The Fed’s Preferred Measure of Inflation Jumps to 6.6%, a 40-Year High

Link: https://mishtalk.com/economics/the-feds-preferred-measure-of-inflation-jumps-to-6-6-a-40-year-high

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The PCE price index for March increased 6.6 percent from one year ago, reflecting increases in both goods and services. 

Energy prices increased 33.9 percent

Food prices increased 9.2 percent. 

Excluding food and energy, the PCE price index for March increased 5.2 percent from one year ago.

Author(s): Mike Shedlock

Publication Date: 30 April 2022

Publication Site: Mish Talk

Here’s Why Cutting Gas Taxes Doesn’t Work When Prices Soar

Link: https://www.governing.com/now/heres-why-cutting-gas-taxes-doesnt-work-when-prices-soar

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A new report from the Urban Institute catalogs state-level responses and finds that 20 different states have introduced legislation to suspend gas taxes, which are often used to fund infrastructure projects. (Florida, Georgia, and Maryland have already passed gas tax holidays.) There are 16 states considering legislation to provide payments to residents — in the form of tax rebates, credits or stimulus checks — to counteract pain at the pump. Only three are considering changes to help people avoid driving: California, Connecticut, and Hawaii.

“Of the three main categories of policy solutions we could be considering, cutting gas taxes is the worst,” says Jorge González-Hermoso, research associate with the Urban Institute. “It’s very popular, it will get you headlines, but it only creates a simulation that the government is providing a solution.”

González-Hermoso says the problems with gas tax holidays start with the premise that they help consumers. The average gas tax across all states, he reports, is 31 cents a gallon or 7.75 percent of the average price. By one estimate, a driver would have to use 20 gallons of gas a week to save just $30 over the course of Maryland’s one-month holiday. There is no guarantee that station owners wouldn’t pocket the difference, and keep prices roughly the same.

In addition to being ineffective, this policy imperils future infrastructure projects. State and local gas taxes comprise 26 percent of highway spending and often contribute to mass transit as well. They also have the disadvantage of incentivizing driving, as residents in nearby jurisdictions try to take advantage and local consumers know relief is contingent upon buying gas.

Author(s): Jake Blumgart

Publication Date: 26 Apr 2022

Publication Site: Governing

How Much Free Money Stimulus Still Hasn’t Been Spent?

Link: https://mishtalk.com/economics/how-much-free-money-stimulus-still-hasnt-been-spent

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The question is not as straight forward as it looks. The gap between spending and income isn’t constant. 

Free money that goes to bottom rung households tends to immediately get spent. The higher the rung, the more the savings. This is complicated by the fact that most of the money was supposed to go to lower tiers, and further complicated by corporate fraud, especially in round one. 

More importantly, personal spending does not count mortgage paydowns, stock market or Bitcoin purchases, capital expenses for businesses, drug money, other illegal uses, or money sent to relatives overseas. 

….

The Peterson Foundation reports direct checks were $292 billion in round one, $164 billion in round two, and $411 billion in round three.

There was $850 billion of direct payments to taxpayers with the biggest and most unwarranted round the last.

Spending data suggests free money, at least most of direct payments, already did enter the economy. 

However, that does not factor in unpaid rent via eviction moratoriums or SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), formerly Food Stamps, which I will address in a separate post. 

So yes, there still could be a pile of unspent stimulus savings, possibly much higher than my $2 trillion summation estimate, again with my caveats on investments, sending money overseas, etc.  

Author(s): Mike Shedlock

Publication Date: 22 Apr 2022

Publication Site: Mish Talk

High Inflation Leads to Expensive Cost-of-Living Adjustments for CalPERS and Others

Link: https://www.ai-cio.com/news/high-inflation-leads-to-expensive-cost-of-living-adjustments-for-calpers-and-others/

Excerpt:

With big returns come big expenses. That’s what seems to be the case for pensions across the country, as they are forced to increase their payouts to beneficiaries due to inflation. While the past year has been a record breaker for pension fund returns, inflation will be claiming its fair share of the gains as well.

For CalPERS members, those who retired between 2006 and 2014 will receive the biggest increase at 4.7%. This will be the largest cost-of-living increase for beneficiaries in the past 32 years, dating to 1990.

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics has estimated the Consumer Price Index to have increased by 7% over  2021, CalPERS is not using the 7% to calculate its increased payments. Instead, it uses an average of each month’s numbers.

CalSTRS similarly also has built in inflation protection, thanks to a California law that requires public pensions to do so. However, CalSTRS’ method of calculating this payment is slightly different. The fund gives quarterly supplement payments to those whose annual benefit falls below 85% of their original benefit. This year’s inflation numbers will likely increase the number of supplemental payments that CalSTRS in forced to provide.

Author(s): Anna Gordon

Publication Date: 1 Mar 2022

Publication Site: ai-CIO

Ten Most Dangerous Risks for Insurers

Link: https://mcusercontent.com/991483cca1a8e7eb050cff8bd/files/7dfc14f1-eaa5-5658-64a3-54f5c5e1955f/1Q2022_SRSE_Dangerous_Risks.pdf

Excerpt:

This year we had record participation with
over 250 insurance professionals taking part.
This is the fifth iteration of this poll and 2022
shows some consistency along with some very
new risks. Inflation, Employee retention and
Ability to hire new employees are three new
risks to the top of this poll, but they should
not be surprises.

….

2. INFLATION
Up very sharply – Previously #52
Prices are rising faster than they have since the
1980s in most of the developed world. Insurers
will be hit with a double whammy as the real
value of invested assets decays and the cost of
doing business and claims costs increases at the
same time.

EMPLOYEE RETENTION
Not on the list previously
The Great Resignation makes the headlines.
COVID seems to have accelerated the timeline
for the inevitable wave of Boomer retirements.
Also concerning are the numbers leaving due to
health care burnout and caregiver
responsibilities. The problem for insurers is
figuring out how to respond to the massive loss
of experience.

Author(s): Actuarial Risk Management

Publication Date: Accessed 8 Mar 2022

Hit hard by high inflation? This N.J. income tax move could bring relief, lawmakers say.

Link: https://www.nj.com/politics/2022/03/hit-hard-by-high-inflation-this-nj-income-tax-move-could-bring-relief-lawmakers-say.html

Excerpt:

A six-year old income tax reform bill accomplished something remarkable in Trenton on Monday: It got Democratic and Republican lawmakers to agree on changing your tax policy.

The state Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee approved a Republican-backed measure, S676, that’s supposed to provide relief to New Jersey workers struggling to make ends meet amid the highest inflation levels in 40 years.

The concept is simple: If inflation goes up, so would New Jersey’s income tax brackets. For many, it would mean not having to pay higher taxes if salaries go up the rate of inflation.

…..

New Jersey uses a graduated income tax, which means residents shell out a larger percentage of earnings to the state as their incomes rise into higher tax brackets. When inflation pushes wages higher, it can often result in a net loss to workers that are pushed into higher brackets.

Author(s): Derek Hall

Publication Date: 2 Mar 2022

Publication Site: nj.com

CPI Jumps Most Since February 1982, Up at Least 0.5% 9 Out of Eleven Months

Link:https://mishtalk.com/economics/cpi-jumps-most-since-february-1982-up-at-least-0-5-9-out-of-eleven-months

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The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.6 percent in January on a seasonally adjusted basis.

The index for all items less food and energy also rose 0.6 percent in January, the same increase as in December. 

This was the 9th time in the last 11 months the CPI increased at least 0.5 percent.

Increases in the indexes for food, electricity, and shelter were the largest contributors to the seasonally adjusted all items increase in January.

Author(s): Mike Shedlock

Publication Date: 10 Feb 2022

Publication Site: Mish Talk

Public Pension Systems Pared Costs and Assumptions in 2021, NCPERS Study Finds

Link:https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20220202005695/en/Public-Pension-Systems-Pared-Costs-and-Assumptions-in-2021-NCPERS-Study-Finds

Excerpt:

Pension systems said earnings on investments accounted for 68% of overall pension revenues in their most recent fiscal year. Employer contributions made up 23% of revenues, and employee contributions totaled 8%.

The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated efforts by public pension systems to expand their communications capabilities. In all, 78% offered live web conferences to members during 2021, up from 54% a year earlier.

Pension funds that participated in the survey in 2020 and 2021 reported that their funded levels rose to 72.3%, from 71.7%. Overall, pension funds reported a funded level of 74.7% for 2021. While funded levels are not as important to pensions’ sustainability as steady contributions are, the trend is positive.

The inflation assumption for the funds’ most recent fiscal year remained steady at 2.7%. These assumptions were in place in the midst of an acceleration in the rate of inflation, which reached 7% at the end of 2021, from 1.4% a year earlier, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Author(s): NCPERS

Publication Date: 2 Feb 2022

Publication Site: Businesswire

Developing Countries Brace for Impact From Fed Rate Increases

Link:https://www.wsj.com/articles/developing-countries-brace-for-impact-from-fed-rate-increases-11644321780

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Central bankers in developing countries have been ratcheting up interest rates for months, seeking to stay ahead of a rise in U.S. rates that could destabilize their economies by pushing up their own cost of debt, weakening their currencies and driving capital out of their markets and into higher-yielding U.S. securities.

Now, the Fed is expected to raise rates anywhere from four to seven times this year. If successful in taming inflation, the Fed could help central banks everywhere, because a turbocharged U.S. economy, huge government stimulus and a splurge by Americans on everything from toys and household appliances have snarled supply chains and driven inflation higher world-wide.

Until now, overseas central banks have found it difficult to get on top of the inflation surge withthe Fed sitting on the sidelines. But with the Fed now poised to join the battle, some say the prospects of success are greater.

Author(s): Paul Hannon

Publication Date: 8 Feb 2022

Publication Site: WSJ

The Inflation Rate in the U.S.: Past, Present, and Future

Link:https://advisor.visualcapitalist.com/the-inflation-rate-in-the-u-s-past-present-and-future/

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There are a number of periods in history where the inflation rate in the U.S. was heightened. For instance, a booming economy in the late ‘60s led to rising prices. President Nixon implemented wage-price shocks to halt inflation, but this eventually caused a recession.

In the years that followed, surging oil prices were a primary culprit behind periods of higher inflation. The early ‘70s were impacted by the oil embargo, when OPEC countries stopped oil exports to the United States. At the same time, U.S. oil producers didn’t have additional capacity and non-OPEC oil sources were declining as a proportion of the world oil market. This meant the U.S. was unable to increase supply to meet demand, and OPEC countries had more power to influence oil prices.

Fast forward to 2021, and the COVID-19 recovery has again led to a higher inflation rate in the United States. A number of factors are responsible, including surging consumer demand, supply chain problems, and a labor shortage.

Author(s): Jenna Ross

Publication Date: 6 Feb 2022

Publication Site: Visual Capitalist

We’re pricing the poor out of food in the UK – that’s why I’m launching my own price index

Link:https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/jan/22/were-pricing-the-poor-out-of-food-in-the-uk-thats-why-im-launching-my-own-price-index

Excerpt:

A collection of 700 pre-specified goods that includes a leg of lamb, bedroom furniture, a television and champagne seems a blunt and darkly comical tool for recording the impact of inflated grocery prices in a country where two and a half million citizens were forced by an array of desperate circumstances to use food banks in the last year.

The Smart Price, Basics and Value range products offered as lower-cost alternatives are stealthily being extinguished from the shelves, leaving shoppers with no choice but to “level up” to the supermarkets’ own branded goods – usually in smaller quantities at larger prices.

I have been monitoring this for the last decade, through writing recipes on my online blog and documenting the prices of ingredients in forensic detail. In 2012, 10 stock cubes from Sainsbury’s Basics range were 10p. In 2022, those same stock cubes are 39p, but only available in chicken or beef. The cheapest vegetable stock cubes are, inexplicably, £1 for 10. Last year the Smart Price pasta in my local Asda was 29p for 500g. Today, it is unavailable, so the cheapest bag is 70p; a 141% price rise for the same product in more colourful packaging. A few years ago, there were more than 400 products in the Smart Price range; today there are 87, and counting down.

….

I have been writing about these things for 10 years now. I have given evidence to multiple parliamentary inquiries, led numerous petitions, been consulted on the School Food Plan and the National Food Strategy, spoken twice at the Conservative party conference, and still the realities of the worst of our collective experiences are dismissed by haughty money men as not matching their theoretical lamb-and-champagne metrics.

So, along with a team of economists, charitable partners, retail price analysts, people working to combat poverty in the UK, ex-staff from the Office for National Statistics and others who have volunteered their time and expertise, I am compiling a new price index – one that will document the disappearance of the budget lines and the insidiously creeping prices of the most basic versions of essential items at the supermarket.

Author(s): Jack Monroe

Publication Date: 22 Jan 2022

Publication Site: The Guardian

U.S. Inflation Hits 39-Year High of 7%, Sets Stage for Fed Hike

Link:https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2022/01/12/u-s-inflation-hits-39-year-high-of-7-sets-stage-for-fed-hike/

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The consumer price index climbed 7% in 2021, the largest 12-month gain since June 1982, according to Labor Department data released Wednesday. The widely followed inflation gauge rose 0.5% from November, exceeding forecasts.

Excluding the volatile food and energy components, so-called core prices accelerated from a month earlier, rising by a larger-than-forecast 0.6%. The measure jumped 5.5% from a year earlier, the biggest advance since 1991.

The increase in the CPI was led by higher prices for shelter and used vehicles. Food costs also contributed. Energy prices, which were a key driver of inflation through most of 2021, fell last month.

Author(s): Reade Pickert

Publication Date: 12 Jan 2022

Publication Site: Think Advisor