March 31, 2023

Even Pessimists Feel Optimistic Over Economy

But could the New Normal, as this long economic slog has been called, be growing old?

That is the surprising new view of a number of economists in academia and on Wall Street, who are now predicting something the United States has not experienced in years: healthier, more lasting growth.

The improving outlook is one reason the stock market has risen so sharply this year, even if street-level evidence for a turnaround, like strong job growth and income gains, has been scant so far.

A prominent convert to this emerging belief is Tyler Cowen, an economics professor at George Mason University near Washington and author of “The Great Stagnation,” a 2011 best seller, who has gone from doomsayer to a decidedly more optimistic perspective.

He is not predicting an imminent resurgence. Like most academic economists, Mr. Cowen focuses on the next quarter-century rather than the next quarter. But new technologies like artificial intelligence and online education, increased domestic energy production and slowing growth in the cost of health care have prompted Mr. Cowen to reappraise the country’s prospects.

“It’s better than it looked,” Mr. Cowen said. “Technological progress comes in batches and it’s just a little more rapid than it looked two years ago.” His next book, “Average Is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation,” is due out in September.

Certainly, there are significant headwinds that will not abate anytime soon, including an aging population, government austerity, the worst income inequality in nearly a century and more than four million long-term unemployed workers.

These and other forces prompted some leading economists, led by Robert J. Gordon of Northwestern, to conclude not long ago that the arc of American economic growth for centuries was over, to be replaced by decades of stagnation. Productivity might grow steadily, Professor Gordon argued, but the benefits will not flow to most Americans.

Other analysts are challenging that perspective, which they said was colored, in part, by the severe downturn that hit the global economy more than five years ago. And some of them now see a brighter outlook right around the corner, not just far into the future.

Two widely followed economic forecasters, Morgan Stanley and IHS Global Insight, have both increased their estimates for growth in recent days.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS. “There is more optimism about the U.S. and in particular about the second half of this year and 2014. Three months ago, we wouldn’t have come to that same conclusion.”

Indeed, a number of forecasters are now predicting that the expansion, which began in 2009 and has remained subpar ever since, might prove to be far more durable than the typical five-to-six-year growth cycle, in part because of the absence of the traditional boom, then bust pattern.

The optimistic view is hardly universal and there have been premature proclamations of better days before, most famously the “green shoots” spotted by Ben S. Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, in 2009.

Whether or not the economy is poised to grow faster in the months ahead will be the central question when Federal Reserve policy makers meet this week, with more volatility expected on Wall Street as traders look for any sign the Fed is ready to taper back its huge stimulus efforts.

Whatever the Fed’s conclusion, many analysts insist the more upbeat view is justified this time.

In particular, Mr. Behravesh and other economists said, the economy has shown greater resilience than expected in the face of tax increases and spending cuts in Washington. As the impact from this fiscal tightening eases, the overall growth rate should pick up.

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Bits Blog: Google Wants Love and 100 Other Things

Google wants love. But so do six other companies. They are after .love, actually, a new “top-level domain” that could catch on as .com, .org and .net did.

Love might not prevail, but chances are, at least one of the domains in 1,930 applications for new extensions will. The domains are the letters that follow the dot in Internet addresses, and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, known as Icann, revealed the new requests on Wednesday.

Google proved to be one of the more ambitious applicants. It spent almost $18.7 million applying for more than 100 top-level domains, some expected, some not. Not surprisingly, the search giant wants .google, .youtube, .goog and .plus. It was the only applicant vying for .fly, .new and .eat. But it is going to have to fight Johnson Johnson for .baby, Microsoft for .docs and .live, and Amazon for 17 top-level domains: .wow, .search, .shop, .drive, .free, .game, .mail, .map, .movie, .music, .play, .shop, .show, .spot, .store, .talk and .you.

Amazon also went after .tunes, .got, .author, .smile, .song, .joy, .bot, .like and .call. It does not appear that Facebook applied for any domain. Apple applied for .apple.

The most sought-after extension is .app, with 13 applicants though not Apple, which popularized the mobile application.

“The Internet is about to change forever,” said Rod Beckstrom, chief executive of Icann.

Icann is expected to approve hundreds of these extensions, the first of which should be in use by next year. Icann set the application fee high, at $185,000 a name, to try to discourage frivolous bids; still, more than 200 terms are being sought by more than one bidder. Icann decides who gets ownership of the contested top-level domains.

Icann will evaluate applicants in batches and consider various objections. Among the objections it will consider are those from rights holders. It would have very likely thrown out an application for .microsoft from an entity that is not Microsoft. The most common objection is likely to be the “limited public interest condition.” In those cases, people might object to a profit-making company like Google owning a generic top-level domain name like .love or .fun.

The geographical origin of the applications demonstrates the increasingly international nature of the Internet. While nearly half of the bids are from North America, more than 600 have come from Europe and about 300 from the Asia-Pacific region.

More than 100 of the applications are for extensions in non-Western alphabets. While so-called internationalized domain names have been phased in since 2010, the current expansion could accelerate the globalization of the Internet, Mr. Beckstrom said.

“That is going to mean a lot to the people in countries who maybe feel they haven’t benefited fully from the Internet,” he said.

While there are already several hundred dot suffixes, many of these, including country-specific domain names like .co and .uk, come with restrictions. There are only a handful of so-called generic top-level domains, including .info, .net, .org and the popular .com — which, according to supporters of the expansion plan, is running out of capacity for accommodating the digital world’s ever-growing addressing needs.

The expansion creates an opportunity for marketers, who will be able to develop Web sites with addresses ending in their companies’ brand names, or an entire category of products or services, like .music or .insurance.

There is also a lingering question about whether the new suffixes are needed at all. Some top-level domains that Icann has created in previous, smaller expansion rounds have attracted little interest. Many consumers find Web sites via search engines, rather than typing in an exact Web address. Others are increasingly using mobile applications, rather than the open Internet.

“This is an opportunity for brands, cities and countries to step out of what was this very limited — in my view — environment in which they could promote their brands,” said Alex Berry, senior vice president for enterprise services at Neustar, an Internet registry service that is working with clients like New York City, which is seeking the .nyc name. “This is a positive, a once-in-a-generation opportunity that we’ll look back on 10 years from now and say, ‘Wow.’ ”

The .wow domain, by the way, is sought by Google, Amazon and the online content publisher Demand Media.

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