It will be accompanied by an independent assessment of the fiscal and economic impact of the policies by the Office for Budget Responsibility, a government watchdog.

While markets have cheered the government’s promise to have its policies independently reviewed, questions remain about how the gap in the public finances can be closed. Economists say there is very little room in stretched department budgets to make cuts. That has led to concerns of a return to austerity measures, reminiscent of the spending cuts after the 2008 financial crisis.

There is a danger,” Mr. Chadha said, “that we end up with tighter fiscal policy than actually is appropriate given the shock that many households are suffering.” This could make it harder to support people suffering amid rising food and energy prices. But Mr. Chadha argues that it’s clear what needs to happen next: a complete elimination of unfunded tax cuts and careful planning on how to support vulnerable households.

The chancellor could also end up having a lot more autonomy over fiscal policy than the prime minister, he added.

“The best outcome for markets would be a rapid rallying of the parliamentary Conservative Party around a single candidate” who would validate Mr. Hunt’s approach and the timing of the Oct. 31 report, Trevor Greetham, a portfolio manager at Royal London Asset Management, said in a written comment.

Three days after the fiscal statement, on Nov. 3, Bank of England policymakers will announce their next interest rate decisions.

Bond investors are trying to parse how the central bank will react to the rapidly changing fiscal news. On Thursday, before Ms. Truss’s resignation, Ben Broadbent, a member of the central bank’s rate-setting committee, indicated that policymakers might not need to raise interest rates as much as markets currently expect. Traders are betting that the bank will raise rates above 5 percent next year, from 2.25 percent.

The bank could raise rates less than expected next year partly because the economy is forecast to shrink over the year. The International Monetary Fund predicted that the British economy would go from 3.6 percent growth this year to a 0.3 percent contraction next year.

That’s a mild recession compared with some other forecasts, but it would only compound the longstanding economic problems that Britain faced, including weak investment, low productivity growth and businesses’ inability to find employees with the right skills. These were among the challenges that Ms. Truss said she would resolve by shaking up the status quo and targeting economic growth of 2.5 percent a year.

Most economists didn’t believe that “Trussonomics,” as her policies were called, would deliver this economic growth. Instead, they predicted the policies would prolong the country’s inflation problem.

Despite the change in leadership, analysts don’t expect a big rally in Britain’s financial markets. The nation’s international standing could take a long time to recover.

“It takes years to build a reputation and one day to undo it,” Mr. Bouvet said, adding, “Investors will come progressively back to the U.K.,” but it won’t be quickly.

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U.K. Live Updates: Liz Truss Resigns as Prime Minister

LONDON — For Liz Truss, the end came on Thursday in a midday meeting with grandees of the Conservative Party. But Ms. Truss’s fate as prime minister was all but sealed three weeks earlier when currency and bond traders reacted to her new fiscal program by torpedoing the pound and other British financial assets.

The market’s swift, withering verdict on Ms. Truss’s tax-cutting agenda shattered her credibility, degraded Britain’s reputation with investors, drove up home mortgage rates, pushed the pound down to near parity with the American dollar, and forced the Bank of England to intervene to prop up British bonds.

That repudiation, measured in the second-by-second fluctuations of bond yields and exchange rates, mattered more than the noisy departures of Ms. Truss’s cabinet ministers or the hothouse anxieties of Conservative lawmakers that ultimately made her position untenable.

For that reason, world leaders, buffeted by economic challenges, are watching the turmoil in Britain with anything but relish, concerned about the stability of Britain itself. Interest rates, energy costs and inflation are rising around the world. Labor unrest is proliferating across borders. Non-British pension funds potentially face the same financial stresses that afflicted those in Britain. The last thing leaders want is for Ms. Truss’s woes to be a harbinger for other countries.

President Emmanuel Macron of France, who recently mended fences with Ms. Truss after she refused last summer to characterize him as a friend or foe, said: “I wish in any case that Great Britain will find stability again and moves on, as soon as possible. It’s good for us, and it’s good for our Europe.”

Credit…Henry Nicholls/Reuters

Ms. Truss, economists said, is correct to argue that markets are driven by global trends broader than her tax cuts. Central banks worldwide are raising rates to battle inflation, which has been fueled by a surge in demand as the coronavirus pandemic ebbed and a spike in gas prices driven by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“The problems are by no means all Truss’s doing but she should have known that getting blamed for everything comes with the territory,” said Kenneth Rogoff, a professor of economics at Harvard and a scholar of financial upheavals.

“What is really worrisome now,” he said, is that the situation in Britain “might be the canary in the coal mine as global interest rates keep soaring, especially as they do not seem likely to come down anytime soon.”

Ms. Truss long cultivated a reputation as a disrupter and a free-market evangelist in the tradition of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Her tax cut proposals made her an outlier among leaders of big economies fighting inflation. But she made no apologies for offending either economic orthodoxy or the expectations of financial markets in pursuit of her vision of a “low-tax, high growth” Britain.

“Not everyone will be in favor of change,” a defiant Ms. Truss said a week ago at the annual meeting of the Conservative Party, even though one of her planned tax cuts, for high-earning people, had already been reversed. “But everyone will benefit from the result: a growing economy and a better future.”

The prime minister’s fatal miscalculation, experts said, was to believe that Britain could defy the gravity of the markets by passing sweeping tax cuts, without corresponding spending cuts, at a time when inflation is running in double digits and interest rates were rising.

“It was the combination of the wrong fiscal policy at the wrong time — borrowing when rates were rising rather than, as in 2010s, when they were low,” said Jonathan Portes, a professor of economics and public policy at Kings College London.

He cited what he called Ms. Truss’s “institutional vandalism,’’ in particular the way she and her ousted chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng, broke with custom by announcing sweeping tax cuts without subjecting them to the scrutiny of the government’s fiscal watchdog, the Office of Budget Responsibility.

In that sense, he said, Ms. Truss was following in the footsteps of her predecessor, Boris Johnson, who resigned as prime minister barely three months earlier after a series of scandals prompted a wholesale walkout of his ministers.

Credit…Oli Scarff/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Mr. Kwarteng’s budget maneuvering led many in the markets to suspect the government was engaged in a kind of fiscal sleight of hand, which would inevitably require massive borrowing to cover a hole in the budget estimated at 72 billion pounds ($81.5 billion).

Mr. Kwarteng, who studied the history of financial crises as a doctoral student at Cambridge University, brushed off the blowback in financial markets as a temporary phenomenon. Like Ms. Truss, he is a believer in disruptive change. Together, they were among the authors of “Britannia Unchained,” a manifesto for a Thatcher-style, free-market revolution in post-Brexit Britain. Among other things, the authors described Britons as “among the worst idlers in the world.”

When, or even whether, Britain can fully recover from this period of political and economic turbulence is not yet clear. On Thursday, as news of Ms. Truss’s resignation broke, the pound rose against the dollar and yields on British government bonds fell.

Virtually all the government’s planned tax cuts have been reversed, and the next prime minister, regardless of his or her politics, will have little choice but to pursue a policy of spending cuts and strict fiscal discipline. Some fear a return to the bleak austerity of Prime Minister David Cameron in the years after the 2008 financial crisis.

“Rishi or another can steady the ship and calm the markets,” Professor Portes said, referring to Rishi Sunak, a former chancellor who ran unsuccessfully against Ms. Truss and may seek to succeed her. “But it’s hard to see how, given the state of the Conservatives, any Tory prime minister can repair the longer-term damage.”

Much of that damage is to Britain’s once-sterling reputation in the markets. Economists have begun mentioning Britain in the same breath as fiscally wayward countries like Italy and Greece. Lawrence H. Summers, the former U.S. Treasury secretary, told Bloomberg News, “It makes me very sorry to say, but I think the U.K. is behaving a bit like an emerging market turning itself into a submerging market.”

That is a humbling comedown for a country that in 2009 announced a $1.1 trillion emergency fund to bail out the global economy.

“If you’re an American fund manager, you’re not going to put Britain in the super-safe category you might have earlier,” said Jonathan Powell, who served as chief of staff to Prime Minister Tony Blair. “It’s not about Britain’s standing in the world, but what category we’ve put ourselves in.”

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U.S. Treasury asks major banks if it should buy back bonds

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Oct 14 (Reuters) – The U.S. Treasury Department is asking primary dealers of U.S. Treasuries whether the government should buy back some of its bonds to improve liquidity in the $24 trillion market.

Liquidity in the world’s largest bond market has deteriorated this year partly because of rising volatility as the Federal Reserve rapidly raises interest rates to bring down inflation.

The central bank, which had bought government bonds during the COVID-19 pandemic to stimulate the economy, is now also reducing the size of its balance sheet by letting its bonds reach maturity without buying more, a move which investors fear could exacerbate price swings.

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The Treasuries market has swelled from $5 trillion in 2007 and $17 trillion in early 2020, while banks are facing more regulatory constraints that they say make it more difficult to intermediate trades.

The Treasury is asking dealers about the specifics of how buybacks could work “in order to better assess the merits and limitations of implementing a buyback program.”

These include how much it would need to buy in so-called off-the-run Treasuries, which are older and less liquid issues, in order to “meaningfully” improve liquidity in these securities.

The Treasury is also querying whether reduced volatility in the issuance of Treasury bills as a result of buybacks made for cash and maturity management purposes could be a “meaningful benefit for Treasury or investors.”

It is further asking about the costs and benefits of funding repurchases of older debt with increased issuance of so-called on-the-run securities, which are the most liquid and current issue.

“The Treasury is acknowledging the decline in liquidity and they’re hearing what the street has been saying,” said Calvin Norris, portfolio manager & US rates strategist at Aegon Asset Management. “I think they’re investigating whether some of these measures could help to improve the situation.”

He said buying back off-the-run Treasuries could potentially increase liquidity of outstanding issues and buyback mechanisms could help contain price swings for Treasury bills, which are short-term securities.

However, when it comes to longer-dated government bonds, investors have noted that a major constraint for liquidity is the result of a rule introduced by the Federal Reserve following the 2008 financial crisis which requires dealers to hold capital against Treasuries, limiting their ability to take on risk, particularly at times of high volatility.

“The underlying cause of the lack of liquidity is that banks – due to their supplementary leverage ratios being capped – don’t have the ability to take on more Treasuries. I view that as the most significant issue right now,” said Norris.

The Fed in April 2020 temporarily excluded Treasuries and central bank deposits from the supplementary leverage ratio, a capital adequacy measure, as an excess of bank deposits and Treasury bonds raised bank capital requirements on what are viewed as safe assets. But it let that exclusion expire and big banks had to resume holding an extra layer of loss-absorbing capital against Treasuries and central bank deposits.

The Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee, a group of banks and investors that advise the government on its funding, has said that Treasury buybacks could enhance market liquidity and dampen swings in Treasury bill issuance and cash balances.

It added, however, that the need to finance buybacks with increased issuance of new securities could increase yields and be at odds with the Treasury’s strategy of predictable debt management if the repurchases were too variable in size or timing.

The Treasury is posing the questions as part of its regular survey of dealers before each of its quarterly refunding announcements.

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Reporting By Karen Brettell and Davide Barbuscia; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Chris Reese

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Bank of England governor has ‘meeting of minds’ with Hunt

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  • Bailey says he talked to new finance minister on Friday
  • ‘Very clear and immediate meeting of minds’ on fiscal challenge
  • Rates likely to rise by more than thought in August – Bailey
  • Recent bond-buying not about targeting yields

WASHINGTON, Oct 15 (Reuters) – Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey said there was an “immediate meeting of minds” when he spoke with finance minister Jeremy Hunt about the need to fix the public finances after the tax cut plans of Hunt’s predecessor unleashed market turmoil.

Bailey, speaking in Washington where British officials attending International Monetary Fund meetings have been put on the spot about the crisis engulfing the country, said he had spoken to Hunt on Friday after he replaced Kwasi Kwarteng.

“I can tell you that there was a very clear and immediate meeting of minds between us about the importance of fiscal sustainability and the importance of taking measures to do that,” Bailey said.

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“Of course there was an important measure taken yesterday,” he said at an event where he also hinted at a big interest rate rise by the central bank next month.

Prime Minister Liz Truss, seeking to save her term in office which is barely a month old, said on Friday that Britain’s corporation tax rate would increase, reversing a key pledge made during her bid for Downing Street.

Hunt said earlier on Saturday that some taxes might have to rise and others might not fall as much as planned, signalling a further shift away from Truss’s original plans.

Bailey, speaking at an event organised by the Group of Thirty, which comprises financiers and academics, welcomed the role that Britain’s independent budget watchdog would have in assessing the budget plan that Hunt will publish on Oct. 31.

The Office for Budget Responsibility was not tasked with weighing up the impact of Kwarteng’s “mini-budget” which set off a slump in the value of the pound and government bonds when he announced it on Sept. 23.

“Flying blind is not a way to achieve sustainability,” Bailey said.

Truss criticised the BoE during her leadership campaign, saying she wanted to set a “clear direction of travel” for the central bank. BoE officials pushed back at those comments saying their independence was key to managing the economy.

‘STRONGER RESPONSE’ WITH RATES

Bailey said the BoE might raise interest rates by more than it previously thought because of the government’s huge energy bill support – which could lower inflation in the short term but push it up further ahead – and whatever it decides to do on tax cuts and spending.

“We will not hesitate to raise interest rates to meet the inflation target,” Bailey said. “And, as things stand today, my best guess is that inflationary pressures will require a stronger response than we perhaps thought in August.”

The BoE raised rates by half a percentage point in August – at the time its biggest increase in 27 years – and then did so again in September with inflation around 10%, far above the BoE’s target of 2%.

It is due to announce its next decision on Nov. 3 and many investors think it will either raise them from their current level of 2.25% to 3% or possibly 3.25%.

In the shorter term, the BoE will be keeping a close eye on how financial markets behave on Monday after it ended its emergency bond-buying programme on Friday.

Bailey said the now-completed intervention was “not about steering market yields towards some particular level, but rather preventing them from being distorted by market dysfunction”.

He said the BoE had acted after the violent market moves which exposed the “flaws in the strategy and structure” of a lot of pension funds.

The intervention was different to the much bigger and longer-running bond-buying that the BoE undertook during the coronavirus pandemic and earlier as a monetary policy tool.

“In these difficult times, we need to be very clear on this framework of intervention,” Bailey said.

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Reporting by Howard Schneider in Washington and William Schomberg in London; Additional reporting by Michael Holden in London; Editing by David Clarke

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Howard Schneider

Thomson Reuters

Covers the U.S. Federal Reserve, monetary policy and the economy, a graduate of the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University with previous experience as a foreign correspondent, economics reporter and on the local staff of the Washington Post.

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In Global Slowdown, China Holds Sway Over Countries’ Fates

BEIJING — When Suriname couldn’t make its debt payments, a Chinese state bank seized the money from one of the South American country’s accounts.

As Pakistan has struggled to cope with a devastating flood that has inundated a third of the country, its loan repayments to China have been rising fast.

When Kenyans and Angolans went to the polls in presidential elections in August, the countries’ Chinese loans, and how to repay them, were a hot-button political issue.

Across much of the developing world, China finds itself in an uncomfortable position, a geopolitical giant that now holds significant sway over the financial futures of many nations but is also owed huge sums of money that may never be repaid in full.

the lender of choice for many nations over the past decade, doling out funds for governments to build bullet trains, hydroelectric dams, airports and superhighways. As inflation has climbed and economies have weakened, China has the power to cut them off, lend more or, in its most accommodating moments, forgive small portions of their debts.

The economic distress in poor countries is palpable, given the lingering effects of the pandemic, coupled with high food and energy prices after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Many borrowed heavily from China. In Pakistan, overall public debt has more than doubled over the past decade, with loans from China growing fastest; in Kenya, public debt is up ninefold and in Suriname tenfold.

two hydroelectric dams in southern Patagonia. Bradley Parks, the executive director of AidData, a research institute at William and Mary, a university in Williamsburg, Va., estimated that Argentina’s twice-a-year interest payment was $87 million in January and $137 million in July.

Argentina will owe a payment of over $170 million on the loan in January if interest rates keep rising at the same pace, he calculated. Argentina’s finance ministry did not respond to emails and text messages about the loan.

According to the I.M.F., three-fifths of the world’s developing countries are now having considerable trouble repaying loans or have already fallen behind on their debts. More than half the world’s poor countries owe more to China than to all Western governments combined.

For now, Chinese officials in poor countries face unpleasant jobs as debt collectors.

“You have a lot more influence when you’re providing the loan,” said Brad Setser, an international payments specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations, “than when you’re begging for repayment.”

Abdi Latif Dahir in Nairobi, Emily Schmall in New Delhi, Skandha Gunasekara in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Salman Masood in Islamabad, Pakistan, contributed reporting. Li You and Ana Lankes contributed research.

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A Strong Dollar Is Wreaking Havoc on Emerging Markets. A Debt Crisis Could Be Next.

The average household in Ghana is paying two-thirds more than it did last year for diesel, flour and other necessities. In Egypt, wheat is so expensive that the government has fallen half a billion dollars short of its budget for a bread subsidy it provides to its citizens. And Sri Lanka, already struggling to control a political crisis, is running out of fuel, food and medical supplies.

A strong dollar is making the problems worse.

Compared with other currencies, the U.S. dollar is the strongest it has been in two decades. It is rising because the Federal Reserve has increased interest rates sharply to combat inflation and because America’s economic health is better than most. Together, these factors have attracted investors from all over the world. Sometimes they simply buy dollars, but even if investors buy other assets, like government bonds, they need dollars to do so — in each case pushing up the currency’s value.

That strength has become much of the world’s weakness. The dollar is the de facto currency for global trade, and its steep rise is squeezing dozens of lower-income nations, chiefly those that rely heavily on imports of food and oil and borrow in dollars to fund them.

But much of the damage is already behind us.

  • Discordant Views: Some investors just don’t see how the Federal Reserve can lower inflation without risking high unemployment. The Fed appears more optimistic.
  • Weathering the Storm: The rout in the stock and bond markets has been especially rough on people paying for college, retirement or a new home. Here is some advice.
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  • “We are in a fragile situation,” Mr. El-Erian said. “Country after country is flashing amber, and some are already flashing red.”

    Many lower-income countries were already struggling during the pandemic.

    Roughly 22 million people in Ghana, or a third of its population, reported a decline in their income between April 2020 and May 2021, according to a survey from the World Bank and Unicef. Adults in almost half of the households with children surveyed said they were skipping a meal because they didn’t have enough money. Almost three-quarters said the prices of major food items had increased.

    Then came Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The war between two of the world’s largest exporters of food and energy led to a big surge in prices, especially for importers like Ghana. Consumer prices have gone up 30 percent for the year through June, according to data from the research firm Moody’s Analytics. For household essentials, annual inflation has reached 60 percent or more this year, the S&P data shows.

    To illustrate this, consider the price of a barrel of oil in dollars versus the Ghanaian cedi. At the beginning of October last year, the price of oil stood at $78.52 per barrel, rising to nearly $130 per barrel in March before falling back to $87.96 at the beginning of this month, a one-year increase of 12 percent in dollar terms. Over the same period, the Ghanaian cedi has weakened over 40 percent against the dollar, meaning that the same barrel of oil that cost roughly 475 cedi a year ago now costs over 900 cedi, almost twice as much.

    Adding to the problem are large state-funded subsidies, some taken on or increased through the pandemic, that are now weighing on government finances.

    Ghana’s president cut fuel taxes in November 2021, losing roughly $22 million in projected revenue for the government — the latest available numbers.

    In Egypt, spending on what the government refers to as “supply commodities,” almost all of which is wheat for its long-running bread subsidy, is expected to come in at around 7 percent of all government spending this year, 12 percent higher — or more than half a billion dollars — than the government budgeted.

    As costs ballooned throughout the pandemic, governments took on more debt. Ghana’s public debt grew to nearly $60 billion from roughly $40 billion at the end of 2019, or to nearly 80 percent of its gross domestic product from around 63 percent, according to Moody’s.

    It’s one of four countries listed by S&P, alongside Pakistan, Nigeria and Sri Lanka, where interest payments alone account for more than half of the government’s revenues.

    “We can’t forget that this is happening on the back end of a once-in-a-century pandemic in which governments, to try and support families as best they could, did borrow more,” said Frank Gill, an analyst at S&P. “This is a shock following up on another shock.”

    In May, Sri Lanka defaulted on its government debt for the first time in its history. Over the past month, the governments of Egypt, Pakistan and Ghana have all reached out to the International Monetary Fund for a bailout as they struggle to meet their debt financing needs, no longer able to turn to international investors for more money.

    “I don’t think there is a lot of appetite to lend money to some of these countries,” said Brian Weinstein, co-head of credit trading at Bank of America. “They are incredibly vulnerable at the moment.”

    That vulnerability is already reflected in the bond market.

    In 2016, Ghana borrowed $1 billion for 10 years, paying an interest rate of just over 8 percent. As the country’s financial position has worsened and investors have backed away, the yield — indicative of what it would now cost Ghana to borrow money until 2026 — has risen to above 35 percent.

    It’s an untenable cost of debt for a country in Ghana’s situation. And Ghana is not alone. For bonds that also mature in 2026, yields for Pakistan have reached almost 40 percent.

    “We have concerns where any country has yields that calls into question their ability to refinance in public markets,” said Charles Cohen, deputy division chief of monetary and capital market departments at IMF.

    The risk of a sovereign debt crisis in some emerging markets is “very, very high,” said Jesse Rogers, an economist at Moody’s Analytics. Mr. Rogers likened the current situation to the debt crises that crushed Latin America in the 1980s — the last time the Fed sought to quell soaring inflation.

    Already this year, more than $80 billion has been withdrawn from mutual funds and exchange-traded funds — two popular types of investment products — that buy emerging market bonds, according to EPFR Global, a data provider. As investors sell, the United States is often the beneficiary, further strengthening the dollar.

    “It’s by far the worst year for outflows the market has ever seen,” said Pramol Dhawan, head of emerging markets at Pimco.

    Even citizens in some of these countries are trying to exchange their money for dollars, fearful of what’s to come and of further currency depreciation — yet inadvertently also contributing to it.

    “For pockets of emerging markets, this is a really challenging backdrop and one of the most challenging backdrops we have faced for many years,” Mr. Dhawan said.

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    Bad News From the Fed? We’ve Been Here Before.

    The Federal Reserve’s decision to raise interest rates again is hardly a positive development for anyone with a job, a business or an investment in the stock or bond market.

    But it isn’t a great shock, either.

    This is all about curbing inflation, which is running at 8.3 percent annually, near its highest rate in 40 years. On Wednesday, the Fed raised the short-term federal funds rate for a third consecutive time, to 3.25 percent, and said it would keep increasing it.

    “We believe a failure to restore price stability would mean far greater pain later on,” Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, said. He acknowledged that the Fed’s rate increases would raise unemployment and slow the economy.

    last time severe inflation tested the mettle of the Federal Reserve was the era of Paul A. Volcker, who became Fed chair in August 1979, when inflation was already 11 percent and still rising. He managed to bring it below 4 percent by 1983, but at the cost of two recessions, sky-high unemployment and horrendous volatility in financial markets.

    around 6 percent — and had set the country on a path toward price stability that lasted for decades.

    The Great Moderation.” This halcyon period lasted long after he left the Fed, and ended only with the financial crisis of 2007-9. As the Fed now puts it on a website devoted to its history, “Inflation was low and relatively stable, while the period contained the longest economic expansion since World War II.”

    mandates — “the economic goals of maximum employment and price stability”— as new information arrived.

    Donald Kohn, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, was a Fed insider for 40 years, and retired as vice chair in 2010. With his inestimable guidance, I plunged into Fed history during the Volcker era.

    I found an astonishing wealth of material, providing far more information than reporters had access to back then. In fact, while the current Fed provides vast reams of data, what goes on behind closed doors is better documented, in some respects, for the Volcker Fed.

    That’s because transcripts of Fed meetings from that period were reconstructed from recordings that, Mr. Kohn said, “nobody was thinking about as they were talking because nobody knew about them or expected that this would ever be published, except, I guess Volcker.” By the 1990s, when the Fed began to produce transcripts available on a five-year time delay, Mr. Kohn said, participants in the meetings “were aware they were being recorded for history, so we became more restrained in what we said.”

    So reading the Volcker transcripts is like being a fly on the wall. Some names of foreign officials have been scrubbed, but most of the material is there.

    In a phone conversation, Mr. Kohn identified two critical “Volcker moments,” which he discussed at a Dallas Federal Reserve conference in June. “In both cases, the Fed moved in subtle ways and surprised people by changing its focus and its approach,” he said.

    Congress, financial circles and academic institutions. Economics students may remember Milton Friedman saying: “Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon.”

    For Fed watchers, the change in the central bank’s emphasis had practical implications. Richard Bernstein, a former chief investment strategist at Merrill Lynch who now runs his own firm, said that back then: “You needed a calculator to figure out the numbers being released by the Fed. By comparison, now, there are practically no numbers. You just need to look at the words of Fed statements.”

    The Fed’s methods of dealing with inflation are abstruse stuff. But its conversations about the problem in 1982 were pithy, and its decisions appeared to be based as much on psychology as on traditional macroeconomics.

    As Mr. Volcker put it at a Federal Open Market Meeting on Oct. 6, 1979, “I have described the state of the markets as in some sense as nervous as I have ever seen them.” He added: “We are not dealing with a stable psychological or stable expectational situation by any means. And on the inflation front, we‘re probably losing ground.”

    17 percent by March 1980. The Fed plunged the economy into one recession and then, when the first one failed to curb inflation sufficiently, into a second.

    unemployment rate stood at 10.8 percent, a postwar high that was not exceeded until the coronavirus recession of 2020. But in 1982, even people at the Fed were wondering when the economy would begin to recover from the damage that had been done.

    The fall of 1982 was the second “Volcker moment” discerned by Mr. Kohn, who was in the room during meetings. The Fed decided that inflation was coming down — although in September 1982, it was still in the 6 to 7 percent range. The economy was contracting sharply, and the extraordinarily high interest rates in the United States had ricocheted around the world, worsening a debt crisis in Mexico, Argentina and, soon, the rest of Latin America.

    Fed meeting that October, when one official said, “There have certainly been some other problem situations” in Latin America, Mr. Volcker responded, “That’s the understatement of the day, if I must say so.”

    Penn Square Bank in Oklahoma had collapsed, a precursor of other failures to come.

    “We are in a worldwide recession,” Mr. Volcker said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.” He added: “I don’t know of any country of any consequence in the world that has an expansion going on. And I can think of lots of them that have a real downturn going on. Obviously, unemployment is at record levels. It is rising virtually everyplace. In fact, I can’t think of a major country that is an exception to that.”

    It was time, he and others agreed, to provide relief.

    The Fed needed to make sure that interest rates moved downward, but the method of targeting the monetary supply wasn’t working properly. It could not be calibrated precisely enough to guarantee that interest rates would fall. In fact, interest rates rose in September 1982, when the Fed had wanted them to drop. “I am totally dissatisfied,” Mr. Volcker said.

    It was, therefore, time, to shift the Fed’s focus back to interest rates, and to resolutely lower them.

    This wasn’t an easy move, Mr. Kohn said, but it was the right one. “It took confidence and some subtle judgment to know when it was time to loosen conditions,” he said. “We’re not there yet today — inflation is high and it’s time to tighten now — but at some point, the Fed will have to do that again.”

    The Fed pivot in 1982 had a startling payoff in financial markets.

    As early as August 1982, policymakers at the central bank were discussing whether it was time to loosen financial conditions. Word trickled to traders, interest rates fell and the previously lackluster S&P 500 started to rise. It gained nearly 15 percent for the year and kept going. That was the start of a bull market that continued for 40 years.

    In 1982, the conditions that set off rampant optimism in the stock market didn’t happen overnight. The Volcker-led Fed had to correct itself repeatedly while responding to major crises at home and abroad. It took years of pain to reach the point at which it made sense to pivot, and for businesses to start rehiring workers and for traders to go all-in on risky assets.

    Today, the Fed is again engaging in a grand experiment, even as Russia’s war in Ukraine, the lingering pandemic and political crises in the United States and around the globe are endangering millions of people.

    When will the big pivot happen this time? I wish I knew.

    The best I can say is that it would be wise to prepare for bad times but to plan and invest for prosperity over the long haul.

    I’ll come back with more detail on how to do that.

    But I would try to stay invested in both the stock and bond markets permanently. The Volcker era demonstrates that when the moment has at last come, sea changes in financial markets can occur in the blink of an eye.

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    Exclusive: Japan seeks to organise Sri Lanka creditors’ meeting on debt crisis

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    TOKYO, Aug 26 (Reuters) – Japan is seeking to organise a Sri Lanka creditors’ conference, hoping it could help solve the South Asia nation’s debt crisis, but uncertainties cloud the outlook for any talks, three people with knowledge of the planning said.

    Tokyo is open to hosting talks among all the creditor nations aimed at lifting Colombo from its worst debt crisis since independence, but it is not clear whether top creditor China would join and a lack of clarity remains about Sri Lanka’s finances, one source told Reuters.

    Japan would be willing to chair such a meeting with China if that would speed up the process for addressing Sri Lanka’s debt, estimated at $6.2 billion on a bilateral basis at the end of 2020, this source said.

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    President Ranil Wickremesinghe told Reuters last week that Sri Lanka would ask Japan to invite the main creditor nations to talks on restructuring bilateral debts. He said he would discuss the issue with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo next month, when he is expected to attend the funeral of the assassinated former premier Shinzo Abe. read more

    Tokyo, the number two creditor, has a stake in rescuing Sri Lanka, not just to recoup its $3 billion in loans but also its diplomatic interest in checking China’s growing presence in the region.

    S&P Global this month downgraded Sri Lanka’s government bonds to default after it missed interest and principal payments. The island nation of 22 million people off India’s southern tip, with debt at 114% of annual economic output, is in social and financial upheaval from the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on top of years of economic mismanagement.

    An International Monetary Fund (IMF) team met Wickremesinghe on Wednesday to discuss a bailout, including restructuring $29 billion in debt, as Colombo seeks a $3 billion IMF aid programme. read more

    The president met the same day with Japan’s ambassador.

    Tokyo believes a new “platform” is needed to pull creditors together, the sources said.

    “Sri Lanka is running out of time since it defaulted on its debt. The priority is for creditor nations to agree on an effective scheme,” one source said.

    “Japan is keen to move this forward. But it’s not something Japan alone can raise its hand and push through,” said the source, adding that the cooperation of other nations was crucial.

    Japan’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment. Sri Lanka’s central bank and Finance Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment. An IMF spokesperson declined to comment.

    NEW FRAMEWORK NEEDED

    Concerns include rivalry and territorial tensions between big creditors China and India, while Sri Lanka would have to commit to reforming its finances and disclose more information about its debt, the sources said.

    Last month, shortly after Wickremesinghe took office when his predecessor fled the country, Chinese President Xi Jinping wrote to him that he was “ready to provide support and assistance to the best of my ability to President Wickremesinghe and the people of Sri Lanka in their efforts”. read more

    But the sources said getting Beijing’s cooperation on a debt restructuring was complicated by factors such as a large number of lenders and that China was baulking at taking a “haircut” on its loans and at reducing Colombo’s debt burden.

    A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman told Reuters that Beijing was “willing to stand with relevant countries and international financial institutions and continue to play a positive role in helping Sri Lanka respond to its present difficulties, relieve its debt burden and realise sustainable development.”

    Japan hopes to see a new debt restructuring framework resembling one set up by the Group of 20 big economies targeting low-income countries. Sri Lanka does not fall under this “common framework” because it is classified as a middle-income emerging country.

    “It must be a platform where all creditor nations participate” to ensure they all shoulder a fair share in waiving debt, another source said. The third said, “Until these conditions are met, it would be difficult for any talks to succeed.”

    The common framework, launched by the G20 and the Paris Club of rich creditor nations in 2020, provides debt relief mainly through extension in debt-payment deadlines and reduction in interest payments.

    Some people involved think an initial creditors’ meeting could be held in September, but one source said it would “take a little while, possibly several months”.

    Restructuring talks are only possible after the IMF scrutinises Sri Lanka’s debt, the sources said.

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    Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto and Takaya Yamaguchi in Tokyo; Additional reporting by Yoshifumi Takemoto and Kentaro Sugiyama in Tokyo, Uditha Jayasinghe in Colombo, Eduardo Baptista in Beijing and David Lawder in Washington; Writing by Leika Kihara and Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by William Mallard

    Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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    As Inventory Piles Up, Liquidation Warehouses Are Busy

    PITTSTON, Pa. — Once upon a time, when parents were scrambling to occupy their children during pandemic lockdowns, bicycles were hard to find. But today, in a giant warehouse in northeastern Pennsylvania, there are shiny new Huffys and Schwinns available at big discounts.

    The same goes for patio furniture, garden hoses and portable pizza ovens. There are home spas, Rachael Ray’s nonstick pans and a backyard firepit, which promises to make “memories every day.”

    The warehouse is run by Liquidity Services, a company that collects surplus and returned goods from major retailers like Target and Amazon and resells them, often for cents on the dollar. The facility opened last November and is operating at exceptionally high volumes for this time of year.

    last month, some major retailers say shoppers are buying less clothing, gardening equipment and electronics and focusing instead on basics like food and gas.

    Adding to that glut are all the things people bought during the pandemic — often online — and then returned. In 2021, shoppers returned an average of 16.6 percent of their purchases, up from 10.6 percent in 2020 and more than double the rate in 2019, according to an analysis by the National Retail Federation, a trade group, and Appriss Retail, a software and analytics firm.

    Last year’s returns, which retailers are not always able to resell themselves, totaled $761 billion in lost sales. That, the retail federation noted, is more than the annual budget for the U.S. Department of Defense.

    rising consumer prices and declining spending, the American economy is showing clear signs of slowing down, fueling concerns about a potential recession. Here are other eight measures signaling trouble ahead:

    “You would think that there would be enough data and enough history to see that a little more clearly,” he added. “But it also suggests that times are changing and they are changing fast and more dramatically.”

    Strong consumer spending may have saved the economy from ruin during the pandemic, but it has also led to enormous excess and waste.

    Retailers have begun to slash prices on inventory in their stores and online. Last Monday, Walmart issued the industry’s latest warning when it said that its operating profits would drop sharply this year as it cut prices on an oversupply of general merchandise.

    above a reclaimed strip mine dating back to when this region was a major coal producer. Today, the local economy is home to dozens of e-commerce warehouses that cover the hilly landscape like giant spaceships, funneling goods to the population centers in and around New York and Philadelphia.

    Liquidity Services, a publicly traded company founded in 1999, decided to open its new facility as close as it could to the Scranton area’s major e-commerce warehouses, making it easy for retailers to dispense with their unwanted and returned items.

    Even before the inventory glut appeared this spring, returns had been a major problem for retailers. The huge surge in e-commerce sales during the pandemic — increasing more than 40 percent in 2020 from the previous year — has only added to it.

    The National Retail Federation and Appriss Retail calculate that more than 10 percent of returns last year involved fraud, including people wearing clothing and then sending it back or stealing goods from stores and returning them with fake receipts. But more fundamentally, industry analysts say the increasing returns reflect consumer expectations that everything can be taken back.

    burned in incinerators that generate electricity.

    stock price plummeted nearly 25 percent in one day. Other retailers’ share prices have also fallen.

    Target’s stumbles have been an opportunity for people like Walter Crowley.

    Mr. Crowley regularly rents a U-Haul and drives back and forth to the liquidation warehouse from his home near Binghamton, N.Y.

    Mr. Crowley, who turns 54 next month, focuses mostly on discounted home improvement goods, which he resells to local contractors, like multiple pallets of discontinued garage door openers, tiles and flooring.

    But on a sweltering day earlier this month, he stood outside the warehouse in his U-Haul loading up on items from Target.

    “I saw its stock got tanked,” said Mr. Crowley, a cigarette dangling from his mouth and sweat pouring down his face. “It’s an ugly situation for them.”

    He bought several cribs, a set of sheets for his own house and a pink castle for a girl in his neighborhood who just turned 5.

    “I end up giving a lot of it away to my neighbors, to be honest,” he said. “Some people are barely getting by.”

    The buyers bid for the goods through online auctions and then drive to the warehouse to pick up their winnings.

    It’s a diverse group. There was a science teacher who stocked up on plastic parts for his class, as well as a woman who planned to resell her purchases — neon green Igloo coolers, a table saw, baby pajamas — in the Haitian and Jamaican communities of New York. She ships other items to Trinidad.

    The Pennsylvania warehouse, one of eight that Liquidity Service operates around the country, employs about 20 workers, some of whom have been hired on a temporary basis. The starting pay is $17.50 an hour.

    Charles Benincasa, 39, is a temporary worker who has had numerous “warehousing” jobs, the most recent at the Chewy pet food distribution center in nearby Wilkes-Barre.

    Mr. Benincasa said his friends and family had gotten in the habit of returning many of the goods they buy online. But as he’s watched the boxes pile up in the Liquidity Services warehouse, he worries about the implications for the economy.

    “Companies are losing a lot of money,” he said. “There is no free lunch.”

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