By now, anyone with half an inkling of curiosity about why prices and values don’t add up has traced the divide back to the money itself. It’s not hard to see.
Asset prices, like houses and the major stock market indexes, have lost all visible connection with the underlying economy. However, wage growth has stagnated; over the last 40 years low level wages have only increased by $0.32 per hour in real inflation adjusted terms. Stocks and residential real estate, at the same time, have gone to the moon.
Even with the NASDAQ’s 11.2 percent decline from its all-time closing high set on November 19, the index is still up over 110 percent from its March 2020 low. What will it take for the NASDAQ to crash back to earth?
Something else that has gone to the moon is government debt. In 1980, the national debt was $908 billion. Today it’s over $29.8 trillion. That’s an increase of over 3,181 percent. Over this time, however, gross domestic product (GDP) has only increased 632 percent – from $2.86 trillion to $20.94 trillion. Continue reading
The impossible happened in the late-1970s. Inflation and unemployment simultaneously went vertical. Leading economists were baffled. This contradicted their academic training.
The Phillips curve said there’s an inverse relationship between inflation and unemployment. When unemployment goes down, inflation goes up. Conversely, when unemployment goes up, inflation goes down.
Economist William Phillips first sketched his curve using wage rates and unemployment data in the UK in the years 1861 to 1957. The depiction of explicable order was impressive. And it provided an economic model central planners could use to somehow optimize inflation and unemployment rates through economic intervention.
How could it be, in the late-1970s, that both inflation and unemployment went up in tandem? According to the Phillips curve they were mutually exclusive.
In reality, the Phillips curve was elegant nonsense. Like most elegant nonsense, it was right until the precise moment it was wrong. Continue reading
They should have known better. Fed Chair Jay Powell and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, that is.
They spent the better part of 2021 saying consumer price inflation was ‘transitory.’ The two of them are most responsible for this inflation mess. How could they have been so wrong?
Now the scourge of raging consumer price inflation is here to stay. This, no doubt, will be a persistent theme in 2022. Moreover, the Fed’s efforts to tame and control it will be a magnificent source of folly.
To begin, central planners, including central bankers, believe they’re masters of the universe. That they possess the tools to, in Omar Khayyam’s words, “remould it nearer to the heart’s desire.”
The reality is central bankers are always reacting. And much of what they do is merely an attempt to cleanup messes of their own making.
Ben Bernanke, then Fed Chair, first commenced the great quantitative easing (QE) experiment in late November 2008. At the time, the Fed’s balance sheet was approximately $800 billion. Now, just over 13 years later, the Fed’s balance sheet is over $8.7 trillion – more than 10 times higher. Continue reading
Welcome to 2022!
The New Year’s edition of the Economic Prism is a place of wild guesses and rough suppositions. Today we focus our eyes through our proprietary prism. We set our sights over a 12 month viewshed. What do we see?
First off, 2022 will be a year where everything under the sun happens precisely as it should. Some good. Some bad. Each day shall unfold before you with symbiotic disharmony. You can bet your bottom bitcoins on it.
But what else?
Will gold top $3,000 per ounce? Will Beeple sell another digital art medley NFT for $69 million? Will a paper cup full of Starbucks coffee mixed with syrup and milk froth hit $10 before the year’s over?
What about the S&P 500, the yield on the 10-Year Treasury note, and the price of oil?
Will Fed tapering cause a simultaneous tantrum in both the stock and bond markets? Will Fauci finally be run out of Washington on a rail like a 19th century con man? Will China invade Taiwan? Did WWIII just commence in the Ukraine? Are we fated for complete social distortion? Continue reading