Yet again, inflation is still sitting stubbornly close to the target, such that no letter is required. This from the Telegraph:
The Consumer Prices Index (CPI), which is the Government's preferred measure of inflation, dropped to 1.6pc from 1.8pc in July - the lowest level since January 2005 according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). It was the third month in a row that CPI was below the 2pc target.As it is, the main cause of the fall in the rate of inflation is lower gas and electricity prices, which have fallen by considerable amounts. If we turn our minds back, it is apparent that the high prices with which these price falls are compared were extremely high prices resultant from the spike in prices of oil, which I predicted would fall back.
It is also noteworthy that the reason for continuing inflation is the higher prices of imports, which was my suggested reason for continued inflation when considering inflation versus deflation. The weakness of the £GB was always going to have a counterveiling impact to the shrinking of the economy. This point is of particular note for the US, now that the $US is sliding. In the case of the UK, I pointed out that currency weakness would take a while to show up in import inflation, as prices and contracts will take a while to adjust (e.g. when a contract is signed, it takes often takes a long while before the contracted goods are actually delivered at the pre-inflation price). The same will apply for the US, with time lags in inflationary pressures.
Returning to QE, it is interesting to see that the media have been distracted from the original purpose of QE, now that the predicted deflation has not taken place. This is from the FT:
Like so many commentators, the deflation scare that was the justification for QE is quietly being forgotten. It is not clear why the memory of so many journalists and commentators are so short. With the notable exception of Liam Halligan in the Telegraph, it seems that the origins of QE are of no importance.
Although six months is a comparatively short time to judge QE, Mr King can already point to some signs of success, but these are balanced against other more negative indicators.
On the positive side, government and corporate bond yields have fallen, boosting company borrowing in the capital markets. Indeed, sterling corporate bond issuance has surged to an annual record, with three months still remaining of the year.
Ten-year gilt yields are only 3 basis points lower, at 3.61 per cent, than the day before QE - but Charles Bean, the Bank's deputy governor, insists that they would have been 50bp higher without QE.
Investment grade sterling bond yields are 2 percentage points lower, at 6 per cent, than in early March, although euro-denominated corporate bond yields have fallen just as sharply with the help of the European Central Bank's injections of liquidity into the money markets.
QE has also boosted the equity markets, although it is difficult to quantify how much money investors have switched into shares from their gilt sales. The FTSE 100 has risen 38 per cent since the launch of QE, but a lot of the gains were due to an improving world economy and resilient corporate profits.
Throughout the policy of QE the Bank of England has sought to generate confusion over the role of deflation and inflation as their justification for QE. This is an excerpt from a previous post, where I highlight the kind of methods being used:
If we remember, the bank targets CPI, not RPI. However, in the Bank of England inflation report from February, it might be noted that the RPI is discussed in the report, even though the CPI is the target for inflation. You will note how the measures are blurred in this passage.In a previous post, I have explained exactly why there is no element of QE that might justify the policy. This is beyond either a summary or quote, so I would recommend those that have not already read the post, to read it now.Deflation is sometimes used to describe any fall in the general level of prices (as measured in the United Kingdom by the CPI, RPI or the GDP deflator), however short-lived. A more economically significant phenomenon, however, would be a sustained period of negative inflation.Whilst there is no direct statement of targeting of RPI, the way in which the whole passage is put is somewhat grey. The same section of the report then goes on to warn of the dangers of deflation......it appears that the Bank of England is subtly conflating the two measures, and they even use a chart which is designated as the 'ONS composite index'. (p33) One of the interesting points is that an argument for printing money directly follows this discussion of RPI and deflation:
The RPI is likely to fall temporarily over the coming months (Section 4.1). This period of negative retail price inflation would be unusual (Chart A) and predominantly reflects the much lower contribution from mortgage interest payments, following the recent large falls in Bank Rate. The MPC’s central projection is for its target measure, annual CPI inflation, to remain above zero throughout the forecast horizon. (p33)Periods of low inflation, associated with weak demand, may limit a central bank’s ability to use conventional monetary policy to stabilise the economy. But if reductions in official interest rates do not prove sufficient to meet the inflation target, policymakers still have other options available to them to stimulate the economy, if necessary (see the box on pages 44–45 in this Report). (p33)
Yet again, despite no indication of serious deflation, there is no indications of any halt to quantitative easing. Why is this? More to the point, why is it that so many in the media are sitting back and watching the monetization of government debt continue with so little concern? At this point, the press should be filled with outrage. Instead, they appear to accept this policy as if it were perfectly normal. Have they not noticed that the policy justification has failed to materialise?
Exactly how or when QE might stop, and under what circumstances, continues to be opaque. It seems that nobody seems willing to give the answers, and the press does not appear to be concerned. In the interim, the government continues to spend money still wet from the printing press.....to say that this is a bad situation is an understatement.....