Saturday, July 17, 2021

How to engineer inflation

Both the June CPI and PPI came in hot and well ahead of expectations. There was the inevitable debate about the transitory nature of the price increases. Looking longer-term, however, the conventional models for explaining inflation have been unsatisfactory. 

Notwithstanding the numerous failures by Japanese policymakers, consider the US as another example. Let's begin with fiscal policy. It is said that deficit spending would lead to currency devaluation and inflation in the manner of the Weimar Republic. Nothing could be further from the truth. The blue line represents federal government deficits as a percentage of GDP. Deficits began to balloon in the early 1980`s with the Reagan Revolution and continued during the Bush I era. Did inflation (purple line) explode upward?

Monetary policy had its own failure. Monetarist Theory, as popularized by Milton Friedman, was another model that backtested well but failed out of the box. Friedman postulated that the PQ=MV, where the Price X Quantity of goods and services (or GDP) = Money Supply X (Monetary) Velocity. Friedman theorized that, over the long run, monetary velocity is stable, and therefore money supply growth determines inflation. All central banks had to do was to control money growth in order to control inflation.

It worked until about 1980. Monetary velocity had been stable until about then. Money growth didn't generate inflation because monetary velocity fluctuated wildly. Growth in money supply, as measured by M1, was often matched by declines in velocity. The Fed could engineer money growth and inject liquidity into the financial system without creating inflation.

In the face of the apparent failure of these conventional models, I offer an alternative vision of inflation and discuss the implications for investors.

The full post can be found here.

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