Greek Data Updates

Edward Hugh is only able to update this blog from time to time, but he does run a lively Twitter account with plenty of Greece related comment. He also maintains a collection of constantly updated Greece data charts with short updates on a Storify dedicated page Is Greece's Economic Recovery Now in Ruins?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Almunia Syllogism

European Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquín Almunia recently, and possibly totally inadvertently, stumbled on a very interesting argument. Here it is:
"Who is crazy enough to leave the euro area? Nobody," Almunia said. "The number of candidates to join the euro area increases. The number of candidates to leave the euro area is zero."

Reductio Ad Absurdum

Now you don't need a PhD in economics to understand what follows, although a little bit of basic logic would help. What we have here could be construed as a kind of syllogism (and from now on let's christen this one "The Almunia Syllogism"). The Almunia Syllogism has the following form:

a) Anyone leaving (or aiding and abetting the departure of someone from) the Eurozone is crazy
b) The EU Commission, The ECB and The National Leaders are not crazy
c) Therefore no one will leave, or be allowed to leave, the eurozone (at least under current conditions)

Q.E.D. We Will Have A United States Of Europe.

Well, ok, I do need to add a lettle lemma here to the effect that the only way to enforce (c) is to build the necessary architecture, and there is room for debate about this, since this lemma is neither proven, nor is it self evident. You also need to accept that there is an excluded middle here, and we do not have a "now either the EU leaders are crazy ot they aren't" fork which we can get diverted down.

As I say, the lemma is not self evident, although my own opinion is that in the weeks and months to come its validity will become extraordinarily clear even to the most reticent among us, but this still needs to be established. The thing about the lemma is that it focuses the debate. Those who do not agree with it need to be able to show how we can have (c) within the present architecture (since here there is a middle to exclude, either we can or we can't). The results coming out from the "we can" camp are not entirely encouraging. For example, ECB Executive Board member Lorenzo Bini Smaghi's recent attempt to argue that Krugman has it wrong, and that (we can manage with what we have) fails stupendously to convince, in my opinion, and especially the extract I reproduce below (which exemplifies precisely the point those who want new achitecture are making).

For instance, for the period 2009-10, discretionary measures adopted in Germany total 3.5% of GDP, compared with 3.8%in the United States. In some European countries, such as Italy, the size of such stimulus measures is relatively limited owing to the high levels of debt, but in other countries the total fiscal stimulus is larger than in the United States.

The whole issue is that we need a mechanism to average out the stimulus, is that so hard to understand? Is this obscurantism, or simply stupidity?

A Literary Trope Not A Syllogism

On the other hand, the formal validity of the following "utterance" from Almunia is rather more questionable.

"Don't fear for this moment," he said. "We are equipped intellectually, politically and economically to face this crisis scenario. But by definition these kinds of things should not be explained in public."

The first phrase is an exhortation, one which I would agree with (but not for the same reasons), the second is an assertion whose truth content is, at least, questionable, while the third is an admission, one which would perhaps better not have been made, or a piece of advice, which the unfortunate Otto Bernhardt seems never to have received.
A senior German lawmaker said euro zone states stood ready to come to the aid of financially fragile members of the currency bloc, sparking furious denials from European leaders that a specific rescue plan existed. Otto Bernhardt, a leading lawmaker in Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), told Reuters in an interview late on Thursday: "There is a plan."

and then Bloomberg let us know a bit more about the details of the plan.
The German Finance Ministry has no knowledge of a rescue fund organized by the European Central Bank for troubled euro-region members such as Ireland and Greece, spokeswoman Jeanette Schwamberger said.

Otto Bernhardt, finance spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, said in an interview with Reuters today that the ECB has a fund at its disposal to help troubled countries and can make money available at 24 hours’ notice.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Greece Introduces A Public Sector Wage Freeze

Ten Year Bond Spread Between Between Greek and German Benchmarks Post 1999

The Greek government announced this week that it is introducing a public sector wage freeze together with and a one-off tax for high-income earners in an attempt to prevent the budget deficit from spiralling yet further out of control. The measures, which were announced on Wednesday, constitute a significant change of discourse from a government which until now has claimed Greece’s service-based economy could avoid falling into recession. Speads on European government bonds widened again this morning The difference in yield between German and Irish 10-year government bonds, increasing five basis points (to 281 basis points), the most since February 1993. Portuguese, Spanish and Greek (see chart above) spreads also widened versus the German benchmark.

Basically what follows is a brief examination of the evidence we now have to hand for a sudden and sharp slowdown in Greek GDP, and of how this may influence future expectations on the spreads. This follows in the path of my two previous Greece related studies:

Why We All Need To Keep A Watchful Eye On What Is Happening In Greece


The Long And Difficult Road To Wage Cuts As An Alternative To Devaluation

The Noose Tightens

Today's decision follows mounting concern about the future competitiveness of the Greek economy and the sustainability of its mounting soveregin debt. Moody's Investors Service cut its outlook on Greece's A1 government bond ratings to stable from positive on Wednesday, saying any upgrade over the next 12-18 months was now highly unlikely due to evolution path of the debt levels. The agency stated they expect the public debt situation to worsen, with debt to gross domestic product (GDP) rising towards 100 percent, though it did note in passing that the pace of the deterioration was in fact in line with what was happening in the case of most other European Union governments. The issue is not so much the rate at which Greece is now extending its debt, but that the indebtedness starts from such high levels, and that so little has been done in recent years to effectively bring the situation under control.

'The global synchronised downturn is taking its toll on the Greek economy as it is on other advanced economies, with growth coming to a halt and public debt ratios reversing their decline from previous years,' Moody's said in a statement.

Greece, which currently expects its borrowing needs to reach 43.7 billion euros this year, up frm an earlier projection of 42 billion. Public debt to GDP, which is expected to grow to about 96 percent this year, is the second highest in the euro zone.

The move followed a February decision by Standard & Poor's to cut Greek sovereign credit ratings by one notch to A-/A-2 with a stable outlook, citing eroding economic competitiveness and a rising fiscal deficit.

South East Europe Dependence?

In fact, on the face of it Greek GDP has held up pretty well in the present crisis.The outlook for 2009, however, looks progressively less healthy. The Greek economy is quite dependent on its services sector, mainly shipping and tourism. And while the shipping sector is suffering badly from the decline in freight charges, tourist bookings have slumped by an average of 10 per cent, according to hoteliers and tour operators associations. But there is one more element we should be considering, the South East Europe (SEE) factor. In fact Greece's commercial banks, who had been expanding very rapidly in southeastern Europe over the last decade, acquiring subsidiaries or established branch networks throughout the Balkans, Ukraine and Turkey, are now faced with the pain of handling what is now becoming a very sharp slowdown in those CEE countries where they have opened shop.

The big four Greek banks - National Bank of Greece, Alpha Bank, Eurobank EFG and Piraeus - have all gotten involved, and are estimated to have combined market shares of around 40% in Macedonia, 35% in Albania, 30% in Bulgaria and 20% in Romania. And then there is Turkey, Serbia, Ukraine and Russia to think about.

During the last few years the SEE countries have all seen gross domestic product growth rates in the 5% to 8% region, compared with 4% in Greece. However, private sector credit in these countries averaged only around 25% of GDP, compared with 81% in Greece itself. Only last month, Bank of Greece Governor George Provopoulos estimated that Greek commercial banks exposure in SEE countries alone stood at about 55 billion - about 22% of Greek GDP, and about 13% of total banking system assets. So now, aprt from the homegrown housing slowdown the commercial banks face the prospect of an accelerating SEE slowdown too. In mid 2008, before the financial crisis hit the SEE region, bank analysts were cheerfully predicting 2009 GDP growth of 6% and above in the region; they are now forecasting zero or even negative growth. There are no detailed NPL figures as yet, but last month George Provopoulos estimated that loans in arrears to Greek commercial banks operating in SEE had already reached 10% of their regional loan books. The Greek government is already preparing itself for the shock, and has introduced a 28 billion euro liquidity stimulus package - again, a little over 10% of GDP and with as yet unkown impacts on the gross debt to GDP ratio.

Greek GDP Has Surprised On The Upside

So as SEE creaks, evidence of the impact of the slowdown on Greece itself is steadily building up. During the fourth-quarter GDP growth did slow to a revised 2.4% ratyear on year rate - down from the 2.7% rate regiseterd in the third quarter, but still a far cry from the substantial contractions in other countries . According to the statistics office the slowdown was a result of the falling rate of household spending combined with a contining drop in investments and exports. So the effects of the economic crisis are begining its seems to have an impact on the Greek economy.

Since mid-2004, Greece has been buoyed by an explosion in consumer spending and a booming property market that has helped fuel an average growth rate of over 4% in recent years. A strong tourist industry, and several record years of growth in the shipping industry have also helped. But over the wholeof 2008 the economy grew at a revised 2.9% rate, significantly down on that 4% average (see the obvious downward drift inheadline growth in the chart below), and with evidently worse to come in 2009.

The main reason for the downward revision was a lower rate of investment spending, produced by a continued decline in construction, a drop in purchases of transport machinery like trucks, and a decline in industrial machinery imports. According to the data, consumption spending was up only 1% on a year earlier. Fixed capital investment fell on the other hand by 5.3%, with a 30.3% decline in purchases of transport equipment and a 19.9% drop in residential housing. Exports were down 1.5% on the year, while imports were also lower, down by 5.3%. Thus the impact of external trade was actually positive for overall growth.

The Greek government now estimates the Greek economy will grow at a 1.1% rate this year. The European commission, on the other hand forecasts a 0.2% expansion rate, while the Bank of Greece expects the Greek economy to grow by 0.5%.

Industrial Decline

Industrial output in Greece fell at a an 8.7% rate in December, following several months of contraction.

In fact, as can be seen from the index in the chart below, output remained pretty flat in 2007, and has then fallen all through 2008.

And the situation lloks set to get worse, since the February manufacturing PMI showed the strongest contraction to date.

Construction industry activity was down by 12.9% year on year inDecember, and retail sales, after quite strong growth in 2007, were also pretty weak all through 2008.

Whopping Current Account Deficit

Basically Greece's problems can be summed up in two pices of data, the huge current account deficit, and the loss of international competitiveness which is reflected in those deteriorating industrial output numbers. In fact Greece's current account deficit reached a record 14.5% of gross domestic product in 2008, although, as the financing necessary to maintain such deficits dries up there are now signs that the gap is narrowing rapidly.

As compared with a year earlier December's current account deficit declined by EUR1.81 billion to EUR3.127 billion, according to Bank of Greece data, following a much smaller decline in November. The weight of the correction is being borne by a drop in imports, with good imports falling to EUR4.51 billion which compares with September's total EUR5.93 billion. Analysts in Greece seem to be expecting a fairly benign slowdown and correction - there is talk of the imbalance narrowing to around 12% to 12.5% of GDP this year - but in present conditions, and far less tolerance of such huge CA deficits, thereis the danger of amuch stronger correction.

Strong Loss Of Competitiveness

The weight of the correction will obviously have to be supported by import (and living standard) declines, since apart from the difficulty of increasing exports under current conditions, the Greek economy has obviously lost considerable competiveness in recent years (after recovering ground between 1991 and 2001.

One of the worrying features of of the Greek situation at present is the general lack of realism that is being demonstrated. Perhaps the most recent example ofthis was last weeks rejection by Finance Minister George Papathanassiou of the EU Commission’s forecast of flat growth for this year - he argues the economy could expand by up to 1.5 per cent - since this means that the budget estimates are bound to prove far too generous, with the consequent danger of deficit overshoot and subsequent credit downgrades.

Too Little Too Late?

The wage measures currently being enacted are far from Draconian , since the freeze will only affect public sector workers earning over €1,700 a month, while lower paid workers are to receive a one-off payment of €500, and the original budget proposals seemto have been ridiculous under the circumstances since they provided for increases of 8 per cent for public sector employees while the year-end inflation rate was projected at 2.5 per cent. The one-off tax is only going to affect the more than 100,000 Greeks who had declared incomes above €60,000 in 2008, and is expected to raise an additional €250m in revenues.

The government's forecast, revised at the end of January, is for 1.1% economic expansion this year; the European Commission says it will be just 0.2%; the central bank, 0.5%. All of these look rather optimistic under the circumstances, and a contraction in the region of 2% of GDP looks much more realistic, especially with wage tightening, and government cuts in the pipeline. Credit expansion, is also slowing internally as a result of the deteriorating economic climate, and this coupled with the more cautious approach to loan approvals will make it difficult for the government to maintain its 10 year on year new loan creation target, especially with joint public and private gross debt to GDP levels nearing the 200% mark, and the heavy external financing requirement making an over-rapid closing of the CA deficit now a distinct risk. In October, the rate of new loan growth was 18% year-on-year; by January it had decelerated to 15% - a rate last seen in 2005, and there is no end to the process in sight.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Eurozone Inflation Expectations Fall As The Output Gap Rises

It’s a depressing spectacle: on both sides of the Atlantic, policy-makers just keep falling short — and the odds that this slump really will turn into Great Depression II keep rising.

In Europe, leaders rejected pleas for a comprehensive rescue plan for troubled East European economies, promising instead to provide “case-by-case” support. That means a slow dribble of funds, with no chance of reversing the downward spiral.

Oh, and Jean-Claude Trichet says that there is no deflation threat in Europe. What’s the weather like on his planet?
Paul Krugman, yesterday

What follows here are simply a few charts to illustrate further the argument I developed yesterday as regards the significance of the deflation threat which now exists in the eurozone. The argument is that the ECB is once again being far too cautious, and risks allowing the entire eurozone to entire a deflationary cycle which may prove to be a lot harder to get out of than it was to get into. In my view the ECB should bring the refinancing rate close to zero % at next Thursday's rate setting meeting, and then explore what measures can be taken to introduce a zonewide version of US/Japan style Quantitative Easing as quickly as possible.

The key argument I am presenting is that it is a mistake to focus at this point on what is happening to energy, food and other commodity prices. The key issue is what is happening to core prices, and what will continue to happen to them as output contracts further. The other side of the coin are inflation expectations, and as we will see below these are now falling rapidly across Europe. It is very important at this point that these expectations do not get "locked in" to price fall expectations.

It is evident that the degree of economic slack in the OECD is now widening rapdily as unemployment rises and capacity utilization falls. The OECD output gap (the difference between current levels of output and some estimate of what "capacity" output could be at this point) continues to widen and is now only second in importance to the output gap seen in the early 1980s. In fact, the output gap is likely to have widened further since the OECD last made its forecasts in November 2008 (the OECD leading indicator has, for example, continued to decline since that point) but the output gaps shown for the US, the UK and eurozone in the chart below are already sufficiently pronounced to make the point quite clearly I think.

In fact, spare capacity is a phenomenon which extends way beyond the OECD, and economies throughout the world are operating at below their potential and look set to do so for both the remainder of this year and most of 2010. Global manufacturing has been contracting and global trade has collapsed. Here is the latest JP Morgan Global Manufacturing PMI.

The IMF currently estimates that the cumulative global output loss relative to potential over the period 2008-2010 will be as much as 5% (see chart below).

And inflation expectations are falling rapidly. The latest findings in the European Commission’s own consumer questionnaire show that the net balance of respondents in the UK and the Euro zone expecting prices to be higher this time next year is now at the lowest recorded level - just 2.7% and 4.1% respectively ( see chart below).

Monday, March 2, 2009

"There Is No Deflation Threat In Europe" - Jean Claude Trichet - Oh Really!

He's at it again. Last year he was busily trying to worry us all that inflation was set to get completely out of hand among the 16 countries who make up the eurozone. Now the President of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet, is hard at it on another tack and is busying himself trying to convince us that there is no credible deflation threat facing these countries. Apart from getting it wrong on both occasions, the common point here would be a certain inbuilt "inflation bias", a bias which was earlier called "the original sin of the Bundesbank" by nobel prize winning Italian economist Franco Modigliani.

"There is presently no threat of deflation," Trichet told a committee of the European Parliament on Wednesday 14 February. "We are currently witnessing is a process of disinflation, driven in particular by a sharp decline in commodity prices." ..."It is a welcome development," he said, adding that the fall in energy, and other prices should help boost struggling economies.
Apart from manifesting a spectacular lack of economic judgement, the Financial Times's Banker of the Year 2007 is now forcing us to ask the embarassing question as to just how far "out of touch" you can get with the material you are supposed to be handling and continue to hold down your job. It seems we are forced to come up with the rather worrying response, that, in the case of the principal EU institutions (remember the sad case of Economy and Finance Commissioner Joaquin Almunia), the answer is "bastante" (consideably), since a quick look at the data we have to hand shows us that Eurozone inflation is already significantly undershooting the European Central Bank’s own target (and principle policy objective) of maintaining the annual rate “below but close” to 2%. Worse, by all appearances the rate of consumer price inflation in the eurozone is now set to head straight off into negative territory.

If we look at headline HICP inflation on an annualised basis, we will find that it fell more than expected in January - to 1.1 per cent, according to Eurostat data - down quite dramatically from the peak of 2.7 per cent hit in March last year. This was the lowest level we have seen since July 1999, and a sharp drop from the 1.6 percent rate registered in December. On a month-to-month basis, prices were down 0.8 percent. The "core" inflation rate - that is consumer inflation without the volatile elements of food, energy, alcohol and tobacco - we find it still stood at 1.6%, since the biggest impact on headline inflation comes from the decline in food and energy costs. But if we look at the monthly movement in the core index, we find that it dropped by a very large 1.3% (see chart below).

Now if we come to look at the core inflation rate over the last six months, we find that the index has only risen 0.1% (or an annual rate of 0.2%). This gives us a much more accurate reading on where inflation actually is at this point in time, and where it is headed. The chart below shows the six month lagged annualised rate for the last twelve months, and the sharp drop in January is evident. If things continue like this, then the eurozone as a whole is headed straight into deflation, for sure.

Why Should Prices Continue to Fall?

So what are the grounds for thinking that inflation may be now heading into negative territory (ie that we are entering deflation right now), despite the fact that the ECB revised forecast is likely to come out at about 0.7 per cent this year and 1.5 per cent in 2010, according to estimates from Julian Callow, European economist at Barclays Capital. Well let's look at a chart produced by Paul Krugman showing the relation between the US output gap and the inflation rate.

Now as Krugman explains the figure plots an estimate of the output gap — the difference between actual and potential GDP, as a percentage of potential — and the change in the inflation rate. (Both series are taken from the IMF WEO database, for convenience, and use data from 1980-2007).

The fit, as he says, is not perfect, but the correlation is evident, and there is an implied slope of about 0.5 — that is, every percentage point by which real US GDP fall short of potential tends to reduce the inflation rate by about half a point over the course of the year. Now I am not going to advance here estimates of the present output gap in the eurozone, but we do have clear indications of a sharp and ongoing contraction in demand in the GDP numbers. Eurozone GDP contracted by 0.2% between the second and the third quarters of last year, and by 1.5% between the third and fourth quarters.

What's more the key indicators suggest that the contraction is accelerating at this point. The February Markit euro-zone composite PMI reading dropped to a record low of 36.2 from 38.3 in January. Any reading below 50 on these indexes indicates month on month contraction.

Barring some spectacular (and entirely improbable) turnaround in March it now seems likely that the Q1 GDP contraction will be worse than the Q4 2008 one, and considering (as mentioned previously) that the eurozone contracted by 0.2% in Q3 2008, and by 1.5% in Q4, then, in my humble opinion, the data we are seeing for this quarter are entirely consistent with a 2% quarterly contraction (or an annualised 8% rate of contraction). For those of you who simply don't believe that PMIs can tell you so much, take a look at Markit's own chart (below), showing the strong underlying relationship between movements in GDP and the *flash* composite PMI. The results they achieve are pretty impressive I would say.

and if we look at an additional indicator (the EU's own Economic Sentiment Indicator for the eurozone) we will see that it hit yet another low in February (see below) which again suggests that the contraction is accelerating at this point, and substantially so.

So the core HICP index is on the point of turning negative on a six monthly basis, and the situation appears set to get even worse, and our Central Bank President assures us that "there is presently no threat of deflation". So which world am I living in, or which is he?

There are further reasons to anticipate a sharp downward pull on prices from some countries in the zone (like Spain and Ireland), since they have housing and construction booms which are in the process of unwinding, and the only way they can recover the competitiveness they have lost is by conducting a sharp and significant downward revision in prices and wages (since in a currency union there is effectively no currency to devalue). The two charts below show the loss of competitiveness experienced by the Irish and the Spanish economies (respectively) with regards to the German economy since 1999 as measured by real effective exchange rates (REERs).

REERs attempt to assess a country's price or cost competitiveness relative to its principal competitors in international markets. Since changes in cost and price competitiveness depend not only on exchange rate movements but also on cost and price trends the specific REERs used by Eurostat for its Sustainable Development Indicators are deflated by nominal unit labour costs (total economy) against a panel of 36 countries (= EU27 + 9 other industrial countries: Australia, Canada, United States, Japan, Norway, New Zealand, Mexico, Switzerland, and Turkey). Double export weights are used to calculate REERs, reflecting not only competition in the home markets of the various competitors, but also competition in export markets elsewhere. A rise in the index means a loss of competitiveness.

Now the eurozone being a common currency area presents us with specific problems in the context of deflation since, as the Irish economist Philip Lane argues a member of a currency union comes up against a natural limit in national-level deflation. Thus, he argues, while a country like Ireland may well face a sustained period of inflation below the euro area average (such that it may be negative in absolute terms for a greater or lesser period of time), the situation should tend to be self-correcting since the deflation implies an improvement in competitiveness, which should generate a boost in export driven economic activity and, over time, a return to an inflation rate at around the euro area average. I'm not sure that this argument is 100% valid, since sufficient internal demand lead deflation can so effect household and corporate solvency that debt deflation can at the very least send a country off into a sizeable and significant correction (say a decade long one) before the price level falls sufficiently to generate sufficient export activity to offset the decline in domestic demand and enable balance sheets to recover. But going into all this would get pretty wonkish, so, leaving that rather theoretical point aside, lets think about a more rather concrete and immediate reason for worrying about what is happening at the present time in the eurozone, and that is the possibility that the inflation and competitiveness benchmark country, in this case Germany, may itself be about to experience an internal price deflation process which is every bit as sharp as the fall in prices which is taking place in those economies which are supposed to be correcting vis-a-vis Germany itself. That is, let's consider the possibility that through this mechanism the deflation may become eurozone wide, and relatively self perpetuating, if something is not done to break the cycle.

So, if we now go on to look at the two relevant charts below (for Spain and Ireland) we will find that in each case core indexes are falling more or less in line with the German one. In fact, both the Spanish and the German indexes are unchanged over the last six months, the Irish one is down 0.5%. At this pace (a 1% a year differential with Germany) Ireland would recover its 1999 comparative position vis-a-vis Germany in around 30 years, a rather lengthy process to say the least.

But the point here is not that prices are falling in Ireland and Spain (they have to do this) but that prices are also set to fall in Germany, and this is where monetary policy from the ECB becomes vital, since if Germany is allowed to fall into deflation then it will be extremely difficult for Spain and Ireland to "correct" (the drop in wages and prices would have to be sharp indeed) but also monetary policy from the ECB would be in danger of becoming a complete mess.

Of course not everyone on the ECB governing council shares Trichet's rosier-than-rosy view, and in a comment that offered an insight into how at least some ECB council members are thinking, Mario Draghi, Italy’s Central Bank Governor said recently that “the governing council is keeping a close watch on the real cost of money”. What he means is that, if Spain's 1.5% drop in core prices over the last three months turned into a 6% annual drop, then the real rate of interest currently being applied would be around 8%, which would constitute a very tight monetary policy in the context of Spain's worst recession in living memory.

Perhaps some readers may feel I have been unduly hard on Jean Claude Trichet in this post, but I would simply close by reminding everyone of the conclusions reached in a once widely quoted paper - Preventing deflation: lessons from Japan's experience in the 1990s, by Alan Ahearne, Joseph Gagnon, Jane Haltmaier and Steve Kamin (2002) - where the authors argued:

We conclude that Japan's sustained deflationary slump was very much unanticipated by Japanese policymakers and observers alike, and that this was a key factor in the authorities' failure to provide sufficient stimulus to maintain growth and positive inflation. Once inflation turned negative and short-term interest rates approached the zero-lower-bound, it became much more difficult for monetary policy to reactivate the economy. We found little compelling evidence that in the lead up to deflation in the first half of the 1990s, the ability of either monetary or fiscal policy to help support the economy fell off significantly. Based on all these considerations, we draw the general lesson from Japan's experience that when inflation and interest rates have fallen close to zero, and the risk of deflation is high, stimulus, both monetary and fiscal, should go beyond the levels conventionally implied by baseline forecasts of future inflation and economic activity.

As some economist or other I read is in the habit of saying "history has a nasty habit of repeating itself, the first time as tragedy and the second time as tragedy". Or put another way, here we go again. Hello, is there anyone out there?