Inflation soared to a fresh four-decade high in June, as prices rose 9.1% from last year – 1.3% from the prior month – the government said on Wednesday. The price shock is tanking Americans’ view of the economy – and risks pushing the Federal Reserve into moving aggressively to cool inflation, possibly triggering a recession.
One can debate that inflation is far worse than being reported. Perhaps alternative inflation measures make it as high as 17%. In the chart below, we show two SGS-Alternate CPI estimates: One based on the pre-1990 official methodology for computing the CPI-U and the other based on the methodology which was employed prior to 1980. So if you think inflation is worse, you may be correct. See this in the chart below and learn more here.
Perhaps the most important data point for working Americans is real wages. Real wages fell for the 15th month in a row by a record -3.6% YoY in June. See this in the chart below.
So with a 9.1% inflation (or worse at an alternative measure of 17%) and a wage loss of -3.6%, Americans are losing 10 to 20% of their standard of living in just this year. Just think if this economy continues as it is today?
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Lower-income and Black and Hispanic Americans have been hit especially hard by inflation because a disproportionate share of their income goes toward such essentials as housing, transportation, and food. Some economists have held out hope that inflation might be reaching or nearing a short-term peak.
Gas prices, for example, have fallen from the eye-watering $5 a gallon reached in mid-June to an average of $4.66 nationwide as of Tuesday – still far higher than a year ago but a drop that could help slow inflation for July and possibly August.
See the inset infographic to get an idea of the soaring inflation costs Americans are enduring. Learn more here.
President Biden, just after the release, downplayed the significance of new data showing annual inflation reached its highest level in decades in June, arguing the report was outdated because of recent drops in gas prices. While today’s headline inflation reading is unacceptably high, it is also out-of-date,” President Biden said in a statement.
The markets largely took this news in stride. The report was largely telegraphed in advance and there were no surprise moves in the markets. Here is what some other pundits and Wall Street thinkers said in response (learn more here). Most analysts are saying the inflation story is not over and a recession is inevitable, though at different severity depending on the analyst.
- BofA repeats that today’s report is consistent with the bank’s fresh view that the “inflation tax” will weigh on consumer spending, driving the economy into a mild recession. But Bank of America analysts are predicting that the Federal Reserve will move even more aggressively to tame inflation, to the point where they would push the US into a recession to cool off the economy. BoA analysts say a SEVERE recession is necessary.
- Jan Hatzius, chief economist at Goldman Sachs: “The year-on-year rate nonetheless fell one-tenth to 5.9% as last June’s surge in used car prices dropped out of the calculation. The breadth of core inflation increased further, with 6-month annualized inflation now above 6% for 42% of the basket. Shelter categories surprisingly accelerated further (rent +0.78%, owners’ equivalent rent +0.70%). And car insurance (+1.9%), recreation admissions (+1.7%), and daycare (+0.7%) also contributed to a 31-year high in core services inflation (+0.70%). Also of note, the labor-intensive “food away from home” category rose at a 41-year high pace (+0.95%), in part reflecting a rebound in “Food at Employee Sites and Schools” as firms phase out free-meal programs (+24.2% mom, but still -43.2% since February 2020). Core goods prices were generally strong as well, including for autos (new +0.7%, used +1.6%, parts +0.4%), apparel (+0.8%), and tobacco (+0.6%). On the negative side, travel categories pulled back somewhat after surging in the spring (airfares -1.8%, hotel lodging -2.8%). Headline CPI rose 1.32%, 0.22pp above consensus, on higher energy (+7.5%) and food (+1.0%) prices. The 36-year-high rent reading poses upside risk to the path of the funds rate in the second half of the year, as shelter is one of the largest and most persistent inflation categories.”
- Ellen Zentner, chief economist at Morgan Stanley: “After May’s upside surprise across all major categories, this report is the second in a row that shows inflation pressures continuing on a broad basis.” But: “The outlook points to some inflation deceleration from here. In particular, energy price inflation is likely to reverse sharply in July on the back of falling commodity and retail gas prices, which points to a substantial drop-off in sequential headline inflation next month.”
- Katherine Judge, an economist at CIBC Capital Markets, doesn’t hold out much hope for better news on core inflation soon: “Although gasoline prices have fallen into July, suggesting an easing in headline inflation ahead, core annual inflation could accelerate ahead as base effects will no longer be biasing that measure down, while higher shelter prices will continue to feed through to that index.”
- Neil Dutta, an economist at Renaissance Macro: “Given my reading of the Fed’s reaction function, the odds of a recession are going up, and the likelihood of a pivot is going down given today’s CPI inflation data.”
- Ian Lyngen, rates strategist at BMO Capital markets says 100bps in July is not “our base case,” but watch out after the surprise shift in June. “We were surprised in June with the upsized hike, so are waiting on any incoming Fedspeak to clarify the Committee’s thinking on the pace of tightening.”
- Quincy Krosby, the chief equity strategist at LPL Financial, says the climb over 9% caught the market off guard: “This week’s University of Michigan’s preliminary consumer sentiment index release, and particularly its consumer 5-year inflation expectations results, becomes even more crucial for markets, not to mention the Fed.”
- Jay Hatfield, CEO at Infrastructure Capital Advisors, says this may signal the peak. “We forecast that this print will mark the peak of inflation as the Fed’s 15% shrinkage of the monetary base, which is the fastest decline since the great depression, will curb inflation as the QT has caused the dollar to appreciate by over 12% this year which has caused commodities to plummet by over 20% since the measurement period for June CPI.”
- Jason Furman, the Obama economic official who criticized last year’s $1.9 trillion spending plan, has come out in favor of the revised economic agenda, which features about a trillion dollars in revenue gains to fund half a trillion of deficit reduction with much of the rest going to cut drug costs. Furman tweets: “At this point, fiscal policy should help too, the best option on the table being ~$500b of deficit reduction & Rx price slowing through reconciliation.”
- Paul Krugman, the person who said the fax machine would be more valuable than the internet, tows the White House party line and says that “today’s hot inflation number is already out of date, not reflecting falling gasoline prices and other factors that have recently gone into reverse. But hard to imagine that the Fed won’t hike by 75 anyway.” What is hilarious, and apparently too difficult for brilliant minds like Krugman to comprehend is that the moment the market prices in the Fed pivot due to too much inflation, commodity prices will explode higher, sending inflation even higher.
- David Kelly, global strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management, says that “this is a very unusual economy, and I hope the Federal Reserve recognizes that. This is a very hot report but I think this is the last hot month in the inflation heatwave.”
- Priya Misra, strategist at TD Securities, says, “this keeps pressure on the Fed to keep going. I think this is really a tough backdrop for risk assets and for the Fed.” She highlights her forecast of 75 bps in July, which she says gets the Fed to neutral. She adds that a 100 bps hike might be “too market-destructive.”
- Kathy Bostjancic, at Oxford Economics, points out that energy prices have increased by 41.6% on a year-on-year basis. Bostjancic says she’s anticipating the Fed hike by 75 basis points in September as well, not just July. That would be three in a row. We had been saying that “50 was the new 25” for Fed rate hikes in the spring. That’s turned into “75 is the new, new 25.”
- George Goncalves, bond strategist at MUFG, says: “The current Fed has an inflation problem, and they can’t waver from tightening even when there are some signals of a recession. The Fed can invert the curve by 50 basis points if they go to 4% and the 10-year stays at 3%.” He adds that would likely reflect a “quasi-stagflationary environment.”
- Stan Shipley, economist at Evercore ISI, says he expects the June print to push Treasury yields, inflation expectations, and the dollar higher in the near term.
- John Lynch, CIO at Comerica Wealth Management, focuses on the inverted yield curve: “The first time in April was a warning, but this instance can be viewed as a signal. Whether or not the fundamentals of employment and household balance sheets justify recession, various confidence surveys and supply constraints suggest one may be upon us.”
- Seema Shah, chief global strategist at Principal Global Investors, says inflation keeps “defying expectations for a peak to be reached… With inflation now above 9%, it is simply unthinkable that the Fed could slow its tightening pace, and certainly, market chatter about a Fed pivot will stop now. A 0.75% hike in July is surely a done deal, and further increases of that magnitude cannot be ruled out. We see rates moving to 4.25% next year as the Fed desperately attempts to recover from its earlier erroneous inflation read.”
- Ira Jersey, from Bloomberg Intelligence: “The market’s knee-jerk reaction pricing for nearly one more hike in September makes perfect sense to us after the stronger across-the-board CPI report. We think July and September 75-bp moves are more likely than a 1% hike at any one meeting.”
- Florian Ielpo, head of macro at Lombard Odier Asset Management: “The acceleration of the monetary cycle is not yet behind us, and we will have to wait until 2023 to see the Fed consider a pause in its cycle. The ‘good news is bad news’ mentality will remain firmly in the minds of investors until there is some sign of slowing inflation.”
The two key determinates of how the value of money is doing are GDP and the Monetary Base of the currency regime. Monetary Base can be grown or shrunk via Central Bank policy (amount of money printing, i.e., currency debasement) and government fiscal policy. Inflation is a by-product of Money Value. Below is a simplified formula to understand Money Value.
So to understand where inflation is going, and given the GDP recently in the above formula is flat at best, we need to see where the Monetary Base is going. See this in the chart below and learn more here.
Though this measure of the Monetary Base is not exact, however, the near 30% money supply growth is bound to show up with massive inflationary effects. Unless the above chart reverses quickly, some would argue that only half of the inflationary effects are priced into the current CPI statistics.
The Fed has been busy. Though some feel the Fed is late to the game, they are in a massive program to raise rates and reduce their balance sheet. This has the effect of reduced growth and eventually inflation, though the latter has yet to be seen. See this GDP evolution in the chart below.
Eventually, depressing the growth GDP rates will start to bring the inflation rates down as well. But the Fed will need to reverse course quickly to prevent an all-out recession/depression. The American (and global) economy is stuck with a potential economic disaster via deflationary effects (recession/depression) or inflationary effects (hyperinflationary currency debasement). Politically the latter is more sellable to the populous and hence more likely to happen.
In the short run, there is a potential double-dip recession as the Fed flips back and forth its policies, trying to thread the needle between these two outcomes. See how this strategy will play out below and learn more here. The strategy is presented in a conceptual framework form in the pictorial below.
- With the backdrop of years of terrible government spending and monetary policies, Biden put these policies on steroids with the help of near-zero interest rates by the Fed. Using Covid and other government initiatives, printing historic levels of money supply, he created historic inflation.
- After months of reluctance, the Fed knows they must raise rates to stamp out the 40-year high recession. However, with the midterms coming in 2022, the last thing they need is high inflation or a recession. So the Fed must act quickly in shock and awe to break the immediate back of inflation. The goal is not to bring prices down but instead get prices to plateau at current levels and bring in a good inflation (CPI) print in October of 2022 for the important 2022 midterm election. Yes … then Biden can say, “I have solved the inflation problem!”
- However, this is short-lived. The induced recession has not hit full force at the time of the 2022 midterms. The Biden administration will declare economic doom and gloom forecasters as looney conspiracy theories. But to ensure those conspiracy theories don’t come true – the Fed must backpedal on the rate hikes as fast as they put them on. Expert market watchers are seeing this rate manipulation which is displayed in the Nomura chart above.
- So the first dip of the double-dip recession could be fairly mild in terms of job losses, though wage losses will accelerate as workers lose pricing power in a weakened economy, with many areas of the economy still raging with inflation – energy being one of them due to geopolitical and green agenda issues.
- As the Fed cuts rates, markets once again soar – more free money – yippee! Unfortunately, this will only extend the previous inflation story we are seeing today – we could see significantly higher inflation relative to 2022 – even surpassing the inflation rates of the 1970s. Again, job cuts will be minimal – they just won’t pay much, forcing a rethink of many average Americans on how they live. For the rich, all will be well. For the rest, they will be engulfed in an inflationary wage depression, as they will see their standards of living reduced by as much as 20 to 70%.
- Calls of a Great Reset on currency and many other things will come. No doubt that this economic upheaval will intersect with the culture wars, as elites try to get the masses to blame each other for the problems they have created. Where we go from here is another story.
In many ways, an inflation wage depression that may be coming is worst than a normal recession/depression. A recession has a recovery phase – a wage depression is systemic and can be more permanent. Though you may have a job, your standard of living will change to the point it will force changes in your life. “You will own nothing, and you will be happy.”
It doesn’t have to be this way. We need true patriots to wake up and begin to take a stand against what our elites and politicians are trying to do to us. And by” take a stand,” it should be implied by legally and peacefully ways to redress our government. We are getting close to the point of no return. Time is of the essence.
By Tom Williams at Right Wire Report
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