Wednesday, February 18, 2015

18/2/15: Deflation and Consumer Demand: Euro Area Evidence

The key premise behind the risk of deflation is the argument that faced with a prospect of declining prices, consumers will withhold current consumption in favour of the future consumption and producers will delay current investment in favour of lower cost future investment.

The problem, of course, with this theory is two-fold:

  1. It ignores the entirety of the evidence from the modern sectors (e.g. ICT services, ICT manufacturing and pharma) where deflation (falling prices of comparable services and goods, adjusted for quality and efficacy) has been ongoing for decades and the demand and investment grew, not fallen.
  2. It ignores the totality of fundamentals that drive both demand and prices, and in particular the role of the after-tax disposable incomes available to support consumption and investment.
But never mind, the Euro area, griped by the fears of deflation is itself proving the meme of the deflation = bad, inflation = good as consumers continue to buy, because of falling prices, not despite of them.

Here's a telling slide from BBVA assessment of the European situation:

Thus, we have a question: why, then, do European policymaker fear deflation? The answer is a simple one: deflation hurts tax intake. So the real concern here is not for the wellbeing of the economy or consumers or society at large, but for the fiscal position of already over-stretched (and in some cases insolvent) sovereigns. 

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