A rare regime-change in economic policy is under way that’s edging central bankers out of the pivotal role they have played for decades.

Fiscal policy, which fell out of fashion as an engine of economic growth during the inflationary 1970s, has been front-and-center in the fight against Covid-19. Governments have subsidized wages, mailed checks to households and guaranteed loans for business. They’ve run up record budget deficits on the way — an approach that economists have gradually come to support, ever since the last big crash in 2008 ushered in a decade of tepid growth.

And the public spending that put a floor under the pandemic slump is increasingly seen as vital for a sustained recovery too. When it looks like drying up, as it did in the U.S. last week, investors start to worry.

Digging Deeper

Short of room to cut interest rates, developed economies have relied more heavily on fiscal stimulus in the current recession.

How long to keep the taps open will be a key theme at this week’s International Monetary Fund meetings — and the biggest challenge for politicians in charge of national budgets, once they emerge from crisis-fighting mode. Right now their own inhibitions about debt look like the main obstacle, as traditional barriers melt away.

Financial markets, where bond vigilantes were once reckoned to exert a powerful check on deficit-spending governments, are ready to lend them money at very low interest rates. The short-run concern for investors is that politicians will stall the recovery by spending too little. JPMorgan predicts that this year’s big fiscal boost to the global economy may turn into a 2.4 percentage-point drag on growth in 2021, as virus relief programs expire.

The same worry weighs on monetary authorities, whose autonomy from the rest of government was designed so they

China built its relatively quick recovery through several measures, including stringent lockdown and population tracking policies intended to contain the virus. The government also set aside hundreds of billions of dollars for major infrastructure projects, and offered cash incentives to stimulate spending among its populace. The payoff has been evident, as tourism and spending rebounded during last week’s busy Golden Week holiday period.

By the end of the year, China’s share of global GDP is likely to rise by about 1.1 percentage points, according to a CNN Business calculation using World Bank data. That’s more than triple the share it gained in 2019. By contrast, the United States and Europe will see their shares dip slightly.

All told, China’s economy is expected to be worth about $14.6 trillion by the end of 2020, roughly equivalent to 17.5% of global GDP.

Even without the disruption caused by the virus, China’s share would have ticked up this year, according to Larry Hu, chief China economist for Macquarie Group. But China’s ability to buck the worldwide trend is accelerating the growth in its importance to the global economy.

“The recovery in China has been much stronger than the rest of the world,” Hu added.

A worker in the workshop of a textile company presses out orders for products for the domestic and foreign markets in Haian city, Jiangsu Province, China, on October 3.

A Golden Week boom

The economic improvement has been no more apparent than during this past week, when the country celebrated one of its annual Golden Week holidays. This season’s festivities marked the founding of the People’s Republic of China and the Moon Festival, and was one of the country’s busiest travel seasons of the year.

More than 630 million people traveled around the country during Golden Week, which ended Thursday, according to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. That’s nearly 80% of the numbers who traveled during the same period last year.

What pandemic? Crowds swarm the Great Wall of China as travel surges during holiday week
Tourist spending, meanwhile, recovered to nearly

(Reuters) – The U.S. bank sector has been pummeled this year but investors hunting for bargains there may need deep reserves of patience as banks are particularly sensitive to low interest rates, the uneven economic recovery and the muddy stimulus outlook.

The S&P 500 Bank subsector , which kicks off its third-quarter earnings season on Oct. 13, was last down 33.7% for the year-to-date compared with a 5.8% gain for the S&P 500 index.

Banks have been such a drag on the broader S&P financial index that its 19% year-to-date decline is second only to energy’s 49.9% drop among the S&P 11 major sectors.

To be sure, if lawmakers in Washington manage to reach an agreement, a new fiscal stimulus package could help banks if it boosts U.S. loan growth, interest rates and economic activity.

And the bank index is up 12% from its intraday trough on Sept. 2 to a peak on Oct. 6 as yields for longer-dated U.S. treasuries have risen with stimulus hopes as banks profit from higher interest rates.

But investors are unconvinced that recent gains will be sustainable as the Federal Reserve has signaled plans to keep overnight rates low for the foreseeable future in order to aid an economic recovery, which is expected to take years.

“You’re looking at years for this sector to make a full recovery. It will take a lot of positive things to happen in the U.S. economy for it to get back to the type of performance we are seeing in the broader S&P,” said Rick Meckler, partner, Cherry Lane Investments, a family investment office in New Vernon, New Jersey. “Investors, in my view, will need to be patient.”

Banks were outperforming the market on Thursday on renewed hopes for stimulus pact after U.S. President Donald Trump said, without

Employer-sponsored health insurance premiums rose 4 percent over the past year, outpacing the increase in workers’ wages and the rate of inflation, according to an analysis released Thursday by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Average annual premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance are now $7,470 for a single plan and $21,342 for a family plan, up 4 percent from the previous year. Those dollar amounts include both worker and employer contributions.

Meanwhile, wages increased by 3.4 percent alongside 2.1 percent inflation. 

About 157 million people get their insurance through work, and the costs have steadily risen over the years.

The average premium for family coverage, including the employer contribution, has increased 22 percent over the last five years and 55 percent over the last decade.

In 2020, on average, workers contributed 17 percent of the premium for single coverage — about $1,243 — and 27 percent for family coverage, or about $5,588.

Rising health care costs have been one of the reasons behind stagnant wages.

Eighty-three percent of covered workers had an annual deductible for single coverage that must be met because most services are paid for by the plan, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation analysis.

The average deductible for single coverage was $1,644 in 2020, similar to the average deductible last year.

Sixty-five percent of covered workers have coinsurance that requires they pay for a percentage of their care of meeting their deductible.

The analysis concluded that health care costs were stable in 2020, with premium increases modest and consistent with recent years. However, as the analysis was conducted in the early days of the pandemic, it doesn’t address how employers responded to it.

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