Sunday, February 28, 2016

28/2/16: Every Little Hurts: U.S. Consumers and Inflation Perceptions

I have written quite a bit about the wobbles of time-space continuum in the U.S. economic growth universe in recent months. But throughout the entire process, the bedrock of U.S. growth - consumer sentiment - appeared to be relatively stable as if immune to the volatility in the fortunes of the broader economy.

This stability is deceptive. Here is a chart plotting sub-series in the University of Michigan surveys of consumer confidence:

The above shows several things, some historical, others more current.

Firstly, the impact of the crisis of 2008 and subsequent second dip in the economic crisis fortunes in 2011. These were sizeable and comparable in terms of the magnitude to the abysmal late 1970s-early 1980s period.

Secondly, a steady decline in inflationary pressures on households since the early 2012. A trend bending solidly the Fed narrative of well-anchored inflationary expectations post-QE. A trend that accelerated since mid-2014 to flatten out (without a solid confirmation) toward the end of 2015.

Thirdly, a longer view of the things: despite low by historical standards inflation, the share of U.S. households still concerned with its impact on their well being is... err... high and sits well above the average for 1993-2004 golden years of the first 'Great Moderation'.

All of which, in my view, continues to highlight the utter and complete failure of traditional fiscal-monetary policies mix deployed since 2008 by the U.S. Fed and richly copied by the likes of the ECB. It also reflects a simple fact that inflation (even at near-zero bound) remains a concern for households who experience decades of weak income growth.

If, per Tesco adds, every little helps, then, when it comes to the household wealth destroying economic policies, every little also hurts...

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