slowdown

Among many Americans today there seems to be a negative opinion towards China. It is popular to bash China (remember Red Storm Rising!?) and blame the country’s cheap labor and booming export sector for the loss of American jobs. Undeniably, however, the US depends on China as a source of cheap imports, which help keep the overall price level for American households down and relieves inflationary pressures in the face of a weakening dollar.

Likewise, China depends on the US for its own economic health. In China around 40% of GDP comes from exports (vs. less than 10% in the US); of the $1.22 trillion of exports from China last year, 21% went to the United States (source: CIA World Factbook). This means that something like 10% of China’s national income comes from US households’ demand for Chinese products. Significant, to say the least. Continue Reading »

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Feb 11 2008

From the Help Desk – business cycles in command economies?

Jessica Ng asks,

Hi Mr. Welker,
I was just wondering whether the business cycle pertains to ALL economies, including both market and command economies?

Great question, Jessica. I thought I’d put this one out there for everyone to discuss. What do you think, readers? Based on what we’ve learned about the business cycle, would you think that this pattern of economic expansion, contraction, recession and recovery would be likely to happen in a command economy, where all economic decisions are made by a central planning agency? In other words, are business cycles unique to market economies, or can an economy run by the government also experience these patterns of instability? Post your thoughts in a comment below.

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Feb 08 2008

Fiscal Stimulus package passes in Congress – here comes $170 billion, America!

Can the stimulus save us? – from CNNMoney

Today the US Congress approved a $170 billion stimulus package that will consist of rebate checks to be mailed to 117 million low and middle-income households. The details of the package are as follows:

Tax rebates to 137 million people. A rebate of up to $600 would go to single filers making less than $75,000. Couples making less than $150,000 would receive rebates of up to $1,200. In addition, parents would receive $300 rebates per child.

Tax filers who do not owe income taxes but have at least $3,000 in income would get a $300 rebate.

The IRS will start sending out checks in early May, said Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

“Payments will be largely completed this summer, putting cash in the hands of millions of Americans at a time when our economy is experiencing slower growth,” Paulson said in a statement.

Business tax breaks. The bill would temporarily provide more generous expensing provisions for small businesses in 2008 and let large businesses deduct 50% more of their assets if purchased and put into use this year.

Housing provisions. The bill calls for the caps on the size of loans that may be purchased by Fannie Mae (FNM) and Freddie Mac (FRE, Fortune 500) to be temporarily raised from the current level of $417,000 to nearly $730,000 in the highest cost housing markets.

It also calls for an increase in the size of loans that would be eligible to be insured by the Federal Housing Administration.

Politicians from both parties joined forces on this act of expansionary fiscal policy. The hope, of course, is that with more money in their pockets, Americans will start spending again, firms will start investing, and these increases in expenditures will shift the US economy towards a path of expansion, increasing employment and output.

But what will the impact of this “stimulus package” be? Will Americans spend their rebate checks in the way Congress hopes they do? Some fear that low and middle-income households will take their newfound income right to Wal-Mart and buy Chinese imports, or put a large proportion of it into savings, or pay off existing credit card debt, three actions which would represent “leakages” from the circular flow, leading to no new income or output. Savings and spending on imports would do nothing to stimulate the US economy, therefore, before concluding that the tax rebates will help fend off a US recession, economists must consider the American peoples’ marginal propensities to save and to import. Only new spending on American goods and services will contribute to aggregate demand.

The provision of the stimulus package more likely to result in increased spending in the US is the business tax deduction for spending on new capital. Capital goods such as heavy machinery tend to be made in America by American workers, so encouraging firms to invest in new capital is likely to have a positive demand-side effect on US income and employment. Furthermore, more capital for US businesses is likely to increase productivity of workers in those firms which have invested, leading to greater income and output: this is the desired “supply-side” effect of stimulating business investment. When aggregate demand and aggregate supply increase simultaneously, economic growth is the result.

Unfortunately, the provisions aimed at encouraging business investment represent only around one third of the total stimulus package. Most of the $170 billion will end up in the hands of households, which I suppose should come as no surprise in this election year, when both the Democratic and Republican parties want to appear as the benevolent parties that helped make the average American household a little bit richer in 2008!

For some informative insight from Harvard economist Martin Feldstein, who is president of the National Bureau of Economic Research, click here.

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Jan 31 2008

Fiscal policy and the “vicious” business cycle

Alice Su, an AP Econ student, asked a very good question in class today during our discussion of the business cycle, which illustrates the tendency of national economies to fluctuate between periods of expansion and recession. Karen wanted to know what a government could possibly do to try and avoid the dismal prospect of repeated recessions on and on into the future that the business cycle seems to suggest is the fate of any economy.

To answer Alice’s question, we can look at the United States right now, where the Bush administration and the Democratic led Congress have teamed up to approve a fiscal stimulus package aimed at boosting consumer spending and business investment, thus putting the economy back on the path of expansion and economic growth.

A government can only try to stimulate aggregate demand and/or aggregate supply in times of recession. The tools at the government’s disposal include changing tax policies and increasing or decreasing government spending. In times of recession, tax cuts should encourage businesses and households to spend more, increasing GDP. Likewise, new government spending increases GDP directly. The current stimulus package approved by the White House and Congress focuses on the tax side. Listen to the excerpt from a recent episode of WBUR Boston’s OnPoint radio show.

Continue Reading »

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Jan 31 2008

The business cycle rears its ugly head!

Salon.com: Economic growth slows from a sprint to near-paralysis – How the World Words

From the article:

However you slice it, a drop from 4.9 percent quarterly GDP growth to 0.6 percent is a bona fide cliff dive. There is now a very strong possibility that economic historians will say a recession began in December 2007, when consumer spending finally began to buckle, unable to stand any more pummeling by the housing bust.

But it’s not yet a done deal. There is some encouraging news on the jobs front, where the service sector is ticking right along, offering some cover to the dwindling band of optimists who think a recession can still be avoided. But pessimists have the heavier artillery on their side. The main component of the slump in GDP was the housing bust — residential fixed investment declined by 24 percent in the fourth quarter of 2007. And there is no evidence yet that the housing bust has hit bottom. The most recent statistics on new home sales, housing starts, and building permits all plumbed depths not seen in at least a decade.

the Business Cycle

Discussion Questions:

  1. Where on the business cycle does the US economy appear to be from the article?
  2. What component of GDP has most contributed to the slowdown in growth? Why has this component slumped?
  3. What options does the government have to try and turn around the recent decline in growth and the likelihood of a recession.
  4. What options does the Federal Reserve have for trying to turn the economy around?

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