Inflation indices that include interest payments are dangerous things, especially in countries where most debts have floating rates. An attempt to tighten temporarily causes headline inflation to accelerate, while rate cuts make it look as if inflation has slowed, irrespective of what else is going on in the economy. (This is separate from the intriguing Neo-Fisherian idea pondered by Professor Cochrane.)
These price indices are useful for measuring changes in real spending power, and arguably form a better basis for wage negotiations than ones that exclude debt service costs. But if you want to evaluate the performance of a central bank, or you work at one, you need to make sure you’re using a price index that doesn’t incorporate these swings. Read more
The US has falling prices again, but bulls need not fear: it is “good” deflation, as it is all about falling gas (petrol) prices making consumers better off.
Still, this chart should offer pause for thought: it shows US inflation on the same basis as the eurozone, which is worrying about “bad” deflation. The eurozone doesn’t include housing costs in its basket of consumer prices, so this compares the US excluding housing costs too. It doesn’t look pretty, with more deflation on this basis in the US than Europe. Read more
Or the risk of “lethal damage” if you’re into that sort of thing.
As said before, we’ve had 34 months and counting of negative PPI inflation in China with CPI at best lacklustre — coming in at 1.5 per cent in December. The risk is that, in a country charmingly wrapped in debt based uncertainty, we get outright deflation. Read more
One of the supposed “lessons” of Japan’s post-bubble experience is that steady grinding deflation is the worst fate that can befall a rich country. See, for example, Ben Bernanke’s classic speech from November, 2002, or this scary-looking visual from Nomura:
Commentators, academics and policymakers often assert that Japan’s economic performance since the 1980s is one of the worst fates a rich country can endure. While this has become somewhat less common since 2008 — Paul Krugman even apologized for his earlier criticisms — concerns about the “Japanification” of the euro area have become particularly intense as inflation has slowed and government bond yields have converged towards zero.
In a new note, economists at Nomura suggest that Europeans should only be so lucky. After all, Japan endured its supposedly “lost decades” with grace. The euro area has not, and things could end up getting even worse.
Before we dig into the meat of their arguments in a follow-up post, we can’t stress enough how important it is to adjust aggregate economic data for demographic differences. Read more
Ice Age theologian, Albert Edwards of SocGen, is back from holiday with a new missive warning of imminent equity collapse.
(As a reminder the Edwards’ Ice Age thesis, which has been running since the days of the Asia crisis, predicts a world of very low inflation and near deflation, where equities de-rate both absolutely and relative to government bonds, which also re-rate in absolute terms. This long-term valuation bear market doesn’t end until the S&P 500 hits 400 and bond yields are below 2 per cent and there’s been a deep recession and blow-up in China.)
As Edwards notes, sub 1-per cent 10-year bund yields are testament to at least one part of his theory playing out as anticipated. Read more
Rainbows are always just over the horizon, the recovery is around the corner, and interest rate hikes are always two years away.
That timescale tends toward the far enough that we won’t start to discount it just yet, but close enough that we can claim to be anticipating it. (Who cares what happens in three years time, anyway?) Read more
In the last few weeks the “Is QE deflationary?” debate has fused with the “What’s the natural rate of interest anyway?” and the “Is it really all about the risk premium?” conversation.
Many important insights have been offered by a whole host of people. A notable development, however, came in the shape of Tyler Cowen’s post on negative T-bill returns in which he considered the phenomenon of T-bill “entrance fees” during a zero-rate climate and how this can take returns for many investors into negative nominal territory, while providing advantages to those with access to “special technologies’” even when official rates are very mildly positive. Read more
As we’ve noted before it’s all feeling a little 1999 out there.
Lombard Street ‘s Dario Perkins agrees. He’s just released research entitled “Party like it’s 1999”, in he notes: Read more
Consider this chart from Morgan Stanley:
And then this from Barc: Read more
We first proposed the idea that QE could be (but wasn’t necessarily) deflationary a couple of years ago. It was dubbed a counter-intuitive idea by Tyler Cowen.
More recently, a similar proposition has been made by Stephen Williamson — though this time using models and proper math. His view is a little different to ours because it’s less focused on the safe asset squeeze and more on the conditions that generate a preference for cash over yielding paper in the first place. Hint: you have to think the purchasing power of cash will go up regardless. Read more
Since September 2011, the Fed has succeeded in managing inflation expectations but not inflation itself. Has anybody noticed? What happens when they do? Will QE4 be as successful at changing even inflation expectations when QE1, QE2, Operation Twist and QE3 have failed to prevent recorded inflation from now falling to 1.1%?
Russell Napier, strategist for CLSA, warns that benign inflation (s0 far as stock market investors are concerned) is very close to becoming dangerous deflation once more. (H/T to Climateer.) Read more
Okay, so it’s not the first time we’ve heard a positive spin on deflation.
Who can forget the famous last words of Deflation Draghi in June this year? Read more
The Credit Suisse European economics team are growing concerned about Mario Draghi’s disinflation problem:
Here’s a funny thing.
There was an amusing altercation between self-declared Austrian Peter Schiff (of “I see inflation everywhere” fame) versus The Money Illusion‘s Scott Sumner on Monday. It happened on Larry Kudlow’s show on CNBC. Read more
Bernanke’s last Humphrey-Hawkins speech has been pre-released (and his live testimony was due to begin at pixel time). Most analysts are noting the return of dovish sentiment, not to mention the explicit re-emergence of the “D” word: Read more
The first bits of post-Abenomics data are finally trickling in. And so far, it has to be said, it’s looking good for Shinzo Abe.
Lombard Street Research’s Michael Taylor takes us through the initial findings (our emphasis):
A recovery in industrial production and consumer spending points to above-trend growth in Q2. Consumer price inflation may soon make a brief appearance above zero on the back of higher energy and import prices. But deflation isn’t beaten yet. The splurge of Japanese data overnight confirms the overall positive trend in the economy. Notably, industrial production increased by 2% in the month of May, the fourth consecutive monthly increase. Output in May was boosted by electronic components and machinery in particular. Both industrial production and exports are now on an upward trend (see chart below). To a large extent this recovery is due to the weaker yen. Although the yen is above its recent lows against the US dollar, it is still 19% lower than last November.
Business Insider suggested the ascent of US real yields was possibly the most important development in the market right now. We don’t disagree.
As we noted, it represents the market’s reconnection with disinflationary reality. The smoke and mirrors are fading. What is worrying, however, is that a move of this size has been prompted by simple talk of tapering. If that’s what tapering does, what will the first hint of a proper QE exit inspire?
As a result, it’s unlikely that an outright QE exit is viable at this stage. The deflationary consequences (which include the chances of a major market-sell off) would arguably be too large. Given that let’s analyse what the move in real yields really signifies. Read more
The gold market has always been partial to “carry trades”. But in the post 2008 world the nature of the carry-trade has changed.
In collateral terms, whereas gold mostly traded on “special” terms before 2008 — because you had to pay to borrow it — meaning it was privy to more of a “stock lending” profile, post 2008 it went fully into “collateral” mode. Read more
We thought the following from TD Securities’ Richard Gilhooly on Tuesday was a rather insightful way of looking at the whole BoJ effect (our emphasis):
While it remains a contentious point and as yet unproven, Japan’s devaluation and soaring Nikkei vs slumping DAX or Bovespa has all the hallmarks of a competitive devaluation. While competing factions debate the Monetary expansion/QQE, versus beggar-thy-neighbour interpretation, one positive aspect of the Japanese Yen collapse and fear of exported deflation has been collapsing commodity prices with weak growth in export countries (China, Germany, S Korea) and a stronger USD helping a supply story (crude inventories at 22yr highs) and weak demand send commodities into a bear market.
Thursday’s 5-year US Treasury TIPS auction was something of a noteworthy one, according to Kit Juckes at Societe Generale. Click to enlarge…
Well, some of them at least. One of the big determinants of whether ‘Abenomics’ manages to pull Japan from its deflationary spiral is through wage growth. Inflation can’t really kick off or arguably even begin without rising wages. One can argue about how important wage growth is, or where it fits in causality-wise — and we’ll come to that later. But it is — or will be — an important signal as to whether this three-pronged approach of the new-ish Japanese government is working.
And actually, it might be catching on. Read more
“Whatever we can”, you say? Encouraging words from BoJ governor nominee Kuroda over the weekend (even if comparisons with Mr Draghi are overblown). If Cullen Roche is correct, what happens in Japan over the next year or many could change the future of economic policy. So it’s worth spending a bit more time on what Kuroda’s “can” might actually be.
We’ve argued already that much of the low-hanging fruit of expectations and verbal intervention has already been plucked. Read more
Dario Perkins at Lombard Street Research has a great little note out on Tuesday arguing why it’s absolutely wrong to assume the current bond sell-off is in any shape or form a repeat of 1994.
As he notes (our emphasis): Read more
Abenomics: it’s as divisive as it is fun to say.
We should start this round with Adam Posen, who used to sit on the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee and penned an Abenomics op-ed in the FT on Wednesday. Read more
The following chart, we propose, has the potential to inspire a whole new way of looking at the gold and Treasury market:
The Bank of Japan’s unprecedented joint statement with the Japanese government after the central bank’s October meeting raised eyebrows around the world. The BoJ was already widely seen as having come under increased political pressure in recent months as the country’s economy had slowed; so what did the joint statement mean?
The statement contained a couple of key declarations: “The Bank strongly expects the Government to vigorously promote measures for strengthening Japan’s growth potential”, and “The Government strongly expects the Bank to continue powerful easing as outlined in section 2 until deflation is overcome.” Read more
We introduced our Rubiks QE analogy on Tuesday. This post is a continuation, in which we apply the analogy to the crisis so far.
Before we go on we should point out that the Rubik’s is a simplification, as are the concepts of “tomorrow money” and “today money”. There are and will always be areas that call for further explanation, but which we haven’t covered in this post. If they’ve been left out, it’s mostly due to post-length constraints. It’s not because we are wilfully ignoring them. Read more
Last week FT Alphaville drew attention to the fact that HSBC had joined the cohorts of the “don’t call QE money-printing” brigade. We thought this was great progress for the mainstream analyst community.
Moreover, we thought their explanation was really good. Read more