Average wages are stagnant in the developed countries. Which also means that consumer spending is stagnant, because in the longer term people can spend only as much as they make. So, the economy stays weak. What is the solution? Central banks are trying to create more inflation, as if that will somehow wake the developed economies out of a coma. But will it? More on that below.
Let’s first have a look at the Nasdaq (click for larger chart):
Not much has changed since our previous look at the Nasdaq. The market has climbed another 50 points, but the market is still bumping into overhead resistance from the dashed grey line. And the bearish divergence continues in the Earl indicator, while the Earl2 is now clearly turning down from a top. These indicators tend to be a bit early (which is why I called them Earl), so it doesn’t mean the market has to drop immediately, but the odds for a further rise are not good.
We will also enter a new lunar red period tomorrow, so chances are we will see weakness start in the next weeks. My current estimate is for a pullback to take the Nasdaq down to ~3900 by September. What would invalidate this picture? Well, a new upside acceleration with the Nasdaq surging above 4500 would point to the start of a blow-off peak phase, and that has probably some 10-20% chance at this point.
So, our central banks are trying to create more inflation. Whenever there are new laws or stated policy goals there is always one important question to ask: “Who will get any better of this?” Will it be you and me? Or somebody else? Whose purposes are being served?
Suppose they succeed in creating more inflation. E.g. Prices of food and computers start going up. Does that make things any better for you? Doesn’t that mean consumers will have little choice but spend more on those items, and thus have a smaller portion of their family budget left for other purchases? That would be bad news for companies in those other sectors. We always see the same reasoning when gasoline prices go up: it will leave consumers with less money for other products. It is true, but then why would it suddenly be good news if it are e.g. food and computer prices that go up?
If they succeed to create more inflation it will depress consumption. As an example we can look at Japan already. They finally managed to drive annualized inflation up to 3.4% in May. What most news reports failed to mention is that Japanese household spending simultaneously dropped by 8% y/y , much worse than expected. Why does that surprise anybody? The Japanese are already used to see their real income decline. Now they also start feeling that life is getting more expensive (thanks to a weaker Yen and higher taxes). So, their response is to try to save even more, because that stash of Yen they always kept in the bank suddenly doesn’t look sufficient anymore to meet their future retirement needs if cost of living keeps going up like that. It’s a normal reaction. So much for stimulating the economy with more inflation. Letting prices deflate would do more good than trying to prop prices up by artificial means like QE.
Then why are central bankers so much against it? Well, they are not serving the population, they are serving the bankers and the government, and those are the entities that benefit from inflation more. Deflation is simply a sign of progress. If technology advances we can make the same product cheaper, or produce a better product for the same price. Letting deflation happen means that the benefits of those productivity gains (coming from technological progress) are spread evenly among all the participants in the economy. Everyone enjoys cheaper products, leaving him with more money to spend on other products or new products. What’s not to like? Well, bankers don’t like it. They can profit more in an inflationary environment. They have figured out that by creating inflation, the ongoing productivity gains of the economy can be made to flow mostly into their pockets. The consumer meanwhile, finds it ever more difficult to maintain his standard of living, because inflation always seems to push prices up more than his wage goes up. He then needs a loan, another mortgage, or an extra creditcard, just to keep up… And over time that pumps a significant portion of his income straight into the banker’s pockets, in the form of interest payments. What’s not to like for the banker? From his perspective, letting deflation happen is like letting his business die.
That’s why we continue to hear that higher inflation is needed. It would be terrible if the cost of living went down for the average consumer, isn’t it? These middle class people wouldn’t need loans anymore. And imagine the protests in the third world if food and housing started to become cheaper for them as well, leaving them with money for the education of their kids. What a catastrophe that would be… Noble institutions like the IMF and UN would start feeling useless…
Our society and economy has become so perverted it is probably going to be beyond belief for future historians who study our period. Our governments punish creativity and productivity with high taxes, while rewarding doing nothing with social security payments. It is as if the biggest crime in this world is to make money, because we use large fines (taxes) to discourage it. And cost of living going down (deflation) is considered bad, our economists prefer cost of living going up (inflation) and successfully promote that as being more desirable, all the while millions are lining up for soup with food coupons.
What if we did just the opposite:
1) reward creativity and productivity ( = zero or negative income taxes )
2) punish doing nothing ( = tax on money hoarding )
3) embrace the deflation that comes with improving technology
There would be no jobless and no debt. There would also be no profits for banks. Just call me crazy.