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Inflation is spiking around the world – not just in the United States

Labor market disruptions, supply chain strains and the war in Ukraine have taken a toll everywhere.

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Rates are spiking in most comparable countries. Jesus Hellin/Europa Press via Getty Images

The 9.1% increase in U.S. consumer prices in the 12 months ending in June 2022, the highest in four decades, has prompted many sobering headlines.

Meanwhile, annual inflation in Germany and the U.K. – countries with comparable economies – ran nearly as high: 7.5% and 8.2%, respectively, for the 12 months ending in June 2022. In Spain, inflation has hit 10%.

It might seem like U.S. policies brought on this predicament, but economists like me doubt it because inflation is spiking everywhere, with few exceptions. Rates averaged 9.65% in the 38 largely wealthy countries that belong to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development through May 2022.

What revved up those price increases starting in early 2021?

Scarcity put pressure on prices everywhere

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, demand for computers and other high-tech goods soared as many people switched from working in offices to clocking in at home.

Computer chip manufacturers struggled to keep up, leading to chip shortages and higher prices for a dizzying array of devices and machines requiring them, including refrigerators, cars and smartphones.

It’s not just chips. Many of the goods Americans consume, such as cars, televisions and prescription drugs, are imported from all corners of the world.

Supply chain strains

On top of problems tied to supply and demand changes, there have been major disruptions to how goods move to manufacturers and then onto consumers along what’s known as the supply chain.

Freight disruption, whether by ship, train or truck, has interfered with the delivery of all sorts of goods since 2020. That’s caused the cost of shipping goods to rise sharply.

These massive shipping disruptions have exposed the disadvantages of the popular just-in-time practice for managing inventory.

By keeping as little of the materials needed to make their products on hand, companies become more vulnerable to shortages and transportation snafus. And when manufacturers are unable to make their products quickly, shortages occur and prices surge.

This approach, especially when it involves the reliance on far-flung suppliers, has left businesses much more susceptible to market shocks.

Labor complications

The beginning of the pandemic also sent shock waves through labor markets with lasting effects.

Many businesses either fired or furloughed large numbers of workers in 2020. When governments began to relax restrictions related to the pandemic, many employers found that significant numbers of their former workers were unwilling to return to work.

Whether those workers had chosen to retire early, seek new jobs offering a better work-life balance or become disabled, the results were the same: labor shortages that required higher wages to recruit replacements and retain other employees.

Again, all of these dynamics are occurring globally, not just in the U.S.

War in Ukraine compounded these woes

Russia’s war on Ukraine, which began officially on Feb. 24, 2022, has also exacerbated inflation by interfering with the global supply of fuels and grains.

The conflict’s effects are reverberating around the globe and fueling inflation.

Russia is the world’s second-largest exporter of crude oil. Sanctions against Russian imports, combined with Russia halting oil shipments to European countries in retaliation, has led to disruptions in the global oil market.

As Europe buys more oil from the Middle East, demand for oil from that region increases, prompting price increases. Crude prices jumped from $101 per barrel in late February 2022, to $123 a month later. Prices stayed high for several months but by late July were around $100 a barrel again.

Food prices have increased substantially in the U.S. and elsewhere, partly due to this conflict. Ukraine possesses some of the most fertile soil in the world and is the third-largest exporter of corn.

Russia’s destruction of Ukrainian crops and its blockade of Ukrainian exports have led to significant price increases worldwide for agricultural commodities.

How will the world respond?

Support for globalization and international trade has waned in recent years. Given supply chain disruptions and the war in Ukraine fueling inflation, this trend will likely continue.

However, as an economist, I believe the benefits of free and open trade still outweigh current challenges.

In my view, there isn’t anything fundamentally wrong with the globalization that cannot be fixed. But, like quelling inflation and alleviating supply chain bottlenecks, it will take time.

Christopher Decker does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Commodities

Bitcoin Is The Best Distraction From This Financial Collapse, Says Franklin CEO

Bitcoin is the best distraction from this financial collapse according to Jenny Johnson, President and CEO of Franklin Templeton. She said that the current…

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Bitcoin is the best distraction from this financial collapse according to Jenny Johnson, President and CEO of Franklin Templeton.

She said that the current status of the economy is really dire, and bitcoin is “the finest diversion” from it. She also complimented blockchain technology as an excellent breakthrough that will soon have a good effect on a variety of businesses.

Franklin Templeton, a multinational investment company with approximately $1.5 trillion in assets under management, was founded in 1947. Along with conventional financial services, the organization also offers cryptocurrency choices.

Bitcoin Is The Best Distraction

The current economic crisis, according to Jenny Johnson, is the best disruption I see occurring to monetary providers at this time, she said in a recent interview. In her opinion, bitcoin, which many have referred to as a hedge against inflation and even as digital gold, could divert customers’ attention away from the problems.

Johnson, though, believes that governments won’t permit BTC to overtake other foreign currency options.

“It’s extra like faith, and individuals are going to debate it,” she argued.

The CEO contends that blockchain technology, however, will actually be a “game changer since she thinks it would have a pretty dramatic positive impact on virtually every industry.

Johnson then reassured consumers that Franklin Templeton continues to offer cryptocurrency services and has no plans to stop doing so.

The Disaster

Since the COVID-19 pandemic spread and caused a health catastrophe a few years ago, the entire world has been suffering. In addition to the millions of lives lost and the disruption of social life, the epidemic also had a negative impact on the world’s financial system.

To keep the economy afloat during the crisis, some central banks (most notably the US Federal Reserve) began creating enormous amounts of fiat money. But two years later, this procedure, together with a number of other factors, caused inflation rates to soar in practically every nation on the planet.

When Russian forces launched a purported “special military operation” in Ukraine in 2022, the situation only became worse. Nearly 25% of Ukrainians fled their war-torn country and settled abroad as a result of the conflict between the two countries.

The West, led by the USA, accused Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, for the assault and severed its financial ties with the largest landlocked nation on Earth. Dubious Russian oligarchs and billionaires were also sanctioned under the guise of being part of Putin’s inner circle.

Russia, on the other hand, stopped supplying gas to some European nations, many of which lack other sources of energy. A contributing element to higher electricity prices is the fact that, when energy prices rise, practically all other prices do as well.

In times like these we really need a lot of distractions.

Read the latest news in crypto.

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Economics

Inflation: A Play In Three Acts

Inflation: A Play In Three Acts

By Simon White, Bloomberg Markets Live commentator and reporter

Today’s drop in inflation potentially sets…

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Inflation: A Play In Three Acts

By Simon White, Bloomberg Markets Live commentator and reporter

Today’s drop in inflation potentially sets the stage for less tightening - or even easing - in the medium term, leading to a resurgence in inflation later in the cycle, eventually requiring a significant re-tightening of monetary conditions. Even if today’s fall in consumer-price inflation means we are over the peak, and it continues to slow, we are still probably only in the first act of a three act play.

The 1970s are an imperfect analogy, but they have one crucial aspect in common with today: the monetization of large fiscal deficits. Runaway inflation is almost always preceded by large government borrowing financed by the central bank.

Both the late 1960s and the last few years saw rising fiscal deficits facilitated by a central bank that thought it had more room to ease than it really did, as was the case in the late 1960s and early 1970s; or one that decided to ignore rising inflation altogether, as the Fed did with its recent maximum-employment/average-inflation-targeting framework.

Once the conditions for high inflation are there, the economy is at the mercy of “events”, whether that be the Arab Oil Embargo in the early 1970s, or the pandemic and the Ukraine war in the current period.

We are now in Act I, where inflation is high and rising. We will soon enter Act II, where a respite in inflation hoodwinks the Fed into believing it can take its foot off the tightening pedal prematurely. This sets the stage for Act III, where price growth stops falling, and takes off again, this time making new highs.

But what’s maybe happening under the surface here? A way to think about this is to quantitatively break up inflation into cyclical and structural components.

Cyclical price pressures should soon start to ease, taking the headline number down. But, as the chart below shows, the estimate for structural inflation is very high, making up almost half the headline number.

If almost half of current inflation proves harder to shake, the cyclical-driven fall in the headline number would only be cosmetically positive. Once the cyclical components start contributing positively again, they would reinforce the stickier, structural inflation, potentially leading CPI to new highs.

This would be Act III, and we know from the Volcker era how that has to end.

 

Tyler Durden Wed, 08/10/2022 - 18:40

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Economics

US CPI eases substantially to 8.5% but the Fed yet to “hit the brakes”

US consumers received a welcome break from the meteoric rise in prices with the July CPI ‘easing’ more than anticipated to 8.5% Y-o-Y. The figure moderated…

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US consumers received a welcome break from the meteoric rise in prices with the July CPI ‘easing’ more than anticipated to 8.5% Y-o-Y.

The figure moderated from 9.1% in June owing to a fall in surging gasoline prices as the summer driving season came to a close.

Forecasts had suggested that the CPI may only fall to 8.7%.

Prices of key commodities such as corn, wheat and copper also declined by 20.4%, 27.7% and 13.5% compared to 3 months ago at the time of writing.

Buoyed by renewed optimism, the S&P 500 has risen by 2.1% thus far during today’s session.

Yet, the rate of inflation is still far above the Fed’s stated 2% target.

Source: Investing.com

Core CPI which excludes volatile energy and food items from the main basket stayed unchanged at 5.9% Y-o-Y while increasing by 0.3% on a monthly basis, significantly below July expectations of 0.7%.

Pimco economists Tiffany Wilding and Allison Boxer noted that although headline inflation has eased, core CPI has stayed firm, and has even seen an uptick in related data released by the Fed’s regional institutions.

The July reading showed the sharpest Y-o-Y dip since March 2020, when CPI fell from 2.3% in February to 1.5% as the initial lockdowns took effect.

Source: Investing.com

American families continue to battle sky-high prices amid declining real wages. Simon Moore, a contributor at Forbes magazine adds that “price increases for many other areas of the economy still remain concerning for the Fed.”

The broad-based nature of inflation has meant essentials such as food, rent, and health services are continuing to see an uptick despite a lower aggregate number.

For instance, the Bank of America noted that the average monthly rent has risen by 16% for those in the youth demographics.

Source: TradingEconomics.com, US EIA

Jobs market

The substantial dip in the CPI has proved to be a bit of a surprise following the latest jobs report which registered an increase of 528,000 in July, with the unemployment rate falling to a low of 3.5%.

The labour market continues to remain unnaturally tight despite the Fed’s overall hawkishness, two consecutive quarters of GDP contraction, and reports of big-tech lay-offs earlier in the year.

A tighter job market usually implies more competition for talent, higher wages and ultimately more spending. More spending tends to push up consumer inflation necessitating rate hikes.

As of July 2022, the U.S economy has been able to replace the 22 million jobs that were lost amid covid lockdowns, leading to predictions of a “jobful recession.”

Economists argue that this unique situation may be fueled in part by ageing demographics and a sharp decline in immigration during the course of the pandemic.

Productivity data

A key concern for the Federal Reserve is falling labour productivity in the economy. The output per worker reduced for a second consecutive quarter to -4.6% Y-o-Y, having registered a fall of 7.4% in the first three months of the year.

Q1 marked the deepest cut in labour productivity since records began in 1948, 74 years ago. This was reinforced by the weakness in GDP data that contracted in both Q1 and Q2, contrasting with the positive signals from the headline jobs figures.

At the same time, unit labour costs increased 10.8% in Q2, although real wages have contracted 3.5% over the past year.

Can we expect a pause in rate hikes?

Bluford Putnam, Managing Director & Chief Economist, CME Group, wrote “…factors has changed course in the past six to 12 months and is no longer likely to be a source of future inflation”

Elevated goods demand due to the pandemic and ongoing lockdowns have eased markedly; supply chain disruptions will take time to alleviate completely but significant strides have been made in this regard; the gigantic fiscal stimulus injected during the covid crisis has largely run its course; central banks are finally reducing their balance sheets; while policymakers have embarked upon the withdrawal of rock-bottom interest rates.  These are all sources of price rise that have seemingly turned the corner.

In addition, gasoline prices are likely to ease for the foreseeable future, while WTI and Brent have fallen 4.7% and 2.4%, respectively over the past month.

However, Bill Adams of Comerica Bank has been reluctant to call a peak to inflation and expects that the US is at risk of “another energy price shock” over the winter.

The conduct of monetary policy has never been a clear-cut matter. The judgement of monetary authorities is paramount while projecting into the future has always been fraught with known and unknown unknowns. 

The relatively sharp decline in CPI, contracting GDP and tightness in the job market tell a muddled tale.

For the average householder, costs are punitive, and inflation is likely to stay sticky.

However, the New York Fed in its July survey of expectations found that inflation expectations of the ‘general public’ have followed gasoline and broader energy prices lower, with one year ahead expectations falling to 6.2%.

Since inflation expectations are central to the monetary policy equation, once again, we find that supply-side factors not under the control of central banks may have influenced public sentiment and consumer behaviour more so than simply tighter policies.

In light of the likely easing among key inflationary sources, CME’s FedWatch Tool reports that there is a 60.5% probability of a 50 bps hike in September, while there is a 39.5% chance of a third consecutive 75 bps hike.

This is in spite of the fact that Jerome Powell believes that the Fed has been able to achieve the neutral interest rate during its last meeting – a level where the economy is neither constrained into contraction nor incentivized to expand.

Putnam states that “any level of short-term rates that is below a reasonable view of inflation expectations remains accommodative”, resulting in the Fed taking “its foot off the accelerator, but it has not hit the brakes. “  

Moore points out that “Inflation is starting to fall, but still not by as much as the Fed would like and it may be some time before they can declare any sort of victory”

For now, all eyes will be on tomorrow’s Producer Price Index data and the likely passing of the controversial Inflation Reduction Act in the coming days.

The post US CPI eases substantially to 8.5% but the Fed yet to “hit the brakes” appeared first on Invezz.

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