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Archive for the ‘Inflation’ Category

Inflation: The Real Deal Not Uncle Sam’s Charade

Posted by Larry Doyle on October 11th, 2013 7:14 AM |

One of the main arguments made by the Federal Reserve for continuing to run the printing press via its quantitative easing program is the fact that the reported rate of inflation is running below its long term target of 2%.

Based on that reality (real or perceived?),  Ben Bernanke has been very comfortable opening the Fed’s QE-hydrant and letting the dollars flow despite the fact that the Fed’s liquidity does not appear to be gaining meaningful traction in the system and actually stimulating true economic growth.

Some might say that things would be far worse without Ben’s liquidity, but first let’s take a harder look at that reported rate of inflation and focus on that qualifier “reported.”  To do so, I welcome navigating into a report recently produced by Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management entitled Is The Inflation Threat Hype — or Real? (I thank the regular reader who highlighted this report.)  (more…)

Comparing 35 Year Rates of Inflation

Posted by Larry Doyle on March 7th, 2013 5:27 AM |

A picture tells a thousand words, right?

Thank you to Jeff Gundlach and his band of truth tellers at Doubleline Funds for recently highlighting a Bureau of Labor Statistics/Consumer Price Index graph which shows the racket defined as higher education displays that the “thousand” applies not to words but to the rate of inflation within that segment over the past 35 years. The actual number is a mere 1,155%.

Every day we read of how students are increasingly delinquent and defaulting on their student loans. Those realities are no surprise as the Ponzi-style financing promoted to fund higher education feels the effect of students wondering “Where’s the value here?” and “Where’s my bailout?”

There are plenty of the same characteristics within medical care, which has only experienced a 600% rate of inflation during that same time frame.


Thank you Mr. Gundlach and Doubleline.

Navigate accordingly.

Larry Doyle

Isn’t  it time or overtime to subscribe to all my work via e-mail, an RSS feed, on Twitter or Facebook.

I have no business interest with any entity referenced in this commentary. The opinions expressed are my own. I am a proponent of real transparency within our markets so that investor confidence and investor protection can be achieved.

Making Sense of The Skyrocketing Cost of Gasoline

Posted by Larry Doyle on September 17th, 2012 7:33 AM |

I guess I could write this morning about the NYSE being fined by the SEC for facilitating front running. I could also offer more commentary on global banking institutions that now seem to realize a little thing called “reputation” actually matters. Perhaps I could offer insight on how the Fed’s recently announced “QE-infinity” is directed as a further bailout of the banks and the red-headed stepchildren commonly called Fannie and Freddie.

But let’s put those topics off for another time. Today, let’s address why your wallet is significantly lighter every time you go fill your vehicle’s tank.  (more…)

If Inflation is Dead, Then…

Posted by Larry Doyle on April 26th, 2010 12:17 PM |

Recent reports indicate the dreaded inflation monster has been slayed. Is that truly the case? If the monster has been slayed, is another monster lurking in the weeds, that is the larger monster that embodies economic death known as deflation?

Sense on Cents has debated this topic more than a handful of times over the last year. The mere fact that the topic has been on our front burner is a strong indication that we are not experiencing cyclical developments and changes within our economy, but rather large, structural changes. (more…)

America’s Hidden Inflation and How You’re Getting Screwed

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…)

Chinese Inflation Does Not Mean Global Inflation

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…)

Can We Add Some Inflation to Some Deflation and Claim Overall Prices Are Stable?

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.


U.S. Markets Play “Follow the Leader”

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)

China Wants Inflation Protection

Posted by Larry Doyle on August 6th, 2009 1:35 PM |

Will China continue to fund the U.S. deficit? What would happen to interest rates if China exited our U.S. Treasury market? Where would the United States attract the necessary funds? This dilemma has been one of the most widely debated topics in financial markets.

On the heels of the U.S.-China economic summit held last week in Washington, a story is now seeping into the market that at the behest of the Chinese, the U.S. Treasury will increase issuance of Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS).  The Wall Street Journal reports, U.S., in Nod to China,to Sell More TIPS. This story gives us a lot of food for thought, including:

1. how quickly do the Chinese think inflation may rear its ugly head?

2. do the Chinese have a lack of confidence in Ben Bernanke specifically or the Federal Reserve in general?

3. how high do the Chinese think inflation may rise?

4. will we continue to witness Chinese officials calling for a move away from the U.S. dollar as the international reserve currency?

5. could we envision the U. S. Treasury executing the sale of TIPS on a private placement basis to the Chinese?

Who knows how this scenario will play out. For our purposes, the fact that our largest creditor is looking for inflation protection speaks volumes.

If the Chinese are concerned about inflation, then I am as well.


Bernanke Conundrum

Posted by Larry Doyle on June 8th, 2009 7:27 AM |

Overnight markets indicate that Treasury prices are lower and interest rates subsequently higher (remember the inverse relationship between bond prices and interest rates). 2yr Treasury notes are trading at 1.33% and 10yr Treasury notes are trading at 3.85% (both are .03% higher from Friday’s close).

If interest rates are higher, clearly that move must be an indication that economic activity is improving and equity markets should be higher overnight, correct? In “normal” economic times, perhaps that line of reasoning would hold water, but in the Uncle Sam economy, we need to go deeper.

Equity futures indicate our stock markets will open lower by approximately 1%. What’s going on? Welcome to the Bernanke conundrum! What is the riddle wrapped inside our economic enigma? How can Fed chair Ben Bernanke nurse our economy back to health while at the same time maintaining the necessary fiscal independence, integrity, and discipline of robust Fed policy?

Big Ben has used aggressive measures to backstop a wide swath of our markets. In the process, he has created a fair amount of stability but with an effective government guarantee “insurance” policy as the cost of stability. Some of these policies have lessened in size as certain sectors have normalized. However, the major Fed programs remain in place. What are these?

1. quantitative easing: commitment to buy $1.3 trillion in total of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities in an attempt to keep these rates down. Then why are rates rising? More on this in a second.

2. commitment to provide necessary liquidity as needed to support the “wards of the state” including Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, GM, AIG, Citigroup.

These programs in conjunction with the massive deficit spending programs undertaken by the Obama administration have ballooned our expected funding needs in calendar 2009 to upwards of $3 trillion, a fourfold increase over prior years.

In my opinion, interest rates are moving up much less on any real signs of economic improvement than on these funding needs and very real signs of a monetary printing press malfunction. What’s that? With the Fed Funds rate at 0-.25%, the Fed is literally flooding the economy with cash. Where is that cash going? Is it flowing through to the economy? Not really.

The cash is pouring into the banking system to cushion and support financial institutions from the ongoing losses connected to rising defaults on credit cards, residential mortgages, commercial real estate, and corporate loans.

The market is now very clearly sending a signal to Bernanke, Geithner, Obama and team that if they want to continue their programs as designed (and they do and will), the price, that is the rate of interest, is going up. Why?

The market is very concerned that the flood of liquidity will lead to inflation if not rampant inflation and potentially hyperinflation. How does Bernanke head that off?

Withdraw the very liquidity that he has found so necessary to pour into the financial system. How does he do that?Two ways.

1. increase the Fed Funds rate: that is, make borrowing more expensive.

2. reverse the quantitative easing program so that the Fed actually sells Treasury and mortgage-backed securities into the market and takes liquidity out in the process. What are the impacts of both those maneuvers? Higher interest rates.

In fact, interest rates are moving higher already in anticipation of Bernanke being forced to make these moves. Can Bernanke “thread this needle?” What will happen if interest rates move higher?

Slow the economy, especially housing given higher mortgage rates, and lower earnings especially for financial institutions. To wit, our equity markets are lower overnight.

Nobody said this was going to be easy.


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