Economic rescue in real time

Economic rescue in real time

There are few indicators that joblessness is rising.

Worries that broken supply chains would stoke inflation also look overdone, for now at least.

Data at the beginning of March from State Street PriceStats Indicators, which measures inflation daily, suggest that inflation has been on a steady downward trend since the beginning of the year (though in recent days food prices have inched up, perhaps pointing to the effects of stockpiling.)

Railway and trucking volumes appear to be holding up. There is some evidence of lower electricity demand, perhaps as people miss work, though the figures are volatile.

Household spending is taking a big hit, however. Analysis by Goldman Sachs of Twitter posts suggests that consumer confidence has dropped.

People are nervous of crowds—and some 40% of household spending is vulnerable to people shunning gatherings, according to a methodology from an Oxford University research paper. About 5% of consumer spending goes on dining out, for instance.

Google searches for “restaurant reservations” are way down. A report from JPMorgan Chase estimates that on the mid March weekend the virus reduced cinema ticket receipts by 20%. Lower consumer spending points to feeble GDP growth in the first half of this year, though a recession still seems unlikely at this stage.

What happens next depends on whether America gets a handle on the outbreak. If it does not, then over time revenue-starved firms and salary-starved families will struggle. But if America contains the virus, it can likely look forward to a bounce back of sorts.


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Oso Oseguera
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