Easing in the Middle of Persistent Inflation May Worsen Stagflation Risk

Easing in the Middle of Persistent Inflation May Worsen Stagflation Risk

Easing in the Middle of Persistent Inflation May Worsen Stagflation Risk

In the second half of 2024, thirty major central banks are expected to cut rates.

This year coincides with elections in more than seventy nations, a period typically associated with massive increases in government spending.

Additionally, the latest inflation figures show stubbornly persistent consumer price annualized growth.

In the United States, headline PCE inflation in February will likely grow by 0.4%, compared with a 0.3% rise in January, and consensus expects a 2.5% annualized rate, up from 2.4% in January. This is on top of the already 20% accumulated inflation of the past four years. Core inflation will likely show a 0.3% gain, according to Bloomberg Economics, which means an annualized 2.8%, building on top of the price increases of the past years.

Thirty central banks easing and seventy national governments increasing spending in an election year means more fuel for the inflation fire in a year in which money supply growth has bounced significantly from its 2023 lows.

Central banks ignored monetary aggregates when they shrugged off the risk of inflation in 2020, and now they are, again, easing way too fast when the battle against inflation has not finished. Furthermore, the only real tool that central banks have used is hiking rates, because different parallel measures of money growth, including reverse repo liquidity injections, have kept money supply growth at an elevated rate even when the balance of the G7 central banks was moderating, albeit at a slower pace than announced.

Cutting rates may come too late because, by the time it is implemented, it will cause a double negative. Government deficits will be cheaper to refinance, bloating an already record-high public debt yet again, but those cuts may have little impact on small and medium enterprises and families because they suffer significantly more from the accumulated effects of inflation, which means weaker margins, more difficulties to make ends meet, and impoverishment.

We must also remember that these persistent levels of official inflation come after relevant tweaks in the calculation of the consumer price index. We certainly know one thing: consumers do not pay attention to the annualized rate of growth in prices, but to the accumulated level of destruction of their purchasing power, and everyone, from Europeans to Americans, knows that they have become artificially poorer by the insane fiscal and monetary policies implemented in 2020.

Nobody who takes inflation seriously would even consider easing in an election year, adding trillions of dollars of deficit spending to the fire of inflation. Furthermore, the history of inflation warns us about giving up easily and too fast.

The Fed is making a big mistake by cheering the headline economic figures that come from disguising a private sector recession with a massive increase in public debt and weakening employment figures embellished by temporary jobs and public sector hiring. Additionally, it is making a mistake by giving dovish signals that make market participants take more risk. There has been no relevant reduction in the money supply if we include the different layers of liquidity injections. Announcing forthcoming rate cuts will certainly make speculative debt rise but will hardly change the credit demand from the backbone of the economy, small businesses, and families. Since the US government has rejected any calls for normalization and instead added more deficits and debt as if rising bond yields were not a problem, citizens and businesses have already suffered greatly from ongoing inflation and rate increases. As such, the rate cuts will help an already bloated government spending and the zombie corporations that keep access to capital markets. Everyone else will be hurt both ways, with inflation and lower access to credit.

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Daniel Lacalle

Global Economy Expert

Daniel Lacalle is one the most influential economists in the world. He is Chief Economist at Tressis SV, Fund Manager at Adriza International Opportunities, Member of the advisory board of the Rafael del Pino foundation, Commissioner of the Community of Madrid in London, President of Instituto Mises Hispano and Professor at IE Business School, London School of Economics, IEB and UNED. Mr. Lacalle has presented and given keynote speeches at the most prestigious forums globally including the Federal Reserve in Houston, the Heritage Foundation in Washington, London School of EconomicsFunds Society Forum in Miami, World Economic ForumForecast Summit in Peru, Mining Show in Dubai, Our Crowd in Jerusalem, Nordea Investor Summit in Oslo, and many others. Mr Lacalle has more than 24 years of experience in the energy and finance sectors, including experience in North Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. He is currently a fund manager overseeing equities, bonds and commodities. He was voted Top 3 Generalist and Number 1 Pan-European Buyside Individual in Oil & Gas in Thomson Reuters’ Extel Survey in 2011, the leading survey among companies and financial institutions. He is also author of the best-selling books: “Life In The Financial Markets” (Wiley, 2014), translated to Portuguese and Spanish ; The Energy World Is Flat” (Wiley, 2014, with Diego Parrilla), translated to Portuguese and Chinese ; “Escape from the Central Bank Trap” (2017, BEP), translated to Spanish. Mr Lacalle also contributes at CNBCWorld Economic ForumEpoch TimesMises InstituteHedgeyeZero HedgeFocus Economics, Seeking Alpha, El EspañolThe Commentator, and The Wall Street Journal. He holds a PhD in Economics, CIIA financial analyst title, with a post graduate degree in IESE and a master’s degree in economic investigation (UCV).

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