Financial market overview

Second Inflation Wave? Why 2020s Aren’t the 1970s by Any Stretch of Imagination

2024.02.07 07:38

We wrote this four-part inflation sequence in response to the graph beneath, implying that costs are on the similar inflation curler coaster trip as the 1970s.

Fed Pivot Vs Inflation

Fed Pivot Vs Inflation

If you’ve gotten learn the first three components of this sequence , , and ), you’ve gotten a greater appreciation for some similarities and variations between inflation of the previous couple of years and that of the 1970s. With that knowledge, we share our opinion.

Desert Before Dinner

We at all times conclude articles with a abstract. Given the gravity of inflation on funding returns, we predict it’s value beginning with our opinion after which offering particulars to assist it.

We strongly consider the latest inflation outbreak was overwhelmingly the end result of the pandemic and the governmental, Fed, company, and private reactions to it. The virus and its financial results have been felt round the world, making issues much more impactful,

Unprecedented fiscal and financial actions amplified the demand for items and providers nicely past norms.

At the similar time, the manufacturing of many items was severely restricted, and transportation traces have been damaged. Consequently, the provide of most items and lots of providers was severely constrained, and at the similar time, demand was recovering quickly.

Given such distinctive occasions, and barring an unexpected calamity like the pandemic, one other inflation surge is just not doubtless.

The a number of bouts of inflation in the 1970s weren’t the end result of one distinctive incident however many unhealthy choices.

Furthermore, the Federal Reserve and authorities repeatedly, and unbeknownst to them, employed insurance policies that elevated costs for fifteen years.

The Fed has discovered many classes since then, which instills confidence in our opinion. However, the authorities has little regard for them, which does pose a risk to our opinion.

As the pandemic-related stimulus slowly however absolutely exits the monetary system and the financial system and the provide traces absolutely heal, inflation will proceed to fall again to or beneath the pre-pandemic common.

That mentioned, the odds of one other spherical of increased inflation are usually not zero, as we are going to elaborate.

That 70s Show

Before we begin, it’s value reviewing a number of snippets from That 70s Show, an article we wrote final December. The article discusses the financial surroundings of the 1970s and the way it differs from right now’s.

The first quote and graphs beneath present how the debt burden has modified over the final fifty years.

While the Fed is at present engaged “in the fight of its life,” making an attempt to quell inflation, The financial variations are vastly totally different right now.

Due to the heavy debt burden, the financial system requires decrease rates of interest to maintain even meager financial development charges of 2%.

Such ranges have been traditionally seen as “pre-recessionary,” however right now, they’re one thing economists hope to keep up.

Debt and Income in the 70s

Debt and Income in the 70s

Next, the combine of what the nation produces and consumes has reversed.

Such is a crucial level. During “That 70s Show,” the financial system was primarily manufacturing-based, offering a excessive multiplier impact on financial development.

Today, the combine has reversed, with providers making up the bulk of financial exercise. While providers are important, they’ve a really low multiplier impact on financial exercise.

The Federal Reserve Has Learned From The 1970s

The Fed has usually admitted it performed a major position in producing a number of waves of inflation in the 1970s. At the time, low unemployment was the major aim.

Such was a lingering relic from the Great Depression. Higher inflation in the identify of decrease unemployment was acceptable.

Furthermore, the Fed didn’t recognize the potential for a price-wage spiral or modifications in consumption patterns because of inflation and the way they may have an effect on employment.

The Fed’s tragic errors from the 1970s seem to hang-out them right now and supply instructive steering.

Consumer Behaviors and Price-Wage Spirals

In August 2021, Jerome Powell confused proof that shopper behaviors change with inflation. Per Powell:

The 1970s noticed two intervals wherein there have been massive will increase in vitality and meals costs, elevating headline inflation for a time. But when the direct results on headline inflation eased, core inflation continued to run persistently increased than earlier than.

One doubtless contributing issue was that the public had come to usually anticipate increased inflation—one cause why we now monitor inflation expectations so rigorously.

In February 2023, Powell made the following assertion, assuring the public that the Fed was conscious of the potential for a worth wage spiral.

“If we continue to get, for example, strong labor market reports or higher and higher inflation reports, it may well be the case that we have to do more and raise hikes more than is priced in,”

Money Supply > Fed Funds

Even of larger significance, the Fed now realizes that the cash provide is an important inflation part. However, equally vital is cash velocity, or the charge at which cash is spent. The mixture creates inflation or deflation.

The Fed is to fault for inflation. They allowed the cash provide to proliferate as they saved doing QE and concentrating on a zero Fed Funds charge regardless of the velocity of cash rebounding quickly.

The graph beneath reveals how the cash provide rapidly grew whereas velocity accelerated and inflation ensued.

Net Change in M2 and Velocity vs CPINet Change in M2 and Velocity vs CPI

However, beginning in 2022, the Fed turned extraordinarily hawkish. Not solely did they increase the Fed Funds charge to over 5% in two years, however they initiated QT. The end result of their actions was not solely to gradual the development of the cash provide but additionally to trigger it to contract.

The graph beneath traces up the cash provide from 1966 to 1982 with our latest interval. In the 1970s, the Fed by no means allowed the cash provide to shrink. They have been singularly centered on the Fed Funds charge.

The lesson discovered from that day was that managing the cash provide is a way more impactful device on costs and financial exercise than adjusting the Fed Funds charge.

The final time the cash provide contracted, as it’s now, was throughout the Great Depression and World War 2.

M2 Money Supply

M2 Money Supply

The Fed and Jerome Powell have been prepared to endure a recession and better unemployment to deliver inflation again to its goal. CBS News titled an article, “The Fed Plans To Sharply Boost Unemployment.”

In it, Powell is quoted concerning unemployment: “I wish there were a painless way to do that,” Powell mentioned. “There isn’t.”

Fed President Susan Collins provided, “I do anticipate that accomplishing price stability will require slower employment growth and a somewhat higher unemployment rate.”

However, The Government Seems To Beg For More Inflation

Unlike the Fed, the federal authorities didn’t be taught its classes from the 1970s.

After the financial system was nicely on its solution to restoration, their reckless spending pushed the cash provide increased than it could have been and created a tailwind for inflation.

Recent deficits are nicely beneath these witnessed in 2020 and 2021 however are abnormally massive, given such a strong financial system.

In the fiscal 12 months 2023, the federal deficit was 5.7 % of GDP. This 12 months, the CBO estimates it would improve to six.8 % of GDP.

The graph beneath reveals the solely different occasions the deficit, as a share of GDP, has been increased than right now was throughout World War 1 and a pair of, the 2008 monetary disaster, and some years in the past throughout the top of the pandemic.

Those have been emergencies.

Federal Deficit as a Pecertage of GDPFederal Deficit as a Pecertage of GDP

Supply Side Factors

One of the important elements behind latest inflation was the unprecedented world shuttering of the financial system. The restricted provide of items and handicapped transportation techniques grossly restricted the quantity of items on the market.

While manufacturing issues nonetheless exist, they’ve primarily normalized. In the 1970s, the authorities unknowingly incentivized items shortages through wage and worth management measures.

Lacking the capability to lift costs to mirror the growing prices of their inputs, some firms had no alternative however to restrict or halt manufacturing and curtail provide.

Today, the authorities is just not taking motion to cease or prohibit the manufacturing or transportation of items.

The gross distortions to the provide aspect of the inflation equation have been solely associated to the pandemic and shouldn’t be forecasted to return in such an impactful manner.

Everything Else

We now run by way of a litany of different contributors to inflation.

Oil Shock

Our dependency on international oil has declined considerably, as proven beneath. Before 2008, the U.S. relied on imports for about half of its oil wants. Since the abundance of shale oil, we have now grow to be energy-independent.

While the conditions in the Middle East and Russia might escalate, an embargo like that of fifty years might be a lot much less damaging. However, short-term worth spurts can occur as oil costs are primarily based on world elements.

Oil Production and Consumption TrendsOil Production and Consumption Trends

The Unions Lose Power

Throughout 2022, Jerome Powell incessantly fretted about the potential for a worth wage spiral. Recent union negotiations with the automakers, Hollywood writers and actors, FedEx (NYSE:), and different firms fueled issues of a worth wage spiral.

Regarding the potential for a worth wage spiral, we should contemplate that in the 1970s, unions carried way more bargaining energy, and one out of each 5 employees was a union member.

The graph beneath from Bloomberg reveals that union membership has constantly decreased since. It now stands at solely 10% of employees, limiting the potential for unions to drive wages increased for the whole workforce.

Union Membership

Union Membership

Further new applied sciences, off-shoring jobs, and the capability to rent distant employees are additionally serving to hold a lid on wages.

Economic Landscape

Today’s financial panorama, together with debt load, demographics, and productiveness development, differs from the 1970s. The Fed tasks the nation’s long-term financial development charge at 1.85%. Such traces up with slowing productiveness development, as proven beneath.

Total Factor Productivity

Total Factor Productivity

From 1960 to 1985, actual GDP averaged 3.7%, greater than double the present development development. In the 1970s, the inhabitants grew by over 1% yearly. Today, that quantity is half a % and is predicted to say no steadily.

Also, of unimaginable significance, debt was not a substantial headwind to development 50 years in the past. Since then, debt has grown 4 occasions sooner than GDP, as proven beneath.

Given our heavy dependence on debt and, due to this fact, low-interest charges, the financial system’s capability to tolerate increased inflation is way lower than in the ’70s.

Unproductive Debt

Fiscal dominance, whereby the Fed should set financial coverage to maintain the authorities solvent, is now essential.

Given the financial and demographic traits famous above and the ever-increasing debt, it’s onerous to think about that the Fed will tolerate above-trend inflation or increased rates of interest for sustained intervals.

Fiscally fueled demand has been a vital driver of inflation over the previous few years. However, if demand elements, as famous above, resume pre-pandemic traits, GDP will gradual, and important demand-driven worth will increase are usually not doubtless.

Lastly, the authorities has a unfavorable debt multiplier. Each greenback of debt finally takes away from financial development. As latest deficit spending turns from stimulus to headwinds, financial development will proceed to development decrease. With it, inflation will observe.

What Might Change Our Opinion?

The Treasury and Fed launched a brand new recession-fighting playbook in 2020. The mixture of direct checks and advantages to the public alongside grossly straightforward financial coverage performed a major position in fueling inflation.

If that playbook turns into the rule and never an exception, we might see intervals of higher-than-trend inflation. But even with such a fiscal reply to a recession, provide line issues won’t be the drawback they have been a number of years in the past.

Given the unlikelihood that the world financial system will shut down once more, increased inflation because of fiscal and financial negligence is feasible, however not at the ranges we witnessed in 2021 and 2022.


At its core, inflation is an excessive amount of cash chasing too few items. That was the case in 2020 by way of 2022. This is just not the case anymore.

The 2020s aren’t the 1970s by any stretch of the creativeness! While the lead graph from Apollo might present latest inflation traits align nicely with these of the 1970s, we predict it’s grossly deceptive.

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