In financial markets, the optimism of the past months lingers on. In January, benchmark yields on government bonds rose in many countries, particularly at the long end. A steeper yield curve typically signals faith in higher growth, so this is a double confirmation. Meanwhile, credit spreads fell, indicating a willingness to take on more risk. Many stock markets did end the month in negative territory, after mixed news on vaccine roll-outs, but the margins were small.
The IMF actually just raised its 2021 GDP growth forecast by 0.3 percentage points, although it felt obliged to emphasise the exceptional uncertainty. Curiously absent from the latest update, though, is a reference to the arguably temporary spike in the savings rate. In my mind, this is a powerful indication of the pent-up demand that may propel the economy forward once the pandemic is under control.
In Norway, the savings rate has tended to oscillate between 6 and 8 per cent. Now, Statistics Norway estimates last year's savings rate at almost 15 per cent. That's a lot of consumption waiting to happen!
Of course, we all tighten our purse strings in times of great uncertainty. That's why countercyclical fiscal policies were introduced in the first place. This time, though, there's a lot of purchases that we've been unable to make – like travel, dining out ... even visiting stores of all kinds. Don't tell me you'd like to keep up your newfound frugality once life returns to normal.
That, at least, is a message the financial markets don't believe in.
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