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Inflation Rearing Its Ugly Head

Inflation Rearing Its Ugly Head

The world of finance and investment, as always, faces many uncertainties. The US economy is booming, say some, and others warn that money supply growth has slowed, raising fears of impending deflation. We fret about the banks, with a well-known systemically-important European name in difficulties. We worry about the disintegration of the Eurozone, with record imbalances and a significant member, Italy, digging in its heels. China’s stock market, we are told, is now officially in bear market territory. Will others follow? But there is one thing that’s so far been widely ignored and that’s inflation.

More correctly, it is the officially recorded rate of increase in prices that’s been ignored. Inflation proper has already occurred through the expansion of the quantity of money and credit following the Lehman crisis ten years ago. The rate of expansion of money and credit has now slowed and that is what now causes concern to the monetarists. But it is what happens to prices that should concern us, because an increase in price inflation violates the stated targets of the Fed. An increase in the general level of prices is confirmation that the purchasing power of a currency is sliding.

According to the official inflation rate, the US’s CPI-U, it is already running significantly above target at 2.8% as of May. Oil prices are rising. Brent (which my colleague Stefan Wieler tells me sets gasoline and diesel prices) is now nearly $80 a barrel. That has risen 62% since last June. If the US economy continues to grow the Fed will have to put up interest rates to slow things down. If it doesn’t, as money-supply followers fear, the Fed may still be forced to put up interest rates to contain price inflation.

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