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The Weekend Quiz – July 16-17, 2022 – answers and discussion

Here are the answers with discussion for this Weekend’s Quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.

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The Weekend Quiz – July 16-17, 2022

Welcome to The Weekend Quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention or not to the blog posts that I post. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.

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Australian labour market continues to improve but there are warning signs

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released of the latest labour force data today (July 14, 2022) – Labour Force, Australia – for June 2022. The labour market improved in June following up the gains in May after several months of weakness. The robust full-time employment growth was a good sign as was the increasing participation rate. That particularly favoured the younger workers. The official unemployment rate fell to levels not seen since 1974 but the underlying (‘What-if’) unemployment rate is closer to 5.7 per cent rather than the official rate of 3.5 per cent. Underemployment rose sharply however and while unemployment fell by 54,300, those in part-time work who desired more hours rose by 49,700. In other words, the jobs growth was biased towards the lower end of the hours distribution. There are still 1350.9 thousand Australian workers without work in one way or another (officially unemployed or underemployed). The only reason the unemployment rate is so low is because the underlying population growth remains low after the border closures over the last two years. With Covid infection rates rising quickly, and already around 780,000 workers working few hours than usual because of sickness, stay tuned for a deterioration in the labour market in the coming months.

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Federal Reserve Bank researchers openly acknowledge the inevitability of recession

It’s Wednesday, and so I have some shorter analysis on a range of matters today. First, some discussion of a technical paper from the US Federal Reserve researchers, which makes it clear they think that the interest rate hikes have a high probability of causing a recession. Second, we analyse some Russian data which suggests the sanctions are having the opposite effect to that intended. Third, I consider the stupidity of the new Australian government which is now falling into the ‘we have too much debt’ to even provide basic health care trap. And, I comment on a State Government that is now openly ignoring its professional health advice because the corporate sector told them to. And if all that wasn’t depressing enough, some music that focuses our attention of the vicissitudes of colonial might. All in a day.

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First signs of a slowdown in the US labour market

Last Friday (July 8, 2022), the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released their latest labour market data – Employment Situation Summary – June 2022 – which reported a total payroll employment rise of only 372,000 jobs and an official unemployment rate of 3.6 per cent. While it might seem that the June and May results were steady as she goes, the reality is that the June figures reveal the first signs of a slowdown in the US labour market. The labour survey employment measure fell as did the participation rate. There was a fall in the employment-population ratio, a fairly reliable measure that the demand-side is lagging behind the supply-side. The US labour market is still 524 thousand payroll jobs short from where it was at the end of May 2020, which helps to explain why there are no wage pressures emerging. Real wages continued to decline as the supply disruptions and the greed of increased corporate profit margin push sustain the inflationary pressures. Any analyst who is claiming the US economy is close to full employment hasn’t looked at the data. The justification by the US Federal Reserve for pushing up interest rates to quell wages pressure does not stack up with the evidence.

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The Weekend Quiz – July 9-10, 2022 – answers and discussion

Here are the answers with discussion for this Weekend’s Quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.

Read More

The Weekend Quiz – July 9-10, 2022

Welcome to The Weekend Quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention or not to the blog posts that I post. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.

Read More

Commercial banks make higher profits when interest rates rise

I operate on the basis of first seeking to understand the phenomena I am addressing through logic and recourse to the evidence base. I am very cautious in my public statements – oral or written – and always seek to consult the knowledge base. I noticed a comment in response to yesterday’s blog post – The RBA has lost the plot – monetary policy is now incomprehensible in Australia (July 6, 2022) – that insinuated that I was writing nonsense in relation to my claim that commercial banks enjoy higher interest rate environments because they can make more profit. Anyone is welcome to their opinion, but not all are of equal privilege when it comes to these issues. If you understand the basis of commercial banking and the vast amount of research on the proposition you will have no doubt in concluding that commercial banks do not like it when interest rates are low and will make more profit now that the RBA is hiking rates. To opine otherwise tells me that there is a lack of understanding about the basis of commercial banking and a disregard (perhaps ignorance) of the research literature on the topic.

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The RBA has lost the plot – monetary policy is now incomprehensible in Australia

It’s Wednesday and I have some comments to make about yesterday’s RBA decision (July 5, 2022) to continue increasing its interest rate – this time by 50 points – the third increase in as many months. If the rhetoric is accurate it will not the last rise by any means. In its – Statement by Philip Lowe, Governor: Monetary Policy Decision – the RBA noted that global factors were driving “much of the increase in inflation in Australia” but there were some domestic influences – like “strong demand, a tight labour market and capacity constraints” and “floods are also affecting some prices”. It is hard to make sense of their reasoning as I have explained in the past. Most of the factors ‘driving inflation’ will not be sensitive to increase borrowing costs. The banks are laughing because while they have increased borrowing rates immediately, deposit rates remain low – result: massive gains in profits to an already profit-bloated sector. But the curious part of the RBA’s stance is that they are defending themselves from the obvious criticism that they are going to drive the economy into the ground and cause a rise in unemployment by claiming that “many households have built up large financial buffers and are benefiting from stronger income growth” – so the increased mortgage and other credit costs will be absorbed by those savings (wealth destruction) allowing households to continue spending. You should be able to see the logic gap – if “strong demand” is driving inflation and that needs to come off for inflation to fall but the buildup of savings will protect demand – go figure. Monetary policy is in total chaos and being driven by ideology. And to calm down after that we have some great music as is the norm on a Wednesday.

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