Global Econ Update
Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash
Just wanted to send you a short update on my progress (and shortcomings) on building Global Economics into what I envision it becoming.
I now have a small team of quality economics students from Quinnipiac University, where I teach and run the Central European Institute (www.qu.edu\cei). We are re-starting the short reports I used to release on InvestCEE around exchange rates, interest rates and stock markets.
There are two big differences this time, however. The first is that we have added countries. In addition to the core Central and East European countries of the Czech Republic (I still have a hard time calling is “Czechia”), Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia we added reports on the Australia, Canada, the European Union, Great Britain and the USA. The second is that we will develop these more than we did in the past. When I tried this solely within the university I couldn’t easily generate revenue and build. With Substack I can grow a revenue stream and eventually pay one student as a team leader, etc. and build from there.
My first step was to get a new team. Done. And you’ll see more work from the really great team of Luke Brown, Philip Caldarella, and Clayton Romanok. They are the new Quinnipiac Global Economics Research team.
Step two was to revive our old reports, add the new reports and update the code. This is in-progress. We updated the code and added new countries. We now have exchange rates for all the countries and interest rates for CEE (you’ll see the first report on that soon). We are working on stock market data for each country and on interest rates for the non-CEE countries as well.
The challenge is that we only use free, publicly available data. And the process of developing and coding the analysis, then writing the reports is a wonderful learning process for the students. I’m very proud of the new team. They are the best team at coding I’ve had and they are excellent economics students. So, in my assessment everything is on track.
Also, I have been thinking a lot about interest rates, bond markets and yield curves. How to represent these things in real-time in a meaningful yet simple-to-understand way is a good challenge for me and the team. The CEE interest rates were easy because they have a “harmonized” rate the EU developed to track them when they joined the EU. But it’s not really any actual interest rate and it doesn’t exist for other, non-EU countries. So I’m thinking about interest rates that would be comparable across countries and relevant for interest parity and exchange rate determination. Perhaps separately then I’ll develop reports around yield curves and bond markets. Anyway… thinking about this has slowed down things, but that’s okay. Half of my objective is to think, grow and help the team learn. Any feedback or suggestions on this is helpful. But it must be free, publicly available data. And available in all the countries mentioned above.
Step three (which starts while still working on step two) is real-time, live testing. I call this the “drumbeat”. Can the team generate these reports weekly, get them to me, I review and edit and post? If yes, then I develop and improve a process around this to make it efficient so we are capable of providing a drumbeat of reports that are simple, yet consistent and quality. And we’ve achieved this for the first few reports.
The challenge will come during exam periods and when the semester ends. So this is also a team management and transition challenge for me. And, just so you know, this is one thing that killed InvestCEE which grew as I envisioned it (very similar to Global Econ, just focused on the CEE region and still done half under Quinnipiac). It was working, people were reading and I had offers to buy bigger reports. Then Covid ended, some students dropped out and others graduated and the whole thing fizzled. This, in my opinion, is also a problem of non-profit things. Anyway… I’m acutely aware of this challenge.
My original hope was to post these update reports on the Global Econ Substack Site (I think of it like the main page of a news site). Then I might have emailed out one or two where I add comments or some insight and email a separate weekly - say, in a Monday report - I’d then have shared the links to the reports online or a schedule of what will be released. But that’s not possible.
I’m considering solutions. I always planned an eventual companion site that is more profit oriented where we can eventually develop deeper monthly and quarterly reports. I didn’t expect to get there for another year but one idea is to launch it sooner and start posting the short reports there. But I don’t want this too complicated. I purchased the domain name last year so I could do it. We’ll see.
Watching the “sausage being made” and feedback
The good or bad :-) news is that you’ll see all of this as my readers. But I also don’t want to flood your inboxes with a thousand little reports. That being said, I will be releasing these regularly and developing them. And I will share them all, just not all of them every week. I WELCOME and INVITE your FEEDBACK.
Many people have commented on these short reports. One comment was (and I paraphrase) “I love these short, easy to understand reports like the CEE exchange rate one. I don’t normally look at those.” But, they added “I don’t want a flood of these”. Yes, I know. No worries.
Another comment was (and I paraphrase again) “my first job was getting coffee and generating these morning reports from bloomberg and similar feeds. But even then, just putting them into word was of limited value and today it can be automated by AI. The real value is in explaining WHY these are moving the way they are.” Yes, I know.
Someone else has responded by simply going back and reading then liking and sharing all my past columns.
Thank you all for these comments!
Sincerely. I need more feedback, ideas and suggestions.
Steps from here and wrapping up for today
The next, I guess fourth, step is to combine and evolve the weekly, short reports. For example, after getting the CEE Interest Rate report running - and I have them report to me privately one or two weeks, then release them publicly one or two weeks first - I will then likely combine it with the CEE Exchange Rate report. The challenge is to still keep it simple. I don’t want 10 lines in a single graph. You’ll see it as soon as I am ready for a “drumbeat” for it.
The first level of that will also be simple, what I call “up/down” analysis as I’m sure you all see: “This exchange rate went up this week. This other one went down…”. And that’s the start.
But once exchange rates and interest rates are in one simple report, then it starts with “up/down” and we can slowly build from there. But I’ll do that iteratively over time. I have to develop the economic students to analyze and comment on these things. It’s not sustainable if I do all of it. So I’ll pick and choose but we’ll get there. I’m confident and this is actually an excellent team to do that with!
So, for now, hang in there. I’ll try to only release 2 short reports a week so as not to flood your inboxes. Read the ones you might find interesting, delete the others. And notice, they’ll be evolving over time.
We’ll then aim for a deeper monthly or perhaps bi-monthly report that dives a little deeper. The other stuff we care about isn’t updated daily like inflation and unemployment numbers.
And, I have notes for several columns but also have to build this and do my other 800 full-time jobs. This week I was teaching my classes, attended GeoWeek in Colorado (my ArenaCAD company, www.arenacad.com, had a booth, booth 740, https://www.geo-week.com/) and organizing an upcoming conference next weekend on “Passing the one-year mark: How the Ukrainian Displacement Crisis Shapes European and American Policy” (www.qu.edu\cei) that is bringing a US Senator, Former Foreign Minister of Poland, several CEE Ambassadors to the UN, and other specialists. It’ll be recorded and I’ll share that link for those interested.
And yes, Mom, I’m doing too much again. So my other challenge is to exit some things to make more time for economics in my life, including Global Econ. I may be 50, but I still answer to and love my Mom :-)
What happened to Jack?
Okay, fine, fine… Jack’s still here. He’s working with, mentoring and supporting the team. All these reports are based on his R-code which team members then develop further. I’ll also eventually make the code public and likely make a Python version as well. Again, these are great development projects for the students.
Jack’s actually working on the longer-term project. Recall my musings above about a companion site, and to “comment 2 above” that this can be automated. Jack already has this all automated in an online interface. So, in a year, say, anyone should be able to go, click a button and essentially generate any of the short reports and we even expect to code the “up/down” analysis so it’s all generated by what I would call machine learning instead of AI, but AI, if that’s the phrase you like here.
But 99% of the people don’t want to do that. They can do that now. Pay Bloomberg. The problem is that it’s like getting a cup of water from a fire hose.
So, I want regular and valuable reports coming through Global Economics. I read many of the other Substack and non-Substack columns. As a Christian, I was taught to always put others in the best, appropriate light. So let’s just say, I will keep this column about what I love and enjoy doing. And, I believe everything that flows from that will be of higher quality than much of what’s out there. I also believe there is an audience interested in CEE reports that are deeper. Those will be paid services and I hope to have those built with Jack and the team in the Fall this year. I will surely share the links to them with you all as I develop them.
Thank you all once again. This started with many friends signing up and reading. But many more people have added and I really welcome you all. I got comments from an economist in Brazil who loved my explanation of Phillips Curves and I get comments from CEE readers all the time.
For now, everything is actually free. Subscribe if you’d like to support my efforts. I truly and deeply appreciate it. As I develop reports I’m happy with and when I feel I have more, quality, valuable reports, I’ll start making those for paid subscribers only. I think. Or maybe I’ll make the companion site paid-only. I haven’t decided yet.
I plan to ALWAYS make my columns free. Just so you know. I use them in teaching and I love writing and it’s such an honor to have people care enough to read them, comment to me that it helped them understand some aspect - usually economic, obviously - of the world that they didn’t understand before. That’s my mission as an economics professor.
Thank you all again for reading and sharing this journey with me,
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