As markets shake off their summer slumbers, what should we be worrying about? Lots..! From real vs transitory inflation arguments, the long-term economic consequences of Covid, the future for Central Banking unable to unravel its Gordian knot of monetary experimentation, and the prospects for rising political instability in the US and Europe.
The shocking return of the Taliban dominates the headlines. It has critical implications for markets. Biden’s loss of credibility creates many hurdles and could drive the US towards isolationism – bruised by yet another flawed foreign adventure. Meanwhile, markets struggle with inflation and climate consequences.
The ECB has tweaked the words and now has low interest rates forever, and a new mandate to “tolerate” higher inflation. What will it achieve? To answer look at the failed 30 year experiment in Japan and the multiple parallels. The outlook for Europe as a global economic and innovative powerhouse looks shaky.
Its “Freedom Day” in the UK, but it feels same as, same as. Bond markets look stressed, but freak weather is raising the probability government intervention dwarfing the scale of the pandemic may become necessary. There will not be a gradual, ordered progression to a new higher temperature climate. Instead… the reality looks like high-cost chaotic freak-weather events becoming increasingly common. The cost could hit trillions.
What Inflation? “Oh, that’s nothing to worry about, the central banks have no choice but to keep juicing markets”… The market is so focused on the short-term and ignoring the consequences of the last 10 years of QE, monetary experimentation and easy rates, that its blundering into the next crisis. Inflation matters, and has jumped from financial assets into the real economy.
The weather on the Pacific Northwest has turned ugly, as might the financial weather if the current degree of market complacency proves unfounded!
As the US Fed meets to discuss rates and assess the real inflation threat, the UK Covid-freedom delay is likely to stall recovery momentum and add to the economic pain being felt at the micro-level. Markets are pricing for a transitory inflation bloom, but what is the real inflation outlook and what will it mean for bond markets as the European Union launches Europe’s fully mutualised funding programme – don’t anyone tell the Germans its happened!
Money supply economists argue inflation is nailed on, even if Central Banks and Governments taper QE and hold back further fiscal spending binges. But the consequences of the last 12 years of monetary experimentation, the massive inflation in financial asset prices, the changed investment environment, and rising inequality mean the coming crisis really will be different this time. Maybe it’s not inflation we should fear, but its much more evil and thuggish sibling – Stagflation.
As the UK and Yoorp prepare for a set-to over Sausages, the real issue remains inflation vs deflation. Are rising PPIs in China due to speculation on commodities boosting prices, is inflation due to supply glitches, and are the longer-term threats of Central Bank taper, growing West-East tension, and the reality of pandemic debt likely to tip us back into a deflationary cycle?
Forget the noise from crashing crypto – the big issue for markets is cutting through the buzz of contradictions to perceive the real picture presented by the threats of: inflation, taper tantrum and price sustainability. This is going to be an “interesting” summer.. (If it ever stops raining…)