Fitch hitches to the anti-austerity bandwagon

Credit ratings agency argues against affects of austerity.

Fitch Ratings are jumping on the anti-austerity bandwagon, it seems. Their new research is unambiguous about the extent to which stimulus helped the US:

Oxford Economics’ Global Economic Model (GEM) suggests that the U.S. policy response to the recession increased aggregate GDP by more than 4 per cent two and three years after the trough of the last crisis than otherwise would have been the case. These policies helped to support GDP growth of 3.0 per cent in 2010 and 1.7 per cent in 2011, implying that the U.S. might still be mired in a recession absent this stimulus.

If you like your bandwagon-jumping in visual form, they are happy to accommodate:

This is, of course, the same Fitch Ratings which wrote two months ago, as it put the UK on negative outlook, that one of the things which would trigger a downgrade would be:

Discretionary fiscal easing that resulted in government debt peaking later and higher than currently forecast.

So in March, discretionary fiscal easing is enough to downgrade a country; in May, it's found to have caused a 4 per cent boost to GDP. Those don't sound like consistent positions.

We asked Fitch whether this new research affected their recommendation for the UK, but they declined to comment.

Bargain hunters shop for discounted merchandise at Macy's on 'Black Friday' on November 25, 2011 in New York City. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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Why relations between Theresa May and Philip Hammond became tense so quickly

The political imperative of controlling immigration is clashing with the economic imperative of maintaining growth. 

There is no relationship in government more important than that between the prime minister and the chancellor. When Theresa May entered No.10, she chose Philip Hammond, a dependable technocrat and long-standing ally who she had known since Oxford University. 

But relations between the pair have proved far tenser than anticipated. On Wednesday, Hammond suggested that students could be excluded from the net migration target. "We are having conversations within government about the most appropriate way to record and address net migration," he told the Treasury select committee. The Chancellor, in common with many others, has long regarded the inclusion of students as an obstacle to growth. 

The following day Hammond was publicly rebuked by No.10. "Our position on who is included in the figures has not changed, and we are categorically not reviewing whether or not students are included," a spokesman said (as I reported in advance, May believes that the public would see this move as "a fix"). 

This is not the only clash in May's first 100 days. Hammond was aggrieved by the Prime Minister's criticisms of loose monetary policy (which forced No.10 to state that it "respects the independence of the Bank of England") and is resisting tougher controls on foreign takeovers. The Chancellor has also struck a more sceptical tone on the UK's economic prospects. "It is clear to me that the British people did not vote on June 23 to become poorer," he declared in his conference speech, a signal that national prosperity must come before control of immigration. 

May and Hammond's relationship was never going to match the remarkable bond between David Cameron and George Osborne. But should relations worsen it risks becoming closer to that beween Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. Like Hammond, Darling entered the Treasury as a calm technocrat and an ally of the PM. But the extraordinary circumstances of the financial crisis transformed him into a far more assertive figure.

In times of turmoil, there is an inevitable clash between political and economic priorities. As prime minister, Brown resisted talk of cuts for fear of the electoral consequences. But as chancellor, Darling was more concerned with the bottom line (backing a rise in VAT). By analogy, May is focused on the political imperative of controlling immigration, while Hammond is focused on the economic imperative of maintaining growth. If their relationship is to endure far tougher times they will soon need to find a middle way. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.