January 16, 2013

Stealthflation "Race to the Bottom" *

Politicians generally make noise or law, but rarely both at once. That's why I'm not too concerned about the gun-grabbing hysteria in the news these days. The noise achieves multiple goals: It makes the loudest politicians look like they care the most and are "doing" the most; It also distracts from real issues like debt, spending, Benghazi, and the "Global 'Currency War.'"

The massive Fed balance sheet expansion has resulted in the U.S. dollar declining about 11 percent against a basket of world currencies since QE began in 2009. In the meantime, stock prices have doubled since their March 2009 lows and the Morgan Stanley Commodity Related Index has gained about 80 percent.

With the U.S. as its guide, competitive devaluation is expected to accelerate.

Strategas investment strategist Jason Trennert included the "race to the bottom" as one of his five principle investment themes of the year.

And yet, fuel prices continue to fall as domestic production soars (and world demand shrinks.) Think how inexpensive energy would be if you could buy it with a sound dollar.

* You thought "race to the bottom" was my characterization, didn't you? Actually it was, even before reading the article in full.

Monetary Policy We're from the government, and here to help. Posted by JohnGalt at January 16, 2013 3:18 PM

"... Think how inexpensive energy would be if you could buy it with a sound dollar..."

And also if the Central Planning apparatchiks would allow drilling so supply could rise along with demand. See the graph at http://is.gd/C9bEFj - and yes, thanks, Dick Nixon, for the EPA.

Hey, speaking of central planners, ruining the economy, and general recalcitrant idiocy, are you all doing something special to welcome Ken Salazar back to Colorado come March?

Posted by: Keith Arnold at January 16, 2013 5:02 PM

Again, I complement inflation on just how stealthy it is.

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) was unchanged in December on a seasonally adjusted basis, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 1.7 percent before seasonal adjustment.
The index for all items less food and energy increased 0.1 percent in December, the same increase as in November. Besides shelter, the indexes for airline fares, tobacco, and medical care also increased.

The indexes for recreation, household furnishings and operations, and used cars and trucks all declined in December.

The all items index increased 1.7 percent over the last 12 months, compared to a 1.8 percent figure in November. The index for all items less food and energy rose 1.9 percent over the last 12 months, the same figure as last month. The food index has risen 1.8 percent over the last 12 months, and the energy index has risen 0.5 percent.

Posted by: jk at January 17, 2013 1:15 PM

Respectfully, that is one reason I call it stealth-flation... because it is a low enough rate to escape serious notice. What is the over/under rate where you would expect people to consider a given year "inflationary?" I would put it at 3 percent. More than that and people raise an eyebrow but less? We've been conditioned to consider that "normal."

"The U.S. dollar declining about 11 percent" over a roughly 4-year period is 2.75% annually. May I be forgiven for wondering, if the central bankers can manipulate the money supply so precisely as to remain slightly below 3 percent, why don't they alternately target it slightly above zero?

Posted by: johngalt at January 17, 2013 7:11 PM

Bernanke's Textbook suggests a 2% inflation target. The problem with 0.0137% is that the tools are inexact, and the shock of deflation is considered perverse enough to accept 2% inflation. Better to miss at 2.5 than -0.5.

At the risk of opening another front in this war, 2% core CPI is acceptable to me because technology and trade are disinflationary.

Defending the Chairman is not my favorite job (not when there are toilets that require disinfecting or some old COBOL code that requires documenting), but the man wrote a textbook, he was hired to do what he said. He has done what he said pretty perfectly.

I look forward to his replacement (though it might be Maya Angelou with this Administration) and have come to accept from my economic betters that there are better plays than inflation targeting. Yet I cannot grasp the Strum and Drang. Nobody in government since President Polk or Guy Fawkes has ever done more closely what he or she professed.

Posted by: jk at January 17, 2013 7:32 PM

You make a good case that he did what he said he would do. That makes the fault not his, but ours for letting him have the job. I'm still not convinced that disinflation - saved money buying MORE in the future than it would now - does harm to anyone beside those who income derives from operating the currency system. Market forces are swift, certain and fair, inversely to the extent which government "manages" them.

Finally I should also say that 11 percent inflation over four years is over and above the average currency inflation in the "basket of world currencies" who are, no doubt, targeting non-negative inflation rates themselves. (Neener neener, we inflated our currency more that you pikers. We're winning the Currency War!)

Posted by: johngalt at January 18, 2013 2:33 PM


Posted by: jk at January 18, 2013 6:28 PM | What do you think? [6]