What Causes “Transitory” Inflation to Become “Persistent”?
You are the CEO of Acme Widget Factory. Among your many duties is overseeing production and profit margins related to your core product, widgets. Competition in your industry is stiff, with over a half dozen widget producers.
The pandemic and recovery are throwing the widget industry for quite a loop. In the spring of 2020, there was no demand for widgets. You laid-off employees and limited production while focusing on survival. During the summer of 2020, fiscal stimulus was percolating through the economy, and demand soared. It continues at a robust pace.
Acme’s future is brighter, but as CEO, you face a new set of problems. Your factories are running at full force, as are your competitors, but demand appears insatiable. At the same time, the prices of the materials needed to make widgets keep rising. Further, new and existing workers are demanding higher wages.
The problem facing Acme’s CEO is occurring in executive suites across America. Their decisions about how to navigate through 2022 and beyond in this unprecedented period illuminates a potential source for “persistent” inflation.
The price of widgets is up 20% in just the last year. However, demand weakens with each recent price increase. In economic speak, demand for widgets is elastic. Consumers demand fewer widgets as prices rise.
Even with the slight reduction in demand, the industry cannot produce enough widgets. The good news is profit margins are higher than average as widget prices are rising faster than expenses.
As the CEO of Acme, you have a tough decision to make. Do you keep production capabilities as is or boost production with a new factory and more employees?
The CEO’s Transitory Dilemma
The biggest unknown you, the CEO, face in making the decision above is forecasting the future. In particular, the following questions:
- How will widget sales be in 2023 and beyond?
- Will input prices continue to rise?
- Can you pass on rising costs to consumers?
- Assuming inflation remains hot, will employees demand higher wages and more benefits?
- If needed, can I even hire more capable employees?
Most CEOs closely track economic activity and forecasts. Unless they are hiding under a rock, they recognize recent economic strength is primarily driven by the pandemic – specifically, the government’s massive spending and benefits programs.
CEOs, aiming to make the right decisions, must appreciate the economy’s heavy reliance on Washington in their strategic plans.
The President and Democrats are trying to keep money flowing through the economy. They are currently proposing massive spending bills. Blocking their plans is the upcoming 2022 midterm elections. Political games will make it much trickier to pass spending bills than in 2020. Democrats in office realize weak economic growth is not a winning ticket. Those Republicans, wanting their seats, also understand that.
As CEO, we are beholden to our lobbyists to help us make decisions about Widget production. A strong economy typically results in better widget sales. As the economy continues to re-open and consumer behaviors normalize, personal consumption is likely to revert to longer-term averages unless Uncle Sam continues to be very generous to consumers.
As the CEO, we must determine if continued massive fiscal spending is likely or a one-time pandemic action.
The Fed’s Opinion
CEOs also need to decipher what the Fed thinks of future economic growth and how they may steer policy.
Per the Fed- “The Federal Reserve Board employs just over 400 Ph.D. economists, who represent an exceptionally diverse range of interests and specific areas of expertise.”
The Fed has the greatest army of economists in the world. What they say and their economic forecasts should have a profound impact on our decisions. Unlike guessing about how Washington plans on spending money, the Fed is easier to decipher.
Via official policy statements and minutes, the Fed describes the recent bout of strong economic growth and inflation as “transitory.” By this, they suggest economic growth will moderate, and swelling inflation will revert to norms.
According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, transitory implies a short period.
Transitory is a vague term. It can mean minutes or hours or infer years or even decades. 400+ economics Ph. D.s are not dumb. They likely chose the word because it has no clear-cut definition.
Had they defined the period of excessive price and economic growth with a specific range of months, they risk being wrong. They will be technically correct with the current phrasing if inflation and growth normalize tomorrow or in two years.
The graph below from Google Trends shows the search term “transitory inflation” is popular after being largely non-searched.
Since the Fed is not defining transitory in terms of a specific time, we need another way to quantify their vagueness. Fortunately, the Fed’s FOMC members periodically put out expectations for growth, inflation, and unemployment. While the results are based on the forecasts of FOMC board members, we have little doubt they represent the work of the Ph.D. army.
The three charts below show their expectations for the remainder of this year as well as 2022, 2023, and 2024. We also include their “long-run” forecast and the average from 2017-2019 for historical context.
The first graph points to economic growth normalizing in 2023. After that, they expect GDP growth to be weaker than pre-pandemic levels.
Inflation will return to near normal but run a little hotter than before the pandemic.
Fed members expect the unemployment rate to fall below the pre-pandemic average in 2022 and remain there for at least two more years.
Transitory vs. Persistent
With our fiscal policy expectations and the opinions of over 400 Ph. D.s, we, as CEO, have a tough decision to make. Should we construct a new factory, hire workers, and boost production to meet current demand?
If the Fed is correct, the recent boost in widget sales is transitory. Further, per their expectations, future economic growth, ergo widget sales, may be weaker than pre-pandemic levels. Adding a new factory and more workers may be profitable while the boom lasts. However, doing so may result in excess capacity and too many workers in the long run. If the industry adds production capability, supply will certainly outstrip demand and reduce prices down the road.
In addition to weaker expected economic growth, we must also consider expectations for a lower unemployment rate and higher prices than were normal pre-pandemic. In theory, those conditions should result in higher wages and production costs in a few years.
As CEO, we must think in terms of at least 5-10 years. While the current outlook is good, it may also be transitory. Per the Fed forecasts, our sales and margins are likely to shrink. Boosting capacity into such an environment seems foolish.
Taking permanent steps to cure short-term needs can be a costly trap. Unless runaway fiscal spending becomes the norm.
As COVID spread around the globe, economies were shuttered. At the same time, governments around the world flooded consumers and some companies with unprecedented amounts of cash.
As a result of limited production and strong demand, prices soared. This is the source of current inflation.
If demand stays high, in part due to more fiscal spending and supply lines and production remain fractured, inflation will continue to run hot. If such a scenario plays out as many CEOs decide not to invest in new production facilities, “persistent” inflation becomes much more likely.
We strip you of the CEO title. As an investor with CEO insight, you have a lot to consider. Primarily, “persistent” is not “transitory.” Nor is persistent in the Fed’s forecast. Persistent inflation requires the Fed to take detrimental actions to investors.
This is not our outlook but given the oddities of the current environment and our fiscal leaders’ carelessness, it’s one we must consider.
The post What Causes “Transitory” Inflation to Become “Persistent”? appeared first on RIA.unemployment pandemic stimulus economic growth fomc fed federal reserve army spread gdp recovery unemployment stimulus
‘Build Back… You Know, The Thing’: Americans Have No Idea What’s In Biden’s Economic Plan
‘Build Back… You Know, The Thing’: Americans Have No Idea What’s In Biden’s Economic Plan
While Congressional Democrats spar over the ultimate size of President Biden’s "Build Back Better" economic plan, Bloomberg astutely points out that..
While Congressional Democrats spar over the ultimate size of President Biden's "Build Back Better" economic plan, Bloomberg astutely points out that Americans have no clue what they're signing up for with their tax dollars. In fact, according to a CBS News poll published Oct. 10, just 10% of Americans say they know the specifics of the bill, while only 1/3 think it would benefit them directly.
What's more, "Not even Congress knows what the bill would accomplish, with the contents of the plan changing day-by-day as Democrats squabble over how much it should spend, who it should benefit and who should pay for it."
For example, on Tuesday, the White House suggested it would jettison free community college. The next day, Democrats were focused on proposed tax hikes after moderate Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) put her foot down over corporate and personal tax rates.
In an attempt to provide some clarity (don't hold your breath), Biden on Thursday night held a CNN town hall-style event (on the same night as Dune's US release).
In short, their messaging sucks.
"I will state the obvious, but they need to shift the focus away from process to policy. So far, the coverage around their proposal is all around Democratic divisions, which inevitably makes it impossible to sell," said former Marco Rubio communications director, Alex Conant. "Frankly, they need to talk about what their goals are," he added. "Why is this necessary?"
Republicans, on the other hand, are clear on their messaging; "Massive government spending leads to massive tax hikes," according to GOP strategist Ron Bonjean. "When you have a shifting number and shifting programs, it becomes confusing to follow."
Instead of focusing on the legislation’s new investments in child care, the elderly, education, healthcare and climate change, Democratic lawmakers have openly haggled over the price tag. A standoff between the party’s progressive and centrist factions has created cable news-ready drama.
“Given how much is wrapped up in this package, it was always going to be a long and intense negotiation,” said Ben LaBolt, a former spokesperson for President Barack Obama. “One way to start is to build the case for the way this will help middle class families and focus the public on those conversations, while at the same time preserving room for the closed-door negotiations to bring all of the elements of the party together for the biggest, most comprehensive approach possible.” -Bloomberg
In a Wednesday speech in Scranton, PA, Biden tried - and failed - to convey how his economic agenda would help working class families - by intermingling stories about growing up in the area and programs contained in the legislation.
"Frankly, they’re about more than giving working families a break; they’re about positioning our country to compete in the long haul," said Biden, doing his usual poor job of reading a teleprompter. "Economists left, right, and center agree."
Meanwhile, Biden - let's face it, Biden's 'advisers' have failed to ink a final compromise between warring factions of Democrats. For the Build Back Better plan to pass, every single Senate Democrat must be on board. As moderates Sinema and Joe Manchin (D-WV) balk on the price tag and demanding deep cuts, progressive House Democrats are sure to similarly balk at passing the smaller, $1.2 trillion infrastructure package that's already passed the Senate.
While advocacy groups have started to spend heavily to promote policies in the plan, most of the discussion remains centered on its cost.
Biden’s advisers are banking on the presumption that ordinary Americans don’t pay much attention to the machinations of everyday Washington. Much as they were during the presidential campaign, the president’s aides are largely dismissive of what they call horse-race stories.
But Biden’s team had a much easier time selling his pandemic relief legislation, the American Rescue Plan, in March, with its convenient focus on three clear issues -- money for vaccines, money to re-open schools and checks sent directly to American households. -Bloomberg
"They haven’t laid out why we need this, other than Democrats are in power now and aren’t going to have it again for a long time," said Conant.
Good luck with that.
Parents were fine with sweeping school vaccination mandates five decades ago – but COVID-19 may be a different story
Public health experts know that schools are likely sites for the spread of disease, and laws tying school attendance to vaccination go back to the 1800s.
The ongoing battles over COVID-19 vaccination in the U.S. are likely to get more heated when the Food and Drug Administration authorizes emergency use of a vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, expected later this fall.
California has announced it will require the vaccine for elementary school attendance once it receives full FDA approval after emergency use authorization, and other states may follow suit. COVID-19 vaccination mandates in workplaces and colleges have sparked controversy, and the possibility that a mandate might extend to younger children is even more contentious.
Kids are already required to get a host of other vaccines to attend school. School vaccination mandates have been around since the 19th century, and they became a fixture in all 50 states in the 1970s. Vaccine requirements are among the most effective means of controlling infectious diseases, but they’re currently under attack by small but vocal minorities of parents who consider them unacceptable intrusions on parental rights.
As a public health historian who studies the evolution of vaccination policies, I see stark differences between the current debates over COVID-19 vaccination and the public response to previous mandates.
Compulsory vaccination in the past
The first legal requirements for vaccination date to the early 1800s, when gruesome and deadly diseases routinely terrorized communities. A loose patchwork of local and state laws were enacted to stop epidemics of smallpox, the era’s only vaccine-preventable disease.
Vaccine mandates initially applied to the general population. But in the 1850s, as universal public education became more common, people recognized that schoolhouses were likely sites for the spread of disease. Some states and localities began enacting laws tying school attendance to vaccination. The smallpox vaccine was crude by today’s standards, and concerns about its safety led to numerous lawsuits over mandates.
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld compulsory vaccination in two decisions. The first, in 1905, affirmed that mandates are constitutional. The second, in 1922, specifically upheld school-based requirements. In spite of these rulings, many states lacked a smallpox vaccination law, and some states that did have one failed to enforce it consistently. Few states updated their laws as new vaccines became available.
School vaccination laws underwent a major overhaul beginning in the 1960s, when health officials grew frustrated that outbreaks of measles were continuing to occur in schools even though a safe and effective vaccine had recently been licensed.
Many parents mistakenly believed that measles was an annoying but mild disease from which most kids quickly recovered. In fact, it often caused serious complications, including potentially fatal pneumonia and swelling of the brain.
With encouragement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all states updated old laws or enacted new ones, which generally covered all seven childhood vaccines that had been developed by that time: diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps and rubella. In 1968, just half the states had school vaccination requirements; by 1981, all states did.
Expanding requirements, mid-20th century
What is most surprising about this major expansion of vaccination mandates is how little controversy it provoked.
The laws did draw scattered court challenges, usually over the question of exemptions – which children, if any, should be allowed to opt out. These lawsuits were often brought by chiropractors and other adherents of alternative medicine. In most instances, courts turned away these challenges.
There was scant public protest. In contrast to today’s vocal and well-networked anti-vaccination activists, organized resistance to vaccination remained on the fringes in the 1970s, the period when these school vaccine mandates were largely passed. Unlike today, when fraudulent theories of vaccine-related harm – such as the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism – circulate endlessly on social media, public discussion of the alleged or actual risks of vaccines was largely absent.
Through most of the 20th century, parents were less likely to question pediatricians’ recommendations than they are today. In contrast to the empowered “patient/consumer” of today, an attitude of “doctor knows best” prevailed. All these factors contributed to overwhelmingly positive views of vaccination, with more than 90% of parents in a 1978 poll reporting that they would vaccinate their children even if there were no law requiring them to do so.
Widespread public support for vaccination enabled the laws to be passed easily – but it took more than placing a law on the books to control disease. Vaccination rates continued to lag in the 1970s, not because of opposition, but because of complacency.
Thanks to the success of earlier vaccination programs, most parents of young children lacked firsthand experience with the suffering and death that diseases like polio or whooping cough had caused in previous eras. But public health officials recognized that those diseases were far from eradicated and would continue to threaten children unless higher rates of vaccination were reached. Vaccines were already becoming a victim of their success. The better they worked, the more people thought they were no longer needed.
In response to this lack of urgency, the CDC launched a nationwide push in 1977 to help states enforce the laws they had recently enacted. Around the country, health officials partnered with school districts to audit student records and provide on-site vaccination programs. When push came to shove, they would exclude unvaccinated children from school until they completed the necessary shots.
The lesson learned was that making a law successful requires ongoing effort and commitment – and continually reminding parents about the value of vaccines in keeping schools and entire communities healthy.
Add COVID-19 to vaccine list for school?
Five decades after school mandates became universal in the U.S., support for them remains strong overall. But misinformation spread over the internet and social media has weakened the public consensus about the value of vaccination that allowed these laws to be enacted.
COVID-19 vaccination has become politicized in a way that is unprecedented, with sharp partisan divides over whether COVID-19 is really a threat, and whether the guidance of scientific experts can be trusted. The attention focused on COVID-19 vaccines has given new opportunities for anti-vaccination conspiracy theories to reach wide audiences.
[Over 115,000 readers rely on The Conversation’s newsletter to understand the world. Sign up today.]
Fierce opposition to COVID-19 vaccination, powered by anti-government sentiment and misguided notions of freedom, could undermine support for time-tested school requirements that have protected communities for decades. Although vaccinating school-aged children will be critical to controlling COVID-19, lawmakers will need to proceed with caution.
James Colgrove has received funding from the National Library of Medicine, the Greenwall Foundation, the Milbank Memorial Fund, and the William T. Grant Foundation.cdc disease control emergency use authorization covid-19 vaccine fda spread
2 High Yielding Canadian Dividend Stocks to Add Today
Many investors are looking to achieve financial freedom. Ditching that 9-5 job and being financially free is certainly a lifestyle to get excited about. To achieve this, many buy high-yielding Canadian dividend stocks. But, what many don’t realize is…
Many investors are looking to achieve financial freedom. Ditching that 9-5 job and being financially free is certainly a lifestyle to get excited about.
To achieve this, many buy high-yielding Canadian dividend stocks. But, what many don't realize is that the dividend yield of a company is not the first thing you should be looking at. In fact, a high yield can sometimes be a looming disaster. Look no further than the record-breaking amount of dividend cuts we had during the COVID-19 pandemic.
There's no point in purchasing a high yielding Canadian dividend stock if you're going to watch your capital shrink. So, in this article we're going to highlight a few options that not only present a high dividend yield for investors buying stocks to churn out more passive income, but a reliable dividend yield, one that can stand the test of time.
Reliability found in Enbridge (TSX:ENB)
If you're an income investor, you've likely heard of Enbridge (TSE:ENB). The company has paid a notoriously high yield for decades, and has maintained one of the longest dividend growth streaks in the country, raising consistently for more than 2 and a half decades.
Enbridge is a midstream company with a growing renewable energy portfolio. To give an indication of the company's dominance, it states that it is responsible for shipping more than 20% of the natural gas that is consumed in the United States, and 25% of North America's crude oil.
Enbridge (TSX:ENB) and the renewable future
Its renewable energy portfolio is quite small, accounting for only 3% of 2020 adjusted EBITDA, but it is one that is growing fast, and investors should take note. As we move further into the future, renewables will no doubt play a key role in Enbridge's growth.
There's also a chance you've glanced at Enbridge during a pre-screen and avoided the company due to excessively high payout ratios. Which, is fairly reasonable. The company is currently paying out over 110% of trailing earnings towards its dividend. But, you may be missing a massive opportunity here.
When analyzing pipelines, you want to be looking at something called distributable cash flow, or DCF. This cash flow calculation is produced by the company themselves, and calculations can vary to some degree. Given the complex business structure of a pipeline company, this is the most reliable indicator to use when it comes to dividend safety.
In 2021, Enbridge expects to generate $4.70-5 in distributable cash flow. With a dividend of $3.34 per year, this puts the company's payout ratio at 66.8% on the high end. Of note, Enbridge's target is to keep its payout ratio within this range, and the company has done so for quite some time.
Consistent cash flows in "take or pay" contracts
How has it managed to do so? Cash flow with pipelines is extremely consistent, due to long term take or pay contracts. Regardless of whether or not Enbridge is shipping product, the pipeline space is paid for. And not only this, Enbridge can turn around and charge someone else to utilize that space, even if it has already been paid for and goes unused.
This creates an extremely reliable cash flow stream despite the price of natural gas or oil, and is one of the major reasons why Enbridge and other midstream companies are not as susceptible to volatility in commodity prices.
Yielding 6.47%, Enbridge is a solid option to help you bolster your passive income stream and start generating long-standing wealth.
Beefy distribution in A&W Revenue Royalties Income Fund (TSX:AW.UN)
Royalty funds are often avoided due to their complex and confusing structure. However, many of them provide excellent opportunities for investors looking to generate passive income. A&W Revenue Royalties Income Fund (TSE:AW.UN) is one that does just that.
Many bears will point out that A&W in the United States has been struggling. However, in Canada it is a much different story.
A&W thriving in Canadian space
The company has over 1,000 restaurants in Canada and had system sales of over $1.4B in 2020, despite being in a global pandemic. The company has proven to be exceptionally skilled at marketing its products and has some of the best industry leading growth out of all fast food chains in Canada.
As a royalty company, A&W Royalty collects "top line" cash flows. Which means it is solely dependent on the sales driven through A&W restaurants. This means that its distribution can vary depending on how well the restaurants do, but overall it has been extremely reliable when it comes to payments.
Yes, the chain did suspend its $0.10 monthly distribution because of the pandemic in 2020, however it quickly made up for this by providing 2 special distributions of $0.30 and $0.20 when operations started back up later in the year.
Sales growth through the first 6 months of 2021
Prior to the pandemic, the company had achieved mid to high single digit same store sales growth over the last half decade, and it's off to a roaring start in 2021 as well, with 12.2% sales growth through the first 6 months. Through the first 6 months of the year the company has also added 34 new restaurants. To put this into perspective, the company added 37 in all of Fiscal 2020.
The fund yields 4.77%, and pays out on a monthly basis. Payout ratios will look high, but if you understand the operations of a royalty company, you'll know that it aims to pay out the vast majority of its distributable cash back to shareholders.
Overall, it seems consumers are willing to eat at A&W despite higher costs, which bodes well for the company's growth. It does this with great marketing and higher quality food than similar chains like Burger King and Mcdonalds, and investors are likely to enjoy a beefy (no pun intended) distribution for quite some time.
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