Is the U.S. back? That’s the big question in the global economy right now. Earlier this week, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke suggested that he’d be tiptoeing away from the Fed’s asset buying program, perhaps as early as the fall, since the U.S. economy was showing signs of recovery. That news, along with weaker than expected Chinese growth data, helped send Japan’s Nikkei stock market index crashing. Ironically, the weakness of the U.S. economy over the last several years is one reason that asset prices have stayed high, since central bankers have been buying up bonds and other lower risk assets, and pushing other investors into risker categories like stocks, buoying prices.
Now, everyone is waiting to see how the Fed’s exit from “quantitative easing” is going to play out. This week, on WNYC’s Money Talking, BlackRock Investment Institute senior director Peter Fisher and I discussed the implications of the Fed’s exit, and what’s really happening with consumers and companies in the real economy. According to Fisher, the jury is still out about whether the Fed will be able to pull back from it’s asset buying program without a major market correction. But the bigger issue is wages — at some point, in an economy that’s made up of 70% consumer spending, you’ve got to have wage growth to have a real recovery. Next week we’ll get some big news on that score, with the University of Michigan consumer confidence numbers out. For more on where the markets and the real economy are going, listen in on this week’s episode of Money Talking.