Friday, June 20, 2008

McCulley On Inflation

A Kind Word for Inflation

No, I have not lost my mind. I’m fully aware that inflation is not kind to bonds, so offering a kind word for inflation is de facto offering an unkind word about my own business. Investment managers don’t tend to do that. But facts are facts. And the essential fact right now is that the American economy needs an inflation rate above the Fed’s comfort zone. Needs, you ask?

Yes. Soaring commodity prices, particularly for petroleum and food, and especially in recent months, are an unambiguous negative real terms of trade shock to America. For those not familiar with the term, a nation’s terms of trade is the ratio of what it must give up to get what it imports. The easiest way to understand the concept, at least for me, is to think of the number of hours of work necessary, at the average national hourly pay rate, to buy a barrel of oil – a real variable compared to another real variable. The chart below (above here) tells that simple story.

Paul McCulley is an expert on the fed and always worth reading.

No comments: