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Finally, An Honest Inflation Index – Guess What It Shows - John Rubino

Finally, An Honest Inflation Index – Guess What It Shows - John Rubino
By John Rubino 10 days ago 6844 Views 2 comments

December 6, 2017

Central bankers keep lamenting the fact that record low interest rates and record high currency creation haven’t generated enough inflation (because remember, for these guys inflation is a good thing rather than a dangerous disease).

To which the sound money community keeps responding, “You’re looking in the wrong place! Include the prices of stocks, bonds and real estate in your models and you’ll see that inflation is high and rising.”

Well it appears that someone at the Fed has finally decided to see what would happen if the CPI included those assets, and surprise! the result is inflation of 3%, or half again as high as the Fed’s target rate.

New York Fed Inflation Gauge is Bad News for Bulls

(Bloomberg) – More than 20 years ago, former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan asked an important question “what prices are important for the conduct of monetary policy?” The query was directly related to asset prices and whether their stability was essential for economic stability and good performance. No one has ever offered a coherent answer even though the recessions of 2001 and 2008-2009 were primarily due to a sharp correction in asset prices. A new underlying inflation gauge, or UIG, created by the staff of the New York Fed may finally provide the answer. Its broad-based measure of inflation includes consumer and producer prices, commodity prices and real and financial asset prices. The New York Fed staff concluded that the new inflation gauge detects cyclical turning points in underlying inflation and has a better track record than the consumer price series.

The latest reading shows inflation of almost 3 percent for the past 12 months, compared with 1.8 percent for the consumer price index and 1.8 percent for core consumer prices, which exclude food and energy. Since the broad-based UIG is advancing 100 basis points above CPI, it indicates that asset prices are large, persistent and reflect too easy monetary policy.



The UIG carries three important messages to policy makers: the obsessive fears of economy-wide inflation being too low is misguided; monetary stimulus in recent years was not needed; and, the path to normalizing official rates is too slow and the intended level is too low.

Harvard University professor Martin Feldstein stated in a recent Wall Street Journal commentary that “The combination of overpriced real estate and equities has left financial sector fragile and has put the entire economy at risk.” If policy makers do not heed his advice odds of another boom and bust asset cycle will be high — and this time they will not have the defense mechanisms they had after the equity and housing bubbles burst.

To summarize, a true measure of inflation – one that is highly correlated with the business cycle – is not only above the Fed’s target but accelerating.

Note on the above chart that both times this happened in the past a recession and bear market followed shortly.

The really frustrating part of this story is that had central banks viewed stocks, bonds and real estate as part of the “cost of living” all along, the past three decades’ booms and busts might have been avoided because monetary policy would have tightened several years earlier, moderating each cycle’s volatility.

But it’s too late to moderate anything this time around. Asset prices have been allowed to soar to levels that put huge air pockets under them in the next downturn. Here’s a chart that illustrates both the repeating nature of today’s bubble and its immensity.

In other words, it is different this time — it’s much worse.



John Rubino runs the popular financial website DollarCollapse.com. He is co-author, with GoldMoney’s James Turk, of The Money Bubble (DollarCollapse Press, 2014) and The Collapse of the Dollar and How to Profit From It (Doubleday, 2007), and author of Clean Money: Picking Winners in the Green-Tech Boom (Wiley, 2008), How to Profit from the Coming Real Estate Bust (Rodale, 2003) and Main Street, Not Wall Street(Morrow, 1998). After earning a Finance MBA from New York University, he spent the 1980s on Wall Street, as a Eurodollar trader, equity analyst and junk bond analyst. During the 1990s he was a featured columnist with TheStreet.com and a frequent contributor to Individual Investor, Online Investor, and Consumers Digest, among many other publications. He currently writes for CFA Magazine.


The author is not affiliated with, endorsed or sponsored by Sprott Money Ltd. The views and opinions expressed in this material are those of the author or guest speaker, are subject to change and may not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sprott Money Ltd. Sprott Money does not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, timeliness and reliability of the information or any results from its use.

TCE 8 days ago at 12:37 PM
Since the 1970's the preferred government inflation metrics have changed so thoroughly that they bear scant resemblance to those used during the "malaise days" of the Carter years. Government and academia defend the integrity and accuracy of the modern methods while dismissing critics as tin hat conspiracy theorists. But given the huge stakes involved, it's hard to believe that institutional bias plays no role. Government statisticians are responsible for coming up with the methodology and the numbers, and their bosses catch huge breaks if the inflation numbers come in low. Human behavior is always influenced by such incentives.

Beginning in the early 1980's the methodologies were altered to compensate for a variety of consumer behavior. The new "chain weighted CPI" for instance incorporates changes in relative spending, substitution bias, and subjective improvements in product quality.

Essentially these measures report not just on price movements, but on spending patterns, consumer choices, and product changes. This is fine if the goal is to measure the cost of survival. But that is not the purpose for which these metrics are meant to be used. But if you simply focus on price, especially on those staple commodity goods and services that haven't radically changed over the years, the underreporting of inflation becomes more apparent.
Glenn Shumway 8 days ago at 4:46 PM
When I was a stockbroker with EF Hutton in 1969, the Dow was about 800. Going to John Williams' Shadowstats online inflation calculator, I put 800 into the calculator, and asked what that would be in today's $$$, according to the way that inflation was calculated PRIOR to 1981. The results?
OVER 23,000 !!! In other words, after allowing for ACTUAL INFLATION, in almost half a century, the DOW is ALMOST UNCHANGED.
Deal with it, boyz.

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