When the governor of the Swiss central bank sounds alarmed, it is time to take notice. Switzerland, famous for its cheese but also for its prosperity, has built its economy around trade, and Thomas Jordan is worried that protectionism will now ruin it.
The snow has melted and it’s time to make plans for the future again. And like every spring, those plans are likely to include what has become known as “reflation” — inflation increasing again to a level where it can eat away at the mountain of debt the world’s big economies have to deal with.
Will consumer price inflation, rather than inflation in asset prices like property and securities, finally take off? There have been two interesting points of view last week on this issue.
Central banks are still worried about the danger of deflation, even though they have timidly started to lift interest rates. How else would they explain real negative rates almost everywhere in the developed economies?
The Bank of England will publish its inflation report next Thursday, and this time it will get even more attention than usual.
Brexit is being felt in prices more and more now, with the cost of grocery bills jumping and prices for essentials going up. The phenomenon of “shrinkflation” is in full swing as well; many products are mysteriously losing weight, but maintain their price.
No matter how much it would like to help (or to meet its inflation target), the Bank of England cannot do anything to prevent prices from rising. In fact, to be more accurate, it could, but it will not. The central bank could raise interest rates, stopping the pound’s depreciation — but if it does this, the housing market would crash.
There is a widespread view that the Federal Reserve will have to raise interest rates at a steady pace this year, because it cannot afford to fall behind the curve.
I would argue that it has already fallen behind the curve and has no choice but to remain there. And it is not the only one in this situation. All major central banks are playing the same game; they have no choice.
If you’re like me, you’ve certainly wondered why economic growth has been so sluggish after the worst post-war recession — the Great Recession, or Great Financial Crisis as some have callednthe 2007-2009 crisis. Normally, the economy should have surged, after such a deep slump.
Instead, we’re proud of economic growth figures around 2% in Britain and the US and cheer when the eurozone posts a meager GDP advance of above 1% almost a decade after the crisis.
A survey by Scottish Widows imparts some uplifting news: British millennials are optimistic about their future. Around 75% of millennial-aged Britons expect their quality of life to improve or at least remain the same in retirement, it shows.
Most millennials expect to retire around 63 years of age (Scottish Widows calls this “early” retirement, but until not long ago, retiring at 63 would have been considered pretty normal).
“This generation has expensive plans for their later years, with holidaying overseas (59%), trips to the cinema and theatre (48%), keeping up with the latest fashions and buying new clothes (28%) and eating and drinking out regularly (26%) in their sights,” the survey shows.
While it’s always good to see the young looking confidently to their future, they should take a better look at these plans and perhaps revise them down a bit, following the UK’s vote to leave the European Union. They should also perhaps learn from that vote and become more active and vocal in future political decisions.
“Happiness is a candle. In fact, don’t laugh too loud, you risk putting it out.”
— Christophe Maé – Il est où le bonheur
“Brexit Armageddon simply hasn’t happened,” writes with delight the Guardian’s economics editor, Larry Elliot.
“The 1.4% jump in retail sales in July showed that consumers have not stopped spending, and seem to be more influenced by the weather than they are by fear of the consequences of what happened on 23 June. Retailers are licking their lips in anticipation of an Olympics feelgood factor.
The financial markets are serene. Share prices are close to a record high, and fears that companies would find it difficult and expensive to borrow have proved wide of the mark. Far from dumping UK government gilts, pension funds and insurance companies have been keen to hold on to them,” writes Elliot.
Perhaps this optimism is partly justified. After all, confidence goes a long way in financial markets, as any observer of emerging markets can testify. As long as you can project confidence, the battle is, if not won, at least not entirely lost. In most cases, anyway.
As the effects of the vote by the UK people to leave the European Union still unfold, more and more economists say property will take a serious hit. A 50% cut in property prices in London is among the possibilities mentioned by one analyst.
The word “deflation” is on everybody’s lips now, with falls in consumer prices the main worry of central bankers and their ilk. But are things really all that bad, and what other type of deflation should we worry about in 2016?