Investors Do Not See “Transitory” Inflation, by Daniel Lacalle

If the majority of bond investors thought that current inflation wasn’t transitory, that it was going to stick around for a while, they’d leave the current yield curve in the mirror in a heartbeat and rates would be heading much higher. Which is why so many people put the word transitory before today’s inflation. The government certainly can’t afford higher interest rates. From Daniel Lacalle at dlacalle.com:

The Federal Reserve and European Central Bank repeat that the recent inflationary spike is “transitory”. The problem is that investors do not buy it.

Investors Do Not See “Transitory” Inflation

Inflation is always a monetary phenomenon, and this time is not different. What central banks call transitory effects, and the impact of supply chains are not the real drivers of inflationary pressures. No one can deny certain supply shock impacts, but the correlation and extent of the increase in prices of agricultural and industrial commodities to five-year highs as well as the abrupt rise of non-replicable goods and services to decade-highs have monetary policy to blame.  Injecting trillions of liquidity makes more funds chase fewer goods and the rise in the real inflation perceived by citizens is much larger than the official CPI.

Take food prices. The United Nations Food Price Index is up 30% in the past five years and up 10% year-to-date (April 2021). The rise in food prices already caused protests all over the world in 2018 and it continues to reach new highs. The correlation in the price increase of most agricultural goods also shows that it is a monetary effect.

The same can be said about the Bloomberg Commodity Index which is also at five-year highs and up 15% year-to-date.

Yes, there have been some supply disruptions in a few commodities, but it is not widespread let alone the norm. If anything can be said is that the rise in agricultural and industrial commodities is happening despite the persistent overcapacity that many of these had already before the pandemic. We should also remember that one of the unintended consequences of massive monetary expansion is perpetuation of overcapacity. Excess capacity is refinanced and maintained even in crisis times. Therefore, we can argue that the rising cost of goods is not coming predominantly from supply shortages but in an environment of extended overcapacity, making it even more evident a monetary phenomenon.

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