Thursday, August 12, 2010

Economics 12/8/10: Irish July CPI: Deflation is over, for the State sectors

“Consumer Prices in July, as measured by the CPI, remained unchanged in the month,” says CSO. Hurrah, the end of deflation then? “This compares to a decrease of 0.8% recorded in July of last year. As a result, prices on average, as measured by the CPI, were 0.1% lower in July compared with July 2009.”
Sounds like the good news. But… “The EU Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) decreased by 0.1% in the month, compared to a decrease of 0.8% recorded in July of last year. As a result, prices on average, as measured by the HICP, were 1.2% lower in July compared with July 2009.”

Err, of course, HICP excludes the cost of housing. And the cost of housing has been going up in Ireland courtesy of the banks. So let me see:
  • Deflation is bad, because it signals lower returns for businesses, induces consumers to save excessively and stops investment;
  • Inflation is ok, then, as long as it reverses the three ‘bads’ caused by deflation.

So our ‘good news’ of the ending of deflation isn’t good at all, then. Why? Because, per CSO: most notable changes in the year were decreases in (see charts below)
  • Clothing & Footwear (-8.5%) - competitive sector;
  • Food & Non-Alcoholic Beverages (-3.8%) - relatively competitive sector; and
  • Furnishings, Household Equipment & Routine Household Maintenance (-3.4%) - buyers' market.
There were increases in
  • Education (+9.2%) - state controlled,
  • Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas & Other Fuels (+5.5%) - state- and banks-controlled, and
  • Transport (+2.7%) - state-controlled in terms of costs and charges.

Which of course means that prices have risen primarily in state- and banks- controlled sectors. These sectors inflation does not induce businesses to invest (as they are forced to pay higher costs and do not see increased revenue in their core activities), it does not induce people to consume (as they continue to save even more in anticipation of banks coming for their money through mortgages increases) and it does not result in increased returns to productive business activity (as higher costs shrink margins). The CPI excluding mortgage interest showed no change in the month and was down by 1.0% in the year.

Let’s plot that relationship between state-controlled prices and private sector prices, weighted by their respective weights in overall CPI basket:

No further comment needed, I presume.

1 comment:

AL said...

excellent analysis!
thanks for the great blog posts.