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COVID-19 recovery: some economies will take longer to rebound – this is bad for everyone

Some national economies will return to their pre-COVID levels this year, others not until 2025. What does this imbalance mean for the global economy?

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Alexandros Michailidis/Shutterstock

National economies are beginning to return to their pre-pandemic levels. But like the uneven impact of the pandemic itself, the pace of economic recovery is massively divergent across countries.

In 2020, the global economy contracted by 4.3%, with some countries doing considerably worse than others. For example, the UK economy suffered its worst recession in 300 years, shrinking by nearly 10%. The resulting impact on jobs was also unprecedented, and ten times worse than during the 2009 global financial crisis, with 114 million jobs lost globally in 2020.

More than a year on from the start of the pandemic, global prospects appear to be improving, according to recent reports by the OECD and the World Economic Forum. The data shows that some countries – such as the US, South Korea, Japan and Germany – are on course to recover to pre-pandemic levels of GDP per capita by the end of 2021.

But others, such as Spain and Iceland, both of whom suffered a huge blow from the collapse in tourism revenues, are expected to operate below pre-pandemic levels until at least mid-2023. Worse still, countries such as South Africa and Argentina are forecast to remain below their 2019 levels until the end of 2024, or well into 2025.

Uneven recovery

Two main factors underpin the speed of a country’s economic recovery from the pandemic: the strength of its COVID-19 policy response, and the success of its vaccination programme.

Unsurprisingly, the UK and the US, with the highest projected growth rates among advanced economies – 7.2% and 6.9%, respectively – also top the league tables for size of pandemic response policy packages and share of the population successfully vaccinated.

Leaders across the globe deployed a range of economic policy responses in the fight against the pandemic. Public spending measures included transfers to (low-income) households, grants and tax holidays to businesses, and additional funding for healthcare systems. Some supplemented conventional interest rate cuts with unconventional measures such as liquidity injections and asset purchases. Many governments also used financial measures including foreign exchange interventions.

Importantly, policy action varied significantly across countries in type, size and scope. The pandemic hit emerging markets harder than advanced economies, unlike in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis. Many poorer countries have found it harder to contain and mitigate the virus because of their limited healthcare capacity, and with less ability to expand public spending, suffered greater losses from the pandemic.

A female grocery store cashier wearing a face mask and shield.
Some of the world’s economies will return to pre-pandemic levels this year, but not all. pixfly/Shutterstock

The divergence in recovery can also be linked to the varying success of national vaccination programs – as the OECD put it, “more jabs, more jobs”. For example, while Israel has vaccinated about 60% of its population, in many other countries, fewer than one in ten have received any vaccinations. Israel’s economy is expected return to pre-pandemic levels by early 2022.

What is worse, many poor countries may see almost no vaccinations until at least the end of 2021. This – and the significant ongoing variation in both infection and death rates – suggests that the pattern of recovery from the public health crisis will also be uneven.

Global consequences

This multispeed recovery from the pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis will have repercussions, not just for the countries with slower recoveries but also for the global economy. On the health front, no country will be fully safe from the virus until all are safe. Local vaccination successes will not be sufficient to protect individual countries from potential further outbreaks, especially in cases of new variants.

But divergence in the speed and scale of economic recovery also entails substantial risk to individual countries as well as their trading partners. The COVID-19 economic crisis has exposed the fragility of existing international trade structures, where countries are highly dependent on one another. These interdependencies arise from the global value chains – production broken into multiple stages and completed in different countries – accounting for 70% of current global trade..

One example of the global economy’s reliance on certain countries is the shortage of semiconductors, the microchips used in the production of every electronic device from mobile phones to home appliances. Lockdowns in the early days of the pandemic affected the major producers, including China, creating a significant shortage of semiconductors. This led to production bottlenecks of electronic goods in many other countries, forcing a serious rethink of the costs versus benefits of global supply chains.

The pandemic and related economic crisis have also had different effects within national boundaries. In many countries, inequality has widened significantly in multiple ways. Less well-off households have lost out much more than those at the top of the income distribution, and there has also been a much more substantial contraction in contact-based service industries than in other sectors.

A significant rebalancing will be an important step in a successful transition to a post-COVID world. In terms of international policy coordination, the immediate challenge is how rich and poor countries can work together to increase the vaccine coverage rates in as many countries as possible. The COVAX programme – an international effort led by the WHO to provide vaccines to poor nations – and the problems it currently faces show that while such international coordination is possible, it is fraught with difficulty.

On economic recovery, too, national gains are unlikely to be long-lasting if a significant part of the world remains behind.

Gulcin Ozkan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Economics

Baltimore City Responds After Dozens Of Businesses Threaten Not To Pay Taxes

Baltimore City Responds After Dozens Of Businesses Threaten Not To Pay Taxes

This weekend, the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) closed down multiple city streets around the Inner Harbor, in a stretch called "Fells Point," after dozens…

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Baltimore City Responds After Dozens Of Businesses Threaten Not To Pay Taxes

This weekend, the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) closed down multiple city streets around the Inner Harbor, in a stretch called "Fells Point," after dozens of local businesses threatened the new city government, run by Mayor Brandon Scott, to not pay taxes because they're "fed up and frustrated" with the outburst of violence. 

Last week, 37 restaurants and small businesses sent a letter to the mayor's office titled "Letter to City Leaders From Fells Point Business Leaders." They threatened to stop paying city taxes and other fees until "basic and essential municipal services are restored." This comes as Madam State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby halted petty crimes during the pandemic and made such a measure permanent - the idea was to decrease violent crime, but that seems to have severely backfired.

What's happened in the historic bar strict is absolute mayhem at night, transformed into a dangerous area where violent and rowdy crowds have ruined the once pleasant atmosphere along with multiple shootings. 

So this weekend, BPD closed down streets around Fells Point, which includes parts of Aliceanna, Thames, and Bond streets.

In addition, Maryland State Police will conduct sobriety checkpoints in Fells Point. 

Local news WJZ13's Mike Hellgren tweets a couple of images of the increased police presence across Fells Point.

One of the 37 concerned business owners on the list is Bill Packo, who owns Barley's Backyard and has been operating in Fells Point for three decades. He spoke with WJZ13 about the out of control violence and public drunkenness:

"It's a shame. What they're letting happen to Fells Point is what they let happen in the Inner Harbor, and now it has made its way here," Packo said. "There's alcohol being sold by individuals out there, drugs, and clearly we all know about the shootings that took place last weekend. But there needs to be some control out there. There is none whatsoever."

BPD's mobile police command was spotted outside another shop in the bar district. It looks very dystopic. 

Meanwhile, Scott, who was newly elected, skipped out on the virtual community town hall meeting on Thursday at 7 p.m that was to address the issues in Fells Point. 

Packo called out Scott for not attending the meeting: 

"It's an embarrassment to the city. It's an embarrassment to the mayor no matter what the schedule was," he said.

Again, as we've said before, the chaos in Fells Point comes as the city descends into what could be the most violent period ever. Mosby has halted police officers going after petty crimes that have inadvertently backfired. Another liberal-run town with good intentions in policies not exactly panning out as they thought. 

Local news WMAR2's Eddie Kadhim interviewed a man who summed up the city's response in Fells Point: 

Another man said the violent crime in low-income neighborhoods is just spilling over into the downtown area. 

Tyler Durden Sat, 06/12/2021 - 15:00

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Economics

Visualizing The History Of US Inflation Over 100 Years

Visualizing The History Of US Inflation Over 100 Years

Is inflation rising?

The consumer price index (CPI), an index used as a proxy for inflation in consumer prices, offers some answers. In 2020, inflation dropped to 1.4%, the lowest rate..

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Visualizing The History Of US Inflation Over 100 Years

Is inflation rising?

The consumer price index (CPI), an index used as a proxy for inflation in consumer prices, offers some answers. In 2020, inflation dropped to 1.4%, the lowest rate since 2015. By comparison, inflation sits around 5.0% as of June 2021.

Given how the economic shock of COVID-19 depressed prices, rising price levels make sense. However, as Visual Capitalist's Dorothy Neufeld notes, other variables, such as a growing money supply and rising raw materials costs, could factor into rising inflation.

To show current price levels in context, this Markets in a Minute chart from New York Life Investments shows the history of inflation over 100 years.

U.S. Inflation: Early History

Between the founding of the U.S. in 1776 to the year 1914, one thing was for sure - wartime periods were met with high inflation.

At the time, the U.S. operated under a classical Gold Standard regime, with the dollar’s value tied to gold. During the Civil War and World War I, the U.S. went off the Gold Standard in order to print money and finance the war. When this occurred, it triggered inflationary episodes, with prices rising upwards of 20% in 1918.

However, when the government returned to a modified Gold Standard, deflationary periods followed, leading prices to effectively stabilize, on average, leading up to World War II.

The Move to Bretton Woods

Like post-World War I, the Great Depression of the 1930s coincided with deflationary pressures on prices. Due to the rigidity of the monetary system at the time, countries had difficulty increasing money supply to help boost their economy. Many countries exited the Gold Standard during this time, and by 1933 the U.S. abandoned it completely.

A decade later, with the Bretton Woods Agreement in 1944, global currency exchange values pegged to the dollar, while the dollar was pegged to gold. The U.S. held the majority of gold reserves, and the global reserve currency transitioned from the sterling pound to the dollar.

1970’s Regime Change

By 1971, the ability for gold to cover the supply of U.S. dollars in circulation became an increasing concern.

Leading up to this point, a surplus of money supply was created due to military expenses, foreign aid, and others. In response, President Richard Nixon abandoned the Bretton Woods Agreement in 1971 for a floating exchange, known as the “Nixon shock”. Under a floating exchange regime, rates fluctuate based on supply and demand relative to other currencies.

A few years later, oil shocks of 1973 and 1974 led inflation to soar past 12%. By 1979, inflation surged in excess of 13%.

The Volcker Era

In 1979, Federal Reserve Chair Paul Volcker was sworn in, and he introduced stark changes to combat inflation that differed from previous regimes.

Instead of managing inflation through interest rates, which the Federal Reserve had done previously, inflation would be managed through controlling the money supply. If the money supply was limited, this would cause interest rates to increase.

While interest rates jumped to 20% in 1980, by 1983 inflation dropped below 4% as the economy recovered from the recession of 1982, and oil prices rose more moderately. Over the last four decades, inflation levels have remained relatively stable since the measures of the Volcker era were put in place.

Fluctuating Prices Over History

Throughout U.S. history. there have been periods of high inflation.

As the chart below illustrates, at least four distinct periods of high inflation have emerged between 1800 and 2010. The GDP deflator measurement shown accounts for the price change of all of an economy’s goods and services, as opposed to the CPI index which is a fixed basket of goods.

It is measured as GDP Price Deflator = (Nominal GDP ÷ Real GDP) × 100.

According to this measure, inflation hit its highest levels in the 1910s, averaging nearly 8% annually over the decade. Between 1914 and 1918 money supply doubled to finance war efforts, compared to a 25% increase in GDP during this period.

U.S. Inflation: Present Day

As the U.S. economy reopens, consumer demand has strengthened.

Meanwhile, supply bottlenecks, from semiconductor chips to lumber, are causing strains on automotive and tech industries. While this points towards increasing inflation, some suggest that it may be temporary, as prices were depressed in 2020.

At the same time, the Federal Reserve is following an “average inflation targeting” regime, which means that if a previous inflation shortfall occurred in the previous year, it would allow for higher inflationary periods to make up for them. As the last decade has been characterized by low inflation and low interest rates, any prolonged period of inflation will likely have pronounced effects on investors and financial markets.

Tyler Durden Sat, 06/12/2021 - 19:00

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Visualizing The Biggest Companies In The World In 2021

Visualizing The Biggest Companies In The World In 2021

Since the COVID-19 crash, global equity markets have seen a strong recovery. The 100 biggest companies in the world were worth a record-breaking $31.7 trillion as of March 31 2021,…

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Visualizing The Biggest Companies In The World In 2021

Since the COVID-19 crash, global equity markets have seen a strong recovery. The 100 biggest companies in the world were worth a record-breaking $31.7 trillion as of March 31 2021, up 48% year-over-year. As a point of comparison, the combined GDP of the U.S. and China was $35.7 trillion in 2020.

In today’s graphic, Visual Capitalist's Jenna Ross uses PwC data to show the world’s biggest businesses by market capitalization, as well as the countries and sectors they are from.

The Top 100, Ranked

PwC ranked the largest publicly-traded companies by their market capitalization in U.S. dollars. It’s also worth noting that sector classification is based on the FTSE Russell Industry Classification Benchmark, and a company’s location is based on where its headquarters are located.

Within the ranking, there was a wide disparity in value. Apple was worth over $2 trillion, more than 16 times that of Anheuser-Busch (AB InBev), which took the 100th spot at $128 billion.

In total, 59 companies were headquartered in the United States, making up 65% of the top 100’s total market capitalization. China and its regions was the second most common location for company headquarters, with 14 companies on the list.

Risers and Fallers

What are some of the notable changes to the biggest companies in the world compared to last year’s ranking?

Tesla’s market capitalization surged by an eye-watering 565%, temporarily making Elon Musk the richest person in the world. Food delivery platform Meituan and PayPal benefited from growing e-commerce popularity with their market capitalizations growing by 221% and 151% respectively.

Tech companies TSMC and ASML Holdings were also among the top 10 risers, thanks to a shortage of semiconductor chips and growing demand.

On the other end of the scale, Swiss companies Nestlé, Novartis, and Roche Holding were all among the bottom 10 companies by market capitalization growth. China Mobile was the only company to decline with a -12% change. The company was delisted from the New York Stock Exchange as a result of an executive order issued by former president Donald Trump, and recently announced its intention to list on the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

A Sector View

Across the 100 biggest companies in the world, some sectors had higher weightings.

Technology had the highest market capitalization and was also the most common sector, with Big Tech dominating the top 10. Companies in the consumer discretionary, financials, and health care sectors also had a strong representation in the ranking.

Despite having only five companies on the list, the energy sector amounted to almost 10% of the top 100’s market capitalization, mostly due to Saudi Aramco’s whopping valuation.

An Uncertain Recovery

From near market lows on March 31, 2020, all sectors saw increases in their market capitalization. However, top 100 companies in some sectors outperformed their respective industry index, while others did not.

Basic materials and industrials, both cyclical sectors, were high performers in the top 100 and outperformed their respective industry indexes. Technology companies also outperformed, and accounted for $255 billion or 31% of all shareholder distributions by the top 100, far more than any other sector. Apple alone spent $73 billion on share buybacks and $14 billion in dividends in the 2020 calendar year.

On the other hand, the worst-performing sectors in the top 100 were health care, utilities, and energy. While the index performance for health care and utilities was also relatively poor, the wider energy sector performed fairly well.

It’s perhaps not surprising that all sectors saw positive returns since their low levels in March 2020, buoyed by fiscal stimulus and central bank policies. As countries begin to reopen, will the value of the biggest companies in the world continue to climb?

Tyler Durden Sat, 06/12/2021 - 23:00

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