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Central Bank Hubris Bubbles to the Surface

Albert Edwards at Society General commented today on Central Bank Hubris, deflation, and the flattening of the US yield curve. Here are some email snips.

How's this for Grade 1 central bank hubris?

Peter Praet, the ECB's chief economist said in a recent interview that, "Since the crisis, we have had serious concerns about deflationary risks on several occasions in the euro area, but now we can say they have disappeared."

Eurozone Inflation

Really? Has he seen the chart above, which shows core CPI in the Eurozone heading sharply lower and now approaching its all-time low seen at the start of 2015! Not only that, but Eurozone inflation expectations are also declining again, after surging in the aftermath of Donald Trump's election. To be fair, Praet was focusing on the rise in headline inflation in the Eurozone, which touched 2% in February before dropping back in March to 1½%. After some 18 months bobbing around the zero mark, I can understand why central bankers might be heaving a sigh of relief, but for them to take credit for a recovery in headline inflation is totally disingenuous given it has been entirely driven by a recovery in the oil price.

Similarly, Janet Yellen was quoted saying the Fed is "doing pretty well" in meeting its congressionally mandated goals of low and stable inflation and a full-strength labor market. It's this sort of comment that has led Marc Faber to want to short central bankers, the only way being to buy gold. The increasing volume of central bank hubris may even explain the recent breakout of gold to the upside!

It is not just eurozone inflation expectations that seem to be in retreat. The same thing is happening in the US too (see chart below). I am always surprised how dominated 10y inflation expectations are by short-term movements in the oil price and headline inflation, but it was noticeable just how rapidly inflation expectations ran up in the wake of Trump's election – way in advance of what might have been expected by the bounce in the oil price.

US Inflation Expectations

One might have thought the surge in the oil price from its trough some 12-18 months ago might have had more impact on wage inflation, but so far that does not seem to be the case.

Despite the euphoria in the markets about the "reflation trade", survey inflation expectations have continued to drift downwards. One thing is certain: for central banks to call victory over deflation may prove very premature indeed. Nemesis awaits.


Reflation Trade Is Over

The reflation trade is over. It is fitting central banks now brag about oil-related and Trump-related phenomena over which they had zero control.

 

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