The mysterious, vowelless Knzn worries that two years from now the Federal Reserve will wish it had stopped raising interest rates several months ago:
Economics and...: The Inflation Conundrum: I'm a two-handed economist today, and the hands are about to come to blows. My "rational economist" hand is waving in the air declaring, "We have every reason to believe that inflation is not an issue over the longer horizon, and only highly risk-averse investors should be buying TIPS." My "faithful quantitative analyst" hand is pounding the table exclaiming, "The inflation rate is up! Past inflation predicts future inflation! Buy TIPS!!" Blog readers will probably be hearing more from the rational economist hand, because rational economics makes better reading than regression coefficients. Here's the case:
- Oil, the biggest contributor to rising prices thus far, is traded in a speculative market. Therefore, its price should be approximately a random walk.... At any particular point in time, our best guess should be that the oil bull market has run its course....
- Rent, the newcomer on the inflation scene, is being pushed up by rising interest rates.... [R]ents... should eventually stop rising. Considering the dramatic amount of residential construction activity over the last few years, the longer-term fundamentals for rents are probably a bit bearish.
- Labor, the major component of costs, shows no signs of being a source of inflationary pressure right now. If anything, the labor market is still quite weak. (I know this point is controversial, but personally, even my quant hand is convinced.)
- Ben Bernanke, as the new kid on the block and facing circumstances that put his inflation-fighting credibility to a dramatic test, has every reason to prefer erring on the hawkish side rather than the dovish side.
- The dollar, if it comes under severe selling pressure in the near future, is likely to do so only because of a disinflationary downward turn in US economic growth. Under such circumstances, foreign central banks will still have incentives to support the dollar aggressively...
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," says the quant hand, "I'm already taking the weak labor market and the tight [so far] Fed into account, and I still say, buy TIPS."... I'm just making sure I don't hold my hands too close to my face, or I might get caught in the middle of something ugly.