Has inflation finally reached its peak?
Earlier I thought it was more of a blip than it turned out to be. Overall, it has not been as bad as the late 1970s or early 1980s. Nor were there the same pressures we saw in 1973 when the price of oil rose after being set so low throughout the post-World War II period.
This time, prices spiked because of a huge and probably transitory (in most instances) change to what consumers demanded. As an example, with Covid came an emptying of office space and the phenomenon of working from home. Because of the ability for remote work and promises from employers for it to continue indefinitely, demand for larger homes and apartments skyrocketed. This made housing and rent prices skyrocket.
Prices for building supplies, food for home consumption, and new furniture all were in higher demand than the supply. Then along came the discombobulation in energy prices caused by the Ukraine war. Fossil fuel prices spiked but have since dropped and will continue to do so.
In trying to stop the rapid rise in prices, the Fed has slowed the housing market by raising interest rates…making mortgages more expensive. The pause in the rise of prices in the housing market probably occurred at a good time in the cycle. Prices were moving into unsustainable territory that could have caused even more economic disruption if allowed to continue.
Many business patterns were changed because of Covid. Breakfast and lunch places have closed in office-building neighborhoods along with other ancillary businesses because they are no longer sustainable with reduced office occupancy. Whether we will go back to working in a centralized office location is a good question.
Even now, New York has only 49% occupancy. Once leases for these spaces are up, how much space will then be empty? Towns and cities throughout the country will have their real estate taxes take a devastating reduction if those changing patterns are permanent. This could just as well lead to deflation rather than continued inflation.
The Fed should probably ease on raising interest rates by such dramatic amounts going forward. Most economists are predicting a mild recession in the beginning of 2023. Instead, without careful management of both the real economy and people’s perceptions, we could see a much deeper recession than is now being predicted.
Don’t let politicians cajole you into believing that we are in for the worst or the best with the economy. They should stay out of trying to shape the markets. Pols are notoriously bad at doing so.
For both Democrats and Republicans, there now is the tendency to move toward a command economy. Central planning has never worked. That is the stuff of the old Soviet 5-Year Plans.
Inflation will recede when markets come back into equilibrium. The Fed has done everything possible and now a pause of rising rates would make sense. Our biggest problem can be the government overplaying its hand and believing they need to do something for political reasons.