Posted by Larry Doyle on October 12th, 2010 3:04 PM |
Are you scratching your head wondering about the title of this commentary? Are you wondering if I inadvertently mistyped and should have written CPI for Consumer Price Index? Is it possible that I meant to write PPI for Producer Price Index? Am I somehow opining on a new found capability of the fabulous GPS navigation devices? A resounding no to all of the above.
I have been a big proponent of the work produced by Rick Davis of Consumer Metrics Institute. Recall that Rick captures real-time internet related discretionary consumer purchases to measure the overall health and pulse of our economy. As much as some may question the correlation of Rick’s work and the economic reports released by the crowd in Washington, I am a big fan of his work. I strongly encourage people to follow him. Why do I broach this topic?
Do you trust our Washington establishment to provide real truth and display unquestioned integrity in our economic releases? You don’t? Neither do I. Aside from monitoring Rick’s work, are there other broad based, independent vehicles with which we can measure economic data? (more…)
Posted by Larry Doyle on March 23rd, 2010 1:47 PM |
Inflation is dead, right?
If we believe The Wall Street Journal, all we had to do was read yesterday’s edition to learn this fact. The WSJ wrote, Inflation is Dead? Long Live Long-Term Treasurys:
The Treasury Department is selling $118 billion in debt this week, just as Congress tackled a $940 billion health-care bill over the weekend, shining the spotlight on the U.S.’s hefty fiscal commitments.
Budget-deficit and debt levels are forecast to worsen: Total deficits including interest costs are set to remain above $1 trillion in the next decade, according to Barclays Capital. But longer-dated U.S. government debt is as popular as ever, even at the measly 3.689% and 4.580% yields that 10- and 30-year Treasurys are paying, respectively.
That popularity is supported by a single, compelling economic fact: Inflation is dead.
There you go. The WSJ said it, so it must be right. The policy wonks in Washington continually repeat it, so they must be right, too. Or are they? (more…)
Posted by Larry Doyle on March 11th, 2010 8:10 AM |
News this morning that China’s inflation rate has hit a 16-month high is garnering significant attention.
China’s economy is only one-fifth the size of the U.S. economy while China’s population is more than four times that of the United States. In fact, China’s population is approximately one-fifth of the entire world’s population. Clearly, the People’s Republic of China represents a huge growth opportunity in this century.
Bloomberg highlights this inflation news this morning in writing, China Inflation Quickens as Industrial Output Climbs:
China’s inflation reached a 16- month high, industrial output climbed and new loans exceeded forecasts, adding to the case for the government to pare back stimulus measures. (more…)
Posted by Larry Doyle on December 30th, 2009 10:03 AM |
My better half asked me today why I thought deflation was likely to be a major problem for us over the next decade. I shared my views on excessive debt, challenging job prospects, excess capacity, and the like. All that said, I’m a former Wall Street trader and not a Secretary of Labor. What does somebody who filled that slot think? Let’s listen to Robert Reich, who headed the Department of Labor during the Clinton administration.
Reich provides a substantive review on the vastly diverging developments on Wall Street and Main Street in a recent commentary posted at Wall Street Pit. While asset valuations have rebounded across a wide segment of the markets, the fact is the fundamentals within our economy are clearly deflationary. Reich highlights as much in writing: (more…)
Posted by Larry Doyle on December 27th, 2009 7:52 AM |
Although the American consumer is much more accustomed to inflation and the threat of inflation, I am increasingly convinced that the threat of deflation remains the greater challenge. This battle between macroeconomic deflationary forces versus governmental supported inflationary programs is THE ultimate issue facing our economy in 2010 and beyond.
We hear very little about deflation from Bernanke, Geithner, or other central bankers here in the United States. Why not? If they were to even bring attention to it, I think they would cause a stir and legitimize the underlying deflationary forces at work in our economy. What do we hear? Continuous platitudes about how inflation is under control. Remember that the primary mandate of the Federal Reserve is to work to achieve stable prices. How is it going about that currently? Massive federal programs including ballooning the Fed’s balance sheet to prop the economy and prices from the weight of deflationary forces. How and why have these deflationary forces developed? Excessive debt throughout large sectors of our economy. (more…)
Posted by Larry Doyle on November 20th, 2009 2:20 PM |
Most eyes are fixated on the rise in equities and commodities and, in turn, point to those markets as indicators of an incipient economic recovery. In doing so, we neglect the movements within the bond market, specifically the U.S. Treasury market, at our peril. What is the Treasury market saying? A lot. Let’s look and listen.
The 2yr Treasury note specifically yields a paltry-like .71%. Why so little? I thought investors were more inclined to invest in risk-based assets? Why are they buying a 2yr Treasury note at such a miniscule return?
In my opinion, the front end of the Treasury curve, typically referenced by the yield on the 2yr note, is telling us the Fed will be on hold for a protracted period. This point we already knew. Tell me something I don’t know, LD. The 2yr Treasury note is indicating that inflation expectations are currently constrained. You probably knew that, also. Two strikes LD, you get one more pitch. The 2yr Treasury specifically and bonds in general are telling me that deflationary pressures in our economy are growing. What do you think? While most economists and analysts talk about inflation and inflation expectations, we have not heard much about deflation lately. Welcome to Sense on Cents. (more…)
Posted by Larry Doyle on October 15th, 2009 11:03 AM |
Inflation? Deflation? What is it going to be? As we continue to navigate the economic landscape, that question – perhaps more than any other – is of paramount concern. As I assess the economy and the markets, I envision the following:
> Ongoing deflationary pressures in real estate. Foreclosures hit a record level based on a report this morning.
> A likely increase in deflationary pressures from wages as unemployment continues to increase, hours worked do not pick up, and average hourly earnings are stagnant. How are corporations reporting earnings? Not from growth in top line revenue, but from cutting costs, including headcount.
I firmly believe these two overriding forces most concern the Fed and the threat that the deflationary forces could grow if not counteracted. How does the Fed counteract these pressures? Keep the liquidity pump running via a 0-.25% Fed Funds rate and now increased speculation of perhaps more quantitative easing in the form of purchasing more mortgage-backed securities.
What has been the result of all this liquidity running into the system? A significant decline in the value of our dollar. What does that create? Inflation. That’s good, right? A little inflation will provide some pricing power which supports our equity market. Not so fast. The inflation is not directly addressing the deflationary pressures in real estate and likely deflationary pressure in wages. The inflation is being generated primarily in commodities. What does that mean? Prices for food, gas, oil, and other raw material inputs will increase. As those prices increase, the cost of living in America will increase. Regrettably, that increase in cost of living will not be offset by an increase in wages.
Daily Finance provides a preview of the coming rise in food prices in writing, Sticker Shock at the Supermarket: Food Prices Poised to Rise:
If there’s any silver lining to a recession — albeit a thin one — it’s that consumer prices typically go down. Make no mistake, deflation is a sign of a sick economy, but at least the net effect of cheaper prices for the basic necessities — food, clothing and shelter — helps folks get by when they are struggling to make ends meet.
But consumers should brace themselves for things to change, especially at the supermarket. As the global and U.S. economies emerge from the downturn, economists predict that there is going to be some sticker shock at the checkout line. Food prices, they say, are heading higher and when you combine that with an unemployment rate that’s expected to linger near a three-decade high for at least another year, it’s even more unwelcome news.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture expects overall food prices to rise as much as 4 percent in the U.S. by the end of 2010. Yet, some economists think they could climb by as much as 5 percent. Even using the government’s more conservative numbers, the price for eggs is forecast to rise 3 percent and beef is seen increasing 2 percent. Lamb, seafood and fish? All three categories are expected to jump as much as 5 percent.
A 5 percent boost in your grocery bill may not seem terribly devastating, but consider this: If you spend $300 a week on groceries now, you’ll need to squeeze a raise of about a thousand dollars a year out of your boss (don’t forget withholding tax) just to keep up with higher chicken, beef, pork and dairy prices. Good luck accomplishing that little feat with a 9.8 percent unemployment rate and companies looking into every nook and cranny in order to cut costs.
Why again are these prices poised to increase?
the weak U.S. dollar means we will be exporting more of our homegrown food overseas, causing prices to rise at home.
The consumer will continue to get squeezed, but the wizards in Washington will be able to pronounce that the overall level of inflation is stable. Really?
-3 + 3 = 0 is not the same as 0 + 0 = 0 !!!
What a world.
Posted by Larry Doyle on October 8th, 2009 9:24 AM |
Can we ‘devalue’ our way back to our days of economic ‘wine and roses?’
Many debt-laden countries throughout economic history have chosen to implicitly or explicitly pursue a devaluation of their currency as a means of improving their economies. Are the ‘wizards in Washington’ taking this approach? Aside from a few perfunctory comments in defense of the greenback, Washington has been largely silent on the topic of the declining value of the dollar. Many believe Washington very much favors a weaker currency as a means of supporting our economy. I believe this of Washington, as well. Let’s navigate.
Going back to the G20 in London last Spring, the Obama administration has attempted to curry political favor with emerging economies, especially the BRIC nations, by ceding dollar sovereigncy as the preeminent international reserve currency in return for support of global economic stimulus programs. Why does Washington believe a weak currency serves our economic interests? A weak currency generates and supports the following:
1. Promotes inflation as imports decline. Washington would like some inflation, given the massive deflationary pressures presented by falling wages and declines in the value of commercial and residential real estate.
2. Promotes exports for corporations with a multi-national presence.
3. Supports labor by making it more attractive for companies to keep jobs here as opposed to opening factories or sending work overseas.
So, in light of our current economic crisis, why wouldn’t we want a substantially cheaper dollar to maximize these benefits?
Recall that economists always need to keep certain variables static in order to study the impact of a change in another variable or multiple variables. This approach, known as ‘ceteris paribus,’ is not quite as easy as some may think. Why? Variables are NEVER static, or ‘ceteris is NEVER paribus.’ (more…)
Posted by Larry Doyle on October 7th, 2009 9:40 AM |
Yesterday’s rise in rates by the Australian central bank is a bellweather sign of the global shift in the balance of economic power. While the rise in rates by the Aussies is the first central bank move, it certainly will not be the last. Why did the Aussies raise rates and what does it mean both in the short term and for the long haul? Let’s navigate.
The Australian economy did not have near the level of debt that burdens the U.S. and Europe and thus they did not need near the amount of monetary stimulus to weather this global recession. Additionally, Australia has benefited from extensive trade in the Asian hemisphere.
The knee jerk reaction in the markets was focused primarily on a selloff in the greenback which supported a move higher in commodities and global equities via the ‘positive carry trade.’ The commodity which garnered the greatest focus was gold, which moved toward $1040/ounce.
What do these moves mean? I see cross currents on the economic landscape, including:
1. The dollar may not necessarily continue to weaken, but given its current weakness it will support those companies which garner a greater degree of sales overseas.
2. A weak dollar is usually affiliated with inflation. I do not think we are in a position to look at prices in terms of one overall index. Why? Given the technical and fundamental factors in our economy, certain price components will likely project increased inflation while others will not.
To be more specific, given the labor situation in our country, I do not see any appreciable increase in wages anytime soon. In fact, I think it is likely wages will trend lower.
Given the glut of supply and vacancies in both the residential and commercial real estate markets, I have a tough time believing these prices will move appreciably higher anytime soon.
Commodities may very well move higher. Why? High five to MC for sharing with me that there is increased dialogue in the international trade community to move oil away from trading in dollars. In fact, that story likely had a big impact in yesterday’s trading. Even if there is not an immediate shift in this market dynamic, the mere fact that it is being discussed will support oil specifically, oil-based products broadly, and other commodities as well.
Given that these commodities are primarily inputs, the prices for the outputs will likely move higher. This development is clearly inflationary.
3. What happens to interest rates here in the United States? While on one hand we have some deflationary forces at work which would keep rates low, we have the tug of other factors pushing them higher. How does it play out? My gut instinct tells me that overall pools of capital will be flowing away from the United States and, as such, people and private corporations will have to pay more to attract capital here in our country. I think those entities which focus the bulk of their economic activity here in the United States will be forced to pay higher rates to attract funding.
4. What about our equity markets and the Fed? While the Fed will want to keep our rates low for an ‘extended period,’ they may not have that luxury. If other nations follow Australia in raising rates, the U.S. may need to withdraw some liquidity sooner rather than later. Kansas City Fed chair Thomas Hoenig made this very assertion yesterday.
What would higher rates mean or even the thought of higher rates mean? Slower growth and a tough road for equities going forward.
Thoughts, comments, questions always appreciated.
Related Sense on Cents Commentary
Dollar Carry Trade Drives Global Equities (September 16, 2009)