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Economy

The Fed Is Playing with Fire

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By now, it is passé to warn that the US Federal Reserve is “behind the curve” in fighting inflation. In fact, the Fed is so far behind that it can’t even see the curve and may have to slam on the policy brakes to regain control before it is too late.

The US Federal Reserve has turned on a dime, an uncharacteristic about-face for an institution long noted for slow and deliberate shifts in monetary policy. While the Fed’s recent messaging (it hasn’t really done anything yet) is not as creative as I had hoped, at least it has recognized that it has a serious problem.

That problem, of course, is inflation. Like the Fed I worked at in the early 1970s under Arthur Burns, today’s policymakers once again misdiagnosed the initial outbreak. The current upsurge in inflation is not transitory or to be dismissed as an outgrowth of idiosyncratic COVID-19-related developments. It is widespread, persistent, and reinforced by wage pressures stemming from an unprecedentedly sharp tightening of the US labor market. Under these circumstances, the Fed’s continued refusal to change course would have been an epic policy blunder.

But recognizing the problem is only the first step toward solving it. And solving it will not be easy.

Consider the math: The inflation rate as measured by the Consumer Price Index reached 7% in December 2021. With the nominal federal funds rate effectively at zero, that translates into a real funds rate (the preferred metric for assessing the efficacy of monetary policy) of -7%.

That is a record low.

Only twice before in modern history, in early 1975 and again in mid-1980, did the Fed allow the real funds rate to plunge to -5%. Those two instances bookended the Great Inflation, when, over a five-year-plus period, the CPI rose at an 8.6% average annual rate.

Of course, no one thinks we are facing a sequel. I have been worried about inflation for longer than most, but even I don’t entertain that possibility. Most forecasters expect inflation to moderate over the course of this year. As supply-chain bottlenecks ease and markets become more balanced, that is a reasonable presumption.

But only to a point. The forward-looking Fed still faces a critical tactical question: What federal funds rate should it target to address the most likely inflation rate 12-18 months from now?

No one has a clue, including the Fed and the financial markets. But one thing is certain: With a -7% real federal funds rate putting the Fed in a deep hole, even a swift deceleration in inflation does not rule out an aggressive monetary tightening to re-position the real funds rate such that it is well-aligned with the Fed’s price-stability mandate.

To figure this out, the Fed must hazard an estimate of when the inflation rate will peak and head lower. It is always tough to guess the date – and even harder to figure out what “lower” really means. But the US economy is still running hot, and the labor market, at least as measured by the plunging unemployment rate, is tighter than at any point since January 1970 (on, gulp, the brink of the Great Inflation). Under these circumstances, I would argue that a responsible policymaker would want to err on the side of caution and not bet on a quick, miraculous roundtrip of inflation back to its sub-2% pre-COVID-19 trend.

Again, consider the math: Let’s say the Fed’s projected policy path, as conveyed through its latest “dot plot,” is correct and the central bank takes the nominal federal funds rate from zero to around 1% by the end of 2022. Couple that with a judicious assessment of the disinflation trajectory – not too slow, not too fast – that foresees year-end CPI inflation moving back into the 3-4% zone. That would still leave the real federal funds rate in negative territory at -2% to -3% at the end of this year.

That’s the catch in all this. In the current easing cycle, the Fed first pushed the real federal funds rate below zero in November 2019. That means a likely -2% to -3% rate in December 2022 would mark a 38-month period of extraordinary monetary accommodation, during which the real federal funds rate averaged -3.1%.

Historical perspective is important here. There have been three earlier periods of extraordinary monetary accommodation worth noting: In the aftermath of the dot-com bubble a generation ago, the Fed under Alan Greenspan ran a negative real funds rate averaging -1.1% for 31 consecutive months. Following the 2008 global financial crisis, Ben Bernanke and Janet Yellen teamed up to sustain a -1.9% average real funds rate for a whopping 62 months. And then, as post-crisis sluggishness persisted, Yellen partnered with Jerome Powell for 37 straight months to hold the real funds rate at -0.9%.Make your inbox smarter.SELECT NEWSLETTERS

Today’s Fed is playing with fire. The -3.1% real federal funds rate of the current über-accommodation is more than double the -1.4% average of those three earlier periods. And yet today’s inflation problem is far more serious, with CPI increases likely to average 5% from March 2021 through December 2022, compared with the 2.1% average that prevailed under the earlier regimes of negative real funds rates.

All this underscores what could well be the riskiest policy bet the Fed has ever made. It has injected record stimulus into the economy during a period when inflation is running at well over twice the pace it did during its three previous experiments with negative real funds rates. I deliberately left out a fourth comparison: the -1.7% real federal funds rate under Burns in the early 1970s. We know how that ended. And I also left out any mention of the Fed’s equally aggressive balance-sheet expansion.

By now, it is passé to warn that the Fed is “behind the curve.” In fact, the Fed is so far behind that it can’t even see the curve. Its dot plots, not only for this year but also for 2023 and 2024, don’t do justice to the extent of monetary tightening that most likely will be required as the Fed scrambles to bring inflation back under control. In the meantime, financial markets are in for a very rude awakening.

Business

Saudi Arabia Raises $2.81 Billion Through December Sukuk Issuance

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The National Debt Management Center (NDMC) of Saudi Arabia successfully concluded its December riyal-denominated sukuk issuance, raising a total of $2.81 billion (SR10.53 billion). This marks a significant increase compared to previous months, showcasing investor confidence in the Kingdom’s economy and its financial management.

Strong Investor Appetite:

The December sukuk issuance attracted strong investor appetite, with total bids reaching $3.77 billion (SR14.12 billion). This exceeded the initial target amount, indicating confidence in the Saudi Arabian government’s financial stability and prospects.

Issuance Structure:

The Sukuk issuance was divided into two tranches:

  • First Tranche: This tranche, valued at $1.39 billion (SR5.27 billion), matures in 2030.
  • Second Tranche: This larger tranche, valued at $1.42 billion (SR7.97 billion), matures in 2035.

Positive Sign for the Economy:

The successful sukuk issuance is seen as a positive sign for the Saudi Arabian economy. It demonstrates the Kingdom’s continued access to international capital markets and its ability to raise funds at competitive rates. This is particularly important as the country implements its Vision 2030 economic diversification plan.

“Saudi Arabia raised $2.81 billion through its December sukuk issuance.The issuance attracted strong investor appetite, exceeding the initial target amount.The success of the issuance is seen as a positive sign for the Saudi Arabian economy.The NDMC reiterated its commitment to sound financial management and diversifying its funding sources.”

NDMC Statement:

Commenting on the issuance, the NDMC stated: “The strong investor participation in the December sukuk issuance reflects confidence in the Kingdom’s economy and its commitment to sound financial management. We are committed to diversifying our funding sources and managing our debt portfolio responsibly to support the Kingdom’s continued economic growth and development.”

Looking Ahead:

The successful December sukuk issuance is expected to further boost investor confidence in Saudi Arabia and position the country well for future fundraising activities. With its ambitious economic diversification plans and strong financial management, the Kingdom is well-placed to weather any potential economic challenges in the years to come.

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Economy

Immigration Crackdown Must Not Harm Economy, Warns Jeremy Hunt

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Overview

Jeremy Hunt, the former UK Health Secretary, has warned that a crackdown on immigration must not damage the economy. Hunt stated that the UK must prioritize the economy while ensuring that immigration policies are not too restrictive. He emphasized that the country needs to balance controlling immigration and keeping the economy healthy.

Hunt’s warning comes amidst ongoing debates about the impact of immigration on the UK economy. Some argue that immigration can have negative effects on wages and employment opportunities for UK citizens. Others point out that immigrants often contribute to economic growth and fill labour shortages in certain industries. Hunt’s statement highlights the need for policymakers to carefully consider the potential impact of immigration policies on the economy.

Key Takeaways

  • Jeremy Hunt warns that immigration crackdown must not damage the economy.
  • The UK needs to balance controlling immigration with keeping the economy healthy.
  • Policymakers must carefully consider the potential impact of immigration policies on the economy.

Jeremy Hunt’s Warning

Context and Background

Jeremy Hunt, the then-Home Secretary of the United Kingdom, warned in 2018 that any immigration crackdown should not damage the economy. He argued that the UK’s economy had benefited greatly from immigration, and that any changes to immigration policy should be carefully considered to avoid negative economic consequences.

Specific Points Raised

Hunt’s warning came as the UK government was considering changes to its immigration policy in the wake of the Brexit vote. He pointed out that many sectors of the UK economy, such as healthcare and hospitality, rely heavily on immigrant workers. He also warned that a crackdown on immigration could lead to labor shortages and harm the UK’s ability to compete in the global economy.

Hunt’s warning was echoed by many business leaders and economists, who argued that a hard-line approach to immigration could be disastrous for the UK’s economy. They pointed out that immigration had helped to fuel economic growth in the UK, and that any changes to immigration policy should be made with this in mind.

Overall, Hunt’s warning was a reminder that immigration policy is a complex issue that requires careful consideration. While there are certainly valid concerns about immigration, it is important to ensure that any changes to the policy are made in a way that does not harm the UK’s economy or its ability to compete on the global stage.

Potential Impact on the Economy

Jeremy Hunt, the UK Health Secretary, has warned that any immigration crackdown must not damage the economy. Hunt believes that the country needs to attract the best talent from around the world to maintain a strong economy. The UK has been heavily reliant on foreign workers to fill low-skilled jobs, which has helped to keep wages low. However, there is a risk that a crackdown on immigration could lead to labour shortages, which could drive up wages and reduce economic growth.

Immediate Effects

One immediate effect of an immigration crackdown could be a shortage of workers in key industries such as healthcare, hospitality, and agriculture. This could lead to higher wages for workers in these industries, pushing inflation and reducing economic growth. In addition, businesses that rely on foreign workers may struggle to find enough staff, which could lead to reduced productivity and lower profits.

Long-Term Consequences

In the long term, an immigration crackdown could have a significant impact on the UK economy. The country has a rapidly ageing population, which means that there will be fewer workers to support an increasing number of retirees. This could lead to a shortage of workers in key industries, which could drive up wages and reduce economic growth. In addition, a reduction in immigration could lead to a decline in innovation and entrepreneurship, which could harm the country’s long-term economic prospects.

Overall, it is clear that any immigration crackdown must be carefully managed to avoid damaging the UK economy. While there are certainly concerns about the impact of immigration on wages and public services, it is important to remember that immigrants have made an enormous contribution to the country’s economic success. By attracting the best talent from around the world, the UK can continue to thrive and prosper in the years ahead.

Balancing Immigration and Economy

The UK government has been struggling to strike a balance between immigration and the economy. In 2018, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned that any immigration crackdown must not damage the economy. The government has been trying to find a way to balance the need for immigration with the need to protect the economy.

Proposed Solutions

One solution that has been proposed is to create a points-based immigration system. In this system, immigrants would be awarded points based on their skills, qualifications, and experience. The more points an immigrant has, the more likely they are to be granted a visa. This system would ensure that only the most skilled and qualified immigrants are allowed into the country, which would benefit the economy.

Another solution is to invest in education and training programs for UK citizens. By providing UK citizens with the skills and qualifications needed to fill the gaps in the job market, the government can reduce the need for immigration. This would also benefit the economy by reducing unemployment and increasing productivity.

Challenges Ahead

Despite these proposed solutions, there are still challenges ahead. One challenge is the need to balance the economic benefits of immigration with the social and cultural impacts. Many people are concerned about the impact of immigration on their local communities and the strain it can put on public services.

Another challenge is the need to address the issue of illegal immigration. Illegal immigration can have a negative impact on the economy, as it can lead to exploitation and unfair competition in the job market. The government needs to find a way to tackle illegal immigration without damaging the economy.

In conclusion, finding a balance between immigration and the economy is a complex issue that requires careful consideration and planning. The UK government needs to continue to explore solutions that benefit both the economy and society as a whole.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the potential economic impacts of an immigration crackdown?

An immigration crackdown can have both positive and negative economic impacts. On one hand, reducing immigration can lead to increased job opportunities and higher wages for native workers. On the other hand, a reduction in immigrant workers can lead to labor shortages and lower economic growth. Additionally, immigrants often contribute to the economy by paying taxes and starting businesses.

What measures can be taken to balance immigration control with economic growth?

Balancing immigration control with economic growth requires a careful approach. One potential measure is to implement a points-based immigration system that prioritizes highly-skilled workers who can contribute to the economy. Another measure is to invest in education and training programs to upskill native workers and fill labor shortages. Additionally, policies that promote entrepreneurship and small business growth can help stimulate economic growth.

How has immigration historically affected the UK economy?

Historically, immigration has had both positive and negative effects on the UK economy. Immigrants have contributed to economic growth by filling labor shortages, starting businesses, and paying taxes. However, some have argued that immigration has put pressure on public services and lowered wages for native workers.

What is the current state of UK immigration policy?

The current state of UK immigration policy is in flux due to Brexit and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, the UK government introduced a new points-based immigration system that prioritizes highly-skilled workers and limits low-skilled immigration. Additionally, the government has implemented strict travel restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19.

What are the key factors driving immigration policy in the UK?

The key factors driving immigration policy in the UK include economic concerns, national security concerns, and political considerations. The government must balance the need for economic growth with concerns about the impact of immigration on native workers. Additionally, the government must consider national security concerns related to border control and terrorism.

What is the role of the government in managing immigration and the economy?

The role of the government in managing immigration and the economy is to balance the need for economic growth with concerns about the impact of immigration on native workers. The government must also consider national security concerns related to border control and terrorism. Additionally, the government must work to promote policies that stimulate economic growth and create job opportunities for native workers.

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AI

AI in the World of Discord: Bridging Virtual Communities

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an artist s illustration of artificial intelligence ai this image depicts the process used by text to image diffusion models it was created by linus zoll as part of the visualising ai

In the vast expanse of the internet, virtual communities thrive. From gaming clans to hobbyist forums, these digital spaces connect people across geographical boundaries. At the heart of these communities lies Discord, a platform that has revolutionized online communication.

1. The Rise of Discord: A Brief Overview

Discord, founded in 2015, started as a voice chat app for gamers. However, it quickly evolved into a multifaceted platform that caters to diverse interests. With customizable servers, text channels, voice channels, and bots, Discord became the go-to hub for communities of all kinds.

2. AI-Powered Bots: Enhancing User Experience

Discord bots, powered by artificial intelligence, are pivotal in shaping the user experience. These bots automate tasks, moderate discussions, and even provide entertainment. Let’s explore some popular AI bots:

a. MEE6

MEE6 is a versatile bot that assists server administrators. It can track user activity, assign roles, and even generate custom commands. Its AI-driven moderation features keep conversations civil and respectful.

b. Dyno

Dyno is another powerful bot that automates administrative tasks. From managing invites to creating custom commands, Dyno streamlines server management. Its AI learns from user behavior, adapting its responses over time.

c. Dank Memer

Dank Memer, a humorous bot, adds a touch of levity to Discord servers. It generates memes, quizzes, and even currency systems. Its AI algorithms ensure fresh content and witty responses.

3. AI Worldbuilding: Crafting Immersive Environments

Discord servers often host role-playing games (RPGs) or collaborative storytelling. AI-driven tools aid in worldbuilding:

a. AIDungeon

AIDungeon, powered by OpenAI’s GPT models, generates dynamic narratives. Players input prompts, and the AI constructs intricate storylines. Whether exploring fantasy realms or solving mysteries, AIDungeon sparks creativity.

b. World Anvil

World Anvil assists creators in building detailed fictional worlds. From maps to character profiles, this AI-enhanced platform organizes lore and encourages collaborative storytelling.

4. Challenges and Ethical Considerations

As AI infiltrates Discord, ethical questions arise:

a. Privacy Concerns

How much data should bots collect? Striking a balance between functionality and privacy is crucial.

b. Bias and Fairness

AI algorithms can inadvertently perpetuate biases. Developers must ensure fairness and inclusivity.

c. Authenticity

Can AI-generated content truly replicate human creativity? Striving for authenticity remains a challenge.

5. Conclusion: The Future of AI-Driven Communities

Discord continues to evolve, and AI plays an integral role. As technology advances, we’ll witness even more innovative applications. Whether it’s organizing events, moderating discussions, or crafting fictional worlds, AI is shaping the very fabric of virtual communities.

So next time you join a Discord server, remember that behind the scenes, AI bots are working tirelessly to enhance your experience. The AI world and the Discord universe converge, creating a dynamic space where pixels meet possibilities.

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