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Top of Mind at Goldman Sachs

In each episode of “Top of Mind at Goldman Sachs,” Allison Nathan, a senior strategist in the firm’s Global Investment Research division and the creator and editor of the GS “Top of Mind” publication, explores macroeconomic issues that are on the minds of Goldman Sachs clients.

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Growth and Geopolitical Risk

The market has once again been gripped by recession fears at the same time that geopolitical and policy risk is flaring up. Some of these risks—like the US-China trade war—are feeding recessionary fears, while others—like the attack on Saudi oil facilities that led to the largest ever daily disruption in oil supplies—have gone almost unnoticed. And this is despite the fact that oil shocks were one of the most common causes of recession historically. Whether this complacency is warranted, and the vulnerability of the economy and markets to this and other geopolitical shocks, is Top of Mind. In this episode, Goldman Sachs’ Head of Energy Research Damien Courvalin explains why the oil market is much better positioned to deal with supply outages today, and thus is a less likely recession trigger than in the past. But the Council on Foreign Relations’ President, Richard Haass, and Columbia Professor Richard Nephew explain why instability looks set to rise in the Middle East and beyond. 


16 Oct 2019

Rank #1

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Reopening the Economy

With mitigation measures leading to an apparent leveling off of case growth globally at the same time that the economic costs of such measures continue to mount, several countries around the world have begun to plan for—or have already started to implement—economic reopening. But absent herd immunity or a vaccine, such reopenings increase the risk of a resurgence. With this in mind, what a safe reopening might look like, how well-positioned the US is to achieve one and how quickly reopening would really translate into economic recovery is Top of Mind.In this episode, we consult three experts on these questions: University of Pennsylvania’s Dr. Zeke Emanuel, Duke University’s Dr. Mark McClellan and Harvard University’s Dr. Barry Bloom. Finally, with more complete economic normalization only likely with an effective testing regime, treatments, or a widely available vaccine, we discuss where we are on all of the above.


30 Apr 2020

Rank #2

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Roaring Into Recession

Coronavirus has pushed the global economy into a recession of historic proportions and halted the longest-lasting equity bull market on record. As infections spread globally, economic activity collapses, markets recoil and policymakers respond, the depth and duration of the economic and market downturn is Top of Mind.In this episode, Allison Nathan speaks with the former Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, Jason Furman, and Goldman Sachs’ Chief Economist, Jan Hatzius. Both agree that the near-term economic damage will be severe, but whether it proves longer-lasting will depend largely on the virus’ trajectory and somewhat on policymakers, who have done a lot, but may need to do more to sustain households, businesses and market functioning in this difficult period. To that end, we assess the risk that the global health crisis becomes a financial crisis. And we discuss how this might play out in markets, and what investors should do from here. For that, we draw on the wisdom of Oaktree Co-Chairman, Howard Marks. His advice? Buy things with solid fundamentals when they go on sale.


26 Mar 2020

Rank #3

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2020’s Black Swan: Coronavirus

Amid many concerns heading into 2020, the event that no one expected was the outbreak of COVID-19—a coronavirus that first emerged in the populous city of Wuhan, China, and which is now proving to be both more infectious and virulent than the common flu. As China attempts to restart its economy after an unprecedented lockdown, the virus continues to spread globally, and data on the sizeable economic fallout starts to trickle in, coronavirus is Top of Mind. We feature expert interviews with Harvard’s Dr. Barry Bloom and University of Minnesota’s Dr. Michael Osterholm to better understand what we know—and don’t know—about the virus today. We also interview Goldman Sachs’ Chief Economist Jan Hatzius about the economic impact of the outbreak—both on global growth and actions of central banks around the world.


3 Mar 2020

Rank #4

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Fiscal Focus

With monetary policy, conducted by central banks, nearly exhausted in the major economies and low interest rates globally, whether fiscal policy, conducted by governments, should play a greater role from here is Top of Mind. In this episode, Goldman Sachs Research’s Allison Nathan interviews former IMF Chief Economist, Olivier Blanchard, Harvard professor, Alberto Alesina, and Goldman Sachs’ Chief Economist, Jan Hatzius. They discuss whether increased fiscal stimulus today would do more good than harm, and, even if it would, whether the economies that need it the most will pursue it. Our key takeaways: Germany should embrace a large fiscal expansion, but likely won’t; investors should expect some more fiscal stimulus in China, but only enough to avoid a sharp slowdown.Audio of former European Central Bank President Mario Draghi is courtesy of the European Central Bank YouTube channel via the Creative Commons Attribution license https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjIaLD4I8go).


2 Dec 2019

Rank #5

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Currency Wars

President Trump has voiced concern that a strong Dollar is damaging US competitiveness. Of course, exchange rates do matter for trade, and the US' non-oil trade balance has deteriorated sharply since the Dollar began to climb in 2014. So it’s no surprise that Trump’s laser focus on the US trade deficit would end up targeting Dollar strength—and that currency would become another front in the US-China trade war. Whether the US should, could, and would begin to proactively manage the Dollar, and whether these actions—or further trade war escalation—could lead to a global “currency war” is Top of Mind.  In this episode, Goldman Sachs Research’s Allison Nathan gets perspectives from the Peterson Institute’s Joseph Gagnon and the Council on Foreign Relations’ Brad Setser; both believe that Dollar strength and the associated US trade deficit are cause for concern, but see low odds of US foreign exchange intervention that triggers a currency war (Goldman Sachs analysts agree). But given that China has been managing the Yuan stronger than it otherwise would be, trade war escalation that motivates a sharp Yuan depreciation could be such a trigger.


17 Sep 2019

Rank #6

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Dissecting the Market Disconnect

With the US expansion now the longest on record and no shortage of risks on the horizon, growth uncertainty is Top of Mind. This uncertainty has been at the heart of the dovish pivot from central banks this year, which has generally helped push bond yields lower in anticipation of Fed rate cuts ahead, but equity prices higher. So just how concerned about growth should we really be? In this episode of the Top of Mind at Goldman Sachs podcast, Goldman Sachs Research’s Allison Nathan asks Bridgewater’s Ray Dalio, Goldman Sachs’ Jan Hatzius and others to weigh in. Dalio argues that recent price action makes sense given the Fed’s easier stance, but worries we’re pushing the limits of monetary easing, which—among other political and geopolitical factors—will ultimately bring about a negative shift in growth and markets. But Jan Hatzius argues that markets are perhaps too concerned about growth and not concerned enough about the direction of Fed policy, as the costs of easing now potentially outweigh the benefits.


16 Jul 2019

Rank #7

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Oil’s Seismic Shock

The global oil market is experiencing a massive demand shock, with demand for transportation fuels sitting in the crosshairs of the coronavirus crisis. At the same time, major oil producers have engaged in a war for oil market share, resulting in a sizable supply shock. The impact of these simultaneous shocks on oil prices, OPEC+, the oil industry, and credit and financial markets more broadly are Top of Mind.In this episode, Allison Nathan interviews three energy experts, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Daniel Yergin, PIRA Energy Group Founder, Gary Ross, and our own head of Global Commodities Research, Jeff Currie. They discuss the enormity of the current oil shock, how we got here, and what’s in store—namely, sharply lower, and even negative, crude oil prices as oil infrastructure is overwhelmed by the supply surge. But they also argue that the sharper the price decline, the sharper the eventual rebound as oil production is shut in. 


6 Apr 2020

Rank #8

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Central Bank Independence

The US Federal Reserve’s sharp pivot toward easing amid substantial White House pressure has raised concerns about central bank independence, as have developments in other advanced and emerging market economies alike. How worried we should be about this threat—and its implications for policy, the economy, and markets—is Top of Mind. In this episode, Goldman Sachs Research’s Allison Nathan interviews former central bankers Donald Kohn and Sir Paul Tucker who explain why central bank independence is critical to maintaining price and financial stability—even today when too little, rather than too much, inflation is the main problem. But while Kohn is concerned that Trump’s overt pressure could undermine Fed credibility, Tucker worries more that over-reliance on central banks since the GFC has left them vulnerable to politicization. Nathan also speaks with the firm’s chief economist Jan Hatzius who does not believe the Fed has responded directly to pressure from the White House, but does think that political pressure could already be influencing Fed policy through indirect channels such as bond market pricing. That said, Hatzius argues this in itself shouldn’t inflict too much harm on the economy unless inflationary pressures rise materially.


13 Aug 2019

Rank #9

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Trade Wars 3.0

The prospect of a larger and longer trade war has increased as US-China trade negotiations have taken a turn for the worse and President Trump has opened up trade battles on new fronts. Allison Nathan from Goldman Sachs Research speaks with experts about how we got here, where tensions may go from here, and potential implications for the global economy and beyond in this episode of Top of Mind at Goldman Sachs.


7 Jun 2019

Rank #10