Chinese growth slows rapidly

Given the increasing importance of China as a trading partner to New Zealand (they are our 4th largest trading partner, account for 4.5% of our exports in the year to November *) and as a major support for our main trading partner, Australia, the rapid slowdown in growth in China should be concerning.

Both Calculated Risk and Econbrowser mention that Chinese economic growth has slid to 6.8%pa in December – down from 9.0%pa in September.  According to Nouriel Roubini this indicates that Chinese economic activity was virtually unchanged between the September and December quarters (seasonally adjusted) – indicating a massive loss of momentum in the worlds fastest growing economy.

This slowdown is a lot more rapid than expected – as is illustrated by this graph from Econbrowser:

Infrastructure as stimulus?

Greg Mankiw has made an implicit call that there are long lags to infrastructural policy – and therefore such policy seems difficult to justify as a short-term stimulus (Anti-Dismal and Kiwiblog also link to this approvingly).

Now this is a very fair point, however I was initially going to criticise it on the simple ground that the government promising to invest in infrastructure increases expected future income which DOES lead to stimulus now (given that we believe that expectations and confidence are key).  Hell the government could pay people now to build things in the future.

However, that didn’t take very long.  So instead I’m going to discuss this post on a defense of infrastructural spending.

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British reject “smart stimulus”: Should we?

I noticed that the British government rejected the idea of a “wage subsidy” that was put forward by unions (who would have guessed ;) ). Now, whenever a government outright rejects an idea I usually ask myself the question “how could that idea have worked” followed by “would that idea have worked”. In this case there is definitely a how, and it might even work in the current situation.

Just before I began writing my ideas I saw this post on Econlog on a “smart stimulus”. In the post they support the idea that cutting the employers share of payroll tax would solely give money to employers (as wages are sticky). This money would both support employment by lowering the relative price of labour (which is too high given the shock to productivity), and it would incentivise “business activity” by increasing profits.

Ok, well I agree with the possibility of the idea that has been discussed at Econlog – but I need to look at it in more detail before I can say whether I would support it “in the current situation”. Lets try that:

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Cartel busting raises prices??

Or so says a report released by Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) in Melbourne.

Aparantly they surveyed some literature showing that prices acutually rose in the years following cartel presecution in the states (disclaimer: I’ve only read a description of this report somewhere else!).

Seams to be a classic case of correlation vs causation to me, but as mentioned above I haven’t actually read the paper. The author is an economist who is the head of the “Deregulation” unit……

Will a lower currency prevent a big rate cut?

Over at Tumeke, Tim Selwyn states:

Not even our high interest rates are enough anymore (to keep our currency elevated) – that’s why I can’t see our Reserve Bank slashing rates on the 29th as aggressively as some people think they should

Now Tim raises a relevant point – a lower dollar both increases prices and stimulates activity for exports, as a result you would expect an exogenous fall in the value of the New Zealand dollar to constrain the size of any rate cuts in New Zealand.

However, the current value of the TWI (53) is broadly in line with where it was when the RBNZ cut rates by 150bps – and at the time they said that they believed that any further declines in the currency would “help” not hinder monetary policy.  My impression is that this is because the Bank is interested in loosening as quickly as possible – without loosening “too far”.  If the exchange rate is willing to adjust to a deterioration in New Zealand’s external position, then this is of great help to the Bank, and allows them to be more “conservative” by cutting in 75bp and 100bp chunks rather than heading straight for and OCR of 1% :P

As a result, I doubt that the current level of the TWI would prevent a large scale cut of the OCR by the RBNZ at its next meeting.