CPI

Inflation Rises At Fastest Pace In 5 Years

It’s been some time since a Survival And Prosperity post focused on inflation.

I suspect I’ll be blogging about it more in the coming months.

Jeffry Bartash wrote on MarketWatch this morning:

Inflation rose in 2016 at the fastest pace in five years, as rising rents and medical care and higher gas prices put a squeeze on consumers.

The consumer price index jumped 0.3% in December, the government said Wednesday…

A string of sharp gains since late summer helped drive up inflation by 2.1% for the full year, marking the biggest increase since a 3% gain in 2011

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Bartash added:

For now it doesn’t look like inflation will wane soon. Gas prices rose again in January and many economists predict that aggressive stimulative measures by the new Trump administration could lead to even higher inflation

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Jeffrey Sparshott added over on The Wall Street Journal website late this afternoon:

The latest figures- driven in part by an uptick in energy prices- suggest a four-year stretch of historically low inflation could be ending

While details remain uncertain, the president-elect has pledge lower taxes and more infrastructure spending. That could lead to faster economic growth and accelerating inflation

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

As to what this might mean for interest rates, Fed Chair Janet Yellen spoke to the Commonwealth Club of California this afternoon. Ann Saphir reported on the Retuers website:

With the U.S. economy close to full employment and inflation headed toward the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent goal, it “makes sense” for the U.S. central bank to gradually lift interest rates, Fed Chair Janet Yellen said on Wednesday…

The Fed chief said that she and other Fed policymakers expected the central bank to lift its key benchmark short-term rate “a few times a year” through 2019, putting it near the long-term sustainable rate of 3 percent

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Bartash, Jeffry. “Inflation climbs at fastest pace in 5 years, CPI shows.” MarketWatch. 18 Jan. 2017. (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/inflation-climbs-in-2016-at-fastest-pace-in-5-years-cpi-shows-2017-01-18). 18 Jan. 2017.

Sparshott, Jeffrey. “U.S. Inflation Gauge Tops 2%, Supporting Fed’s Plan to Raise Rates.” The Wall Street Journal. 18 Jan. 2017. (http://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-consumer-prices-up-2-1-in-december-from-year-earlier-1484746534). 18 Jan. 2017.

Saphir, Ann. “Fed’s Yellen says ‘make sense’ to gradually raise interest rates.” Reuters. 18 Jan. 2017. (http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-fed-yellen-idUSKBN1522VH). 18 Jan. 2017.

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Peter Schiff: ‘Economy May Be Entering A Period Of Stagflation’

“I think now you’re going to see big increases in consumer prices. Remember the stagflation of the 1970s. Except this is going to have a lot more stagnation and a lot more inflation. And unlike what Ronald Reagan did at the end of that decade to put out that fire, nothing like that is going to happen this time because we can’t do it. We don’t have the tools. We can’t raise interest rates to fight inflation no matter how high inflation rises because that’s how broke we are. The only things keeping our institutions afloat, including the federal government, is artificially-low interest rates. And the more debt we have, the more important those low interest rates are to maintain the illusion of solvency. So, inflation is going to keep on going up and that is going to cause a flight from the dollar…”

-Peter Schiff, CEO of Euro Pacific Capital, in a February 5, 2016, entry on The Schiff Report vlog on YouTube.com

“Stagflation.” The word sends a shiver down my spine. And while Peter Schiff’s mention of it earlier this month caught my attention, alarm bells were sounding when the “crash prophet” talked more about stagflation in his Euro Pacific Capital weekly commentary that was just released Monday. From that piece:

Many were largely caught off guard by the arrival last Friday (February 19th) of new inflation data from the Labor Department that showed that the core consumer price index (CPI) rose in January at a 2.2 % annualized rate, the highest in more than 4 years, well past the 2.0% benchmark that the Fed has supposedly been so desperately trying to reach. It was received as welcome news…

In the past I argued that even a tiny, symbolic, quarter point increase would be sufficient to prick the enormous bubble that eight years of stimulus had inflated. Early results show that I was likely right on that point. The truth is that the economy may be entering a period of “stagflation” in which very low (or even negative) growth is accompanied by rising prices. This creates terrible conditions for consumers whereby prices rise but incomes don’t. This leads to diminished living standards.

The recent uptick in inflation does not somehow invalidate all the other signs that have pointed to a rapidly decelerating economy. Just because inflation picks up does not mean that things are getting better. It actually means they are about to get a whole lot worse. Stagflation is in fact THE nightmare scenario for the Fed. If inflation catches fire now, the Fed will be completely incapable of controlling it. If a measly 25 basis point increase could inflict the kind of damage already experienced, imagine what would happen if the Fed made a real attempt to raise rates to get out in front of rising inflation? With growth already close to zero, a monetary shock of 1% or 2% rates could send us into a recession that could end up putting Donald Trump into the White House. The Fed would prefer that fantasy never become reality…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Schiff, who correctly-called last decade’s housing crash and recent global economic crisis, went on to predict a dollar collapse, accelerating consumer price increases, and the U.S. Treasury bubble bursting with this scenario. A grim outlook, which you can read in its entirety on the Euro Pacific Capital website here.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s notes: Info added to “Crash Prophets” page; a qualified professional should be consulted prior to making a financial decision based on material found in this weblog. If this recommended course of action is not pursued, then it must be understood that the decision is the reader’s and the reader’s alone. The creator/Editor of this blog is not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information contained herein.)

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Democrats Or Republicans Better For Economy?

Is A Republican President Really Better For The Economy?
December 13, 2007

In the December 11 article “Economists Say Recession Risk Is Climbing,” the Wall Street Journal talked about some of the findings from its latest survey of economists. When asked which presidential candidate would be best for the economy, only half of the 52 economists participating in the survey responded. The Journal reported that 35% of respondents chose Rudolph Giuliani, 19% chose John McCain, and 15% picked Mitt Romney as the candidate who would be best for the U.S. economy. Hillary Clinton was picked by 8% of economists participating in the poll, while 4% chose John Edwards. Ron Paul, Michael Bloomberg, and Alan Greenspan each got a write-in vote. Alan Greenspan?

I’m not surprised that the survey results showed economists felt a Republican White House would be best for the U.S. economy. I’ve always heard that the economy performs better under a Republican president. Even when I was an undergraduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the early nineties, some of my classmates said that it was a shame that President Clinton and the Democrats were reaping the benefits of economic policies instituted by President George H.W. Bush’s administration. So tonight, I’m going to explore the claim that Republican administrations are “best” for the U.S. economy.

I call to your attention a study done in December 2006 by Elliott Parker, Ph.D., who is a Professor of Economics at the University of Nevada-Reno. Using data from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, Dr. Parker first compared the economic performance of Republican and Democratic presidencies from 1929 through the end of 2005. He found that the Real GDP Growth Rate (annual average) was 1.9% for Republican administrations and 5.1% for Democratic administrations during this time. Real GDP Growth Rate Per Capita was .7% for the Republicans and 3.8% for the Democrats. However, the professor pointed out that the years comprising the Great Depression and WWII should probably be excluded from the comparison. So economic performance from 1949 (end of Truman administration) to 2005 was compared, which showed Real GDP Growth Rate (annual average) under Republican administrations now stood at 2.9% and Democratic administrations at 4.2%. Real GDP Growth Rate Per Capita was 1.7% for the Republicans and 2.9% for the Democrats. These results prompted Dr. Parker to conclude that “the economy has grown significantly faster under Democratic administrations, and more than twice as fast in per-capita terms.”

The University of Nevada-Reno economics professor also uncovered the following while conducting the economic comparison between Republican and Democratic presidential administrations from 1949 to 2005:

• Unemployment Rate- Republicans 6.0%, Democrats 5.2%
• Change In Unemployment Rate- Republicans +0.3%, Democrats -0.4%
• Growth of Multifactor Productivity- Republicans 0.9%, Democrats 1.7%
• Corporate Profits (share of GDP)- Republicans 8.8%, Democrats 10.2%
• Real Value of Dow Jones Index- Republicans 4.3%, Democrats 5.4% (in logarithmic growth rates)- Republicans 2.8%, Democrats 4.4%
• Real Weekly Earnings- Republicans 0.3%, Democrats 1.0%
• CPI Inflation Rate- Republicans 3.8%, Democrats 3.8%

Regarding the question of statistical significance, Parker noted:

The differences in growth, unemployment, and the corporate profit share are all statistically significant, and support the argument that the economy may actually perform better under Democrats. The differences in weekly earnings, stock market growth, inflation, and multifactor productivity all favor the Democrats as well, but these differences are not statistically significant.

Addressing the claim heard back in my college days, Dr. Parker also tried to account for a lag effect. He said, “It is a reasonable argument that economic performance early in a new administration is likely to be the result of policies followed by the prior administration.” Therefore, he tested whether lagging the effect of the administration on growth might support the argument that the economy actually performed better under Republicans. The professor found that even with up to four years of lagged effects, there was no evidence that the economy performed better under Republicans.

Dr. Parker drew the following conclusions regarding the claim that Republican presidencies are “best” for the U.S. economy:

But we can reasonably conclude that these government statistics provide evidence that directly contradicts the argument that the economy does better on average under Republican administrations. With lagged effects and other causes considered, the difference may be insignificant, but the economy may actually perform worse under Republicans.

Are Democrats Or Republicans Better For The U.S. Economy?
September 10, 2008

Back on December 12, 2007, I wrote a post where I investigated the claim that Republican administrations are better for the U.S. economy than Democratic administrations. I referred to a study done in December 2006 by University of Nevado-Reno economics professor Elliott Parker, who compared the economic performance of Republican and Democratic presidencies from 1929 through the end of 2005 using data from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. Dr. Parker concluded:

But we can reasonably conclude that these government statistics provide evidence that directly contradicts the argument that the economy does better on average under Republican administrations. With lagged effects and other causes considered, the difference may be insignificant, but the economy may actually perform worse under Republicans.

Just recently, I came across a New York Times piece written by Princeton economics/public affairs professor Alan S. Blinder. A former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, Blinder wrote on August 31:

Many Americans know that there are characteristic policy differences between the two parties. But few are aware of two important facts about the post-World War II era, both of which are brilliantly delineated in a new book, Unequal Democracy, by Larry M. Bartels, a professor of political science at Princeton. Understanding them might help voters see what could be at stake, economically speaking, in November.

I call the first fact the Great Partisan Growth Divide. Simply put, the United States economy has grown faster, on average, under Democratic presidents than under Republicans.

The stark contrast between the whiz-bang Clinton years and the dreary Bush years is familiar because it is so recent. But while it is extreme, it is not atypical. Data for the whole period from 1948 to 2007, during which Republicans occupied the White House for 34 years and Democrats for 26, show average annual growth of real gross national product of 1.64 percent per capita under Republican presidents versus 2.78 percent under Democrats.

That 1.14-point difference, if maintained for eight years, would yield 9.33 percent more income per person, which is a lot more than almost anyone can expect from a tax cut.

Blinder then proceeded to point out another shortcoming of Republican economic leadership. He wrote:

The second big historical fact, which might be called the Great Partisan Inequality Divide, is the focus of Professor Bartels’ work.

It is well known that income inequality in the United States has been on the rise for about 30 years now- an unsettling development that has finally touched the public consciousness. But Professor Bartels unearths a stunning statistical regularity: Over the entire 60-year period, income inequality trended substantially upward under Republican presidents but slightly downward under Democrats, thus accounting for the widening income gaps over all. And the bad news for America’s poor is that Republicans have won five of the seven elections going back to 1980.

Blinder concluded:

The two Great Partisan Divides combine to suggest that, if history is a guide, an Obama victory in November would lead to faster economic growth with less inequality, while a McCain victory would lead to slower economic growth with more inequality. Which part of the Obama menu don’t you like?

Which leads me to ask, will the economy play along as history intends? As the British historian Peter Burke once said:

From time to time, historians need to be shocked.

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U.S. Lounges As World Gets Inflation Jitters

With energy costs up sharply, U.S. consumer prices rose 0.5% in December, the largest increase since June 2009, the Labor Department reported Friday.

However, core prices, which exclude volatile food and energy cost inputs, rose a tame 0.1%. Core prices are considered a good indicator of underlying inflationary pressures.

-MarketWatch, January 14, 2010

Most Americans might breathe a sigh of relief when confronted with the above headline (not me- as I’ll explain later in the week), but the thought of higher inflation is starting to unsettle others around the world. From Brian Blackstone and Marcus Walker of the Wall Street Journal today:

Inflation fears—fueled by spiraling food, oil and raw material prices—are mounting around the globe, prompting the head of the European Central Bank to signal that it could raise interest rates in the future even though some countries have been weakened by the Continent’s debt crisis.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal ahead of this week’s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jean-Claude Trichet warned that inflation pressures in the euro zone must be watched closely, and urged central bankers everywhere to ensure that higher energy and food prices don’t gain a foothold in the global economy.

Mr. Trichet’s warning comes at a time when inflation concerns are mounting among investors around the world. Fast-growing emerging markets such as China and Brazil are seeing rising inflation at home, and their demand for globally traded commodities is pushing prices higher elsewhere.

While high unemployment and spare capacity are restraining underlying inflation pressures in the U.S. and elsewhere in the developed world, annual inflation in China is almost 5%—and a sizzling 9.8% economic growth rate in the fourth quarter triggered fears of more price pressures ahead. Inflation in Brazil is even higher.

With the global recovery still in its early stages, those moves could accelerate…

I have to wonder what would happen to the American “recovery” if the Fed decided to attack inflation at this point in the game. After all, “real” inflation appeared to be running north of 4% in the United States last month. But that’s something I’ll discuss later…

Source:

Blackstone, Brian and Walker, Marcus. “Global Price Fears Mount.” Wall Street Journal. 24 Jan. 2011. (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703398504576099680269779402.html). 24 Jan. 2011.

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