Attempting to decide on the direction of the economy and interest rates today is no easy task. The path to intelligent answers is littered with countless variables that defy reasonable conclusions.
Since 1982, the United States, saddled with growing budget deficits, has been getting ever further behind the eight ball.
Three years ago it became apparent that our dependency on foreign capital to finance the budget deficit was reducing the country's control of its economic and financial destiny.
The strong dollar of the early 1980s started the country on a consumption binge that is still in process. The foreign exchange market, coupled with the Treasury Department's ambiguous "dollar policy," started the dollar on its downward spiral in early 1985.
As our trade deficit grew, the U.S. response was to generally keep pushing the dollar lower in hopes that the trade deficit would begin to narrow as the cheaper dollar increased foreign demand for our exports.
This in fact is happening, but our propensity to consume has kept the demand for imports high, as the October trade figures pointed out.
And so we find ourselves between the proverbial "rock and a hard spot" as far as fiscal and monetary policies are concerned.
With a presidential election on the horizon, the administration would like a healthy economy. But events beyond the government's control make it virtually impossible to assume that a good economy will in fact exist in November 1988.
With the economy beginning to strengthen in August and September, the Federal Reserve raised the discount rate from 5.50 percent to 6.00 percent on Sept. 4. The Japanese economy had similarly picked up a head of steam, and the monetary authorities responded by raising interest rates in Japan.
This in turn narrowed the yield differential, or spread, between Japanese and U.S. bonds to an unhealthy level. since foreign investors, to be enticed into purchasing our securities, demand a large pickup in yield as a cushion against the risk of a declining dollar.
Our dependency on foreign capital forced market yields higher so that foreign investors would have the cushion they needed -- in the wake of the declining dollar -- to buy our debt.
Probably what was not realized was that the Japanese had abandoned the U.S. bond market at midyear for our soaring stock market.
Then, Oct. 19 rolled around; the rest is history.
The Federal Reserve was forced to quickly and responsibly move from a restrictive monetary policy to one of ease in order to alleviate the financial crisis.
For many observers the key to rates then became how badly the consumer had been hurt in the collapse.
In addition, we worried about Congress and the administration doing something meaningful about the budget deficit, we wondered if the dollar would continue to decline and we waited for the September and October trade figures.
The point is that our economic and financial fate has become so vulnerable to outside pressures that we cannot unilaterally make decisions that would directly benefit the United States.
The fate of all the industrialized economies, the direction of our currencies and interest rates, have all become inextricably intertwined. James E. Lebherz has 28 years' experience in fixed-income securities