HAS THE INFLATION GENIE ESCAPED THE BOTTLE? - Kanebridge News
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HAS THE INFLATION GENIE ESCAPED THE BOTTLE?

MSQ Capital’s Managing Director Paul Miron thinks a small recession could be the key to economic control.

By Paul Miron
Wed, Jul 13, 2022 4:17pmGrey Clock 5 min

OPINION

For the past 40 years, inflation in the western world has not triggered any emotion…until now. Naturally, the question we must ask is: What exactly has caused the sudden panic, fear, and obsession with the subject of inflation?

In central banks’ pursuit of taming inflation, we have seen the blunt instrument of raising interest rates being applied worldwide. This has negatively impacted most asset classes, especially property and shares.

Since 1990, the general trajectory of interest rates has been downward, ultimately reaching the floor of a 0.1% p.a. official cash rate in Australia. In other words, “free money”. This led to an unprecedented demand for almost any time type of asset that can store wealth.

It is no surprise that with the onset of rate hikes, as well as wild predictions of the share market and property market falling in excess of 60% and 30% respectively, all types of investors have their eyes and ears fixated on what will happen next in the global economy.

On the topic of interest rates, it must be noted that if rates are raised too quickly, they could trigger a recession. On the other hand, if inflation is unchecked this could lead to deeper and more damaging recessions worldwide. It may take decades to return to normality.

This is undoubtedly the most pressing economic issue of our time.

To understand the origins of inflation and to arrive at possible antidotes, one needs to dust off their economics textbooks from an era that experienced this phenomenon firsthand – the 70s.

As one of my favourite sayings goes – “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”

What is the True Origin of Inflation?

Milton Friedman is one of the most highly regarded economists of modern times, reinforced by his receiving of the 1976 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for his work on the study of inflation. He is the principal architect of modern monetary policies applied by western central banks.

The words Friedman uttered during his era are all the more relevant to today’s economic climate. As he put so simply: “Inflation is a monetary phenomenon. It is made and stopped by central banks.”

In other words, it is the volume of money being printed, which can be economically summarised as an increase in the money supply, that is relevant to the question of inflation.

Increase In The Money Supply

Since the onset of COVID, the increase in money supply has never been more significant in our economic history. We have been paid a raft of various government benefits to sit at home and disrupt normal business and spending habits. At the same time, the RBA increased the money supply to counterbalance the loss of productivity. Central banks were essentially “printing more money” at a rapid pace, while lowering interest rates and allowing the bank to issue more credit.

Also, let us not forget quantitative easing, where the government buys and issues debt, reducing the cost of capital and creating massive liquidity in the financial markets.

According to Friedman, once a rapid increase in money supply occurs, it takes anywhere between 6 to 18 months for inflation to work through the economy. We are seeing this phenomenon firsthand here in Australia and around the world, with inflation rates not seen since the 70s.

Friedman also noted that inflation is not a global phenomenon but a home-grown problem that is caused by central banks and can be remedied by central banks.

Supply/Demand for Goods And Services

In the normal free-market economic system, prices of goods and services adjust according to demand, with businesses either increasing or decreasing production. Over time, this results in new business entrants increasing supply, or businesses leaving the market and decreasing supply.

Counterintuitively, these disruptions do not cause persistent inflation. From the onset of COVID, the stop-and-start nature of the global economy has resulted in supply chain issues and overnight demand for certain services, with employers needing to re-skill and re-tool their businesses to cope with unexpectedly high demand.

Once again, using free-market logic, these issues will eventually resolve themselves over time. Economists often refer to these impacts being ‘transitionary’ impacts of inflation; that is, temporary.

Looking back at the ’70s inflation crisis, many governments around the globe tried to lay blame on the 1973 war in the Middle East that disrupted oil production and increased its price by as much as 400%. Comparisons can be drawn to the Russian-Ukraine War and its effects to supply chains and commodities globally.

Despite this, the teachings of Milton Freidman tell us that these supply shocks provide short-term inflationary pressure. In the long-term, free-market economics will find a way to adjust the demand and supply of these goods.

Future Price Expectations

Perhaps the most ignored and least discussed aspect of inflation is future price expectations.

In the US, Australia and most western economies during the ‘60s, inflation had been unchecked for many years, rising from 1.5% to 5% during the ’60s, and reaching more than 14% in the ‘70s. In addition, wage inflation in Australia for the five years during 1969-1974 went up by 98%.

If businesses and employees are accustomed to long periods of persistent, rising inflation, a natural response to the rising cost of living will be employees demanding an adjustment to their wages, leading to higher prices and higher inflation. In such a situation, inflation becomes embedded in expectation and becomes a self-perpetuating inflationary issue that is commonly referred to as the ‘wage-price inflationary spiral’.

The main lesson to be learnt from the 70s is that we cannot allow unanchored inflation expectations. Central banks must act swiftly to tackle inflation and maintain the status quo of people having anchored expectations of inflation so as to maintain faith in our financial system. This is to avoid inflation becoming uncontrollable and inflicting unnecessary harsher pain to the economy.

This is precisely why despite Labor’s promises to support the market with 5.5% wage inflation, the RBA recommends that it remains capped at 3.5%. Lower wage inflation guards against a wage-price inflationary spiral.

Thus, we reach a conclusion that a short recession is better than losing control of inflation and letting loose future price expectations.

Looking back at our central bank, the current actions taken by the RBA are taken right out of pages in Milton Freidman’s economic textbook. They are acting swiftly and assertively.

We believe the next 6 months will have a heightened level of volatility in both the property and share market until there is evidence that the inflation beast has been tamed. We anticipate that this will only occur towards the end of the year once we receive data reflecting lower inflation.

Investors should expect a short and fast series of interest rate rises over the next four months.

Hopefully, this will be followed by stability with minimal changes to the official cash rate during 2023. This would enable the economy to re-adjust to the psychology of normalised interest rates.

The RBA Governor, Philip Lowe, indicated that an official rate of 2.5% is the correct setting for a neutral monetary policy and money supply. Investors and borrowers should brace for this setting sooner rather than later and prepare for the fact that we will have higher interest rates and softening asset prices.

Australia’s present economic strength is significant with a low base of unemployment, plentiful natural resources and a food-rich economy. Despite this, the sudden increase in interest rates will pose an additional risk. As mortgage managers, we appreciate our risk assessment and are completely cognisant to the downward risk of depreciating property prices.

We assess the risk of properties depreciating by perhaps between 15-20% – maybe even more for some specialised properties as well as regional properties and vacant land. Additionally, some construction projects have a significant risk of delays and cost blowouts that continue to be the predominant risk factor for this type of debt over the next 12 months.

However, with the lack of supply, wage inflation, migration, low levels of unemployment, rental growth and times of inflation, property is naturally seen as an inflation hedge. Thus, property will remain relatively resilient through these inflationary times.

 

 

Paul Miron has more than 20 years experience in banking and commercial finance. After rising to senior positions for various Big Four banks, he started his own financial services business in 2004.

MSQ Capital

msqcapital.com



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These stocks are getting hit for a reason. Instead, focus on stocks that show ‘relative strength.’ Here’s how.

By KEN SHREVE
Wed, Jun 12, 2024 4 min

A lot of investors get stock-picking wrong before they even get started: Instead of targeting the top-performing stocks in the market, they focus on the laggards—widely known companies that look as if they are on sale after a period of stock-price weakness.

But these weak performers usually are going down for good reasons, such as for deteriorating sales and earnings, market-share losses or mutual-fund managers who are unwinding positions.

Decades of Investor’s Business Daily research shows these aren’t the stocks that tend to become stock-market leaders. The stocks that reward investors with handsome gains for months or years are more often  already  the strongest price performers, usually because of outstanding earnings and sales growth and increasing fund ownership.

Of course, many investors already chase performance and pour money into winning stocks. So how can a discerning investor find the winning stocks that have more room to run?

Enter “relative strength”—the notion that strength begets more strength. Relative strength measures stocks’ recent performance relative to the overall market. Investing in stocks with high relative strength means going with the winners, rather than picking stocks in hopes of a rebound. Why bet on a last-place team when you can wager on the leader?

One of the easiest ways to identify the strongest price performers is with IBD’s Relative Strength Rating. Ranked on a scale of 1-99, a stock with an RS rating of 99 has outperformed 99% of all stocks based on 12-month price performance.

How to use the metric

To capitalise on relative strength, an investor’s search should be focused on stocks with RS ratings of at least 80.

But beware: While the goal is to buy stocks that are performing better than the overall market, stocks with the highest RS ratings aren’t  always  the best to buy. No doubt, some stocks extend rallies for years. But others will be too far into their price run-up and ready to start a longer-term price decline.

Thus, there is a limit to chasing performance. To avoid this pitfall, investors should focus on stocks that have strong relative strength but have seen a moderate price decline and are just coming out of weeks or months of trading within a limited range. This range will vary by stock, but IBD research shows that most good trading patterns can show declines of up to one-third.

Here, a relative strength line on a chart may be helpful for confirming an RS rating’s buy signal. Offered on some stock-charting tools, including IBD’s, the line is a way to visualise relative strength by comparing a stock’s price performance relative to the movement of the S&P 500 or other benchmark.

When the line is sloping upward, it means the stock is outperforming the benchmark. When it is sloping downward, the stock is lagging behind the benchmark. One reason the RS line is helpful is that the line can rise even when a stock price is falling, meaning its value is falling at a slower pace than the benchmark.

A case study

The value of relative strength could be seen in Google parent Alphabet in January 2020, when its RS rating was 89 before it started a 10-month run when the stock rose 64%. Meta Platforms ’ RS rating was 96 before the Facebook parent hit new highs in March 2023 and ran up 65% in four months. Abercrombie & Fitch , one of 2023’s best-performing stocks, had a 94 rating before it soared 342% in nine months starting in June 2023.

Those stocks weren’t flukes. In a study of the biggest stock-market winners from the early 1950s through 2008, the average RS rating of the best performers before they began their major price runs was 87.

To see relative strength in action, consider Nvidia . The chip stock was an established leader, having shot up 365% from its October 2022 low to its high of $504.48 in late August 2023.

But then it spent the next four months rangebound—giving up some ground, then gaining some back. Through this period, shares held between $392.30 and the August peak, declining no more than 22% from top to bottom.

On Jan. 8, Nvidia broke out of its trading range to new highs. The previous session, Nvidia’s RS rating was 97. And that week, the stock’s relative strength line hit new highs. The catalyst: Investors cheered the company’s update on its latest advancements in artificial intelligence.

Nvidia then rose 16% on Feb. 22 after the company said earnings for the January-ended quarter soared 486% year over year to $5.16 a share. Revenue more than tripled to $22.1 billion. It also significantly raised its earnings and revenue guidance for the quarter that was to end in April. In all, Nvidia climbed 89% from Jan. 5 to its March 7 close.

And the stock has continued to run up, surging past $1,000 a share in late May after the company exceeded that guidance for the April-ended quarter and delivered record revenue of $26 billion and record net profit of $14.88 billion.

Ken Shreve  is a senior markets writer at Investor’s Business Daily. Follow him on X  @IBD_KShreve  for more stock-market analysis and insights, or contact him at  ken.shreve@investors.com .