The Morning Economic Report

Monday-Friday at 7:33 am

Anirban Basu, Chariman Chief Executive Officer of Sage Policy Group (SPG), is one of the Mid-Atlantic region's leading economic consultants.  Prior to founding SPG he was Chairman and CEO of Optimal Solutions Group, a company he co-founded and which continues to operate. Anirban has also served as Director of Applied Economics and Senior Economist for RESI, where he used his extensive knowledge of the Mid-Atlantic region to support numerous clients in their strategic decision-making processes.  Clients have included the Maryland Department of Transportation, St. Paul Companies, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Players Committee and the Martin O'Malley mayoral campaign.

He is the author of numerous regional publications including the Mid-Atlantic Economic Quarterly and Outlook Maryland. Anirban completed his graduate work in mathematical economics at the University of Maryland.  He earned a Masters in Public Policy from Harvard University in 1992.  His Bachelors in Foreign Service is from Georgetown University and was earned in 1990.

Among the new policy concepts floating around is the idea of universal basic income or UBI.  This universal basic income takes the form of a payment made by the public sector to every adult whether they need it or not.  This is different than welfare since payment is not based upon one’s income, and its different from social security since payment is not based on age. 

China has been a focal point of investors, economists and others during the initial weeks of twenty sixteen.  Much of the attention has been given to plunging share values on the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges as well upon the missteps of policymakers in managing the currency.  Less attention has been given to China’s increasingly fragile labor market. 

Though retail sales have been a bit sluggish of late, data indicate that consumer debt is still on the rise.  According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, by the end of last year’s third quarter, it totaled twelve trillion dollars.  While that’s still lower than the twelve point seven trillion dollar figure that prevailed in two thousand and eight, aggregate consumer debt has been on the rise since late two thousand and thirteen. 

You may have been surprised over the last few months as oil prices have continued to tumble.  A few years ago, when oil prices were surging higher, some analysts were discussing the concept of peak oil – the notion that the world was running oil of oil.  But the world today is awash in crude oil, with enough extra oil produced last year to fuel all of Great Britain. 

If you have more debt on your household balance sheet than you would like, you may derive some solace from the fact that you are not alone.  According to a recent report from CardHub, Americans ended last year with more than nine hundred billion dollars on credit cards.  As reported by CNNMoney, Beverly Hills had the highest average credit card debt at nearly thirteen thousand six hundred dollars. 

The employment from the Bureau of Labor Statistics released two weeks ago indicated that average hourly earnings are up in the U.S. by two point five percent over the past year.  That level of wage growth falls well short of the wage gains experienced during the 1980's, 1990's and mid 2000's. 

During the final month of twenty fifteen, African-American unemployment in the U.S. declined to its lowest mark since September two thousand and seven.  That means that African-American unemployment is back to pre-recession levels. 

It’s still early in the year, but the World Bank has already cut its growth forecast for twenty sixteen.  Earlier this month, the World Bank announced that weak performance in several major emerging market economies has dampened optimism.  World output this year is expected to expand by 2.9 percent. 

We now have data indicating the best and worst investments of twenty fifteen.  Let’s begin with currencies.  Those of you who though that the Azerbaijani Manat would rise were way off.  That currency fell about fifty percent to a twenty year low after the central bank there relinquished control of its exchange rate. 

Christmas was less than a month ago and it may be too soon to think about what presents you should purchase for friends and family during the next holiday season.  But over the course of the year, there will be birthdays, anniversaries and other events that will require you to produce gifts.  Why not give people things that they value?