Exports to the Rescue?


Krugman has an interesting chart, showing US exports rising

even as residential investment has been falling. Indeed, he writes,

“thanks to the weak dollar, they’ve risen almost enough to

offset the housing plunge”.

Now this is one of those charts where it’s well worth paying

attention to the axes.  Since the second quarter of 2006, by

his chart, exports have risen from 0.11% of GDP to just over 0.12% of

GDP. At the same time, residential investment has fallen from 0.06% of

GDP to 0.04.5% of GDP.

So yes, the fall in residential investment has been slightly

bigger than the rise in exports. But here’s the thing: at this point, a

37.5% increase in exports as a share of GDP – which is hardly

unthinkable, given the weakness in the dollar and the low level from

which we’re starting – would be enough to counteract

residential investment falling all the way to zero.

Concludes Brad


I think that there is a

policy moral here. Most of the macroeconomic disaster scenarios I have

been painting over the past five years had domestic construction

spending falling before exports began rising rapidly. We do seem to

have dodged that bullet completely.

God does indeed look after

fools, children, and the United States of America.

Of course, a fall in residential investment has knock-on

effects – but then again, so does a rise in exports, and I

doubt that anyone would care to hazard a guess as to which one’s

multiplier might be greater.

In the 1990s, we had a tech-stock bubble, the worst

aftereffects from which were mitigated by the housing bubble. Could it

be that after a decade of asset-price bubbles the US has finally found

itself making money by actually making things that people

want to buy? I’m not convinced, but it does seem to be the

most likely soft-landing scenario.

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