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AS Economics – Inflation Revision

November 13, 2017 Leave a comment

With the Cambridge AS and A2 multiple-choice papers on Wednesday here are some revision notes on inflation and a diagram that I have found useful. As well as cost-push and demand-pull inflation remember:

Inflationary Expectations

In recent years more attention has been paid to the psychological effects which rising prices have on people’s behaviour. The various groups which make up the economy, acting in their own self-interest, will actually cause inflation to rise faster than otherwise would be the case if they believe rising prices are set to continue.

Workers, who have tended to get wage rises to ‘catch up’ with previous price increases, will attempt to gain a little extra compensate them for the expected further inflation, especially if they cannot negotiate wage increases for another year. Consumers, in belief that prices will keep rising, buy now to beat the price rises, but this extra buying adds to demand pressures on prices. In a country such as New Zealand’s before the 1990’s, with the absence of competition in many sectors of the economy, this behaviour reinforces inflationary pressures. ‘Breaking the inflationary cycle’ is an important part of permanently reducing inflation. If people believe prices will remain stable, they won’t, for example, buy land and property as a speculation to protect themselves.

Have Central Bankers’ got it wrong?

October 30, 2017 Leave a comment

Below is very good video from the FT – here are the main points:

  • Central Banks – by lowering interest rates they could make savings less attractive and spending more attractive
  • After GFC low interest rate and asset purchases increased lending and avoided a global depression.
  • Now the world economy is not behaving as the central bankers’ said it would
  • Their theory was that with lose credit (lower interest rates) the economy would grow and inflation would rise.
  • Inflation is stagnant (unlike the 1960’s – see graph below) and this is worrying as a little inflation is required to lubricate the economy. It allows prices to fall in real terms.
  • The missing inflation may mean that the bankers’ theories are wrong.
  • Cheap money may have encouraged high asset prices and debt levels but it may undermine the economy without doing much for growth.

Inflation Unemployment.png

Where is inflation?

September 29, 2017 Leave a comment

Since the GFC in 2007/8 the developed economies have been awash with stimulatory forces including quantitative easing, record low interest rates and increased government spending. This has led to accelerating growth levels driven by an increase in Aggregate Demand – C+I+G+(X-M). Business and consumer confidence has also increased and this has come about by the decline in financial and economic risk.

Supply ShockSo you would assume with stronger aggregate demand that the capacity constraints in the supply of goods and services accompanied by shortages in the labour market would lead to inflationary pressure. Yet in some countries core inflation has actually fallen and this creates a dilemma for central banks as although there is growth in their economy the inflation rate is below their target band. A reason for this could the supply side shocks (Aggregate Supply to the right – see graph). The following maybe the cause:

  • Globalization keeps cheap goods and services flowing from China and other emerging markets.
  • Weaker trade unions and workers’ reduced bargaining power have flattened out the Phillips curve (see below), with low structural unemployment producing little wage inflation.
  • Oil and commodity prices are low or declining.
  • And technological innovations, starting with a new Internet revolution, are reducing the costs of goods and services.

NZ Phillips Curve

Sources: Project Syndicate, Economicsonline.co.uk

Don’t abandon the Phillips Curve

July 18, 2017 Leave a comment

I have done numerous blog posts on the Phillips Curve some of which have discussed the missing trade-off between inflation and unemployment. Recent data from the US suggest that reducing rates of unemployment have not activated higher levels of inflation. US Fed Chair Janet Yellen has suggest that the level of unemployment is below the natural rate of unemployment (the lowest rate of unemployment where prices don’t accelerate) and that prices should soon rise. However inflation in the US is only 1.5% (target 2%) so does the Phillips Curve still apply? The Economist looked at another instance where this theory has failed.

2019 – after the financial crisis unemployment exceeded 10% and the excess supply of labour should have had significant downward pressure on prices. However prices were at 1.3% just below what they are today. Some economist explained this situation by an increase in the natural rate of unemployment (NRU) – 6.5% was a figure quoted by some economists. But today with unemployment now at 4.3% and inflation at 1.5% this theory does not seem to stack up. The Fed estimates that the NRU is between 4.7% and 5.8%.

Reasons not to abandon the Phillips Curve

1. The effects of unemployment on inflation can be distorted by one off events such as:
* the rapid decline in oil prices in late 2014
* the price of mobile data – firms have been offering limitless data which has also been   given a higher weighing in the inflation calculation. Mobile phone deals have shaved 0.2% off the inflation rate

2. It is possible with such low unemployment that inflation will eventually increase. This happened in the late 1960’s with unemployment under 4%, inflation rose from 1.4% in November 1965 to 3.2% a year later. By 1969 inflation was at 5%.

3. Self-fulfilling inflationary expectations could explain the low inflation rate. In recent years more attention has been paid to the psychological effects which rising prices have on people’s behaviour. The various groups which make up the economy, acting in their own self-interest, will actually cause inflation to rise faster than otherwise would be the case if they believe rising prices are set to continue.

Source: The Economist – 17th June 2017

The theory of the Phillips Curve and the NAIRU

Bill Phillips (a New Zealander) discovered a stable relationship between the rate of inflation (of wages, to be precise) and unemployment in Britain from the 1850’s to 1960’s. Higher inflation, it seemed, went with lower unemployment. To economists and policymakers this presented a tempting trade-off: lower unemployment could be bought at the price of a bit more inflation. However, Milton Friedman and Edmund Phelps (who both later picked up Nobel prizes, partly for this work), pointed out that the trade-off was only temporary. In his version, Friedman coined the idea of the “natural” rate of unemployment – the rate that the economy would come up with if left to itself. Now economists are likelier to refer to the NAIRU (non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment), the rate at which inflation remains constant. The theory is explained below:

NAIRUSuppose that at first unemployment is at the NAIRU, u* in the graph below, and inflation is at p0. Policymakers want to reduce unemployment, so they loosen monetary policy: that stimulates spending, so that unemployment goes down, to u1. Inflation rises to p1, along the initial short-run Phillips curve, PC1. But that raises inflationary expectations, so that workers demand higher wage increases and real wages rise again. Firms shed labour, returning unemployment to u*, but with a higher inflation rate, p1. The new short-run trade-off is worse, with higher inflation for any level of unemployment (PC2). In the long run the Phillips curve is vertical (LRPC).

A2 Economics – Wage Price Spiral and the Long Run Phillips Curve

June 23, 2017 Leave a comment

Phillips CurvePart of the CIE A2 macro syllabus focuses on the wage price spiral which relates to the Phillips Curve. Here are some excellent notes that I picked up from Russell Tillson in my early days teaching at Epsom College. As from previous posts, the Phillips Curve analysed data for money wages against the rate of unemployment over the period 1862-1958. Money wages and prices were seen to be strongly correlated, mainly because the former are the most significant costs of production. Hence the resulting curve purported to provide a “trade-off’ between inflation and unemployment – i.e. the government could ‘select’ its desired position on the curve.

During the 1970’s higher rates of inflation than previously were associated with any given level of unemployment. It was generally considered that the whole curve had shifted right – i.e. to achieve full employment a higher rate of inflation than previously had to be accepted.

Milton Friedman’s expectations-augmented Phillips Curve denies the existence of any long-run trade off between inflation and unemployment. In short, attempts to reduce unemployment below its natural rate by fiscal reflation will succeed only at the cost of generating a wage-price spiral, as wages are quickly cancelled out by increases in prices.

Each time the government reflates the economy, a period of accelerating inflation will follow a temporary fall in unemployment as workers anticipate a future rise in inflation in their pay demands, and unemployment returns to its natural rate.

The process can be seen in the diagram below – a movement from A to B to C to D to E.

Long Run PC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friedman thus concludes that the long-run Phillips Curve (LRPC) is vertical (at the natural rate of unemployment), and the following propositions emerge:

1. At the natural rate of unemployment, the rate of inflation will be constant (but not necessarily zero).

2. The rate of unemployment can only be maintained below its natural rate at the cost of accelerating inflation. (Reflation is doomed to failure).

3. Reduction in the rate of inflation requires deflation in the economy – i.e. unemployment must rise (in the short term at least) above its natural rate.

Some economists go still further, and argue that the natural rate has increased over time and that the LRPC slopes upwards to the right. If inflation is persistently higher in one country that elsewhere, the resulting loss of competitiveness reduces sales and destroys capacity. Hence inflation is seen to be a cause of higher inflation.

Rational expectations theorists deny Friedman’s view that reflation reduces unemployment even in the short-run. Since economic agents on average correctly predicted that the outcome of reflation will be higher inflation, higher money wages have no effect upon employment and the result of relations simply a movement up the LRPC to a higher level of inflation.

1980’s hyperinflation in Bolivia

June 19, 2017 Leave a comment

When you think of hyperinflation countries like post-war Germany and Zimbabwe come to mind. However Bolivia in the 1980’s seems to have been a forgotten example. Below is a very good video about the hyperinflation in Bolivia from the PBS Commanding Heights series. I use it teaching the impact of hyperinflation on an economy and policies that to try and control its impact. Some of the main issues from the video are:

  • Inflation reached 23,500%
  • 7 out of 10 Bolivians live in poverty – the poor get hurt by inflation
  • Inflation averaged 1% every 10 minutes
  • One of the causes of the inflation was government finances – they just printed money and didn’t collect taxes
  • How do you stop a hyperinflation or an inflation? Gradualist steps don’t work and as Jeff Sachs said: “All this gradualist stuff just doesn’t work. When it really gets out of control you’ve got to stop it, like in medicine. You’ve got to take some radical steps; otherwise your patient is going to die.”
  • Bolivia didn’t use highly sophisticated economic theory to deal with hyperinflation: Government spending was slashed – Price controls were scrapped – Import tariffs were cut – Government budgets were balanced. 

Inflationary Expectations

A lot of the inflationary problems in Bolivia were caused by inflationary expectations which accelerates the problem. In recent years more attention has been paid to the psychological effects which rising prices have on people’s behaviour. The various groups which make up the economy, acting in their own self-interest, will actually cause inflation to rise faster than otherwise would be the case if they believe rising prices are set to continue.

Workers, who have tended to get wage rises to ‘catch up’ with previous price increases, will attempt to gain a little extra compensate them for the expected further inflation, especially if they cannot negotiate wage increases for another year. Consumers, in belief that prices will keep rising, buy now to beat the price rises, but this extra buying adds to demand pressures on prices. In a country such as New Zealand’s before the 1990’s, with the absence of competition in many sectors of the economy, this behaviour reinforces inflationary pressures. ‘Breaking the inflationary cycle’ is an important part of permanently reducing inflation. If people believe prices will remain stable, they won’t, for example, buy land and property as a speculation to protect themselves.

 

Trump’s tax cuts likely to have limited impact on growth

May 14, 2017 Leave a comment

Donald Trump has indicated that the US economy needs a big tax cut to stimulate some growth and aggregate demand –  C+I+G+(X-M). His rationale is that with consumers having greater income they will spend consume more (C) and businesses keeping more of their profits will invest more (I). He is even so confident that the tax cuts won’t put a dent in the overall tax revenue of the government. However economists are suggesting that the US economy is already growing as fast as it can and in order to improve its growth rate it needs to investment in productivity.

D Pull Inflation.jpegNevertheless, US tax cuts in the 1980’s under Ronald Reagan proved to be very effective in stimulating aggregate demand but the economic environment then was different to that of today. The 1980’s was an era of stagflation with the US experiencing 10% unemployment and inflation reaching 15%. Since the GFC in 2007 growth has been positive and unlike the 1980’s unemployment has been falling  – from 10% in Oct 2009 to 4.4% in April 20178. Tax cuts are all very well when you have high unemployment but with the rate falling to under 5% companies may find it difficult to respond to the greater demand for goods and services by taking on workers to increase supply. Tax cuts would then lead to an increase in inflationary pressure (see graph) which is turn would prompt the US Fed to increase interest rates.

ProductivityTrump’s plan would also increase the Federal deficit and borrowing from the government. This would put upward pressure on interest rates for the private sector which reduces the potential for further growth. As noted earlier the area that needs to be addressed is productivity, with a shift of the LRAS curve to the right – see graph.

Categories: Growth, Inflation, Interest Rates Tags: ,

Venezuela – 700% inflation

March 21, 2017 Leave a comment

A very good clip from CNBC – Venezuela’s economy has been in free fall since the 2014 collapse of oil prices, which left the socialist country unable to maintain its subsidies and price controls. Oil revenue accounts for 95% of its total exports but with a 50% drop in the price of oil there was limited money in the economy to buy those necessary imports. However as pointed out in the video the problems started in 2003 when there was an oil workers strike which meant that the country stopped producing oil. Furthermore with a collapsing oil price and exchange rate against the US dollar the then president Hugo Chavez decided to fix the exchange rate at 1 Venezuelan bolívar = US$1.60. Another example of the resource course.

Categories: Inflation Tags: ,

Full v Fulfilling Employment

February 21, 2017 Leave a comment

Free Exchange in The Economist had an article which looked at the change in terminology used by Janet Yellen chairman of the Federal Reserve. In a recent statement she alluded to the US economy near maximum employment and that rate rises could ensue. However only 69% of American adults have a job.

Full employment has normally been the concept that has been used to describe a situation where there is no cyclical or deficient-demand unemployment, but unemployment does exist as allowances must be made for frictional unemployment and seasonal factors – also referred to as the natural rate of unemployment or Non-Accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment (NAIRU). If a central bank wishes to stimulate demand below this level there is the concern that inflation will increase therefore they take a guess as to what is the natural rate of unemployment – the lowest rate of unemployment where prices don’t accelerate. Maximum unemployment is the same in that it refers to the labour market being as tight as it can be without increasing prices. Natural rates in the US have varied – around 5.3% in 1950 and then peaking at 6.3% in the stagflation period before falling 4.9% in 2008 and then rising to 5.1% after the GFC, see graph below.

NRU - 1950 - 2016.png

NRU and its causes

The NRU mainly depends on the level of frictional unemployment – defined as those who are in between jobs. This number can vary as at different times of the business cycle as there can be a delay in matching those looking for work with the vacancies themselves – a mismatch sometimes referred to as Structural Unemployment. The increase in frictional unemployment in the 1970’s and 80’s was largely due to the decline in manufacturing jobs with the advent of automation and more right wing policies (Reagan and Thatcher). Workers would stay unemployed in the hope that good high paid manufacturing jobs would reappear.

Unions can also influence the NRU with protecting workers jobs and pushing up wages so that employers find it too costly to employ more labour. However the fall in the 1990’s could be due to the advent of technology in the hiring process and the growth of part-time jobs which assisted those workers facing a career change.

Another influence on the NRU is wage growth as with the higher wages you attract more of the labour force to engage in actively looking for work.

A central bank will have to use trial and error to make a decision on how much spare capacity there is in an economy. Only when prices start to increase do they have an idea how capacity is running.

Quality not Quantity

As alluded to by The Economist the goal of full employment must consider the quality of jobs as well. With the acceleration of technology over labour, maximum employment should consider more than capacity constraints or inflationary pressure.

Rather, governments need to consider the options available to workers: not just how easily they can find jobs they want, but also how readily they can refuse jobs they do not. By lifting obstacles to job changes and giving workers a social safety net that enables them to refuse the crummiest jobs, societies can foster employment that is not just full, but fulfilling.

Sources: The Economist 28th January 2017, St Louis Federal Reserve – Natural Rate of Unemployment

Inflation on the way up

February 16, 2017 Leave a comment

Inflation is predicted to increase in the global economy in 2017 which is a welcoming thought when you consider the threat of deflation. The Economist identified 3 areas that are behind the increase.

1. Imported inflation – producer prices in China are increasing as prices at the factory gate rose by 5.5% and the spare capacity in the economy is getting smaller. Furthermore there has been an improvement in demand especially in Asia. Additionally oil prices have increased to over $50 per barrel up from $30. Therefore a lot the above imports have become more expensive which could lead to higher prices. However a lot will depend on the exchange rate – lower value exchange rate means that imports will be more expensive

2. Capacity pressures – with a reduction in spare capacity goods become more scarce so the price of them should increase. The USA economy is close to full capacity with 4.7% unemployment and US Fed chairman Janet Yellen recently indicated that a further increase in interest rates might be necessary to cool increasing pressure on inflation. In the Euro area there is more spare capacity with the unemployment rate of 9.8% – this is especially prevalent in Italy and Spain. Therefore if the inflation rate is to increase in the Euro area it will need countries like Germany, with a 4.1% unemployment rate, to generate it.

3. Inflationary expectations – expectations of further inflation in the future can lead workers to demand higher wages in anticipation of price increases or lead producers to set higher prices in anticipation of increased costs of production. Inflationary expectations have reached their highest level in 12 years according to a survey of fund managers. But it has also raised fears the world is heading for a period of low growth, higher unemployment and accompanied by high inflation leads to stagflation.

Inflation Expectations.png

Sources: The Economist, FT

2017 means reflation – but what about the Trump Matrix.

December 21, 2016 Leave a comment

Below is a useful graph from the National Australia Bank’s 2017 Outlook. It shows the inflation relative to the central target rate – so for New Zealand the current inflation rate is 0.4% but the policy target agreement is 1 – 3% with a target of 2%. Therefore NZ is 1.6% short of their inflation target.

Inflation globally has been a record lows and according to the IMF “cyclical unemployment and weaker import (commodity) prices can account for the bulk of the deviation of inflation from (central bank) targets …..but other unexplained factors have been playing an increasingly larger role”

Inflation relative to CB target.png

In 2017 it is predicted that higher commodity prices and wages will lift global inflation. With the US Fed raising interest rates there is the sense that inflation could be on its way up.  Also spare capacity is forecast to reduce in most advantage countries with the US already at full employment.

A Trump policy of protectionism and expansionary fiscal policy would definitely mean a more hawkish US Fed. If he does follow this agenda the US will initially experience some kind of stagnation environment, but given the chance for trade retaliation this could quickly lead to a global recession which could eventually push the world close to a secular stagnation scenario of low growth, low inflation, and low productivity. Below is a very informative matrix from NN Investment Partners.

Trump Matrix

Trump Matrix.png

Categories: Inflation, Unemployment Tags: ,

Commodity prices – supply and demand in action.

November 24, 2016 Leave a comment

commoditiesThe Economist has a graph showing the change in price of commodities from 5th January 2016 to 18th October 2016. The change in price is purely reflected in simple supply and demand theory. In 2015 raw material price dropped mainly because of over-supply. The main points from the graph are:

  • Oil – $50 per barrel – expectations that supply might decrease by OPEC countries
  • Sugar – price up by 56% – unfavorable weather therefore supply decreases
  • Grain – prices down by 9% – bumper harvests in the USA
  • Beef – prices down by 24% – oversupply of beef

 

 

Categories: Inflation Tags:

RBNZ cut OCR but little mention of Trump

November 10, 2016 Leave a comment

Although the attention this morning was on the election of Donald Trump as US President the RBNZ cut the OCR to 1.75% with a mild easing bias of “numerous uncertainties remain, particularly in respect of the international outlook, and policy may need to adjust accordingly”. nz-cpi-nov-16

It is expected that the OCR will remain at this level in the near future with inflation expected to be back within the 1-3% Policy Target Agreement (PTA) by the end of January next year – see graph from ASB Bank. The reason for this is that:

  • Dairy prices have recovered considerably.
  • The labour market is tightening.
  • Growth is running at an above-trend pace.
  • The OCR is already at an expansionary rate and the economy.

Could there be another cut in the OCR? There would be pressure if the following eventuated:

  • there is a strengthening of the NZ dollar,
  • increasing bank funding costs,
  • any further weakness in inflation expectations,
  • any deterioration in the global growth outlook.

The change of US Presidency will also be a wildcard over the longer term, with its mix of potential fiscal stimulus and trade protectionism. Trump has already signaled that he is not keen to sign TPP and he wants to reopen the NAFTA – North America Free Trade Agreement. Furthermore, he might take umbrage on the Chinese with their manipulation of the Yuan to advantage its exports and put a large tariff on its goods coming into the US. For New Zealand it may mean that they have to go down the bi-lateral agreement option in order to increase trade.

Other than the US election, Graeme Wheeler needs to be aware of the following:

  • Theresa May has indicated she wants to trigger Article 50 by May 2017 – it is very unclear what the process will be and the negotiating strategy of both the UK and the EU. This could have implications for NZ trade.
  • In China the increasing of centalised  power of the President.
  • China has a huge amount of corporate debt relative to GDP – see graph below.
  • Brazil is still in recession
  • Russia still has issues in the Middle East

China Corporate debt.png

CPI in New Zealand – how is it worked out.

October 29, 2016 Leave a comment

What is the consumers price index?

The consumers price index (CPI), New Zealand’s best known measure of inflation, measures the rate of price change of goods and services purchased by households. The CPI consists of a basket of goods and services that represent purchases made by households. The goods and services in the basket, and their relative importance, are reviewed every three years to ensure the basket remains up to date.

There are about 690 goods and services included in the basket. They are classified into 11 groups. The table below shows the CPI in NZ for the September Quarter 2016 with the 11 groups and the final calculation (All groups) being 0.2% for the Quarterly and Annual change.

NZ CPI Sept 16.png

These groups are then broken down further into 45 subgroups and then into 107 classes. The CPI is reported each quarter down to the class level.

Each good or service in the basket is assigned an expenditure weight (see definitions under ‘Statistical calculations’) that represents its relative importance in household spending patterns. Goods and services that are more important to households are given higher weights and have a greater influence on the CPI. The weight assigned determines how much impact a price movement for a particular good has on the overall CPI. For example, if households spend more on petrol than on milk, a 5 percent increase in the price of petrol would have a greater impact on the CPI than a 5 percent increase in the price of milk.

What is a Price Index?

A price index is a single figure that shows how a whole set of prices has changed over time. A price index uses one number to represent the prices being charged for various goods and services at the wide range of outlets and locations where they are being purchased. The average price level of goods and services in the expression base period are assigned an index number of 1000. This is the benchmark to which average prices in other periods are compared. Thus, if the index number for a period is 1150, prices have increased by 15.0 percent since the base period. Workings below:

Increase in index number = 1150 – 1000 = 150

150/1000 x 100 = 15% 

Reference population

The population coverage of the CPI relates to the expenditure of private, New Zealand-resident households living in permanent dwellings. The reference population covers approximately 98 percent of the usually-resident population. There are no exclusions based on income source or geographic location.

The target population for the Household Economic Survey (HES) mirrors the reference population for the CPI. The HES excludes residents of temporary dwellings and households in very remote parts of the North and South Islands and on offshore islands, including Great Barrier, Kawau, Stewart and the Chatham Islands. Some types of expenditure are also excluded because their price movements cannot be satisfactorily measured nor can they be related to the price movements of items which are price-surveyed. These include works of arts, illicit drugs, pets and other livestock, gambling, most legal services etc.

All prices are surveyed at least quarterly, though many prices are surveyed more frequently due to their price volatility (for example fruit and vegetables are surveyed weekly). The types of outlets surveyed reflect the places indicated as typical in the Household Economic Survey.

Some Definitions

Expenditure weightThe measure of the relative importance of an item in the index basket, based on the expenditure of the item relative to expenditure on all items in the basket.

Index number seriesA series of numbers measuring movement over time from the index reference period value.

Index reference periodThe period in which the average price level of goods and services is an index number of 1000. This number is chosen to represent the reference period, but the interest is only in the relationship of the other index numbers to it. The index reference period for the CPI is currently the June 2006 quarter.

Categories: Inflation Tags:

New Zealand and Global Economy Update for exams.

October 10, 2016 Leave a comment

It is important that you are aware of current issues to do with the New Zealand and the World Economy. Examiners always like students to relate current issues to the economic theory as it gives a good impression of being well read in the subject. Only use these indicators if it is applicable to the question.

Indicators that you might want to mention are below. Notice how low global interest rates are as economic conditions have warranted greater borrowing and spending in the world economy.

New Zealand

The New Zealand economy expanded by 2.8 percent over the year ended in the June quarter driven mainly by an increase in household consumption of 1.9 percent over the quarter, while exports of goods and services rose by four percent. The construction industry expanded by a further five percent in the quarter, while the retail, hiring, and real estate services industry expanded by 1.3 percent. The annual current account deficit totalled $7,383 million in the year ended June 2016, equivalent to 2.9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). nz-economy-oct-16

Global Economy 

The OECD in its September Interim Economic Outlook comglobal-growth-and-unemp-ratesmented that the world economy remained “in a low-growth trap”, with GDP growth of 2.9 percent predicted for 2016, before rising slightly to 3.2 percent in 2017. Subdued economic growth is forecast for the major advanced economies, with growth for the United Kingdom expected to drop from 1.8 percent in 2016 to one percent in 2017. The Chinese economy is expected to grow by 6.5 percent in 2016, easing to 6.2 percent in 2017 as it moves from an investment-led to a consumption-led growth model. In mid-2009, the unemployment rate for both the Euro area and the United States was approximately ten percent. Since then the unemployment rate for the United States has fallen to 4.9 percent, while the unemployment rate for the Euro area peaked at over 12 percent in 2013, and currently sits just above 10 percent.

Low interest rates internationally have resulted in asset price inflation, particularly in share and house prices. Monetary policy can only do so much but with global interest rates at approximately zero there needs to be the support of the politicians to enlist a much more stimulatory fiscal policy.

central-bank-rates-oct-16

Source: Monthly Economic Review: New Zealand Parliamentary Library

RBNZ cut OCR but NZ$ on the rise

August 15, 2016 Leave a comment

Last Thursday it was no real surprise that the RBNZ cut the official cash rate to 2%. With this cut you would have expected some fall in the value of the $NZ but instead it appreciated. So why did the $NZ appreciate? Graeme Wheeler was interviewed by NZ Herald reporter Liam Dann and explained to him that we live in a phenomenal situation. Global interest rates have been incredible low especially in countries like Japan, the UK and Australia – see table below. Add to that the impact of quantitive easing since 2009 and negative interest rates in countries which account for 25% of world GDP and you have a very unusual situation.

CB Rate Aug 16

Some key assumptions from the RBNZ are that:

The global economy will start to pick-up which will mean that there will be less pressure on the NZ$ as investors look to other currencies to invest in. Remember that the NZ$ is the 10th most traded currency in the world and at uncertain times in the global economy it is seen as safe place to ‘park’ your money. This therefore increases the demand for NZ$’s appreciating its value.

Also the growth of the domestic economy with GDP expanding by 2.4 percent over the year ended in the March 2016 quarter, could mean a rise in inflationary expectations which should bring the inflation rate closer to the 2% mid point method in the policy target agreement. However this is a drop from 3.2% from the previous year.

According to Stephen Toplis of the BNZ 

Clearly, the NZD is already higher than anticipated and inflation expectations could well be constrained for longer as annual headline inflation falls, potentially, sub-zero. It was also interesting that the RBNZ did not repeat its upside scenario for interest rates due to higher house prices. This reaffirms the Bank’s easing bias.

All things considered then, and noting there is still significant uncertainty as to the exact way ahead, we can reasonably comfortably conclude that:

–  There will be at least one more rate cut;

–  The balance of risk is for even more;

–  The cash rate is going to be at least as low as it is now for a long time;

–  Inflation is likely to continue surprising to the downside in the near term;

–  Only when the rest of the world plays ball will the NZD wilt.

Does the RBNZ need to cut the OCR?

August 7, 2016 Leave a comment

With the RBNZ to announce the Official Cash Rate next Thursday there is common agreement that there will be a 0.25% cut to leave the OCR at 2.00%. However with 2.8% growth and a favourable PMI do the RBNZ need to cut rates? With inflation at 0.4% it is still not between the 1-3% target range (as outlined by the Policy Target Agreement in the Reserve Bank Act 1989), and there is pressure for the central bank to hit a target of 2% inflation. With the global economy in an era of very low inflation (even a threat of deflation) one wonders the logic of keeping the PTA at 1-3%. In fact it is being reviewed by the RBNZ in the next month. The logic behind the lower OCR will be to stimulate more spending but also trying to make the NZ$ less attractive for foreign investors.

NZ Economy

With NZ rates being significantly higher than other developed countries the NZ$ is seen as a good investment and ultimately attracts a lot of ‘Hot Money’ into the economy. The NZ$ is the 10th most traded currency in the world and this is also due to the stable environment in the NZ economy as well as relatively high interest rates. But have the lower rates had the effect of reducing the value if the NZ$? A lower dollar makes exports prices more competitive and increases the price of imports.

Interest Rates NZ$

If you contrast the OCR with the TWI over the last year you will see that a lower OCR doesn’t necessarily mean a lower NZ$. Furthermore the lower rates do nothing to halt the rise in the property market especially in Auckland.

The RBNZ faces potentially conflicting outcomes as it tries maintain financial stability and price stability. The Policy Targets Agreement demands lower interest rates in a bid to raise CPI inflation while financial stability concerns, especially with the housing market,  probably demands higher rates.

Images from ANZ Bank

Monetary Policy – the OCR and how it works

June 21, 2016 Leave a comment

Below is a very good video from the Reserve Bank of New Zealand outlining how the Official Cash Rate (the key rate of the Central bank) works in maintaining price stability. This is part of the Internal Assessment for NCEA Level 2. Remember the following:

Reserve Bank Act 1989 – made price stability the sole aim of monetary policy.

  • The RBNZ, who implements monetary policy, was made responsible for keeping prices “stable”.
  • “Price Stability” is defined in the Policy Target Agreement (PTA) as keeping the inflation rate between 1 and 3%.
  • “Inflation” is measured by the percentage change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Statistics NZ calculates the CPI.

 

Venezuela – Cost Push to Demand Pull Inflation

May 18, 2016 Leave a comment

Zim Venez InflationBelow is an informative clip from Al Jazeera which looks at the worst performing economy in the world – Venezuela. With oil accounting for 95 percent of Venezuela’s export earnings, plummeting world prices have severely hit the government’s revenue stream. GDP is forecast to contract 5.6% and inflation to hit 700% in 2016. The Economist has likened it to Zimbabwe and produced a graph showing the similar acceleration in inflation.

With 80% of all food items being imported and most of its agricultural land abandoned there are now major food shortages in the country – decrease in supply – cost-push inflation. As a consequence of this consumers are trying to stockpile goods as the prices increase – this shifts the demand curve to the right – demand-pull inflation.

Authorities are trying to clamp down on shoppers stockpiling goods by taking fingerprints before buying their ration of price-controlled goods. However the law of supply and demand is never far away as speculators use the black market to sell goods at a higher price as people becoming desperate for the essentials. Furthermore, producers can get around price controls by adding ingredients to staple food which therefore makes it unregulated – Venezuelan firms have added garlic to rice, called it “garlic rice”

Categories: Inflation Tags: ,

RBNZ – LUCI indicator

April 22, 2016 Leave a comment

RBNZ Deputy Governor Geoff Bascand presented a speech on inflation pressures through the lens of the labour market. The key message from the speech is that weaker than expected labour market pressures have been “a factor in our assessment that it has been appropriate to keep monetary policy accommodative” RBNZ research has identified large flows from non-participation into employment, flows that are much higher than that witnessed in other countries. Around two thirds of the newly employed were non-participators in the previous quarter. Bascand stated that “one implication is that participation is potentially more sensitive to cyclical variation than previously thought. Another is that the unemployment rate is a weaker indicator of labour market slack and inflationary pressure than previously assumed.”

Therefore, the RBNZ has developed a labour utilisation composite index (LUCI) which shows how tight or loose the labour market is relative to a long-run average. It combines 17 labour market indicators,weighted so as to provide the best historical fit to the broader economic cycle. The boom in the early 2000’s saw labour market conditions tighter than usual with resulting higher wages. However the GFC put a stop to that with a lot of labour market slack. Today, with labour market conditions broadly in balance since 2014 there has been little upward pressure on wages.

Recent low consumer price inflation in New Zealand of 0.1% can be mostly explained by falls in commodity prices and the high New Zealand dollar which makes imports cheaper.  However, the growth in labour force participation rates (see graph below) have put the brakes on wage inflation and therefore has had a lower inflationary impact than expected.

Participation rate NZ

Source: RBNZ

The participation rate has trended higher over the past 15 years, reaching around 69 percent in 2015. The main influences on this trend have been the ageing population, increased participation of older workers, and increased participation of women.

Participation tends to be cyclical in nature:

  • Strong employment and wage growth encourage people to seek work, who otherwise would not choose to participate.
  • When unemployment rises people spend longer time out of work. However some are discouraged from seeking work and no longer participate in the workforce.

A recent example of cyclical impact is Canterbury, where the strong rebuild activity encouraged additional workers to join the labour force. Participation in Canterbury rose from 67 percent at end-2011 to around 72 percent at the end of 2015, 4 percentage points above the rest of the country

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