The author is a senior researcher at Harvard Kennedy School
It is difficult to sympathize with those who have to be about the 2022 macroeconomic outlook. The path of growth and inflation has been uncertain, and now the new coronavirus variant Omicron adds unknowns. CEO of Moderna Tell the Financial Times Existing vaccines may be much less effective against Omicron. The CEO of BioNTech optimism It is expected that people who are fully vaccinated will only face moderate illnesses.The World Health Organization stated that the spread of this variant may be higher, but competition The vaccine should prevent severe cases. And these are experts.
Over time, we will know the answer. But the central bank governors who are meeting this month have no time.this United States Federal Reserve The meeting will be held on December 14-15, and the Bank of England and the European Central Bank will meet on December 16. Will Omicron drag down demand that needs stimulus? Or will inflation be pushed up further, and monetary policy needs to be tightened?
The best-case scenario is that Omicron is highly contagious and it becomes dominant, but it only causes minor cases and does not have long-term effects—evolving into a version of seasonal flu. Another good result is that the vaccine is still very effective and there are few breakthrough cases, which is moderate. In either case, the basic assumption of central bank officials — that inflation will peak next year as supply chain disruptions decrease — may prove to be correct.
However, if the variant has sufficient transmission capacity to become dominant, cause serious diseases and bypass vaccines, then the impact on the global economy will certainly be great, if it is not yet clear. People may stop working again. According to a survey conducted by The Conference Board in August, respondents’ biggest concerns about returning to the workplace are fear of contracting Covid and fear of exposing their family members. This is done in the context of free and highly effective vaccines.
If workers stay at home because of the new variants, supply chain disruption will intensify and prices may rise faster. Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell emphasized this result in the report. Congressional testimony this week.
However, negative conditions may also lead to a slowdown in price increases. Even without new variants, the surge in demand caused by the reopening of the economy is expected to be eased.Actual income and Personal savings It has returned to the pre-pandemic trend. Coupled with a deadly virus, we have almost no protective measures, and it is very likely that people will stop going out and spending money next year when supplies start to increase.
leader youS and Europe have vowed not to implement new blockade measures. But some people may feel that they have no choice.Austria imposes Temporary lockdown Before the Omicron variant appeared, to resolve the outbreak of the Delta variant. German Hospital Before Omicron appeared, Delta had set a record.
Even if there is no lockdown, demand may fall.according to Research A study conducted by Austan Goolsbee and Chad Syverson of the University of Chicago showed that the collapse of U.S. travel in the spring and winter of 2020 was more due to changes in voluntary behavior than government-enforced blockades.
Given the acceleration of inflation in Europe and the United States, the central bank is unlikely to step on the stimulus pedal again on metal. But will the variant ease their plan to slowly withdraw from the accommodation? Even in the face of a collapse in demand, there will be a huge lag in monetary policy, and vaccines can adapt to new variants within a few months.
Omicron will not let us go all the way back to the uncertainty of March 2020. But it warned that no matter how this variant gets rid of, other mutations will almost certainly follow. You really don’t have to sympathize with the central bank governors, but you may be able to let them relax.