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Posts Tagged ‘Inflation’

More of the Same

January 31st, 2022 by Kurt L. Smith

No, I did not delay writing this letter until we heard from the Federal Reserve on Wednesday afternoon. When was the last time the Fed surprised? Indeed, this Federal Reserve chair, Jerome Powell, is more of the same.

In the mold of the maestro, Alan Greenspan, Powell serves up optimism with the confidence that the Federal Reserve has “our tools and we will use them” to get the job done. Not only does he have the tools, but he also has experience using them. Whereas former Fed chair Bernanke questioned whether he had the authority to act and act boldly, Chair Powell suffers no such hesitation. He has already been there and done that.

Chair Powell has decisions to make. Inflation is the worst in 40 years, interest rates are rising without his involvement and the Federal Reserve balance sheet now stands at $9 trillion ($8.867TR, per Bloomberg). Thankfully everyone is working…everyone that hasn’t retired, quit, or been sidelined by COVID

This past month things are beginning to break down. Our beloved bond market, the one I continue to shoo you away from, continues to deteriorate. One should not own bond mutual funds which has been my stance for almost two years now. Benchmark yields such as the two-year US treasury note or the ten year note have risen substantially, yet Fed Chair Powell continues to wait.

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Return To Normal?

May 25th, 2021 by Kurt L. Smith

Vaccines are wonderful and it is great to get together with friends and family again. The feeling of hope and sharing good times are wonderful.

Last week we vacationed with the family in the mountains of North Carolina. Beautiful mountains, near the Appalachian Trail and, oh yeah, without any gasoline. Someone at the Colonial Pipeline thought it would be a good idea for a sixty-year-old pipeline to be on the internet. A group of Russian hackers looking to make an easy $5 million dollars agreed.

Before we left North Carolina we were re-routed off Interstate 40 in Memphis because the bridge across the Mississippi River was discovered to have quite a crack. I guess we were just lucky to make it across the bridge just a few days earlier on our way to the gasoline desert of North Carolina.

My February letter led off with the tragedy Texans faced losing electricity and later water service. While the cause was not Russian hackers, it might well have been. At least the Russian hackers apologized for their actions regarding the pipeline. Texans on the other hand, got to see their state legislature in action (yes, inaction).

Our infrastructure sucks. You do not have to be in the infrastructure business (like municipal bonds) to know this. We get to experience it…regularly. This is nothing new.  No one wants to be responsible and yet we are all responsible. We like to think we are immune here in Texas because so much of what we have is new: new highways, new airports, or at least terminals all over the state.  Yes, growth is better than the non-growth I see across the country but, as we experienced in February, we are not immune to infrastructure problems.  We are not even lucky.  Texas is a great place to be if you do not want to be responsible. Companies are moving here in droves as a result.

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Inflation Worries?

March 4th, 2019 by Kurt L. Smith

In order to be worried about inflation I would presuppose you probably had to experience it rather than try to picture it from a textbook or figure out why economists keep talking about it. Ask your children or grandchildren to explain inflation, or better yet, ask them how important it is or whether they are worried about it.

Inflation, or the control of it, is the price stability part of the Federal Reserve’s dual mandate. Maximum sustainable employment is the other piece. So it must be important since the financial press always seems to be tracking the Federal Reserve’s every move.

Defining inflation has never been easy, so don’t be too hard on your children or grandchildren if they can’t define it easily. One formula utilizes U.S. Treasury note and bond prices to help define future inflation. If U.S. Treasury securities are viewed as riskless securities then we can say that it is future inflation that accounts for the differences between short-term U.S. Treasury interest rates and long-term U.S. Treasury interest rates. As the current two year treasury is about 2.5% and the ten year is 2.65% and the thirty year is 3%, one might presume the outlook for changes in the inflation rate over the next umpteen number of years is probably very little. With the advent of Treasury Inflation Protected Securities, or TIPS, the calculation for the outlook for future inflation was made even easier. With the ten year treasury at 2.65% and the ten year TIP at .70%, expected inflation is 1.95% (all basis Bloomberg). That’s greater than nothing but, again, it shouldn’t elicit fear and constant monitoring either.

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