The Bank expects inflation to rise to 4% ...
Inflation CPI basis hit 3.2% in August. The move was pretty much expected. The Bank expects inflation to rise to around 4% by the end of the year. For the moment, that looks like a pretty fair bet. The big question remains, just what exactly happens after that!
Strange things in the mix. Goods inflation increased to 3.3% in the month. Service sector inflation increased to 3.0%. Second hand car prices increased by over 18%. Air passenger transport costs increased by 14%. Motorbike prices were up by 12%. The cost of fuel was up by 18%.
Want to go out for a meal? In the restaurant you will be paying at least 8% more. Want to stop over? Accommodation price rises were 12% higher in August. OK, you may have to make your own bed and breakfast but hey that's life post pandemic, as the world tries to return to normality.
Nothing in the data suggests a rise in food prices as yet. DIY, household appliances and furniture prices averaged an 8% increase. Everything to suggest inflation is always and everywhere a transitory phenomenon. We had expected inflation to peak in August. The continued highs in the oil market suggest the Bank scenario is more likely now ...
Manufacturing Costs Up 11% ...
Manufacturing costs increased by 11% in the year to August. The latest data suggests the May peak was illusory. Costs for manufacturers continue to rise, up from 10.4% in July.
Crude oil prices were up by 50%. Metal prices up by 20%. Chemical costs were up by 12%. Oil closed up at $74.82 at the end of the week. The inflationary impact year on year, will continue into the first quarter of 2022.
Iron ore prices dropped by 20% last week. Copper prices are down by by 12% from the peak in May. Aluminum prices on the other hand, are pushing new highs. Prices are up by 60% year on year. The coup in Guinea, one of the world's top bauxite producers, spooked an already jittery market.
No let up in shipping costs either. A container from Asia to the West Coast USA is priced out at $20,000 up from $2,500 at the start of the year. Energy costs were threatened by a spike in gas prices. Prices have doubled over twelve months. Record gas prices in Europe have forced shut downs in fertilizer plants, indirectly creating a carbon dioxide shortage with implications for food and farming production.
Leaders of the top U.S. industrial companies gathered virtually this week, at the annual Morgan Stanley Laguna conference. Much of the discussion centered on the rising costs of raw materials, labor shortages and logistics. Businesses are faced with the increasingly difficult challenge of getting enough supply to keep up with demand ... world trade was up 22% in the second quarter as strong growth returns ...
Vacancies Rise To Over One Million ...
In the UK the number of vacancies in the economy increased to over one million in August. Accommodation, food featured along with vacancies in retail, health and social care.
The number of people unemployed fell slightly to 1.550 million. The u-rate eased to 4.6%. The number of people on furlough fell to 1.6 million at the end of July.
One million vacancies, 1.6 million on furlough, 1.6 million unemployed. The end of the furlough scheme at the end of September will make for an interesting scenario towards the end of the year. The hope is a significant surge in job losses can be avoided. Market forecasts are for the unemployment rate to increase to 5.3% in the final quarter before easing back towards current levels by the end of next year ...
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The UK recovery appeared to stall in July. The ONS monthly estimate of GDP growth for July was up by just 0.1% compared to prior month.
Supply chain problems persist, worker shortages continue. No growth in the service sector; no growth in manufacturing; output down in construction apparently.
Not a great time to put up taxes. Boris Johnson signalled a ten year plan to stay in Number Ten. Abolishing the triple lock and a National Insurance surcharge hardly a measure of intent.
The jobs market is in a precarious position. 1.6 million unemployed, 1.6 million on furlough and 1 million vacancies in the economy. We await with caution, to see how the furlough scheme will unwind. For the moment, analysts expect the increase in unemployment to be around 250,000 by the end of the year. The unemployment rate will increase to 5.4%. The changes in NI rates will not ease the transition. The planned cuts to universal credit will not ease the pain for many.
Our chart of the week updates the analysis of vacancies and furlough numbers by sector. Overall the ratio of furlough to vacancies is 1.6. Accommodation, food, construction and transportation appear to the focus of higher furlough rates. It is difficult to understand why these areas are most cited in terms of recruitment difficulty, when so many remain in stasis. The problems in health and social care are most apparent, with 64,000 on furlough and 161,000 vacancies in the economy at the end of July.
So what Are the Prospects For Growth This Year ...
Despite the disappointment of the July data, the economy remains on track for growth of around 7% this year. The July numbers may have been up by just 0.1% compared to prior month, Compared to prior year, growth was up by 7.5% following a 22% surge in the second quarter. Service sector growth was up by 8%. Manufacturing up by 6% and construction up by almost 9%. Accommodation and food increased by over 50%.
Growth is expected to pick up in August, with continued expansion in tourism and hospitality. The steady return of staff to the office, particularly in London, should boost transport and the service sector. NIESR expects growth of around 7.5% year on year in the third quarter. A steady recovery to the end of the year, will be supported by a further catch up in hospitality and transport.
The government is acting to ease the crisis in Road Haulage. Would be stay-cationers in caravans will no longer have to pass a test to make the trip. The much needed testing resource could lead to an additional 40,000 drivers getting an HGV licence in time for Christmas.
There may be no chicken in Nandos but there is still every chance of a vote for turkey at Christmas ...
Inflation is set to surge this Autumn. Business leaders are warning of a perfect storm. Problems created by Brexit, labour shortages, the pandemic and the pace of global recovery are forcing prices higher.
The cost of tomatoes has doubled in the past year, vegetable oil is at the highest price in over thirty years. It hasn't been this high since it was stocked in the local chemist shop.
Energy bills are rising. Oil continues to trade above $70 dollars. Natural gas prices are soaring. Prices have risen to over 130 pence per therm compared to 10 pence last year. That's bad news for manufacturers around the world, from China makers in China, to patisserie peddlers in Paris, apparently.
Sugar and Steel manufacturing is affected by increased costs. Then of course there is the challenge of shipping. That's assuming you can book a container to make the delivery. The Baltic Dry Index hit a ten year high last month.
Shipping container rates from China to the US and Europe have surged in recent weeks. In early August, shipping rates for the China-US East coast route topped $20,000 compared to just $5,000 dollars at the end of last year, according to Freightos, the online market place for international shipping.
Want to ship to Europe from Asia? Prices have increased from $2,500 dollars per container to almost $15,000 in the course of the year. Then once in the UK, you will need a driver. With a shortfall of almost 100,000 drivers according to the RHA, pay rates are escalating to £50,000 per annum in some cases.
Copper prices may have eased back from record highs but aluminium and nickel have take up the price hike challenge. Aluminium prices increased to $1,600 dollars per pound this week, compared to just $800 dollars at the start of the year. Cans and chips will cost more. TSMC announced a 20% hike in semi conductor prices as car production stalls.
In the UK, average earnings increased by almost 9% in June. Private sector earnings increased by over 10%. Construction earnings increased by 14%.
So is inflation always and everywhere a transitory phenomenon? The Bank of England expects inflation to peak at 4% later this year, before returning to target towards the end of next year, as the disruption impacts unwind.
Retailers are warning prices are set to rise and soon ... but some manufacturers are warning of a reluctance to pass on cost increases at the risk of losing sales.
Next week, we will examine in detail the prospects for inflation as we update our inflation models and chart book. The implications are not quite as bad as this week's update may suggest ...
In the U.S. just 235,000 jobs were added in August. Expectations of a 750,000 job surge were left stranded. The Federal Reserve and the White House had hoped for strong job gains across the board. Over one million jobs had been added in July.
Professional services were amongst the beneficiaries as hiring stalled in leisure and hospitality sectors. Retailers and restaurants shed jobs. Overall the unemployment rate fell to 5.2%.
Analysts now suggest the US central bank could defer any suggestion of tapering before the end of the year. What a surprise! The strong jobs market and rising inflation had led some, but not all, to expect a reduction in the asset purchase program before the end of the year.
Borrowing is expected to hit $3.7 trillion dollars this year. The Fed will have to maintain the role of "buyer of last resort" over the short term. The $40 billion monthly mortgage backed security plan may be on the hit list to satisfy critics of the ever expanding central bank balance sheet.
Bond markets were unexcited by the latest jobs data. Ten year U.S. bond yields closed up just one basis point to 1.33. Sterling moved higher to close at $1.3864. Markets were mixed. Bill Gross the ex Pimco bond czar suggested "Government Bonds Are Garbage". "Buying U.S. government bonds is all but certain to be a losing bet" he said.
Cash is trash, bonds are garbage, and the Warren Buffet Valuation index moved to a record high reflecting a 90% over valuation compared to historical average. What next for the model portfolio ... Red Dots Are Rising
No Chicken in Nando's, No Chips at Nissan, No shakes at MacDonald's. Empty shelves are increasing. The head of the Co-Op said food shortages were the worst he has ever known.
Evidently not a war baby, CEO Steve Murrells announced the group was reducing some ranges. The ability to get food into stores was hit by post Brexit migration rules and Covid challenges.
A lack of fruit pickers, food processors and lorry drivers to blame for part of the crisis, businesses are pleading for a relaxation of rules on visas and an acceleration of test and training for new drivers to ease supply problems.
This week, once again, the car industry reported production difficulties. Output fell by 37% last month. It was the worst July performance since 1956. Manufacturers "grappled" with the global shortage of semi conductors. TSMC, the Taiwan Semi Conductor Manufacturer moved to ease the supply crisis by hiking prices 20%.
Will empty shelves damage growth?
Not according to the latest "Forecasts for the UK Economy" published by HM Treasury. The average forecast for GDP growth in 2021 remains at 6.9%. The more expansive forecasts have been tailed back.
JP Morgan is now forecasting growth of 7.1%. Capital Economics expects growth of 6.7%. Goldman Sachs is even more nervous about prospects for the UK. The American Bank is forecasting growth of 7.1%. Our Saturday Economist central forecast, we may lower perhaps to 7.0% on the next data release in September. We still expect growth of over 5.0% in 2022, slowing to perhaps 3.5% in the following year, thereafter reverting to trend growth of around 2% in the years to follow.
Over the next five years, the economy will grow by over 20% in real terms and by over 30% in nominal terms. The additional revenues to the Treasury will be almost £250 billion in the period. The latest borrowing figures suggest the total borrowing this year could fall below £175 billion. In March the Office For Budget Responsibility was expecting borrowing to hit £234 billion.
Inflation fears are increasing. CPI inflation is expected to average over 3% in the final quarter compared to just over 2.5% expected last month. The July 2% CPI level reported is dismissed as an anomaly.
Our Labour Market Chart Book has an update on the latest data. Analysis of wage trends suggests rates of increases will fall towards 3% by the end of the year. We await with interest the end of the furlough scheme. I.6 million unemployed, 1.9 million on furlough and 1 million vacancies in the economy will make for an interesting unwind towards the end of the year …
Taper Tantrum ...
In the U.S. the Office of Management and Budget expects consumer prices to rise by 4.8% in the fourth quarter. This is up sharply from the 2% rise the Biden administration had forecast in May.
Inflation is always and everywhere a transitory phenomenon. Price pressures will ease next year. The consumer price index is expected to increase by 2.5% in the fourth quarter of 2022.
Markets awaited with interest the update from Fed Chair Jerome Powell this week, at the Jackson Hole virtual symposium. The central banker hinted the Fed could start scaling back stimulus this year. The inflation surge is expected to be temporary. There was no prospect of a rate rise anytime soon but some tapering of asset purchases could begin before the end of the year.
"At the FOMC's recent July meeting, I was of the view, as were most participants, that if the economy evolved broadly as anticipated, it could be appropriate to start reducing the pace of asset purchases this year. The intervening month has brought more progress in the form of a strong employment report for July".
No taper tantrum in the markets. The Dow, S&P and Nasdaq closed up in the week. The S&P and Nasdaq closed at record highs. The Dollar moved lower against Sterling and the Euro. Ten year bond yields moved up six basis points closing at 1.32.
The Fed has made it clear rates remain on hold. The asset purchase tapering may be confined to Mortgage backed securities in the short term. The Central Bank will have to fulfill the role of "Buyer of Last Resort" of government bonds until the level of government borrowing falls within the capacity of the private sector. That may not be for some time yet.
The Warren Buffet Valuation index moved to a record high reflecting a near 90% over valuation compared to historical average. Don't Miss Our Special Update "Red Dots In The Sand: When Will Markets Collapse."
That's all for this week. It's good to be back. We have been working on our series on Digital Accommodation during the break with special updates for Premium Club Subscribers. We will be back with more next week. Want to be sure? Join the Club, become a Premium Subscriber, don't miss out …
"All great deeds and all great thoughts have ridiculous beginnings" Albert Camus.
Wall Street predicts the equity bull run will continue. Some investors worry the market already reflects high levels of optimism. The markets may be subject to "adjustment".
So what can sand pile theory tell us about the behaviour of markets? Imagine, the world is modeled on a simple template, like a steep pile of sand, it is poised on the brink of instability. Avalanches, in events, ideas or markets, follow a universal pattern of change.
At any time markets can achieve the Minsky Moment, the "brink of instability". The moment when speculative activity reaches a critical point that further expansion is unsustainable. Any further move or falling grain of sand, leads to rapid price adjustment and market collapse.
So how can we spot the Minsky Moment, that critical point when over speculation in markets will lead to collapse? It is time to count those red dots in the sand, As Mark Buchanan in his 2000 book "Ubiquity" explains.
The story begins with three physicists playing with sand in America. In 1987, three physicists at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York State began to play a strange game
Per Bak, Chao Tang and Kurt Weisenfeld were trying to imagine what would happen if someone were to sprinkle grains of sand one at a time onto a table top. As grains pile up it seems clear that a broad mountain of sand should edge slowly skywards. Yet things obviously cannot continue in this way indefinitely.
As the pile grows the sides become steeper. It becomes more probable the next falling grain could trigger an avalanche. Sand would then slide downhill to some flatter region below making the mountain smaller not bigger.
In the process the mountain would ultimately grow and then shrink. A jagged silhouette forever fluctuating in dimension and shape.
What is the typical rhythm of the growing and shrinking sandpile ...
Bak, Tang and Weisenfeld wanted to understand those fluctuations. What is the typical rhythm of the growing and sinking sandpile?
Dropping sand one grain at a time is a delicate and laborious business. So in seeking some answers Bak and his colleagues constructed a computer model which would drop imaginary grains of sand onto an imaginary work top. Using the model, a pile would grow in seconds rather than days.
I was so easy to play, the three physicists soon became glued to their screens, obsessed with the falling grains and watching the results. They were to ask several basic questions. What is the typical size of an avalanche? How big should you expect the next avalanche to be? What determines the trigger point for an avalanche event?
The researchers ran a huge number of tests, counting the grains in millions of avalanches, in thousands of sand piles. looking for the typical number involved.
The result? There was no "typical" avalanche. Some involved a single grain, others, ten, a hundred or even thousands. Others were pile high "disasters" involving millions, which nearly brought the whole sand mountain tumbling down. At any time, anything, literally anything could be about to happen. The pile was completely chaotic in its unpredictability.
To try to understand why this was the case, Bak and his colleagues amended the model to colour the sand pile according to its steepness. Where it is relatively flat and stable, the pile was coloured green, Where it was steep and "ready to go" it was coloured red.
At the outset, the pile was mostly green. As the mountain grew, the green became interspersed with more and more red. With more grains, the scattering red dots grew until a dense skeleton of potential instability ran through the pile.
They discovered a grain falling on a red spot, can by a domino effect, cause sliding at other near by red spots. If the red network was sparse, and all trouble spots were well isolated from each other, then a single grain would have limited repercussions.
When red spots, riddled the pile, the next grain to fall would become "fiendishly unpredictable". It might trigger only a few tumblings, or it might instead, set off a cataclysmic chain reaction involving millions.
The sandpile configures itself into a hypersensitive and unstable condition in which the next falling grain could trigger a response of any size whatsoever. This hypersensitive state is known as the "critical state. This applies to markets, just as it does to piles of sand.
Every Avalanche Starts Out the Same Way ...
The surprising conclusion is that even the greatest of events have no special or exceptional causes. Every avalanche starts out the same way. A single grain falls and makes the pile just slightly too steep at one point.
'What makes one avalanche much larger than another has nothing to do with its original cause, and nothing to do with some special situation in the pile just before it starts. Rather, it has to do with the perpetually unstable organization of the critical state, which makes it always possible for the next grain to trigger an avalanche of any size." Mauldin
The Hyman Minsky Financial Instability Hypothesis is a model of a capitalist economy which does not rely upon exogenous shocks to generate business cycles of varying severity. The Minsky Moment defines the tipping point when speculative activity reaches a critical point that is unsustainable, leading to rapid price deflation and market collapse.
The Minsky Moment is the critical moment identified in the model of the sand piles. More grains of sand are added. Momentum will lead to a growing pile until the critical point is reached. Many red dots in the sand will lead to a cataclysmic collapse affecting millions. Every avalanche starts out the same way. A single grain falls and makes the pile just slightly too steep at one point triggering a cataclysmic reaction. We can never know exactly when and where the critical grain of sand will fall ... but fall it will ... eventually ...
Ubiquity, Why the world is simpler than we think; Mark Buchanan 2000
Thoughts from the front line ; John Mauldin August 2021
The Financial Instability Hypothesis; Hyman P Minsky 1992
From hospitality to healthcare, companies are complaining they can't get staff. Recruitment difficulties are increasing, pay rates are rising. More perks and promises are on offer to secure sign ups. The pingdemic isn't helping.
This week, the SMMT reported production shortfalls as a result of the global chip shortage, caused by the pandemic and staff shortages caused by the pingdemic.
By the end of July, almost 700,000 workers had received isolation alerts from the NHS "Stay at Home" App. The motor trade is just one of many, hit by the pings. The list of "reserved" occupations is expected to rise. Isolation conditions will ease, for all in August.
For the wider economy, the problem of labor shortages will persist compounded by the furlough scheme. At the start of the year, 4.7 million were on furlough. The total number had fallen to 1.9 million by the end of June, according to HMRC data.
More than a third of the working population have been supported by government schemes, since the pandemic began. Latest figures show the UK Government supported over 14.5 million jobs during the crisis, at a cost of £325 billion pounds.
So where have all the workers gone? Not far really. In June the number of vacancies in the economy had increased to 860,000. 1.9 million were furloughed. 1.6 million were out of work. The largest number of vacancies were in accommodation and food (102,000) and retail distribution (107,000).
The largest sectors for furlough retention were accommodation and food (338,000) and retail distribution (270,000). There were almost three workers furloughed for every vacancy in hospitality and retail. On average there were 2.2 furloughed workers for every vacancy in the economy as a whole.
The furlough scheme is due to end in September. The anomalies within the jobs market may begin to unwind in the final quarter of the year. The expected rise in unemployment may not be quite as bad as many are forecasting ...
Our Chart of The Week, examines the relationship between vacancies in the economy and the number of people on furlough. The sectors to which most attention is drawn are accommodation and food and the retail sector.
The retail sector has been subject to structural disruption as more business moved on line. Jobs have been protected on furlough as more vacancies have been created in "new distribution" opportunities.
The accommodation and food sector has been impacted by the repatriation of EU workers, the staycation boom and the geographical switch to holiday hot spots including the South West, Devon, Cornwall and the Lake District.
The correlation between furlough and vacancies is high across most sectors. The anomaly is with the health and social care sector. 153,000 vacancies are reported in June, with just over 70,000 on furlough. There are over two vacancies for every worker still on furlough. It is the inverse of the overall picture. The recruitment crisis will continue in healthcare and social care long after the pangdemic and pingdemic impacts have faded ...
Good news for the Chancellor this week. In the first three months of the financial year, borrowing fell to £69.5 billion compared to almost £120 billion last year.
The out turn was £19 billion below the OBR forecast. The fiscal watchdog had penciled in borrowing of £234 billion in the current financial year. If the current trends were to be maintained, the outcome could be a drop in borrowing levels to around £175 billion.
The fall reflects stronger than expected tax receipts and lower than expected spending. The OBR had forecast growth of just 4% in the current year. Market expectations are for growth of between 7% and 8% this year, a significant adjustment worth between £30 and £40 billion in receipts alone.
Corporation Tax, Income Tax, and National Insurance Receipts were all much higher. Stamp duty receipts spiked in June, as transactions were brought forward to beat the deadline. The downside surprise in the data, was the reduction in government spending due to lower subsidies including CJRS and SEIS. Social spending was lower, as was the expected debt interest costs, despite the rise in total debt to £2.2 trillion.
The recovery is on track despite the Pingdemic shock. Borrowing is set to fall to less than 5% of GDP in the net financial year. Even so policy seems "All At Sea" as the Treasury seeks control. No money for police pay, no money for doctors as applicants for training places are told to come back next year. No money for overseas aid, no money for leveling up. No money to complete the extreme Northern loops of HS2.
The Chancellor is set to announce his three year spending plans in the Autumn. Budget action is set to be delayed until the Spring. It is not clear if the Chancellor and the Prime Minister are swimming in synch ... evidence of formation remains "all at sea" ...
Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank, is used to holding the line. As a former member of the France National Synchronised Swimming Team, she knows a thing or two about maintaining formation.
In the US, the Fed remains committed to maintaining interest rates at the zero bound and continuing the $120 billion per month asset purchase programme.
In the UK, despite noises of debate on the MPC, there really is no real prospect of an increase in rates as yet. The NHS isolation App is making sure of that. Rishi Sunak's £1 trillion pound bank note, may yet be filled before the end of the financial year. Borrowing may be falling but not yet to levels within the purchase capacity of the private sector. Trapped on Planet ZIRP, the process of Gross Asset Inflation continues.
Bond yields were unchanged during the week. Markets moved higher in The US and Europe, the DOW, NASDAQ and S&P closed at new highs, following the early week flutter. Markets are playing "What time is it Mr Wolf". Each step closer to the time to run but pushed ever nearer by peer group pressure and the fear of missing out. Expect more volatility as experienced at the start of the week. The Dow dropped 4% before recovering at close.
At its latest meeting, the ECB governing council said it would allow inflation to rise above target without corrective action. European Central Bank pledged to maintain monetary stimulus for even longer. As Phil Aldrick, writing in the Times explained. "The change in emphasis was likely to mean no rate rises until 2023 at the earliest. It reflected the ECB’s new “symmetrical” inflation target. The previous target, circa 2003, had been to keep inflation below but close to 2 per cent."
The ECB governing council stated the plan to get inflation back to 2 per cent “may also imply a transitory period in which inflation is moderately above target”. Christine Lagarde, the ECB president, said the comment “underlined our commitment to maintain a persistently accommodative monetary policy”.
Sound familiar? Yes even in Europe, inflation is always and everywhere a transitory phenomenon. Fortunately for the Europeans, CPI inflation is just 1.9% for the moment ... The Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme continues, Pepping the markets in the process ...
The Saturday Economist
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The material is based upon information which we consider to be reliable but we do not represent that it is accurate or complete and it should not be relied upon as such. We accept no liability for errors, or omissions of opinion or fact. In particular, no reliance should be placed on the comments on trends in financial markets. The presentation should not be construed as the giving of investment advice.