According to Paul Krugman, the markets, especially the US market, are telling us that the gap between productivity and wages is widening. This means profits are rising but not being invested because demand is so weak.
The rise to record levels by the Dow Jones Industrial Average index last week, and other markets which are highly correlated with the US, is no indication that the financial crisis is over, he says.
Paul Krugman is the maverick liberal Nobel-prize winning professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University, and columnist for the NY Times. In his column in the NY Times last week, he said:
“I wish I could say that it’s all good news, but it isn’t. Those low interest rates are the sign of an economy that is nowhere near to a full recovery from the financial crisis of 2008, while the high level of stock prices shouldn’t be cause for celebration; it is, in large part, a reflection of the growing disconnect between productivity and wages.
“The interest-rate story is fairly simple. As some of us have been trying to explain for four years and more, the financial crisis and the bursting of the housing bubble created a situation in which almost all of the economy’s major players are simultaneously trying to pay down debt by spending less than their income. Since my spending is your income and your spending is my income, this means a deeply depressed economy. It also means low interest rates, because another way to look at our situation is, to put it loosely, that right now everyone wants to save and nobody wants to invest. So we’re awash in desired savings with no place to go, and those excess savings are driving down borrowing costs.
“Under these conditions, of course, the government should ignore its short-run deficit and ramp up spending to support the economy. Unfortunately, policy makers have been intimidated by those false priests, who have convinced them that they must pursue austerity or face the wrath of the invisible market gods.
“Meanwhile, about the stock market: Stocks are high, in part, because bond yields are so low, and investors have to put their money somewhere. It’s also true, however, that while the economy remains deeply depressed, corporate profits have staged a strong recovery. And that’s a bad thing! Not only are workers failing to share in the fruits of their own rising productivity, hundreds of billions of dollars are piling up in the treasuries of corporations that, facing weak consumer demand, see no reason to put those dollars to work.
“So the message from the markets is by no means a happy one. What the markets are clearly saying, however, is that the fears and prejudices that have dominated Washington discussion for years are entirely misguided. And they’re also telling us that the people who have been feeding those fears and peddling those prejudices don’t have a clue about how the economy actually works.”
For the full column, go to: www.nytimes.com