Best of the Week
Most Popular
1.Crude Oil Price Trend Forecast 2016 Implications for Stock Market - Nadeem_Walayat
2.Odds of Winning Walkers Crisps Spell & Go olidays K, C and D Letters - Sami_Walayat
3.Massive Silver Price Rally During The Coming US Dollar Collapse - Hubert_Moolman
4.Pope Francis Calls For Worldwide Communist Government - Jeff_Berwick
5.EU Referendum Opinion Polls Neck and Neck Despite Operation Fear, Support BrExit Campaign - Nadeem_Walayat
6.David Morgan: There Will Soon Be a Run to Gold Like You've Never Seen Before - Mike Gleason
7.British Pound Soars on BrExit Hopes Despite Remain Establishment Fear Mongering - Nadeem_Walayat
8.Gold Price Possible $200 Rally - Bob_Loukas
9.The Federal Reserve is Not Going To Raise Interest Rates and Destroy Gold - Michael_Swanson
10.Silver Miners’ Q1’ 2016 Fundamentals - Zeal_LLC
Free Silver
Last 7 days
It Feels Like Inflation - 26th May 16
Negative Interest Rates Set to Propel the Dow Jones to the Stratosphere? - 26th May 16
S&P Significant Low has Occurred – Not Likely! - 26th May 16
Statistics for Funeral Planning in UK Grave - 26th May 16
Think Beyond Oil And Gold: Interview With Mike 'Mish' Shedlock - 26th May 16
Hard Times and False Mainstream Media Narratives - 26th May 16
Will The Swiss Guarantee 75,000 CHF For Every Family? - 26th May 16
Is There A Stocks Bear Market in Progress? - 26th May 16
Billionaires Are Wrong on Gold - 26th May 16
How NOT to Invest in the Gold Market - 26th May 16
The Black Swan Spotter...Which Saw the Oil-Crash coming; now says the “Invisible Hand” will push Brent to $85 by Christmas - 26th May 16
U.S. Household Debt Still Below 2008 Peak - 25th May 16
Brexit: Wrong Discussion, Wrong People, Wrong Arguments - 25th May 16
SPX is at Strong Resistance - 25th May 16
US Dollar, Back From the Grave? - 25th May 16
Gold : Just the Facts Ma’am - 25th May 16
The Worst Urban Crisis in History Could be Upon Us - 24th May 16
Death Crosses Across The Board Are IRREFUTABLE Stock Market Sell Signals - 24th May 16
Bitcoin Trading Alert: Bitcoin Price Stays below $450 - 24th May 16
Stock Market Crash Death Cross Doom Prevails - 23rd May 16
Did AMAT Chirp? Implications for the Economy and Gold - 23rd May 16
Stocks Extended Their Rebound On Friday - Will They Continue Higher? - 23rd May 16
UK Treasury Propaganda Warns of 3.6% Brexit Recession, the £64 Billion Question? - 23rd May 16
Stock Market Support Breached, But Not Broken! - 23rd May 16
George Osborne Warns of 18% Cheaper House Prices - BrExit for First Time Buyers - 22nd May 16
Gold Bull-Phase I Continues to Confound (The Trek to “Known Values”) - 22nd May 16 r
Avoiding a War in Space - 22nd May 16
Will Venezuela Be Forced to Embrace the US Dollar? - 21st May 16
Danish Central Bank Stumbles with Its Currency Peg to the Euro - 21st May 16
SPX Downtrend Underway - 21st May 16
George Osborne Warns of More Affordable UK Housing Market if BrExit Happens - 21st May 16
Gold And Silver 11th Hour: Globalists 10 v People 0 - 21st May 16
David Morgan: There Will Soon Be a Run to Gold Like You've Never Seen Before - 21st May 16
Gold Stocks Following Bull Analogs - 20th May 16
The Gold Chart That Has Central Banks Extremely Worried - 20th May 16
Silver Miners’ Q1’ 2016 Fundamentals - 20th May 16
Stock Market Rally At the End of the Road? - 20th May 16
British Pound Soars on BrExit Hopes Despite Remain Establishment Fear Mongering - 20th May 16
NASDAQ 100, FTSE, and British Pound - When Rare Market Data Screams, Listen  - 20th May 16
Unintended Consequences, Part 1: Easy Money = Overcapacity = Deflation - 19th May 16
The Federal Reserve is Not Going To Raise Interest Rates and Destroy Gold - 19th May 16
Stock Market Final Supports Are Broken - 19th May 16
Gold - Pro-Inflation? Anti-USD? - 19th May 16
Further Stock Market Uncertainty As Indexes Gained On Friday, Will Uptrend Resume? - 19th May 16
What This U.S. Presidential Election Tells Us About Her Millennial Generation - 18th May 16
Stock Market Trendline Broken on Fed Announcement - 18th May 16
An Incredibly Simple, Rarely Used Way to Book 170% Investing Gains - 18th May 16
Statistically Significant Stock Market Death Cross? - 18th May 16
Precisely Wrong on US Dollar, Gold? - 18th May 16
What You Can Gain From One Tech CEO's $355 Million Loss - 18th May 16
The ‘Tide’ has turned… NEGATIVE For STOCKS!!! - 18th May 16
Goldman Sachs's - Regulatory Climate is Chilling Deals; Hatzius Not Worried About a Recession - 18th May 16
Bitcoin Price Remains above $450 - 18th May 16
Crude Oil Price Trend Forecast 2016 Implications for Stock Market - 17 May 16
Could the National Debt Really Grow as High as $31 Trillion by 2023? - 17 May 16
Gold Price Possible $200 Rally - 17 May 16
Crisis Investing - Jim Rogers on “Buying Panic” - 17 May 16

Free Instant Analysis

Free Instant Technical Analysis


Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

Why 95% of Traders Fail

U.S. Inflation Comeback: Did Inflation Ever Go Away?

Economics / Inflation Mar 14, 2016 - 04:58 PM GMT

By: Mike_Shedlock

Economics

This is a guest post by Joseph Y. Calhoun at Alhambra Investment Partners. His post starts off with this quote by Stanley Fischer, Fed Vice-Chair in a speech before the National Association for Business Economics.

Says Fischer "We may well at present be seeing the first stirrings of an increase in the inflation rate -- something that we would like to happen."


Is Inflation About To Make A Comeback? by Joseph Y. Calhoun

Anyone renting an apartment over the last few years might well wonder what rock Mr. Fischer has been residing beneath - and whether it was rent controlled. Certainly not all prices have been as reluctant to rise as the CPI itself which has been running quite a bit beneath the Fed's target the last few years. But relative price changes, where the price of one good or service rises as another falls are not inflation by any definition. And so despite the rapid increase in rents the even more dramatic drop in the price of oil and other commodities means that the CPI and the other measures of official inflation have not risen as fast as our monetary minders would like. They would like us to be impoverished at a more rapid clip apparently. I've never really understood the economic profession's fear of deflation. It is, after all, the very evidence that capitalism is all it's cracked up to be. Improving productivity, the very definition of economic growth, is deflationary.

In any case, when I speak of inflation I don't really care much about the CPI or the other government sponsored price measures. Price indexes are nothing more than attempts - inevitably flawed - at measuring the value of the currency, the US dollar in the case of America. What the CPI or the GDP deflator or the PCE deflator attempt to measure is the purchasing power of the dollar. I prefer to observe the value of the dollar more directly. The various dollar indexes provide us with information about the dollar's value versus other currencies. Gold provides an indication of the value of the dollar as do general commodity indexes. So when I ask if inflation is about to make a comeback, what I'm really wondering is if the value of the dollar is about to fall. I prefer these measures not because they are more accurate - although I think they generally are - but because they are more timely. Prices will follow the value of the dollar eventually but the impact on investments is much quicker.

The movements of the dollar can have a dramatic impact. Just witness the incredible changes in the energy industry over the last two years as oil prices collapsed. The explanations for that collapse are myriad and some of them conspiratorial but there seems little doubt the dollar played a major role. It is not mere coincidence that the dollar started to rise strongly and oil started to fall at the same time in mid-2014. I suppose one might argue about causation - the fall in oil prices may have caused the rise in the dollar - but that the two were linked seems beyond question. It might be that causation ran both ways but frankly I'm not sure it matters; the dollar value will impact the price of oil and other commodities. There may be other supply/demand fundamentals having an impact on individual commodities but when they rise or fall together, the culprit is always the dollar. And in this case it wasn't just oil that was falling.

The rise of the dollar and the fall in commodity prices over the last two years has had a dramatic impact on the global economy and markets. South America is in the midst of one of its periodic bouts of stagflation as capital flees and currencies collapse (Chile as usual an exception). Japan's devaluation - the flip side of the dollar rise - produced rapidly rising Yen profits for Japanese corporations and a bull market in stocks even if the economic results left a lot to be desired. That's probably because the rest of Asia felt obliged to let their currencies fall against the dollar as well. The fall off in emerging market growth, a function of capital outflows and lower commodity prices, offset any advantage Europe gained by going first in the global currency war, the Euro falling from 150 to 125 before the Yen even peaked in early 2012.

The stronger dollar also had an impact right here at home as lower oil prices pressured the energy industry. The collapse in oil prices and the deterioration in shale companies' balance sheets pushed credit spreads wider as investors fled the junk bond market. That has had an impact on all lower rated companies trying to get financing in that market and has likely had an impact on growth at the margin. GDP growth has been weaker than expected, the long awaited acceleration deferred again. Capital spending has remained subdued, consumption has grown only slowly as inventories built and individuals opted for more saving. Manufacturing is in recession and profits are down for three straight quarters. In short, the US economy has been a big disappointment.

It is in that now reduced growth outlook that one must look for clues about the future course of the dollar. A brighter growth outlook played a role in attracting capital to the US and driving up the value of the dollar. As that growth outlook has dimmed so has demand for dollars and US investments. The dollar index peaked a year ago and even emerging market currencies have recently been rising against the greenback. The outlook for Fed policy has moved in a dovish direction as rate hikes keep getting pushed out. Global growth expectations are equalizing, something I started anticipating a year ago , and as they do the relative strength of the dollar wanes.

It is frankly hard to see a reason for the US dollar to weaken significantly. US growth may be disappointing but it is still positive and better than most of the rest of the world. Interest rates here are at least positive, something increasingly rare in our upside down world. And while the Fed may be pushing out rate hikes they still seem intent on moving in that direction. So, why would the dollar weaken here? Why would someone prefer Yen or Euros or $A or $C right now, much less Brazilian Reals or Colombian Pesos?

It may be as simple as relative values - asset prices outside the US, especially in emerging markets, are cheap. Maybe China's economy isn't in as much trouble as everyone seems to believe. Or maybe they will go on another fiscal borrowing and spending binge. Maybe Europe is ready for a cyclical upturn even if negative rates and QE haven't accomplished much. The arrest of Lula may mean the Brazilian Petrobras scandal is nearing an end. Is the political change in Argentina a harbinger of better political outcomes in other parts of South America?

A fundamental explanation for renewed dollar weakness may come from closer to home. The US economy is not performing well and bond markets are pointing to continued weakness. Real interest rates have recently slipped into negative territory. Credit spreads have improved over the last few weeks but the trend is still negative. Earnings just logged their third straight negative quarter and Q1 2016 looks to make it four. While a recession probably shouldn't be the base case for the US, it certainly can't be ruled out. We probably shouldn't discount politics either in this election year. The leading candidates - for now anyway - don't inspire much confidence and most of them seem intent on offending as many foreigners as possible. Not exactly the way to encourage capital inflows that might bolster the dollar.

The markets are already moving toward a more inflationary future. The dollar index peaked a year ago and has been trading in a roughly 8% range since. Gold is up 20% since early December and gold stocks are up quite a lot more. TIPs have suddenly found a bid after trailing the rest of the bond market, up over 3% since mid-December. Copper is up 15%. Crude oil is up a stunning 46% from its low. The SPDR Metals & Mining ETF is up 65% since mid-January. The Materials ETF is up 16%. Even the general commodity ETF, GSG, is up over 17% from its low. The move into weak dollar investments has been rapid and probably reflects more short covering than real investment buying but buying it is.

Inflation expectations, fears, are rising and markets are responding. Markets are not infallible and it could be that these moves are quickly reversed as the deflationary fears of the last few years return. But I have my doubts. It has always seemed inevitable that the aggressive monetary policies of the world's central banks would end in inflation. We may have finally reached the point where everyone looks askance at fiat currencies, preferring to hold their capital in real assets rather than ones that depend on confidence in economists and politicians. Considering the track record of economists and their models and the current crop of Presidential candidates the only wonder is that it has taken so long.

End of Calhoun Article

I like many of Calhoun's observations, especially this one:

"I've never really understood the economic profession's fear of deflation. It is, after all, the very evidence that capitalism is all it's cracked up to be. Improving productivity, the very definition of economic growth, is deflationary."

Bingo: Productivity improvements are inherently price deflationary. Central banks are hell-bent on stopping a true benefit of capitalism.

Calhoun says the CPI is fatally flawed. I agree. In fact, all attempts to measure inflation by measuring prices are flawed by individual preferences as well as an impossibility to measure some prices precisely.

For those who own a home, rising prices does not seem inflationary. For those who don't own a home and want to buy one, price inflation is a huge problem. And renters see things quite differently than homeowners.

Also, some prices are more nebulous than others, such as the price of a home. And some people believe home prices should be in the CPI and others don't.

Direct Observation

Calhoun says "I prefer to observe the value of the dollar more directly. ... So when I ask if inflation is about to make a comeback, what I'm really wondering is if the value of the dollar is about to fall."

In effect, he is coming up with his own version of the CPI, measuring things he believes ought to be in it.

I receive emails all the time regarding personal inflation measurements. The number one complaint is health care. But those over 65, on Medicare, don't complain as much.

Direct observation will yield a different measure for each observer.

Someone in the Eurozone, looking at what a Euro buys, probably sees deflation now. Then again, someone in Spain sees things differently than someone in Greece or Germany.

Alternative Measures

I prefer to view inflation and deflation in terms of credit expansion and contraction.

I picked credit expansion or contraction marked-to-market as that is what will influence stock prices, bank lending, hiring, and a host of other factors.

Others see things solely in terms of money supply expansion as measured by "True Money Supply".

But as long as one defines their measure, we can discuss it.

In light of my own definition, we have been in an inflationary period since March of 2009 or so.

Gold, Crude, the Dollar

Crude is up 46% but gasoline prices are up half that. Gold is up 20% or so, but is that in anyone's price basket?

It's important to be consistent. If we are to measure inflation by observation of recent weakness in the dollar and the surge in the price commodities like crude, gold, and copper, then we just came through one of the most deflationary periods in history!

Did we just have a massive bout of deflation? If Calhoun is consistent in his observations, apparently we did.

I am a deflationist and I don't see it that way. However, I do expect another deflationary credit bust based on declining asset prices.

Final Thoughts

Calhoun concludes "We may have finally reached the point where everyone looks askance at fiat currencies, preferring to hold their capital in real assets rather than ones that depend on confidence in economists and politicians. Considering the track record of economists and their models and the current crop of Presidential candidates the only wonder is that it has taken so long."

I sympathize, but it's not quite that easy.

Take a look at housing. Prices are capped by what millennials can and will pay. Oil is capped or at least slowed by China's rebalancing. So are base metals.

What about home prices in China, Australia, Canada, and the UK? Are we about to witness a rush into those assets or did we already have that rush?

Some real asset prices are capped by debt and currently dependent on the "greater fool".

Are Interest rates headed to the moon?

I don't think so. Those who do think interest rates are headed to the moon and the dollar will collapse into oblivion need to explain negative rates in Europe and five other countries, and the massive debt-to-GDP ratio of Japan.

What's Left?

Guess what hard asset is left, one with no debt or associated liabilities?

Gold.

By Mike "Mish" Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com

Click Here To Scroll Thru My Recent Post List

Mike Shedlock / Mish is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management . Sitka Pacific is an asset management firm whose goal is strong performance and low volatility, regardless of market direction.

Visit Sitka Pacific's Account Management Page to learn more about wealth management and capital preservation strategies of Sitka Pacific.

I do weekly podcasts every Thursday on HoweStreet and a brief 7 minute segment on Saturday on CKNW AM 980 in Vancouver.

When not writing about stocks or the economy I spends a great deal of time on photography and in the garden. I have over 80 magazine and book cover credits. Some of my Wisconsin and gardening images can be seen at MichaelShedlock.com .

© 2016 Mike Shedlock, All Rights Reserved.

Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.

Mike Shedlock Archive

© 2005-2016 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

Catching a Falling Financial Knife