Wednesday , December 11 2019
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Edward Harrison

Edward Harrison

I am a former European credit markets and M&A guy who started out as a diplomat. — so I have some pretty diverse interests.

Articles by Edward Harrison

Some thoughts on illegal immigration

6 days ago

The Washington Post has a post up today on how two housekeepers took on the president — and revealed that his company employed undocumented immigrants. I sent it to a friend. And the exchange we had about the article made me think a bit harder about the issue. So I wanted to run some of my thoughts …

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US economic outlook mixed as manufacturing continues to slow

8 days ago

There’s been a lot of economic data coming out of the US in recent days. None of it shows a clear indication that the economy has turned the corner. Some of the early data on housing was good. But, more recently, the numbers have been murky, particularly regarding credit markets.
None of this says …

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Economic growth and social contracts in rich countries

19 days ago

ImpeachmentIn the last couple of weeks, at the expense of other thoughts, I have been consumed by the impeachment proceedings going on in the United States. I guess this is a byproduct of my having been born in, growing up in and now living in the DC area.
But it is also a byproduct of my having j…

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Where are we on growth and macro policy right now?

28 days ago

I think it’s a good time to outline where we are in this business cycle right now because a number of factors are coming together to present a larger picture in the US both in terms of growth and the policy response to that growth.The FedI want to start with the view I expressed in my last post, t…

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This jobs report is a game-changer regarding monetary policy. Here’s why

November 1, 2019

It’s been a while since I had a public post on Credit Writedowns. So I thought now would be a good time to post given Wednesday’s Fed rate decision and presser and today’s jobs report. I think this one-two punch is a big deal. And that’s because it forces the market back to a focus on the Fed’s tightening bias from its focus on weak data forcing the Federal Reserve to cut. Thoughts below
The narrative
Before I get to the data, let me spell out how to think about the market and the economy right now.
Nothing in the data now or in the recent past speaks to an economic recession. We’re in the longest expansion in US history. And given we had both an enormous global financial crisis and a European sovereign debt crisis during this expansion, it makes sense that people point to signs

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Recession watch, Fed policy, wealth taxes and the 2020 US election

October 23, 2019

I want to tie a number of economic and political topics together today as a way of thinking about what the next 18 months in the US will mean. And a lot of it starts with the US domestic economy.Recession watchOver the past several years, I have been pretty bullish on the US economy. And I have co…

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The Fed’s overtightening and the shift to a fiscal paradigm

October 10, 2019

The Fed’s discomfortFor the better part of 4 years, I have been telling you that the Federal Reserve has been uncomfortable with a mid-cycle role which required it to keep rates at zero percent. The Fed sees its role as principally reserved for cycle turns and not as an agent of mid-cycle stimulus. …

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The US economy is doing fine and the jobs picture is good

October 4, 2019

The US jobs report released just earlier this morning showed the US economy adding 136,000 jobs to payrolls in September, with the unemployment rate declining to a 50-year low of 3.5%. This is the latest in a batch of economic data showing the US economy doing just fine, with little chance of recess…

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Inter-subjectivity, norms, the rule of law and Donald Trump

September 30, 2019

Inter-subjectivityFor the past couple of weeks, I have been listening to an audiobook recommended by a friend I recently visited in London. It
It’s called Sapiens – and it bills itself as "a brief history of humankind". I find the book a compelling listen, especially regarding how human beings hav…

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The danger that WeWork poses

September 25, 2019

Shellacking the retail investorI am glad WeWork is in the headlines these days, since I told you in May that I see it going to zero eventually. Now, I’ve been sanguine about a so-called bubble in these unicorns for a number of years. And in that vein, back in 2014, I wrote "Some thoughts on the new…

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WeWork as an intermediary with a duration mismatch

September 20, 2019

Back in May, I wrote a post I titled “2019 may be the best time to IPO“. The gist of the post was that unicorns were seeing the best market conditions imaginable for conducting an initial public offering. But, the window for loss-making companies for getting an IPO off the ground at high valuations could close quickly. I believe we are seeing that now.
As I put it in May regarding an article about the dubious business model of dockless scooter companies:
My first thought when I read this article on the scooter company Bird was that now would be a perfect time for it to schedule an IPO. Perhaps it waited too long. It seems like every cash-burning unicorn company is preparing for IPO now, so primed are investors for growth opportunities.
Does it matter that the dockless rental

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Policy divergence and the week’s monetary policy decisions

September 20, 2019

With the latest Fed and ECB rate policy decisions now behind us, we can start to assess what monetary policy means for the near-term future. I continue to be encouraged by near-term data flow in the US. Nothing in it reads recession. Initial jobless claims remain low, for example. In fact, some the …

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Watch for a re-emergence of the convergence to zero play

September 12, 2019

Understanding curve flatteningLong-time readers know that I have talked for a number of years about a longer-term global convergence to zero play that I see shaping up. It first emerged during the mid-cycle slowdown in 2015 and 2016 as yield curves began to flatten. Looking through my archives, I n…

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Ever closer union and euroscepticism

September 9, 2019

I haven’t written about Brexit in months now, largely because it has become so unpredictable that I have had nothing to say. After we saw the delay that I predicted in December, the whole affair has just had too many moving parts to know what would happen next.
But, as you know, I was in Germany an…

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The dollar liquidity squeeze and Germany’s weak real economy

September 6, 2019

Real quick here on Europe as I promised yesterday to add some thoughts on Germany after my trip to CologneUS base rates are too highTake a look at this chart from Bianco Research.
Jim Bianco describes this as showing the US having the highest policy rate among developed economies for 13 months …

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Positive thoughts on my return from Germany and London

September 5, 2019

I was in Cologne and London last week, two places I know quite well. And as I went out, my trip down memory lane was greeted by the eternal progress of human endeavour. Whether riding the frequently behind schedule Deutsche Bahn by the former Ulrich Haberland Stadion or the S-Bahn through relatively…

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The end of global co-operation among liberal democracies

August 28, 2019

I am back from my beach vacation. So, let me outline what my thinking is after a period of reflection and how it has changed or stayed the same.
I last posted more than a week ago right before I left, regarding my frustration about policymakers’ unwillingness to act directly to improve the lives of…

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Our over-reliance on monetary policy is the problem

August 16, 2019

I am going to argue here that monetary policy is both less effective than fiscal policy, and that over-reliance on it unnecessarily politicizes monetary policy by putting unelected officials in too prominent an economic role.
I would argue that monetary policy should never be the primary macro policy driver in any economy. Yet, when you look around the world it is in almost every advanced economy. It is certainly that way in the eurozone, where interest rates are negative and the largest economy runs fiscal policy via a debt brake and a “black zero” no-deficit rule. And it’s mostly that way in the United States, where every word a Fed official utters is parsed to discern what it means for the future of the economy.
That’s no way to run an economy.

The Fed’s Overtightening

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The Fed overtightened. Now it’s behind the curve. Recession awaits

August 15, 2019

Sorry for the alarmist post title. But the Fed has completely bottled it. I’ve been warning for some time that it could go this way. And now, we are in in the endgame.
First, the Fed overtightened through 2018. Then, forced at gunpoint by financial markets into a retreat this year, it has been very slow to recognize the tightening financial conditions. Now, it is so far behind the curve that a major recession is  breathing down our necks.
Let me put this all together below. And then I will tell you where I think it’s headed. By the way, this is my occasional free newsletter post. If you like what you see and what to read more, please sign up as a paying subscriber.
Before the overtightening
Let me say at the outset that this expansion has been doubted at every step of the way.

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Why my base case for 2020 is recession

August 13, 2019

Back at the end of July, I was talking about my macro thesis. And I led off writing this:The US is the laggard in this slowing but is affected as well. From a markets perspective, that means a convergence to zero, with yield curves flattening as nominal growth rates contract.
I didn’t mention the …

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Competitive currency devaluation and the currency war

August 7, 2019

The US is the cleanest shirtLast week, I was talking to Megan Greene, the former chief economist at John Hancock for an interview on the US and European economies. And she said something that resonated with me about the global growth slowdown. She quipped: "The US is the cleanest shirt in the dirty…

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The trade-currency war will crystallize downside risks

August 6, 2019

Yesterday, the overarching message of my post was this bit:"as we think of potential outcomes, policy error has to be a real concern here, especially in 2020 once the cumulative impact of all this takes its full measure."I don’t think the data show a recession baked into the cake. There’s no reaso…

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Trade war escalation highlights downside economic risks

August 5, 2019

The big story today is the potential for a currency war, emanating from the escalating trade war between the US and China. But there’s a considerable degree of data flow that I want to parse to give a more complete macro view.
Having looked at the data already though, my overriding sense here is th…

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A variety of pre-FOMC thoughts on the economy

July 31, 2019

My macro viewWhat’s my overall thesis at this juncture?
It’s that the global economy is slowing and is likely to slow further before it picks up. The US is the laggard in this slowing but is affected as well. From a markets perspective, that means a convergence to zero, with yield curves flattenin…

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Why what economists are now saying about inflation matters

July 30, 2019

The US Personal Income and Outlays report for June 2019 came out this morning. It showed personal income increasing 0.4% and wages and salaries increasing 0.5% last month. These are good numbers. And in conjunction with a lot of other data we have seen recently, it should put to rest worries we have seen about an imminent recession.
But, over the medium-term, it makes sense for economists to worry about a potential downturn, especially given the weakening growth we have seen in Europe, China, and Japan. The big question is this: what should policymakers do? The tried and true approach of lowering interest rates hasn’t been as effective as anticipated, either in sparking real economic growth or inflation. What gives?
Below are my thoughts on what’s happening and what I believe

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US GDP report puts nail in the coffin for the recession story

July 26, 2019

The latest US GDP report was just released showing the US economy expanded at a 2.1% annualized rate in the second quarter of 2019. This was marginally better than expectations for a 1.8% increase, and significantly above the Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow indicator that was showing 1.3%.
The numbers are good
While these numbers may be revised down somewhat in future releases, they are still much higher than one would expect in an economy where the yield curve is partially inverted and the Fed is expected to cut interest rates later in the month. And the consumer numbers were particularly good, with consumer spending rising at a 4.3% annualized pace in the quarter.
I like the real final sales figure that excludes trade and inventory to get a read of the core message the data is sending.

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The awful news coming out of Germany

July 25, 2019

Quick note here before I get into the post: I am going to start posting these pieces on both Credit Writedowns and Patreon to flesh out who is getting all of the emails. If you are only getting one of these, please email me and I will look into what is going on. Now, onto the content.
Yesterday, …

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Dreams of a Second Half Recovery

July 24, 2019

As I write this, Washington is fixated on the congressional testimony of Robert Mueller. My attention is elsewhere though. For me, it’s the economy that matters.
Over the past two weeks, we have had a "recession watch" on Real Vision, where I act as both editor and interviewer. The thesis is that w…

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