Thursday, May 14, 2015

Still No Signs of Inflation, Or Higher Growth

Financial FAQs

We still see no signs of inflation, in spite of the oil price hikes. The latest sign is the wholesale Producer Price Index (PPI) of wholesale goods. It is down and continuing to fall, in a word. Producer prices for total final demand fell 0.4 percent in April which is far below the Econoday low estimate for minus 0.1 percent. And this isn’t a good omen for higher growth this year.


Graph: Econoday

It also means the Fed may be in no hurry to raise interest rates this year at all. Or, or to sell any of the $4 trillion in securities it has purchased to keep more $$$ in circulation. Unfortunately, these $$$ are going nowhere, since they end up with those that need money the least, the top one percent income earners. The savings rate of the wealthiest is now above 50 percent, whereas that of the poorest 20 percent Quintile among US is basically down to 0 percent—that’s right, they are unable to save at all.


Graph: Business Insider

So now we know why the easy money Fed policies haven’t had more effect on boosting our GDP growth rate above 2 percent. In the last two decades, like that of many other developed nations, US growth rates have been decreasing. In the 50’s and 60’s the average growth rate was above 4 percent, in the 70’s and 80’s dropped to around 3 percent. In the last ten years, the average rate has been below 2 percent, in large part because household incomes have declined for most Americans that now spend more than they save to even maintain their current standard of living.


Graph: Trading Economics

Excluding food & energy, PPI producer prices fell 0.2 percent which is below the low estimate for no change. The overall year-on-year reading is at a record low of minus 1.3 percent. So there is little US demand for the raw materials that make up PPI components, including oil and gas, at the moment. So called Final energy demand fell a steep 2.9 percent in April with the year-on-year rate at minus 24.0 percent. Gasoline prices fell 4.7 percent in the month.

Final demand for food extended its long negative run, at minus 0.9 percent with the year-on-year rate at minus 4.2 percent. Final demand for services is down 0.1 percent with the year-on-year rate one of the few readings in the plus column, at 0.9 percent which nevertheless is well below the Fed's general inflation target of 2.0 percent.

Is this just from the winter freeze and tornadoes that have hit the South and Midwest? Or, will it be necessary to find other ways to put some of those savings to work to repair our ageing infrastructure that would boost our growth rate, and keep government solvent?

Harlan Green © 2015

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