I was asked once again why all this central-bank “money-printing” along with global zero-interest-rate or even negative-interest-rate policies haven’t caused a big bout of inflation, considering how currencies are getting watered down.
It’s a crucial question that baffled many minds for a while, but now, as this thing has been dragging out for seven years, bouncing from one major central bank to the next, without end in sight, the answer is becoming clearer.
This chart by NBF Economics and Strategy shows the growing pile of assets, expressed in dollars, that the “four big central banks” – Fed, ECB, Bank of Japan, and Bank of England – have heaped on their balance sheets: nearly $11 trillion. This does not include what China is doing. The forecasts for 2016 and 2017 assume that the Fed and the Bank of England will stay away from QE, that the BoJ will add annually ¥80 trillion (with a T) to its pile and the ECB €60 billion, with exchange rates unchanged:
Consumer Price Inflation v. Asset Price Inflation
So this global binge of QE has caused inflation, a lot of it, but not consumerprice inflation. It has caused rampant asset price inflation, with stocks, bonds, real estate, classic cars, art… all skyrocketing over the years.
Just about the only major asset class that didn’t experience gains is the commodities sector. There, prices have collapsed. And we’ll get to that in a moment.
So why has QE caused rampant asset price inflation but little consumer price inflation? Because the money never went to consumers – in form of wages. They would have spent most of it, thus driving up demand that could have created some inflationary pressures in consumer prices. But they never got this money.
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