Sometimes events have their own natural flow and after noting yesterday that the winds of change in UK inflation are reversing we have been reminded twice already today that the heat is on. First from a land down under where inflation expectations have done this according to Trading Economics.
Inflation Expectations in Australia increased to 4.20 percent in June from 3.70 percent in May of 2018.
This is significant in several respects. Firstly the message is expect higher inflation and if we look at the Reserve Bank of Australia this is the highest number in the series ( since March 2013). Next if we stay with the RBA it poses clear questions as inflation at 1.9% is below target ( 2.5%) but f these expectations are any guide then an interest-rate of 1.5% seems well behind the curve.
Indeed the RBA is between a rock and a hard place as we observe this from Reuters.
Australia’s central bank governor said on Wednesday the current slowdown in the housing market isn’t a cause for concern but flagged the need for policy to remain at record lows for the foreseeable future with wage growth and inflation still weak.
Home prices across Australia’s major cities have fallen for successive months since late last year as tighter lending standards at banks cooled demand in Sydney and Melbourne – the two biggest markets.
You know something is bad when we are told it is not a concern!
If we move to much cooler Sweden I note this from its statistics authority.
The inflation rate according to the CPI with a fixed interest rate (CPIF) was 2.1 percent in May 2018, up from 1.9 percent in April 2018. The CPIF increased by 0.3 percent from April to May.
So Mission Accomplished!
The Riksbank’s target is to hold inflation in terms of the CPIF around 2 per cent a year.
Yet we find that having hit it and via higher oil prices the pressure being upwards it is doing this.
The Executive Board has therefore decided to hold the repo rate unchanged at −0.50 per cent and assesses that the rate will begin to be raised towards the end of the year, which is somewhat later than previously forecast.
Care is needed here as you see the Riksbank has been forecasting an interest-rate rise for some years now but like the Unreliable Boyfriend somehow it keeps forgetting to actually do it.
I keep forgettin’ things will never be the same again
I keep forgettin’ how you made that so clear
I keep forgettin’ ( Michael McDonald )
Anyway it is a case of watch this space as even they have real food for thought right now as they face the situation below with negative interest-rates.
Economic activity in Sweden is still strong and inflation has been close to the target for the past year.
The situation here is part of an increasingly familiar trend.
The all items index rose 2.8 percent for the 12 months ending May, continuing its upward trend since the beginning of the year. The index for all items less food and
energy rose 2.2 percent for the 12 months ending May. The food index increased 1.2 percent, and the energy index rose 11.7 percent.
This was repeated at an earlier stage in the inflation cycle as we found out yesterday.
On an unadjusted basis, the final demand index moved up
3.1 percent for the 12 months ended in May, the largest 12-month increase since climbing 3.1 percent in January 2012.
In May, 60 percent of the rise in the index for final demand is attributable to a 1.0-percent advance in prices for final demand goods.
A little care is needed as the US Federal Reserve targets inflation based on PCE or Personal Consumption Expenditures which you may not be surprised to read is usually lower ( circa 0.4%) than CPI. We do not know what it was for May yet but using my rule of thumb it will be on its way from the 2% in April to maybe 2.4%.
What does the Federal Reserve make of this?
Well this best from yesterday evening is clear.
In view of realized and expected labor market conditions and inflation, the Committee decided to raise the target range for the federal funds rate to 1-3/4 to 2 percent. The stance of monetary policy remains accommodative, thereby supporting strong labor market conditions and a sustained return to 2 percent inflation.
If we start with that let me give you a different definition of accommodative which is an interest-rate below the expected inflation rate. Of course that is off the scale in Sweden and perhaps Australia. Next we see a reference to “strong labo(u)r market conditions” which only adds to this. Putting it another way “strong” replaced “moderate” as its view on economic activity.
This is how the New York Times viewed matters.
The Federal Reserve raised interest rates on Wednesday and signaled that two additional increases were on the way this year, as officials expressed confidence that the United States economy was strong enough for borrowing costs to rise without choking off economic growth.
Care is needed about borrowing costs as bond yields ignored the move but of course some may pay more. Also we have seen a sort of lost decade in interest-rate terms.
The last time the rate topped 2 percent was in late summer 2008, when the economy was contracting and the Fed was cutting rates toward zero, where they would remain for years after the financial crisis.
Yet there is a clear gap between rhetoric and reality on one area at least as here is the Fed Chair.
The decision you see today is another sign that the U.S. economy is in great shape,” Mr. Powell said after the Fed’s two-day policy meeting. “Most people who want to find jobs are finding them.”
Yet I note this too.
At a comparable time of low unemployment, in 2000, “wages were growing at near 4 percent year over year and the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation was 2.5 percent,” both above today’s levels, Tara Sinclair, a senior fellow at the Indeed Hiring Lab, said in a research note.
So inflation is either there or near but can anyone realistically say that about wages?
Mr. Powell played down concerns about slow wage growth, acknowledging it is “a bit of a puzzle” but suggesting that it would normalize as the economy continued to strengthen.
What is normal now please Mr.Powell?
One of my earliest themes was that central banks would struggle when it comes to reducing all the stimulus because they would be terrified if it caused a slow down. A bit like the ECB moved around 2011 then did a U-Turn. What I did not know then was that the scale of their operations would increase dramatically exacerbating the problem. To be fair to the US Federal Reserve it is attempting the move albeit it would be better to take larger earlier steps in my opinion as opposed to this drip-feed of minor ones.
In some ways the US Federal Reserve is the worlds central bank ( via the role of the US Dollar as the reserve currency) and takes the world with it. But there have been changes here as for example the Bank of England used to move in concert with it in terms of trends if not exact amounts. But these days the Unreliable Boyfriend who is Governor of the Bank of England thinks he knows better than that and continues to dangle future rises like a carrot in front of the reality of a 0.5% Bank Rate.
This afternoon will maybe tell us a little more about Euro area monetary policy. Mario Draghi and the ECB have given Forward Guidance about the end of monthly QE via various hints. But that now faces the reality of a Euro area fading of economic growth. So Mario may be yet another central bank Governor who cannot wait for his term of office to end.