Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Price Deflation: Why We Should Be Worried

There hasn't been much talk about the fact that, in three of the first four months of 2015, inflation was a negative.  In the latest report, annualized inflation was pegged at a negative 2-tenths of a percent. Deflation, even as small as this, is quite rare.  The only other time we have seen it in the last 35 years (see USInflation.org below) was from March to October 2009 in the wake of the Great Recession.  This can only happen when businesses sense a widespread slowdown in the buying of goods and services and, as a result, they either hold prices or lower them. Retailers, especially, will tend to reduce prices by running sales to attract more customers. Some will even use loss leaders -- products marked down below cost -- to attract more foot traffic to their stores. 

If this is truly indicative of a national slowdown in sales, then it could be an indicator that we are in some form of recession. We already know that, in the first quarter, the economy  only grew by two tenths of a percent.  Quite frankly, I am surprised that we haven't had another recession since 2009.  Wages today, when adjusted for inflation, are the lowest they've been since 1995.

The average American has seen 20 years of improvements in their buying power completely erased; and, there is no indication that wages will increase to previous highs until after  many years of slow growth.  Thus, without wage growth there will be reduced buying to the extent that inflation will turn negative and a recession could ensue.


US Inflation by Year: http://usinflation.org/us-inflation-rate/

St. Louis Federal Reserve: Real Median Household Income: http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/MEHOINUSA672N

US economy stalled in Q1; Fed expected to pause on rate: http://news.yahoo.com/us-economy-barely-grew-0-2-pace-first-005149797.html

March job gains 126,000; miss 248,000 forecast - USA Today: http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CCoQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.usatoday.com%2Fstory%2Fmoney%2Fbusiness%2F2015%2F04%2F03%2Femployment-report-march%2F70859842%2F&ei=UvBIVenUIouZoQTX54H4Aw&usg=AFQjCNGcoNCz4mLioIFQe-veWE-kmUOtdw&sig2=Ddekzo3oVqsU3SFK3rThzA&bvm=bv.92291466,d.cGU

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