Should the Gold Price Keep Up With Inflation?

By Monetary Metals

The popular belief is that gold is a good hedge against inflation. Owning gold will protect you from rising prices. Is that true?

Most people define inflation as rising prices. Economists will quibble and say technically it’s the increase in the quantity of money, however Milton Friedman expressed the popular belief well. He said, “Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon.”

There you have it. The Federal Reserve increases the money supply and that, in turn, causes an increase in the price of everything, including gold. It’s as simple as that, right?

Except, it doesn’t work that way. Just ask anyone who has been betting on rising commodities prices since 2011. Certainly the money supply has increased. M1 was $1.86T in January 2011, and in March it hit $3.15T. This is a 69 percent increase. However, commodities have gone the opposite way. For example, wheat peaked at $9.35 per bushel in July 2012, and so far it’s down to $4.64 or about 50 percent. And the price of gold fell from $1900 in 2011, to $1050 late last year, or 45 percent.

Would you say that inflation is +69%, or is it -45% or -50%?

Most people look at retail prices, not raw commodities or gold. Retail prices have not followed into the abyss. Love it or hate it, the Consumer Price Index registers a cumulative 8 percent gain from 2011 through 2015 inclusive.

Let’s consider an example to help understand why. Suppose you own a coffee shop in a central business district. The city enacts a new regulation that limits the hours for delivery trucks. This forces you to pay overtime wages to your staff to unload the trucks, and of course, the carrier charges more for delivery too.

Next, the city allows poor people to stop paying their water bill. So to compensate, they raise the water rates on businesses. While they’re at it, they raise the fees for sewer, garbage, gas line hookups, fire inspections, and sign permits. The state passes a higher minimum wage law. The building inspector requires that you increase the size of your bathroom to accommodate wheelchairs, and you lose revenue-generating floor space. There are hundreds of ways that government increases your costs.

Is this inflation?

Not yet, costs are up but not prices. Sooner or later, all of the affected coffee shops try raising their prices. Consumers don’t necessarily want to pay more for coffee, so a few shops fail. The survivors are now charging 15% more for coffee. They have their higher prices, at the cost of lower sales volume.

The burden of government bearing down on the coffee business only increases. Every day, three constituencies conspire to drive up costs. We’ll call them the “there oughtta be a law” crowd, the “government needs more revenues” mob, and the “they served 10oz of coffee plus 4oz of ice so let’s sue them” racket.

Regulation, taxation, and litigation drive up price. Friedman was wrong. The rising price of lattes is not a monetary phenomenon (the monetary system is pressuring prices lower right now, and in my theory of interest and prices I discuss why). Rising retail prices are a fiscal, regulatory, and judicial problem.

There is no reason for the price of gold to follow retail, because there is no mechanism that connects gold to these non-monetary costs.

Wage Inflation Keeps Fed in Picture

By Chris Ciovacco

Wage Inflation Keeps Fed in Picture for Stocks and Bonds

Fed Does Not Have A Singular Mandate

Given the big miss on the job creation side of Friday’s monthly employment report, it may appear to be easy for the Fed to continue to put off a hike in interest rates. However, the Fed has two primary mandates; full employment and keeping inflation in check. From the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s website:

“The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and the Federal Open Market Committee shall maintain long run growth of the monetary and credit aggregates commensurate with the economy’s long run potential to increase production, so as to promote effectively the goals of maximum employment, stable prices and moderate long-term interest rates.”

Inflation: Glass Half Full

The ratio of Treasury inflation-protected securities (TIP) vs. intermediate-term treasuries (IEF) can be used to monitor inflation expectations. If we use a weekly chart that plots closing prices, you can make an argument that a bullish breakout recently occurred in inflation expectations (see green arrow).

Inflation, Stocks, Bonds, and Commodities

This week’s stock market video examines current inflation expectations in the context of market history/performance of stocks (SPY), bonds (IEF), and commodities (DBC). From The Wall Street Journal:

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Inflation With Deflationary Overtones?

By Michael Ashton

So you should cheer for the “good” sort of deflation. At least, you should cheer for it if you are still earning wages.

The Employment report was weak, with jobs coming in below consensus with a downward revision to prior months. It wasn’t abysmally weak, and not enough to change the a priori trajectory of the Fed. If the number had been 125k below expectations or 125k above it, then it may have had implications for the FOMC. But this is a number that has big swings and is revised multiple times. Getting 160k rather than 200k isn’t cause for celebration, but neither is it cause for panic. So whatever the Fed was getting ready to do didn’t change because of this number.

To be sure, no one knows what the Fed was planning to do, so this mainly has implications for the day’s volatility…which is to say that the market quickly went to sleep for the day.

Now, interestingly the Average Hourly Earnings number ticked higher to 2.5%, continuing the post-crisis upswing. At 2.5%, hourly earnings growth is slightly higher than median inflation and thus potentially “supportive of the inflation dynamic” from the standpoint of the Committee. Yes, wages follow inflation but not in the Fed models – so, while I don’t think this has any implications for future inflation it will eventually have implications for Fed policy. But this is a dovish Fed, and 2.5% earnings growth is not going to scare another tightening out of them…unless they were already planning to tighten.

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The Pendulum of Inflation Complacency

By Michael Ashton

The pendulum of complacency on inflation has begun finally to swing back the other way

I am sure that in my career I have seen weirder reactions, but when the Durable Goods number came out and plainly was significantly weaker-than-expected and energy rallied I must admit it was hard to think of one.

Presumably the reaction was an indirect one: weaker growth means the Fed is less likely to tighten, which means a lower dollar and hence, higher global demand for oil. But that seems a wild overthink. If there is a recession in the offing, and if we care about demand in oil markets (and I think we should), then weak economic growth from one of the world’s largest economies probably ought to be reflected in lower oil prices.

There is part of me that wants to say “maybe investors have finally realized that any given month of Durable Goods Orders is almost meaningless because the volatility of the number makes it hard to reject any particular null hypothesis.” I haven’t done this recently, but many years ago I discovered that a forecast driven by the mechanical rule of -0.5 times last month’s Durables change had a better forecasting record than Street economists. Flip the sign, divide by two. However, I don’t really think the market suddenly got wise.

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Blow Off in Progress, But ‘Launch Phase’ Confirmed

By Biiwii

As posted at nftrh.com

On March 4 we reviewed the technical reasons why the gold sector was launching as opposed to blowing off. This, after articles began appearing calling the rise to that point a doomed parabolic blow off using daily charts. Those calling it a blow off were confused; silver in spring 2011 was a blow off in the terminal sense. But when a parabolic move comes off a bottom, it is an impulsive thrust to change the trend, possibly ending the bear market.

We have long noted that gold is the first mover to a new inflationary phase, as the previous deflationary backdrop gets played out. That is exactly what happened, even though the silver miners have made stunning strides in leading the exciting up move in silver that is currently in process. Silver, in taking over leadership from gold would confirm an inflationary phase. Gold is monetary and silver is an industrial commodity with monetary aspects as well; i.e. it is more positively correlated to inflated economies making the silver-gold ratio a sensitive indicator to inflation.

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Wage Inflation is Already Here

By Michael Ashton

Wage Growth Tracker – Wage Inflation is Already here

(**Administrative Note: Get your copy of my new book What’s Wrong with Money: The Biggest Bubble of All! Here is the Amazon link. SafeHaven.com readers: be sure to check out Bruce Stratton’s recent announcement, which also has a link to a special deal for SafeHaven readers).

I am often critical of central banks these days, and especially the Federal Reserve. But that doesn’t mean I think the entire institution is worthless. While quite often the staff at the Fed puts out papers that use convoluted and inscrutable mathematics to “prove” something that only works because the assumptions used are garbage, there are also occasionally good bits of work that come out. While it is uneven, I find that the Atlanta Fed’s “macroblog” often has good content, and occasionally has a terrific insight.

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review

By Joseph Calhoun of Alhambra

Economic Reports Scorecard

scorecard 4-1-16

The economic reports since the last update present a dichotomy. While there has been an improvement in the surprises – more better than expected reports – the overall tone of the reports has been fairly negative. Part of the explanation for that is the plethora of regional Fed reports over the last two weeks, almost all of which showed significant improvement. That contrasts somewhat with the real manufacturing data we received. The Durable Goods report in particular was quite weak, down 2.8% – and better than the -3% expectation. Ex-transportation orders were down 1% and core capital goods orders were down 1.8% (but down just 0.1% year over year).

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