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Inflation Is Coming…

Inflation Is Coming…

Investing is all about probabilities. If the perceived odds of an event are high, certain securities will be priced based on those expected probabilities. The corollary is that when an event is perceived as almost impossible, securities do not price in any chance of it occurring. If that event does occur, all sorts of securities need to re-price—often quite rapidly. I like to spend my time pondering what potential events the market completely ignores. Of all potential economic outcomes, the one that is least anticipated and least priced in, is an uptick in inflation.

It is said that generals always fight the last war. In terms of macro-portfolio wars, Japan’s experience with deflation colors all views. This seems odd to me because we have over two millennia of history showing inflation and currency debasements to be universal constants, with one outlier in Japan. The question is if Japan is the new normal or a true outlier?

Academics have studied the causes and effects of inflation ever since emperors and kings fixated on halting its effects. Despite a massive body of work, there is little agreement amongst experts on the causes of inflation. Since I tend to ignore “experts,” let me start by giving you the Kuppy definition of inflation. “Inflation is when too much of a certain currency chases a scarce resource and pushes its price higher when defined in terms of that currency.” Using that definition, we’ve actually had rather dramatic inflation over the past decade—it just hasn’t shown up yet in the core consumer goods that central bankers are often concerned about.

Did they time-stamp the cyclical low in yields?

When a country prints money, no one knows where within the economic ecosystem it will ultimately flow. If a resource is scarce, it tends to experience inflation—when it is artificially scarce, it has even more extreme inflation.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

An Inflationary Depression

An Inflationary Depression 

Financial markets are ignoring bearish developments in international trade, which coincide with the end of a long expansionary phase for credit. Both empirical evidence from the one occasion these conditions existed in the past and reasoned theory suggest the consequences of this collective folly will be enormous, undermining both financial asset values and fiat currencies.

The last time this coincidence occurred was 1929-32, leading into the great depression, when prices for commodities and output prices for consumer goods fell heavily. With unsound money and a central banking determination to maintain prices, depression conditions will be concealed by monetary expansion, but still exist, nonetheless.

Introduction

The unfortunate souls who are beholden to macroeconomics will read this article’s headline as a contradiction, because they regard inflation as a stimulant and a depression as the consequence of deflation, the opposite of inflation. 

An economic depression does not require deflation, if by that term is meant a contraction of the money in circulation. More correctly, it is the collective impoverishment of the people, which is most easily achieved by debasement of the currency: in other words, monetary inflation. Fundamental to the myth that an inflation of the money supply is the path to economic recovery are the forecasts by the economic establishment that the world, or its smaller national units, will suffer no more than a mild recession before economic growth resumes. It is not only complacent central bank and government economists that say this, but their followers in the private sector as well. 

It is for this reason that the S&P 500 Index is still only a few per cent below its all-time high. If there was the slightest hint that Corporate America risks being destabilised by a depression, this would not be the case.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Blackrock CIO: The Endgame Is Coming And Central Banks Will Debase Everything To Spark Inflation

Blackrock CIO: The Endgame Is Coming And Central Banks Will Debase Everything To Spark Inflation

Blackrock’s Chief Investment Officer, Rick Rieder, best known perhaps for recently suggesting that the ECB should monetize stocks, writes in the Blackrock blog today and highlights the economic policy state-of-play today, and where it may lead to should economic growth falter, productivity not materialize, and populism continue to thrive.

* * *

The major global central banks continue to draw bigger guns in their battle against deflation, yet in some places, it appears to be of no avail. The fact is that the share of sovereign yields that are in negative territory keeps increasing and the average level of these interest rates becomes ever more negative. Further, quantitative easing (QE) purchases of sovereign debt have transitioned to purchases of corporate debt, and in some places equities; with inflation still elusive and improved growth prospects in question. That all leads one to wonder where (and how) these policies end? What is today’s monetary policy endgame?

Turn to economic history for perspective

In order to envision the monetary policy endgame several years (or a decade) from now, let’s start by stepping back and examining two of the foundational tenets that have driven the global economy and financial markets since the 1970s. The first principle is that the major central banks embraced a roughly 2% inflation target (implicit for the Federal Reserve since, at least, 1995 and explicitly stated since 2012), and the second factor is the end of the Bretton Woods monetary system; marking the shift away from the gold standard and into a world of fiat currency fluctuation.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

3 Central Bank Shocks Unleash Overnight Yield Crash, With Yuan On Verge Of Collapse

3 Central Bank Shocks Unleash Overnight Yield Crash, With Yuan On Verge Of Collapse

There is just one way to describe the plunge in bond yields overnight and the events behind it: the global race to the currency bottom is rapidly accelerating in its final lap with a global deflationary Ice Age (take a bow Albert Edwards) waiting on the other side.

The main event, of course, was the latest yuan fixing with the PBOC showing a clear sense of humor when it set the currency at 6.9996laughably not to be confused with 7.0000 (for at least another 24 hours that is), but just a fraction of a percent away from the critical threshold, and weaker than the 6.9977 expected. The result was a resumption in the offshore yuan selloff, a hit to US equity futures and a drop in Treasury yields. Of course, once the PBOC does finally fix the yuan on the wrong side of 7, all bets are off and watch as the CNH crashes… as far as 7.70 according to SocGen, especially once Trump hikes tariffs to 25%.

But there was much more in today’s iteration of the global race to the currency bottom, when first New Zealand, then India and finally Thailand shocked investors by being far more dovish than analysts expected. Indeed, the three Asian central banks delivered surprise interest-rate decisions on Wednesday as central bankers not only took aggressive action to counter a worsening global economy, but are now frontrunning each other – and the Fed – in doing so.

As noted last night, New Zealand’s central bank on Wednesday stunned investors by dropping its benchmark rate by 50 basis points, double the expected reduction and sending the kiwi tumbling. Thailand also surprised all but two in a survey of economists, cutting by 25 basis points. Finally, India’s central bank lowered its rate by an unconventional 35 basis points.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Is Inflation Inevitable?

Is Inflation Inevitable? 

QUESTION: Mr. Armstrong is there any way we can not have inflation. If so how? If not what would you say 5% or more?
S

ANSWER: It all depends on your definition. The type of inflation coming is more STAGFLATION where prices rise due to cost-push (shortages) but there is a declining economic growth. The more familiar inflation is a DEMAND lead event because the economy is booming. Because governments are desperate for money, they keep raising taxes and are increasing enforcement. This trend is DELATIONARY for it reduces disposable income. The INFLATIONARY pressure comes from the rising costs which are set in motion by raising taxes.

Then we add the impact of the climate chaos creating shortages in food and that furthers cost-push inflation. The end result will be the shift from PUBLIC to PRIVATE where people will run away from government debt on all levels and move to tangible assets to survive.

“We’re Never Going To Go Away From Zero:” Presenting Kyle Bass’ Latest Trade

“We’re Never Going To Go Away From Zero:” Presenting Kyle Bass’ Latest Trade

Here at Zero Hedge, we’ve dedicated plenty of attention to signs of “Japanification” in European bond markets…

… with the issue taking on even more urgency now that we have influential bond strategists earnestly advocating the purchase of equities by the ECB, and the Fed in the middle of a policy U-turn that has prompted the market to price in at least three interest rate cuts by the end of the year…

Rates

…previously “conspiratorial” ideas like the Fed buying equities to turbocharge its stimulus program are beginning to look eminently plausible.

For readers who are unfamiliar with the term, “Japanification”, also known as Albert Edwards “Ice Age” concept, it involves the dawn of a new economic paradigm characterized by stagnant growth and pervasive deflation, where central bank debt monetization is needed to finance public spending to keep economies from sliding into contraction.

Bass

Already, there’s reason to believe that both the US and Europe are heading for the same monetary policy trap as Japan. Case in point: the neutral rate – or r*, as the economists at the Fed like to call it – has failed to revert back to its pre-crisis level.

Yields

And with the Fed likely to cut rates later this month and global bond yields tumbling to levels not seen in years, if ever, hedge fund manager Kyle Bass has revealed his latest trade in an interview with the  FTBass is betting that the Fed will slash interest rates to just above zero next year as the US economy slides into a recession, forcing the Fed to restart QE, and possibly even consider more radical alternatives like buying equities.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

What Happens When the Financial Capital of the World Moves?

What Happens When the Financial Capital of the World Moves? 

QUESTION:

Hi Marty,

Knowing that the financial capital will likely move to China after 2032, since that would be the peak of the public wave, where will someone in the US put their capital?

Usually, the move from public to private would result in a move into sovereign debt and cash, but will the move after 2032 be different given the sovereign debt and monetary crisis we will be going through these next few years.

Thanks!

SB

ANSWER: Britain was the Financial Capital of the World until World War I. This chart illustrates what happened to Britain and how it lost that stature of being the Financial Capital of the World — it was debt. The people in Britain did not lose everything. What really happened was that the separatist movement emerged and the British Empire began to break up.

Look at the British pound during the American Civil War. It was the rally in the pound that began the breakup of the British Empire, as I have warned will happen to the US dollar. That rise in the pound exported DEFLATION to the British Empire and the economic conditions led to the start of separatist movements. Canada won its independence on July 1, 1867. The second major wave of separatist movements came with the end of World War II. India won its independence on August 15, 1947.

The United States will be at risk of also breaking apart under economic conditions, which will fuel both the religious and political battles between left and right. There will be a high probability that the United States will break into regional groups, probably four major regions in general. It does not mean life will come to an end or that we all have to run and hide in a cave. The British survived as will Americans. If we understand the cycle, we will be better positioned to survive with security.

Fear of Inflation & Sterilization

Fear of Inflation & Sterilization 

QUESTION: Mr. Armstrong; you were friends with Milton Friedman. Do you agree with his view that the Great Depression was caused in part by the Fed refusing to expand the money supply? Isn’t Quantitative Easing expanding the money supply yet it too has failed to create inflation. Would you comment on this paradox?

Thank you for your thoughtful insight.

P

ANSWER: Yes, this certainly appears to be a paradox. This results from the outdated theory of economics which completely fails to grasp the full scope of the economy and how it functions. This same mistake is leading many down the path of MMT (Modern Monetary Theory) which assumes we can just print without end and Quantitative Easing proves there will be no inflation. They are ignoring the clash between fiscal policy carried out by the government and monetary policy in the hand of the central banks. This is a major confrontation where central banks have expanded the money supply to “stimulate” inflation. Governments are obsessed with enforcing laws against tax evasion and it is destroying the world economy and creating massive deflation.

In 1920, Britain legislated a return to the gold standard at the prewar parity to take effect at the end of a five-year period. That took place in 1925. Britain based its decision in part on the assumption that gold flows to the United States would raise price levels in Britain and limit the domestic deflation needed to reestablish the pre-war parity. In fact, the United States sterilized gold inflows to prevent a rise in domestic prices. In the 1920s, the Federal Reserve held almost twice the amount of gold required to back its note issue. Britain then had to deflate to return to gold at the pre-war parity. Milton saw that the Fed failed to monetize the gold inflows, fearing it would lead to inflation.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

MMT Is a Recipe for Revolution

MMT Is a Recipe for Revolution

Historian Stephen Mihm recently argued that based on his reading of the monetary system of colonial Massachusetts, modern monetary theory (MMT), which he cheekily referred to as PMT (Puritan monetary theory), “worked — up to a point.”

One can forgive him for misunderstanding America’s colonial monetary system, which was so much more complex than our current arrangements that scholars are still fighting over some basic details.

Clearly, though, America’s colonial monetary experience exposes the fallacy at the heart of MMT (which might be better called postmodern monetary theory): the best monetary policy for the government is not necessarily the best monetary policy for the economy. As Samuel Sewall noted in his diary, “I was at the making of the first Bills of Credit in the year 1690: they were not Made for want of Money, but for want of Money in the Treasury.”

While true that colonial governments controlled the money supply by directly issuing (or lendin)  and then retiring pieces of paper, their macroeconomic track record was abysmal, except when they carefully obeyed the market signals created by sterling exchange rates and the price of gold and silver in terms of paper money.

MMT in the colonial period often led to periods of ruinous inflation and, less well-understood, revolution-inducing deflation.

South Carolina and New England were the poster colonies for inflation, in part because they bore the brunt of colonial wars against their rival Spanish and French empires. Relative peace and following market signals eventually stabilized prices in South Carolina. 

In New England, however, Rhode Island for decades was able to act as a “money pump” that forced inflation on other New England colonies until they abandoned MMT entirely in the early 1750s.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Source of Killer Inflation: Services

The Source of Killer Inflation: Services

The soaring cost of services is driven by a number of factors.

What will the future bring: fire (inflation) or ice (deflation)? The short answer: both, but in very different doses. Goods that are tradeable and exposed to technologically driven commodification will decline in price (deflation) while untradeableservices that are difficult to commoditize will increase in price (inflation), generating a self-reinforcing feedback loop of wage-price inflation.

Gordon Long and I discuss these trends in our latest program The Supply-Demand Services Problem (YouTube).

The big difference between goods that drop in price (TVs, etc.) and services that are exploding higher (healthcare, childcare, elderly care, higher education, local taxes and fees, etc.) is the relative size each occupies in the household budget: a new TV is a couple hundred bucks and a once-every-few-years purchase, while all the services cost thousands of dollars annually– or even tens of thousands of dollars.

A new TV or electronic gew-gaw is signal noise in the household budget while services consume the most of what’s left after paying for housing and transport.

A 10% decline in the cost of a new TV is $25, while a 10% increase in annual tuition and college fees is $2,500. Add in thousands more for childcare, elderly care, local taxes and fees and healthcare, and the deflationary impact of tradeable goods is trivial compared to the increases in untradeable services.

Not all goods are declining in sticker price. vehicles are rising sharply in price, a fact that’s erased by hedonic adjustments in official inflation (the new car is supposedly so much better than the previous model that the “price” actually declines-heh).

Then there’s the inexorable shrinkage of quantity and quality. The package that once held 16 ounces now contains 13.4 ounces, and the appliance that once lasted for years now lasts a few months as the quality of components is reduced. 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

A Survival Guide For 2019

A Survival Guide For 2019

How to safely navigate the ‘Year Of Instability’ 

As the first month of the year concludes, it’s becoming clear that 2019 will be a very different kind of year.

The near-decade of ‘recovery’ following the Great Financial Crisis enjoyed a stability and tranquility that suddenly evaporated at the end of 2018.

Here in 2019, instability reigns.

The world’s central banks are absolutely panicking. After last year’s bursting of the Everything Bubble, their coordinated plans for Quantitative Tightening have been summarily thrown out the window. Suddenly, no chairman can prove himself too dovish.

Jerome Powell, the supposed hardliner among them, completely capitulated in the wake of the recent -15% tantrum in stocks, which, as Sven Henrich colorfully quipped, proved what we suspected all along:

The global tsunami of liquidity (i.e. thin-air money printing) released by the central banking cartel has been the defining trend of the past decade. It has driven, directly or indirectly, more world events than any other factor.

And one of its more notorious legacies is the massive disparity and wealth and income resulting from its favoring of the top 0.1% over everyone else. The mega-rich have seen their assets skyrocket in value, while the masses have been mercilessly squeezed between similarly rising costs of living and stagnant wages.

How have the tone-deaf politicians responded? With tax breaks for their Establishment masters and new taxes imposed on the public. As a result, populist ire is catching fire in an accelerating number of countries, which the authorities are anxious to suppress by all means to prevent it from conflagrating further — most visibly demonstrated right now by the French government’s increasingly jack-booted attempts to quash the Yellow Vest protests:

Meanwhile, two other principal drivers of the past decade’s ‘prosperity’ are also suddenly in jeopardy.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

2019: Fragmented, Unevenly Distributed, Asymmetric, Opaque

2019: Fragmented, Unevenly Distributed, Asymmetric, Opaque

Add up Fragmented, Unevenly Distributed, Asymmetric and Opaque and you get a world spinning out of centralized control.

Here are the key dynamics of 2019: fragmented, unevenly distributed, asymmetric, opaque. Want to know what’s happening with inflation, deflation, recession, populism, etc.?

It depends on what you own, when you own it, where you own it and its relative scarcity and stability–assuming you have trustworthy information on its scarcity and stability.

By ownership I mean all forms of capital: cash, tools, skills, social capital, trust in institutions, etc. Whatever forms of capital you own, the returns on that capital and its relative stability depend on the specifics of context and timing.

Will there be deflation or inflation? The right question is: Will there be deflation or inflation in my household?. In a rapidly fragmenting economy and society characterized by opacity, asymmetric information and unevenly distributed results, generalizations are intrinsically misleading / false. The only possible answers arise in a carefully limited context: my household, my neighborhood, my industry, my company, etc.

Here’s an example I’ve mentioned in the past: healthcare costs. If you’re one of the lucky households with heavily subsidized healthcare costs (for example, a government employee with limited deductibles, low per-visit costs and modest co-pays), your healthcare inflation is likely negligible.

But if your household doesn’t qualify for subsidies and has to pay market rates, you’re very likely to suffer double-digit healthcare inflation.

2019 is the year that central banks and states lose control of the narratives, the economy and the social contract, all of which are dynamic complex systems which excel in producing banquets of unintended consequences.

Control of the narrative requires harvesting “the right data” and spinning an interpretation that supports the status quo.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Commoditization = Deflation

Commoditization = Deflation

The other deflationary pressure is the stagnation of wages for the bottom 90%.

Apple’s slumping sales growth in China re-energized discussions on the commoditization of smart phones: the basic idea is that once devices, services, goods, platforms, etc. are interchangeable and can be produced/generated anywhere, they are effectively commodities and their value declines accordingly.

In the case of Apple’s iPhone, many observers see diminishing returns on the latest model’s features as the price point (around $1,000) now exceeds what many customers are willing to pay for the status of owning an Apple product and the declining differentiation of the iPhone when compared to other smart phones available at a fraction of the iPhone’s price.

Commoditization doesn’t just affect the top tier of the food chain; it affects the entire food chain. The commodity $400 smart phone has diminishing returns over the commodity $200 smart phone, and the $200 smart phone has diminishing returns over the commodity $100 smart phone.

Commoditization ravages price and profitability. Once the production facility is paid for by the first run, the cost basis of future production drops, enabling the producer to reap profits even as price plummets.

This is why perfectly good tablets cost $35 wholesale in some Asian markets.

Commoditization doesn’t just affect tech devices: passive index funds have commoditized investing. Why pay a hedge fund’s steep fees when a passive index fund may beat the net return (i.e. after fees) of the hedge fund?

No wonder hedge funds are closing left and right; investing is being commoditized by passive funds, funds managed by software, etc.

Commoditization is inherently deflationary as prices and profits are pushed down along the entire food chain.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Japan Gives Up On Inflation, Now Wants Deflation (Sort Of) to Offset Tax Hikes

Today seems straight from the Twilight Zone: First the PPT and now Abenomics in full reverse.

Japan has virtually given up on reaching 2% inflation after nearly six years of trying. An argument gaining ground in Tokyo holds that the inflation goal, once seen as paramount, doesn’t matter so much after all. Inflation excluding volatile fresh food and energy prices was just 0.3% in November, and it has barely budged all year.

Mr. Abe has largely stopped discussing the dangers of deflation, and his government is actually trying to push some prices down ahead of a tax increase set to take effect in October 2019. Mr. Abe’s de facto No. 2, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, has called on mobile-phone carriers to lower fees by about 40%—a move that could knock a full percentage point off inflation, according to government estimates.

“There is no change to our stance of seeking the 2% price goal as soon as possible by patiently continuing powerful easing,” Mr. Kuroda said at a November press conference. At the same time, he has started talking more about the potential downsides of aggressive monetary easing,

Still, BOJ officials are hesitant to abandon the target altogether out of fear it could damage expectations and push the country back into deflation, said people familiar with the BOJ’s thinking.

Raising Prices

Torikizoku (Chicken Nobility), raised prices for the first time in 30 years last year, by the equivalent of 16 cents.

“Once prices went up, it wasn’t just the chickens that got skewered. Same-store sales at the chain have fallen more than 5% every month since May and profit fell 76% compared with a year earlier in the most recent quarter.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How a Fragile Euro May Not Survive the Next Crisis

How a Fragile Euro May Not Survive the Next Crisis

euros2_0.PNG

A big US monetary inflation bang brought the euro into existence. Here’s a prediction: It’s death will occur in response to a different type of US monetary bang — the sudden emergence of a “deflationary interlude.” And this could come sooner than many expect.

The explanation of this sphynx-like puzzle starts with Paul Volcker’s abandonment of the road to sound money in 1985/6. The defining moment came when the then Fed Chief joined with President Reagan’s new Treasury Secretary, James Baker, in a campaign to devalue the dollar. The so-called “Plaza Accord”  of 1985 launched the offensive.

Volcker, the once notorious devaluation warrior of the Nixon Administration (as its Treasury under-secretary), never changed his spots, seeing large US trade deficits as dangerous. The alternative diagnosis — that in the early mid-1980s these were a transitory counterpart to increased US economic dynamism and a resurgent global demand for a now apparently hard dollar — just did not register with this top official.

Hence the opportunity to restore sound money. But this comes very rarely in history — only in fact, where high inflation has induced general political revulsion (as for example after the Civil War) — was inflation snuffed out. In the European context this meant the end of the brief hard-Deutsche-mark (DM) era and the birth of the soft euro.

The run-up of the DM in 1985-7 against other European currencies, as provoked by the US re-launch of monetary inflation, tipped the balance of political power inside Germany in favor of the European Monetary Union (EMU) project. The big exporting companies, the backbone of the ruling Christian Democrat Union (CDU) under Chancellor Kohl, won the day. The hard DM, an evident threat to their profits, had to go. The monetarist regime in Germany tottered towards a final collapse.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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