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    Why a Soft Landing for the Economy Could Be Hard

    enSeptember 20, 2023

    Podcast Summary

    • Fed's soft landing attempt: A delicate economic maneuverThe Fed is trying to slow down the economy and reduce inflation without causing a recession, a rare and challenging economic feat

      The Federal Reserve (Fed) is attempting to bring down inflation without causing a recession, a concept known as a soft landing. However, soft landings are rare and difficult to achieve. The Fed's approach to achieving this involves gradually slowing down the economy without causing a significant increase in unemployment. Since the last recession, there have only been a few instances where a soft landing was successfully executed. The Fed's current strategy includes holding interest rates steady while leaving the possibility of one more rate hike this year. Economists and experts compare this delicate economic maneuver to trying to land a plane on a soft, unpredictable field, emphasizing the difficulty and potential risks involved.

    • Fed Aims for Soft Landing to Bring Down InflationThe Fed aims for a soft landing, bringing down inflation without causing mass unemployment, in today's high inflation environment, a challenge after successfully doing so once before in the mid-1990s.

      The Federal Reserve (Fed) has decided to keep interest rates steady due to uncertainty about whether further rate hikes are necessary to slow down the economy. The Fed is currently aiming for a "soft landing," which involves bringing down inflation without causing mass unemployment. This term originated in the 1970s and refers to a gentle economic descent, avoiding both a hard landing (economic downturn) and an overheating economy. The Fed has successfully executed a soft landing once before, in the mid-1990s, but achieving this goal in today's high inflation environment is a challenge. The Fed's ultimate goal is to maintain low and stable inflation and maximum employment. The soft landing concept was inspired by the moon landing, emphasizing the importance of a smooth economic transition. While the Fed has achieved a soft landing once before, it remains to be seen if they can do so again in the current economic climate.

    • Navigating the Economy's Uncertain State: The Fed's Role in Soft LandingThe Fed's interest rate decisions play a crucial role in achieving a soft landing for the economy, but determining how long and how high rates should be kept is uncertain. Inflation remains a concern despite efforts to lower it, and consumer spending could further fuel it. Risk management is critical in navigating the economy's current state.

      Achieving a soft landing for the economy is a challenging prospect given the current state of the economy and the uncertainty surrounding inflation and interest rates. The Fed's actions play a crucial role in this, as holding interest rates too high for too long could worsen the downturn. Economists are concerned that inflation could pick back up again despite the Fed's efforts to lower it, as the economy is still running hot. Consumer spending, which has been strong, could further fuel inflation. The Fed's job in this situation is difficult, as determining how long and how high interest rates should be kept is not clear in real time. Ultimately, risk management considerations are critical in navigating the economy's current state, which is characterized by uncertainty and the potential for both positive and negative developments.

    • External risks to a soft landing economyThe Federal Reserve's control over the economy is not absolute, with external factors like a strong economy and oil prices posing risks to a desired soft landing

      While the Federal Reserve has the ability to influence the US economy through interest rates, there are external factors that can pose risks to a desired soft landing. One such risk is a strong economy, which can lead to inflation concerns and potential rate hikes. Another risk is the volatility of oil prices, which can significantly impact the economy due to the widespread use of oil in various industries. It's essential to be aware of these risks and how they can impact the economy, as well as the people we work with, who may be dealing with their own personal struggles that can affect their productivity and overall well-being.

    • Economic uncertainty due to oil prices and financial risksRising oil prices could lead to higher gas prices, reducing consumer spending and potential economic growth. Financial market risks could result in a bigger pullback in lending and even bank runs.

      The current economic climate is fraught with uncertainty due to rising oil prices and potential risks in the financial market. The increase in oil prices could lead to higher gas prices, reducing consumer spending and potentially hindering growth. On the other hand, it could also drive up prices for various goods and services across the economy. Additionally, there's a concern about a financial market mishap, which could lead to a bigger pullback in lending and even bank runs. With the significant rise in interest rates, the potential for a financial market catastrophe has been a worry for many analysts. This uncertainty is heightened by the fact that financial markets have been accustomed to low interest rates for the past 15 years, and it's unclear how they will react to this new environment. Overall, there's a concern about the unknown unknowns that could be uncovered as interest rates continue to rise.

    • Economic Uncertainty and Financial Market RisksRising interest rates and economic uncertainty pose significant risks to financial markets. Even a mild recession could lead to substantial job losses and economic hardship.

      The current economic environment, with rising interest rates and uncertainty about their future direction, poses significant risks to financial markets. Decisions made under the assumption that interest rates would remain low may no longer hold true, and a financial market cataclysm could result. However, there is also the possibility of a soft or softish landing, where a recession might occur but be milder than past experiences. It's essential to understand that even seemingly mild recessions can lead to substantial job losses and economic hardship for millions of people. The Federal Reserve Chair, Jay Powell, has spoken of a softish landing, but the distinction between a soft and softish landing can be unclear. Ultimately, it's crucial to remain vigilant and adapt to the changing economic landscape.

    • Discussing the possibility of staggered recessionsEconomists are considering the potential for a staggered recession, where different sectors experience downturns at varying times, which could lead to a soft landing for the economy.

      Economists are discussing the possibility of rolling recessions, where different sectors of the economy experience recessions at different times. Last year, the housing market and freight industry were among those that might have been in recession, while others were recovering. This staggered pattern could potentially allow for a soft landing, where the economy avoids a full-blown recession. However, it may still be some time before we can determine if the Federal Reserve has successfully orchestrated such a landing. This discussion was recorded on September 20th, 2023, and another update is planned for October 2024. In the meantime, there will be plenty of economic developments to monitor. If you enjoyed today's episode, please follow us on Spotify or your preferred podcast platform. We release new episodes every weekday afternoon. Thank you for listening. See you tomorrow.

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