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Is Inflation Really Under Control

Is Inflation Really Under Control

Recently, analysts have been discussing the pros and cons of using negative interest rates to keep the U.S. economy growing.  Despite this, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell has said that he does not anticipate the Federal Reserve will implement a policy of negative interest rates as it may be detrimental to the economy.  One argument against negative interest rates is that they would squeeze bank margins and create more financial uncertainty. However, upon examining the actual rate of inflation we are likely already in a ‘de facto’ negative ­­interest rate environment. Multiple inflation data sources show that actual inflation maybe 5%. With the ten year Treasury bond at 1.75%, there is an interest rate gap of – 3.25%. Let’s look at multiple inflation data points to understand why there is such a divergence between the Fed assumptions that inflation is under control versus the much higher rate of price hikes consumers experience.

In October, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the core consumer price index (CPI) grew by 2.2% year over year.  The core CPI rate is the change in the price of goods and services minus energy and food.  Energy and food are not included because they are commodities and trade with a high level of volatility.  However, the Median CPI shows a ten year high at 2.96% and upward trend as we would expect, though it starts at a lower level than other inflation indicators. The Median CPI excludes items with small and large price changes. 

Source: Gavekal Data/Macrobond, The Wall Street Journal, The Daily Shot – 11-29-19

Excluding key items that have small and large price changes is not what a consumer buying experience is like. Consumers buy based on immediate needs. When a consumer drives up to a gas pump, they buy at the price listed on the pump that day. 

Costs Are Spiraling Out of Control

Costs Are Spiraling Out of Control

And how do we pay for these spiraling out of control costs? By borrowing more, of course. 

If we had to choose one “big picture” reason why the vast majority of households are losing ground, it would be: the costs of essentials are spiraling out of control. I’ve often covered the dynamics of stagnating income for the bottom 90%, and real-world inflation, i.e. a decline in purchasing power. 

But neither of these dynamics fully describes the relentless upward spiral of the cost basis of our economy, that is, the cost of big-ticket essentials: housing, education and healthcare.

The costs of education are spiraling out of control, stripping households of income as an entire generation is transformed into debt-serfs by student loan debt. The soaring costs of healthcare are a core driver of higher costs in the education complex (and government in general), and to cover these higher costs, counties raise property taxes, which add additional cost burdens to households and enterprises as rents rise. 

Rising rents push the cost structure of almost every enterprise and agency higher.

Then there’s the asset inflation created by central bank ZIRP (zero interest rate policy) which has inflated a second echo-bubble in housing that has pushed home ownership out of reach of many, adding demand for rental housing that has pushed rents into the stratosphere in Left and Right Coast cities.

The increasing dominance of monopolies and cartels has eliminated competition in sector after sector. Monopolies and cartels skim immense profits even as the value, quality and quantity of their products and services decline: The U.S. Only Pretends to Have Free Markets From plane tickets to cellphone bills, monopoly power costs American consumers billions of dollars a year.

Thanks to their political influence, monopolies and cartels have legalized looting, raising prices and evading anti-trust regulations because they can pay whatever it takes in our pay-to-play political system.

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

Inflation Is Coming: All the Trends That Were Deflationary Are Slowly Going in Reverse

Inflation Is Coming: All the Trends That Were Deflationary Are Slowly Going in Reverse

But of all potential economic outcomes, the one least anticipated and least priced in, is an uptick in inflation.

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.

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

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…

Federal Reserve Proposes New Rule To Let Inflation Run “Hot” Ahead Of Next Recession

Federal Reserve Proposes New Rule To Let Inflation Run “Hot” Ahead Of Next Recession  

As the Federal Reserve remains unable to stoke inflation (because it refuses to measure it correctly) and refuses to factor in asset price inflation…

… it has now considered launching a new rule that would let inflation run above its 2% target to make up for lost inflation, reported the Financial Times.

Though the Fed’s policies are to protect big Wall Street banks and keep liquidity ample in the financial system, its policies have overwhelmingly created deflation through supporting zombie companies and blowing financial bubbles.

So to “make up” for lost inflation, the Fed will temporarily increase the target range above 2%, also known as “symmetric” overinflation. The policy would “make it clear that it’s acceptable that to average 2 percent, you can’t have only observations that are below 2 percent,” according to Eric Rosengren, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, who recently spoke with FT.

Fed members have expressed concerns that reverting the federal funds rate to the zero lower bound will drive inflation expectations lower, a real risk of Japanification, something Albert Edwards is especially concerned about.

Officials have also lamented that the since the fed funds rate is so low compared to history, any recession could make monetary policy ineffective, though there is always the reality that the Fed will merely unleash negative interest rates during the next recession.

Meanwhile, Fed members have been experimenting with new monetary tools ahead of the next downturn. Janet Yellen said the new rule could be like “forward guidance,” which enabled the Fed to pressure short-term interest rates lower. This eventually allowed longer-term rates to fall as well.

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

Ex-BOJ Chief Regrets Not Hiking, Hated QE, Says Sub-1% Interest Rates Don’t Work

Ex-BOJ Chief Regrets Not Hiking, Hated QE, Says Sub-1% Interest Rates Don’t Work

Things are going from bad to worse in Japan: 7 years after BOJ chief Kuroda launched QQE (subsequently with yield curve control) while monetizing tens of billions in ETFs, the central banks has failed to boost either Japan’s economy or its inflation, both a dismal byproduct of Japan’s record debt load. So now that the BOJ has failed to remedy what was the consequence of massive debt loads, Japan has a cunning plan: unleash another tsunami of debt.

According to the Japan Times, Japan is set to “re-embrace the power of public spending” – because apparently the country with the world record setting 250% debt/GDP somehow did not embrace public spending before – with one of its biggest ever stimulus packages. Pointing to slowing global growth, a higher sales tax and a string of natural disasters, policymakers in Tokyo are the latest to join the worldwide shift toward a double-barreled approach of supporting the economy through fiscal measures and ultraloose monetary policy, which as we have noted before is a preamble to MMT and full-blown debt monetization by the government.

That’s good news for the Bank of Japan, which has “appeared” (but only appeared, because it now owns so many of Japan’s ETFs it has to start lending them out to prevent a market freeze) reluctant to ramp up its own massive stimulus program, as it strains at the limits of effectiveness.

As a result, in less than a month, expectations in Japan for a “modest” stimulus package with a face value of ¥5 trillion ($46 billion) have quadrupled to ¥20 trillion, despite having the developed world’s largest public debt load. And there is much more to come.

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

Doug Casey on the Destruction of the Dollar

Doug Casey on the Destruction of the Dollar

Dollar

“Inflation” occurs when the creation of currency outruns the creation of real wealth it can bid for… It isn’t caused by price increases; rather, it causes price increases.

Inflation is not caused by the butcher, the baker, or the auto maker, although they usually get blamed. On the contrary, by producing real wealth, they fight the effects of inflation. Inflation is the work of government alone, since government alone controls the creation of currency.

In a true free-market society, the only way a person or organization can legitimately obtain wealth is through production. “Making money” is no different from “creating wealth,” and money is nothing but a certificate of production. In our world, however, the government can create currency at trivial cost, and spend it at full value in the marketplace. If taxation is the expropriation of wealth by force, then inflation is its expropriation by fraud.

To inflate, a government needs complete control of a country’s legal money. This has the widest possible implications, since money is much more than just a medium of exchange. Money is the means by which all other material goods are valued. It represents, in an objective way, the hours of one’s life spent in acquiring it. And if enough money allows one to live life as one wishes, it represents freedom as well. It represents all the good things one hopes to have, do, and provide for others. Money is life concentrated.

As the state becomes more powerful and is expected to provide more resources to selected groups, its demand for funds escalates. Government naturally prefers to avoid imposing more taxes as people become less able (or willing) to pay them. It runs greater budget deficits, choosing to borrow what it needs. As the market becomes less able (or willing) to lend it money, it turns to inflation, selling ever greater amounts of its debt to its central bank, which pays for the debt by printing more money.

China’s Credit Creation Unexpectedly Collapses At The Worst Possible Time

China’s Credit Creation Unexpectedly Collapses At The Worst Possible Time

Over the weekend, we observed that China’s slumping wholesale inflation, or PPI, which is so critical for corporate profits and sparking benign, demand-driven inflation in the economy, and which in October tumbled to a three year low assuring that Chinese dumping and exports of deflation will only further depress global reflation efforts…

… will not reverse until Beijing injects another elephant-dose of credit into the Chinese financial system.

Just 48 hours later we can confirm that there is zero risk of either a sharp spike in Chinese inflation, or of China flooding the financial system with cheap credit – as it has been known to do during key economic inflection points – because according to the PBOC, China’s credit growth slowed far more than expected in October to the weakest pace since at least 2017 as a continued collapse in shadow banking, weak corporate demand for credit and seasonal effects all signaled that efforts to prop up the economy through bank lending still aren’t working.

The central bank reported that Aggregate Financing, China’s revised version of the old Total Social Financing, was a paltry 618.9 billion yuan ($88 billion), missing the median conservative estimate of 950 billion yuan, and down a whopping 72% from the 2.27 trillion yuan in September and 737.4 billion yuan in the same month of 2018. Today’s print was the lowest in the revised series history which goes back to the start of 2017, and only a slightly lower print in the old series prevents today’s total credit injection from being the lowest since 2016!

New CNY loans of 661.3 billion yuan also missed the consensus print of 800 billion yuan, resulting in outstanding CNY loan growth of 11.9% annualized in October, well below the September 13.3% annualized print. As has been the case recently, two thirds of yuan-denominated bank loans were borrowed by households in the month, while the borrowing by non-financial companies was the least in amount since August 2016.

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

The World Has Gone Mad and the System Is Broken

The World Has Gone Mad and the System Is Broken

The World Has Gone Mad and the System Is Broken

I say these things because:

  • Money is free for those who are creditworthy because the investors who are giving it to them are willing to get back less than they give. More specifically investors lending to those who are creditworthy will accept very low or negative interest rates and won’t require having their principal paid back for the foreseeable future. They are doing this because they have an enormous amount of money to invest that has been, and continues to be, pushed on them by central banks that are buying financial assets in their futile attempts to push economic activity and inflation up. The reason that this money that is being pushed on investors isn’t pushing growth and inflation much higher is that the investors who are getting it want to invest it rather than spend it. This dynamic is creating a “pushing on a string” dynamic that has happened many times before in history (though not in our lifetimes) and was thoroughly explained in my book Principles for Navigating Big Debt Crises. As a result of this dynamic, the prices of financial assets have gone way up and the future expected returns have gone way down while economic growth and inflation remain sluggish. Those big price rises and the resulting low expected returns are not just true for bonds; they are equally true for equities, private equity, and venture capital, though these assets’ low expected returns are not as apparent as they are for bond investments because these equity-like investments don’t have stated returns the way bonds do. As a result, their expected returns are left to investors’ imaginations. 

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

Central Banks Are Just Getting Warmed Up

Central Banks Are Just Getting Warmed Up

According to all central banks, one of the main problems they are called to solve is that countries cannot reach their inflation target of (close to but below) 2 percent. Even their religious trust in the long-discredited Phillips curve cannot explain why price inflation is low in many countries despite historically low unemployment rates. Nonetheless, central banks still enjoy immense credibility. It’s common to hear such sentences as “never bet against the Fed,” the “ECB has big bazooka primed”… and all market participants monitor each public meeting to understand what the next policy could be and how they should be positioned when it arrives.1

To reach the inflation targets and “stimulate the economy,” central banks regularly meet to devise ever-new stimulus programs, and do not despair when, inevitably, the one-off unconventional interventions quickly become the new normal. For example, the world-famous Quantitative Easing (QE) was supposed to be a one-time emergency response to the 2008 crisis, except it has now become one of the many tools of regular monetary policy, and a key component in market demand for financial assets. An undesired but perfectly predictable side effect of QE is that it allows governments to increase their spending without care for the deficit, and still pay negative interest rates in real terms, so no discipline is imposed, except for some empty promise to reduce the deficit some time in the future, if the opportunity comes. Several Western countries have embarked in QE, some in many consecutive rounds, but there is no mention of a reverse-course, an eventual, opposite Quantitative Tightening (QT). Only the United States have tried QT, and the Fed has even announced that they were on a stable and data-driven process back to normalization, to try to maintain their reputation of scientific management of the monetary aggregates.

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

Economists Puzzled By Surge In US Money Supply

Economists Puzzled By Surge In US Money Supply

Summary:

  • Uncertainty incites a dash to cash, which we’ve seen at an accelerated pace beginning about five months ago, amounting to $887.4B; In the two weeks ended September 30th, MZM rose by $158.1B, a figure that has only been eclipsed in the immediate aftermath of 9/11
  • Declining inflation expectations have netted record levels of households expecting rising real income gains; and yet, consumers are less confident about economic growth with a third anticipating rising unemployment captured in the continued rise in the fear of the unknown
  • Those aged 45 and under expect annual income gains of more than twice households as a whole; this corroborates the top-third of income earners’ (managers’) higher unemployment rate expectations vis-à-vis middle-income-earners’ (worker bees’) job market outlook

We Americans are drawn to nicknames that evoke our cities’ characteristics:  The Big Apple, The Windy City, Hotlanta. But those passionate Italians demand their cities be identified by the vividness of color, an element that played right into the logo design of the world’s most iconic sports car. As for the horse, that image was painted on the SPAD S.XIII flown by Francesco Baracca, Italy’s World War I flying ace who recorded an astounding 34 kills before being killed himself in 1918. As recounted by Enzo Ferrari, fate stepped in as such, “In ‘23, I met count Enrico Baracca, the hero’s father, and then his mother, countess Paulina, who said to me one day, ‘Ferrari, put my son’s prancing horse on your cars. It will bring you good luck’. The horse was, and still is, black, and I added the canary yellow background which is the color of Modena.”

 …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…

The Importance Of A Resilient Life

The Importance Of A Resilient Life

In the end, it will mean all the difference

My business partner Adam and I recently met with a successful business owner whose career began on Wall Street. The kind of guy who should be rooting for the system, because it has treated him well.

Instead, he was quite nervous about the sustainability of the status quo. “Starting in August,” he said, “Maybe it was the Amazon catching fire, maybe it was the negative interest rates – I don’t know for certain what the trigger was – but something has snapped.”

I agree. Because I feel it, too.

As do so many others. And not just those who regularly read PeakProsperity.com. Increasingly, even ‘mainstream’ voices are stating to report a profound sense that something really isn’t right. That — from the economy to geopolitics to the natural world — things are swiftly worsening.

Public perception is beginning to shift from complacency to fear. Countries are fast rejecting globalization in favor of nationalization. The holes in our ecosystem — vanishing birds, insects, amphibians and fish stocks — are becoming frighteningly obvious. The threats to life as we’re accustomed to it are becoming more visible while accelerating in both magnitude and frequency.

I expounded on the danger of this in my recent report It’s the Pace of Change That Kills You. Negative developments can spark their own vicious cycle. The more components of a system that fail, the more at risk the remaining components become.

That report was published just two weeks ago. Since then the world’s largest oil refinery was attacked by hostile forces and knocked out of commission, throwing the future integrity of the global oil market into question. Scientists just announced that North America has lost 29% of its total bird population (a drop of -3 billion) in the past half century.

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

Russia Considers Possibility Of $25 Oil Next Year

Russia Considers Possibility Of $25 Oil Next Year

MBS Putin

Russia is considering the notion that oil prices may be as low as $25 per barrel in 2020, the country’s central bank said in its new forecast published on Monday, as cited by Reuters.

Russia’s Central Bank has forecast in its macroeconomic forecast that oil could possibly hit that low due to falling demand for oil and oil products worldwide, as well as from disappointed global economic growth.

The doom and gloom scenario was just one proposed by the bank. If that risk scenario actually materializes, Russia’s inflation could increase to 7% or 8% next year, on the back of falling gross domestic product to 1.5%– 2%.

Russia is perhaps uniquely positioned to withstand low oil prices, although $25 per barrel is pretty bleak.

One of the reasons why Russia is more impervious to low oil prices compared to its competition is that its currency weakens when oil prices fall. This provides some type of a cushion—at least to some extent—for its lower oil revenues. Russian oil companies can pay their expenses in this weaker ruble, but still rakes in US dollars for its oil exports. Further allowing it to withstand lower prices, are that Russia’s oil company’s taxes are designed to be less as oil prices fall.

So much so is Russia’s ability to adapt to lower oil prices, that it actually struggles with higher oil prices, which dent demand for its oil. Russia’s budget for 2019 was based on $40 oil.Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia needs $80—some say even $85—per barrel.

In August, Russia said its 2019 budget breakeven was at a Urals price of $49.20—the lowest breakeven in more than a decade.  This has Russia and Saudi Arabia—colleagues in the current production quotas designed to rebalance the market—at odds, and likely working toward perhaps different goals.

Trump Says Fed Should Cut Rates “To ZERO Or Less”, So US Can Refinance Debt And Lenghten Maturities

Trump Says Fed Should Cut Rates “To ZERO Or Less”, So US Can Refinance Debt And Lenghten Maturities

Volfefe begins early today.

One day before the ECB is expected to cut rates further into negative territory and restart sovereign debt QE, moments ago president Trump resumed his feud with the Fed piling more pressure on Powell to cut rates “to ZERO or less” because the US apparently has “no inflation”, while also crashing the conversation over whether the US should issue ultra-long maturity debt (50, 100 years), saying the US “should then start to refinance our debt. INTEREST COST COULD BE BROUGHT WAY DOWN, while at the same time substantially lengthening the term.” 

At least we now know who is urging Mnuchin to launch 50 and 100 year Treasuries. What we don’t know is just what school of monetary thought Trump belongs to – aside from Erdoganism of course – because while on one hand Trump claims that “we have the great currency, power, and balance sheet” on the other the US president also claims that “the USA should always be paying the lowest rate.” In a normal world, the strongest economy tends to pay the highest interest rate, but in this upside down world, who knows anymore, so maybe the Fed has just itself to blame.

Trump’s conclusion: “It is only the naïveté of Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve that doesn’t allow us to do what other countries are already doing. A once in a lifetime opportunity that we are missing because of “Boneheads.”


 · 1h

The Federal Reserve should get our interest rates down to ZERO, or less, and we should then start to refinance our debt. INTEREST COST COULD BE BROUGHT WAY DOWN, while at the same time substantially lengthening the term. We have the great currency, power, and balance sheet…..


 …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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