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The big problem coronavirus poses for White House economists – CNN



The big problem coronavirus poses for White House economists – CNN

“A lot of it depends on things I have no expertise in,” Hassett, previously a CNN contributor, said in an interview this past week with Poppy Harlow.
That’s the surreal reality facing President Donald Trump’s economic team as growth turns into contraction and 30 million Americans have lost their jobs. It is a Great Depression-level economic crisis that has everything to do with public health — but, unlike the 2008 financial collapse, very little to do with anything wrong in the underlying economy.
As a result, the tools economists typically use for adjusting supply and demand — targeted spending, tax cuts, changes to trade and regulatory policy — hold little power. The restoration of American prosperity lies more in the hands of the public health officials, epidemiologists and scientists racing to develop a coronavirus vaccine.
“The No. 1 rule of virus economics is, go stop the virus if you want to fix the economy,” says Austan Goolsbee, a former economic adviser to President Barack Obama. He suggested that White House economists pore over state-by-state data to identify the best ways to halt epidemic spread.
Success would preserve the possibility of the rapid “V-shaped” recovery that the Trump administration has embraced as its objective. The quest to achieve it has led Trump to allow federal guidelines to expire and goad governors into re-opening their states for business despite warnings from public health officials of resurgent infections.
The Congressional Budget Office, which rarely tracks administration optimism, also envisions a solid rebound as economic activity resumes. After plummeting at a 40% annual rate during April, May and June, the CBO forecasts, output will grow at a 17% rate in the second half of 2020.
But all forecasts for this unprecedented situation depend on factors no economist can confidently anticipate. How many businesses will have preserved enough of their workforces and customers to profitably re-open when governors flash the green light? If infections spike again, can advances in testing and treatments contain them? Or could renewed shutdowns throw the economic engine back into reverse this fall?
The mix of public fear, financial hardship and business uncertainty creates enormous doubt — which is Kryptonite to corporate planners and consumers alike.
“This isn’t going to be a V, let’s face it,” concludes former CBO director Doug Holtz-Eakin.
The job for Trump’s economic team, Holtz-Eakin says, is identifying “the right set of policies to support the economy in this new world we’re in.” That could include regulatory changes that help businesses adapt workplaces to accommodate health concerns, or expansion of broadband infrastructure to meet increased demand for telehealth and other services provided at a distance.
The pandemic threatens permanent damage to sectors requiring close-quarters contact among large groups, such as the cruise ship industry. Shuttered malls, which for years have lost market share to online retailers, may never recover.
Yet the most urgent immediate economic task is simply preserving connections among businesses, their workers, and their customers so they can restore familiar patterns when health conditions permit.
“Try to reduce the permanent destruction,” says Betsey Stevenson, another former Obama economist. “Every single day, there’s a little bit of crumbling going on.”
Too much crumbling would transform a short-term coronavirus shutdown into long-term economic blight. Business failures turn sound bank loans into defaults, which in turn could create a self-perpetuating financial crisis.
To stave that off, the Federal Reserve and Congress alike have thrown a lifeline of cash at the entire American economy. Instead of altering the economy’s path, the goal is simply to keep its head above water until the pandemic storm has passed.
“We’re just going to have to keep doing it,” says Andrew Metrick, who directs the Yale University Program on Financial Stability. “Traditional economic policy things — that’s not what we need right now.”
But that’s easier to sustain for the independent Fed through its credit facilities than for a divided Congress and President through direct spending decisions. As the trillions mount and aid priorities widen, the Republican President and Senate have begun to balk.
“The liquidity and cash phase is coming to an end,” White House National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow cautioned in recent days. He signaled a return to the president’s pre-pandemic agenda, including tax-cuts and infrastructure investment.
With Trump now trailing in crucial battleground states, election-year pressures threaten to create new risks. After other White House aides suggested punishing Beijing over the coronavirus by defaulting on Chinese-held US debt — a step certain to raise borrowing costs and damage the nation’s financial pre-eminence – Trump’s economic team rushed to publicly quash the idea.
The turn toward recriminations and traditional priorities signals confidence among some advisers — if not those responsible for public health – that progress against the virus has opened the door to economic resurgence. “We’re on the other side of the medical aspect of this,” the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner said last week.
Hassett sounded less sure.
“Opening up will be a significant positive event,” he cautioned, “but only if opening up does not lead to a renewal of this terrible contagion.”

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Canadian regulator lifts banks’ capital buffer to record, priming for post-pandemic world



Banks in Canada

Canada‘s financial regulator raised the amount of capital the country’s biggest lenders must hold to guard against risks to a record 2.5% of risk-weighted assets, from 1% currently, in a surprise move that could pave the way for them to resume dividend increases and share buybacks.

The new measures, which take effect on Oct. 31, is a sign that the economic and market disruptions stemming from the coronavirus pandemic have abated and banks’ capital levels have been resilient, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) said in a statement.

But the regulator acknowledged that key vulnerabilities, including household and corporate debt levels, as well as asset imbalances caused by steep increase in home prices over the past year, remain.

In a sign of concern about the housing market, OSFI and the Canadian government raised the benchmark to determine the minimum qualifying rate for mortgages, starting June 1.

The increase in the Domestic Stability Buffer (DSB) to the highest possible level raises the Common Equity Tier 1 (CET1) capital – the core bank capital measure – to 10.5% of risk-weighted assets; a 4.5% base level, a “capital conservation buffer” of 2.5%, and a 1% surcharge for systemically important banks, plus the DSB.

The change “gives OSFI more leeway to loosen a restriction down the road, namely the freeze on buybacks and dividend increases,” National Bank Financial Analyst Gabriel Dechaine said.

OSFI felt it was “useful for the banks to understand what our minimal capital expectations are and to give them time to adjust to that… ahead of any lifting of the temporary capital distribution restrictions,” Assistant Superintendent Jamey Hubbs said on a media call.

Even with the higher requirement, Canada‘s six biggest banks would have excess capital of about C$51 billion, dropping from C$82 billion as of April 30, according to Reuters calculations.

That was driven in part by a moratorium on dividend increases and share buybacks imposed by OSFI in March 2020, although a pandemic-driven surge in loan losses has so far failed to materialize.

The Canadian banks index slipped 0.25% in morning trading in Toronto, while the Toronto stock benchmark fell 0.1%.

The increase is the first since the last one announced in December 2019, which did not come into effect as planned in April 2020, as OSFI made an out-of-schedule change that dropped the rate to 1% in March. It has maintained that level at its twice yearly reviews.

Prior to that, OSFI had raised the required level by 25 basis points at every twice yearly review since it was introduced at 1.5% in June 2018.

($1 = 1.2326 Canadian dollars)


(Reporting By Nichola Saminather; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Jonathan Oatis)

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Canada Economic Indicators



Fed to focus on next steps to save economy –

The economic indicators used to gauge the performance of an economy and its outlook are the same across most nations. What differs is the relative importance of certain indicators to a specific economy at various points in time (for instance, housing indicators are closely watched when the housing market is booming or slumping), and the bodies or organizations compiling and disseminating these indicators in each nation.

Here are the 12 key economic indicators for Canada, the world’s 10th-largest economy:1

GDP Growth

Canada's GDP grew by 3% in July as more sectors reopened –

Statistics Canada, a national agency, publishes growth statistics on the Canadian economy on monthly and quarterly bases. The report shows the real gross domestic product (GDP) for the overall economy and broken down by industry. It is an accurate monthly/quarterly status report on the Canadian economy and each industry within it.2


Employment Change and Unemployment

Key data on the Canadian employment market, such as the net change in employment, the unemployment rate, and participation rate, is contained in the monthly Labour Force Survey, released by Statistics Canada. The report contains a wealth of information about the Canadian job market, categorized by the demographic, class of worker (private sector employee, public sector employee, self-employed), industry, and province.3

Consumer Price Index

Statistics Canada releases a monthly report on the consumer price index (CPI) that measures inflation at the consumer level. The index is constructed by comparing changes over time in a fixed basket of goods and services purchased by consumers. The report shows the change in CPI monthly and over the past 12 months, on an overall and core (excluding food and energy prices) basis.4

International Merchandise Trade

This monthly report from Statistics Canada shows the nation’s imports and exports, as well as the net merchandise trade surplus or deficit. The report also compares the most current data with that for the preceding month. Exports and imports are shown by product category, and also for Canada’s top ten trading partners.5

Teranet – National Bank House Price Index

This composite index of house prices across Canada was developed by Teranet and the National Bank of Canada and represents average home prices in Canada’s six largest metropolitan areas. A monthly report shows the change in the index monthly and over the past 12 months, as well as monthly and 12-month changes in Canada’s six and 11 largest metropolitan areas.6

RBC Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index – PMI

Released on the first business day of each month, this indicator of trends in the Canadian manufacturing sector was launched in June 2011 by Royal Bank of Canada, in association with Markit and the Purchasing Management Association of Canada. RBC PMI readings above 50 signal expansion as compared to the previous month, while readings below 50 signal contraction. The monthly survey also tracks other information pertinent to the manufacturing sector, such as changes in output, new orders, employment, inventories, prices, and supplier delivery times.7

The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index

The Conference Board of Canada’s Index of Consumer Confidence measures consumers’ levels of optimism in the state of the economy. It is a crucial indicator of near-term sales for consumer product companies in Canada, as well as an indicator of the outlook for the broad economy since consumer demand comprises such a significant part of it. The index is constructed on the basis of responses to four questions by a random sampling of Canadian households. Survey participants are asked how they view their households’ current and expected financial positions, their short-term employment outlook, and whether now is a good time to make a major purchase.8

Ivey Purchasing Managers Index – PMI

 An index prepared by the Ivey Business School at Western University, the Ivey PMI measures the monthly variation in economic activity, as indicated by a panel of purchasing managers across Canada. It is based on responses by these purchasing managers to a single question: “Were your purchases last month in dollars higher, the same, or lower than in the previous month?” An index reading below 50 shows a decrease; a reading above 50 shows an increase. Panel members indicate changes in their organization’s activity over five broad categories: purchases, employment, inventories, supplier deliveries, and prices.9

Housing Starts

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) issues a monthly report on the sixth working day of every month, showing the previous month’s new residential construction activity. The data is presented by region, province, census metropolitan area, and dwelling type (single-detached or multiple-unit). The indicator is an important gauge of the state of the Canadian housing market.10

Home Sales

This key indicator of housing activity is compiled by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and is based on the number of home sales processed through the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) Systems of real estate boards and associations in Canada. The monthly report from the CREA shows the change in home sales across Canada, as well as for major markets, from month to month. The report also includes other important housing-related information, such as the change (as a percentage) in newly listed homes, the national sales-to-new listings ratio, months of housing inventory, the change in the MLS Home Price Index, and the national average price for homes sold within the month.11

Retail Sales

Statistics Canada releases a monthly report on retail sales activity across Canada, with changes shown on month-over-month and year-over-year bases. The headline number shows the percentage change in national retail sales on a dollar basis; the percentage change in volume terms is also shown. The retail sales figures are shown by industry and for each province or territory, and provide insights into Canadian consumer spending.12

Building Permits 

The building permits survey conducted monthly by Statistics Canada collects data on the value of permits issued by Canadian municipalities for residential and non-residential buildings, as well as the number of residential dwellings authorized. Since building permit issuance is one of the very first steps in the process of construction, the aggregate building permits data are very useful as a leading indicator for assessing the state of the construction industry.13

The Bottom Line

The 12 economic indicators briefly described above show the health of key aspects of Canada’s economy: consumer spending, housing, manufacturing, employment, inflation, external trade, and economic growth. Taken together, they provide a comprehensive picture of the state of the Canadian economy.

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Canada adds jobs for fourth straight month in May



B.C. saw close to 55000 new jobs in Septmber

Canada added 101,600 jobs in May, the fourth consecutive month of gains, led by hiring in the education and health services sector as well as in professional and business services, a report from payroll services provider ADP showed on Thursday.

The April data was revised to show 101,300 jobs were gained, rather than an increase of 351,300. The report, which is derived from ADP’s payrolls data, measures the change in total nonfarm payroll employment each month on a seasonally-adjusted basis.


(Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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