Monday, January 19, 2015

Slightly Positive News

It's been almost two years since we've checked in. Let's see how the real yield rate (rate adjusted for inflation) of our various Treasury bills are doing.

This is actually ... slightly good news. The real yield rate has gone positive, but not by much. This means the world is no longer willing to effectively pay us to hold their money. Good for the world!

But it still wouldn't cost us much. If we were to borrow a modest $1 billion via a five-year Treasury, it would cost us $1 million a year to finance.

Take a look at the 30-year. Since the new year, the highest we've gone is 0.76 per cent -- less than 1%.

We're at a weird point in terms of the economy and employment. The Dow is above 17,000 and the S&P is above 2000, both all the times (though I don't know if that's true if you adjust for inflation -- it should be close). And unemployment is 5.6%, which is below what Romney promised it would be were he elected president. But we're not seeing any increase in median household income -- though those numbers are typically delayed by a year. And inflation remains below 2%.

So we still have room for demand, which we can finance cheaply. An additional demand for labor will result in increased wages, which is nice is you work for a living.

As the economy slogs forward, states and municipalities should see their coffers filling up and will start hiring again. This acts as a virtuous cycle -- more people working means fewer people taking unemployment benefits and paying taxes instead.

(The federal government should see increased tax payments as well, though what they'll end up doing with it is not clear. Are there areas where the Republicans in Congress and Obama could agree to increase spending?)

But -- at a minimum, we've killed the self-reinforcing aspects of a recession. Governments at all levels trimmed employment over the past several years, which made the recession worse. We're back on the right track, and we're making progress -- slowly.