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Summary of My Post-CPI Tweets

Below is a summary of my post-CPI tweets. You can (and should!) follow me @inflation_guy or sign up for email updates to my occasional articles here. Investors with interests in this area be sure to stop by Enduring Investments. Plus...buy my book about money and inflation, published in March 2016. The title of the book is What's Wrong with Money? The Biggest Bubble of All; order from Amazon here.

  • OK, 8 minutes to CPI. Street forecast is 0.14-0.15%, so a "soft" 0.2% or a "firm" 0.2% on core.

  • y/y core wouldn't fall with that b/c last August's core CPI was 0.12%. In fact, a clean 0.2% would cause the y/y to round up to 2.3%.

  • Either way, Fed is at #inflation target based on historical CPI/PCE spread. And arguably above it if you rely (as we do) on median.

  • Quick commercial message: our crowdfunder site for the capital raise for Enduring Investments closes in 2 weeks<.

  • Commercial message #2: sign up for my articles at http://mikeashton.wordpress.com! And #3: my book!

  • Fed's job just got a lot harder, with weaker growth but a messy inflation print. 0.25% on core, y/y rises to 2.30%.

  • And looking forward BTW, for the balance of the year we're rolling off 0.19, 0.20, 0.18, and 0.15 from last year.

  • ...so it wouldn't be hard to get a 2.4% or even 2.5% out of core by year-end.

  • Housing rose to 2.58% y/y from 2.45%. Medical Care to 4.92% from 3.99%. Yipe. The big stories get bigger.

  • checking the markets...whaddya know?! they don't like it.

  • starting to drill down now. Core services 3.2% from 3.1%; core goods -0.5% from -0.6%.

  • Core goods should start to gradually rise here because the dollar has remained flat for a while.

  • also worth pointing out, reflecting on presidential race: protectionism is inflationary. Unwinding the globalization dividend=bad.

  • Take apparel. Globalizing production lowered prices for 15 years 1994-2009.

CPI-Apparel, Seasonally Adjusted 1987-2016

  • Drilling down. Primary rents were 3.78% from 3.77%, no big deal. OER 3.31% from 3.26%, Lodging away from home 3.31% from 1.57%.

  • Lodging away from home was partly to blame for last month's miss low. Retraced all of that this month.

  • Motor vehicles was a drag, decelerating further to -0.95% from -0.75%.

  • Medical Care: Drugs 4.67% from 3.77%. Professional svcs 3.35% from 2.86%. Hospitals 5.81% from 4.41%. Insurance 9.13% vs 7.78%

  • Insert obvious comment about effect of ACA here.

  • y/y med care highest since spike end of 2007.

CPI Urban Consumers Medival Care

  • CPI Medical - professional services highest since 2008.

CPI-Urban Consumers Professional Services

  • On the good news side, CPI for Tuition declined to 2.53% from 2.67%. So there's that.

  • Bottom line: can't put lipstick on a pig and make it pretty. This is an ugly CPI report. It wasn't one-offs.

  • I STILL think the Fed doesn't raise rates next week. But this does make it a bit harder at the margin.

  • Core ex-housing was 1.52%. It was higher than that for one month earlier this year (Feb), but otherwise not since 2013.

CPI Shelter 1989-2016

As I noted, this is an ugly report. The sticky components, the ones that have momentum, continue to push inexorably higher (in the case of housing), or aggressively higher (in the case of medical care). The rise in medical care is especially disturbing. While core was being elevated mainly by shelter, it was easier to dismiss. "Yes, it's a heavily-weighted component but it's just one component and home-owners don't actually pay OER out of pocket." But medical care accelerating (especially a broad-based rise in medical care inflation), makes the inflation case harder to ignore. It is also really hard to argue – since there is a clearly-identifiable cause, and a strong economic case for why medical care prices are rising faster – that medical care inflation is resulting from some seasonal quirk or one-off (like the sequester, which temporarily pushed medical inflation down).

What makes this even more amazing is that inflation markets are priced for core and headline inflation to compound at 1.5%-1.75% for basically the next decade. That's simply not going to happen, and the chance of not only a miss but a big miss is nonzero. I continue to be flabbergasted at the low prices of TIPS relative to nominal bonds. Sure, a real return of 0% isn't exciting...but your nominal  bonds are almost certainly going to do worse over the next decade. I can't imagine why anyone owns nominal bonds at these levels when inflation-linked bonds are an option.

Now, about the Fed.

This report helps the hawks on the Committee. But there aren't many of them, and the central power structure at the Federal Reserve and at pretty much every other central bank around the world is very, very dovish. Arguably, the Fed has never been led by a more dovish Chairman. I have long believed that Yellen will need to be dragged kicking and screaming to a rate hike. Recent growth data show what appears to be a downshift in growth in an expansion that is already pretty long in the tooth, so her position is strong...unless she cares about inflation. There is no evidence that Yellen cares very much about inflation. I think the Fed believes inflation is low; if it's rising, it isn't going to rise very far because "expectations are anchored," and if it does rise very far they can easily push it lower later. I think they are wrong on all three counts, but I haven't recently held a voting position on the Committee. Or, actually, ever. Ergo, a Fed hike in my view remains very unlikely, even with this data.

Looking forward, Core and Median inflation look set to continue to rise. PCE will continue to drag along behind them, but there is no question inflation is rising at this point unless everything except PCE is wrong. In the US, core inflation has not been above 3% for twenty years. That is going to change in 2017. And that is not good news for stocks or bonds.

CPI

 


You can follow me @inflation_guy!

Enduring Investments is a registered investment adviser that specializes in solving inflation-related problems. Fill out the contact form at http://www.EnduringInvestments.com/contact and we will send you our latest Quarterly Inflation Outlook. And if you make sure to put your physical mailing address in the "comment" section of the contact form, we will also send you a copy of Michael Ashton's book "Maestro, My Ass!"

 

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