Friday, April 14, 2017

If The Fed Is Upset On The CPI Drop And Stubbornly-Low Interest Rates, It Must Be A Good Friday

It's Good Friday and some of us have just finished doing our taxes (such as this writer), so, some of us are wondering what's so good about this particular Friday.

Aside from the generally-obvious religious conventions (Shouldn't it be called Bad Friday because it's the day Jesus Christ was crucified, and that doesn't seem so good?), there probably are some good things afoot.

First, the financial markets are closed, always a bonus. Second, the Labor Department announced today that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) dropped 0.3 percent, the first decline since February 2016. They said that lower cell phone service and gasoline costs outpaced higher rents and a slight increase in food costs (0.3%).

If those food costs are to be believed, since the amount of food most people eat (and buy) can be self-regulated, higher food costs aren't really an issue at all, especially since practically nobody in America is starving at the present time.

This CPI number brings up some interesting possibilities. If the United States is actually experiencing deflation (or, as the TV pundits like to call it, because deflation is bad, you know, "disinflation") then prices are going down, everything is going to cost less. That's the bane of a strong dollar. Imports are cheaper, and, in an economy that relies on lots of imports, that drives domestically-produced goods and services down as well.

It's a win-win-win for everybody, except, possibly, the Federal Reserve, banks and bond investors who are getting anxious and perhaps a bit desperate for higher interest rates.

Well, crocodile tears are the order of the day for them. Higher interest rates are not going to happen unless the economy is strong, meaning many excess jobs are being created, pushing wages higher, and producers are experiencing strong pricing power. Both of those items - jobs and pricing - seem to be going in reverse over the short term. Bond prices have been soaring because yields have been stubbornly opposed to any kind of rise, the now nearly constant urging and jawboning from the genii at the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, Stanley Fisher, et. al. notwithstanding.

The 10-year note is hovering around 2.25% yield. That doesn't bode well for inflation. No, not at all.

Stocks were lower for the week, but they're still within a few percentage points of all-time highs. Rich people and people with 401k or pension plans are probably not very concerned with their stock holdings.

In conclusion, this may actually be a pretty good Good Friday after all. Cheaper gas and phone service is a plus and eating a little less is probably not a bad idea in a nation of fatties. Plus, if the people over at the Fed are perplexed or constipated or otherwise annoyed or agitated, that's a huge bonus.

Happy Easter. Don't eat too much ham, lamb, or hard-boiled eggs.

At The Close, Thursday, April 13, 2017:

Dow: 20,453.25, -138.61 (-0.67%)
NASDAQ: 5,805.15, -31.01 (-0.53%)
S&P 500: 2,328.95, -15.98 (-0.68%)
NYSE Composite: 11,324.53, -98.64 (-0.86%)

For the Week:
Dow: -202.85 (-0.98%)
NASDAQ: -72.66 (-1.24%)
S&P 500: -26.59 (-1.13)
NYSE Composite: -121.05 (-1.06%)

No comments: