Inflation not Deflation?

Discussion in 'Economics' started by ShoeshineBoy, Oct 31, 2008.

  1. This guy is calling inflation, saying the Fed is pumping too much money - in fact a hideously monstrous amount of money - into the system along with all the other central banks. I don't see any wholes in his argument. Could he be right? And is gold really the answer? (I'm never been a big gold fan...)

    Inflation, Not Deflation, Is Looming Threat
    Here's the dirty little secret of all the rescue operations that have been carried out this month by government financial authorities around the world. They all take money. Lots of money. And that money has to come from somewhere.

    So when the U.S. Treasury says it will invest $700 billion to support the banking system, it has to be able to issue $700 billion in Treasury bonds. Someone has to buy those bonds. Someone has to think they're a good investment, at a time when most people don't think anything is a good investment. The Treasury's effort to restore confidence in banks depends on people having confidence in the Treasury.

    When the Federal Reserve says it will invest $500 billion in the commercial paper to support the short-term financing market, it has to print the money. People have to think that money's worth something, even though it's been freshly printed for the occasion. For the Fed to restore confidence by making money available, people have to have confidence in money.

    These two things are closely related. A Treasury bond is an iron-clad commitment to pay interest every six months, and to pay the face amount at maturity. To pay in the form of money, that is. It's a riskless security, because the government has the power to print the money required to make the payments. But if the money is worthless, then the bonds are worthless.

    The way the credit crisis has unfolded over the last two years, it seems that the focus of the trouble has moved from company to company, from security to security, from country to country. One problem gets solved, then another one crops up. Like leaks springing up in a dam, they just can't all get plugged. When all the problems have been solved, there's only one place for the credit crisis to go: to money. If that happens, then it's not just another leak in the dam; it's a dam break.

    If people lose confidence in money, then it's all over. Money is all the rescuers have. When the money itself loses value, there's no one to rescue the rescuers.

    What is money, anyway? It's a claim-check that can be presented for goods and services. If you're Joe the Plumber, then money is a claim-check on your plumbing services. Someone hands you a $100 bill, you have to give them some plumbing.

    So the amount of money in the world must bear some reasonable proportion to the amount of goods and services that it might claim, now and in the reasonably foreseeable future. If there's too little money, then there's not enough to buy all the plumbing services that are being offered, and the price of plumbing has to fall. That's called deflation. When there's too much money, then there aren't enough plumbing services to go around, and the price of plumbing goes up. That's called inflation.

    See where I'm going here?

    The Treasury is borrowing a ton to support this year's stimulus program, the housing bailout, the Fannie Mae (FNM: 0.92*, -0.04, -4.18%) and Freddie Mac (FRE: 1.06*, -0.03, -2.75%) bailout, and now the banking bailout. It all totals something like $1.5 trillion. The Fed's balance sheet has simply exploded over just the last eight weeks. It's gone from about $850 billion to about $2 trillion.

    There isn't enough plumbing in the entire universe to use all that money. The only possible outcome is inflation.

    I understand if you think I'm completely crazy at this point. How can there possibly be any danger of inflation whatsoever when the price of oil has been more than halved in the last three months? How can there possibly be inflation when the whole world is suddenly in a deep recession, and consumers have stopped spending?

    How can there possibly be inflation when the spread between regular Treasury bonds and inflation-protected Treasurys, or TIPS, has gone negative? It's true. The yield on a five-year TIPS is actually higher than the yield on a regular bond, which means the market is forecasting deflation, not inflation, for the first time since TIPS started trading a decade ago.

    That's certainly how Ben Bernanke sees it. In the Fed's public statement this week when it cut interest rates to 1%, it pretty much said that inflation is dead and buried, with a wooden stake driven through its heart.

    What can I say? If you believe all that, I'm delighted that you have such confidence. I'm delighted you're so optimistic. Confidence and optimism are in short supply right now, to be sure.

    But I think you're wrong. The U.S. Treasury is borrowing so much money — as are the treasuries of all the major countries — in order to support banking rescue operations, there's just no way that bond yields aren't going to have to go up. When that happens, the Fed and the other central banks of the world will probably decide to buy some of that debt, to keep rates low, so that the world can more easily pull out of recession.

    That's called "monetization" of debt. It means that, effectively, instead of borrowing real money, the governments of the world will just print it. That always causes inflation. But the governments will do it, because they believe inflation is dead, so they'll think they can get away with it.

    But the fact that they think inflation is dead will bring inflation to life. If you print enough money, you will get inflation. No matter how much the price of oil has fallen.

    So what if the oil price drops by 50%? If the governments of the world print enough money, that drop won't last long. Neither will the recent drops in other commodities. That's the way inflation works. It's the way it always works. Governments print too much money. The price of everything goes up. That's inflation.

    Now I'm not saying it has to rise to crisis proportions. It will happen slowly. A little bit at a time. We'll have plenty of time to see it, and avoid the worst.

    But we'll see it later than we should. We'll see the first signs, and the second, and we'll ignore them. We always do. Then it will get worse, and finally we'll react. Hopefully, that day will come before inflation gets so out of control that we really do have a crisis on our hands.

    The best way to play it is with gold. Lately gold has been acting more like lead. It's fallen along with everything else. Cash is king right now.

    But gold is the single most inflation-sensitive thing in the world. I think before a year has passed, gold is going to start sensing the inflationary threat I'm talking about. When it goes back to the old highs around $1,000, and then just keeps on going, remember: You heard it hear first.

    Donald Luskin is chief investment officer of Trend Macrolytics, an economics consulting firm serving institutional investors.
  2. he is wrong

    we're facing deflation, which is bullish. Oil and commodities are falling. The liquidity infusions are not going to transform into inflation anytime soon.
  3. TraderD


    I was going to start another thread, but you beat me to it....

    Jim Rogers is long commodities basically for another 10 years. He bets on rate cuts short term, but long term high interest rates

    If scenario develops that way, I wonder how real estate will fare? It is supposedly good inflation hedge, yet RE is it already it not?

    What is your take?
  4. I recall comparing futures price charts for the December 2008 contract, December 2009 and in some cases December 2010 or more distant. The shape of each graph in a series appears the same to me. In other words, the more distant futures contracts are not showing higher prices.
  5. Are they trading enough to indicate a sentiment... are they trading at all? Commodity markets that far out are often very thin or non-traded..
  6. We have deflationary forces.. the destruction of "assets" holders had thought were money... housing and stock market declines... slowing economy, more unemployment, the end(?) to borrow-and-spend conspicuous consumption....

    All of the money-pump is inflationary...

    But how does it net out? Or, do we get the worst of both worlds... deflating houses, stocks, jobs, incomes... but higher prices for food, services, energy (when it comes back to normal, if that applies).

    I doubt anyone really knows.

    Deflation would be preferable except to the politicos, of course ("a problem postponed is as good as a problem solved", you know). It would cleans, be relatively short-lived and from which we would recover....

    Inflation is worse... a killer when it escalates out of control. And it tends to be much longer lasting, if not permanent.... and the destruction is much more wide spread.
  7. Mecro


    Plenty of people do. They choose to educate themselves instead of raging.

    1) Dollar is finished as a world reserve currency. The G8 meeting will be about getting out of Bretton Woods system and designing a new reserve currency.

    2) Liquidity is cut out from the population to make them dump assets which the banksters will buy with printed money. They are already doing it

    3) Once the floodgates open, hyperinflation. By the time the people realize that prices are shooting up because of mass dollars printed, it will be too late.


    Is the gold market sensing deflation?

    No doubt there are lots of factors that are conspiring to bid gold down.

    I was prompted to consider deflation as another factor by recent developments in the Treasury market. That market is many orders of magnitude larger than the gold market, and its collective judgment cannot be dismissed lightly.

    ... And right now, the Treasury market considers inflation to be a far lower threat than it was just a couple of months ago.

    Consider the yields on regular nominal, Treasuries and those that prevail for the Treasury's Inflation Protected Securities, or TIPS. ..

    ... As of Thursday night, the yield on 10-year regular Treasuries stood at 3.95%, according to the CBOE's 10-Year Treasury Yield Index The yield on 10-year TIPS, in contrast, stood at 3.03%. The difference of 0.92 percentage points implies that the bond market is betting that the CPI will average less than 1 percent annually over the next decade.

    Inflation over the next decade of less than 1%? That seems incredible.

    To be sure, the flight to quality in recent weeks has undoubtedly skewed this number downwards. The market for regular Treasuries has received a disproportionate share of that flight to quality, artificially depressing the yields on 10-year Treasuries.

    Economists at the Cleveland Fed have devised an econometric model that estimates the degree to which the spread between nominal Treasuries and TIPS is skewed downward by these liquidity considerations. That model recently calculated this bias to be around 0.5 percentage point, suggesting that the true message of the bond market right now is that inflation would average around 1.4% year over the next decade.

    That's still incredibly low, given that the CPI over the past 12 months was up 4.9%. It's unlikely that the CPI can start at nearly 5% and nevertheless average 1.4% over the next decade without it actually turning negative along the way.

    And that in effect means the bond market is betting on deflation.

    This puts into perspective the federal government's efforts in recent months to pour huge amounts of money into the financial arena. That would otherwise be quite inflationary.
    But not if the forces of deflation are as large as the bond market is evidently assuming them to be.

    And judging by the recent performance of both the bond and gold markets, it would appear as though deflation still has the upper hand.
  9. The way to play it is to not get shaken out of your asset positions [gold, real estate,etc] during the deflation, maybe add to them at the bottom by leveraging them with fixed rate loans, then ride them up during the inflation and pay off the loans with inflated money. Trading stocks and futures will get you diminishing returns during inflation because the stock prices will not keep up with the currency, far from it in fact, probably trading forex will work, at least you will be trading an inflating asset....

    I think the reason that gold fell recently was the credit freezeup, funds could not roll over their short term debt so they had to sell assets to pay the loans instead. They sold gold and stocks, usually they are somewhat inversely related...
  10. I probably should have worded it a different way. We're clearly in a deflationary period right now. But how long will it last? Is it a 3 month phenomenon or 3 years? I think that's the question...
    #10     Oct 31, 2008