WHAT IS STAGFLATION? - Kanebridge News
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WHAT IS STAGFLATION?

Learn about the World Bank’s global economic outlook.

By HARRIET TORRY
Fri, Jun 17, 2022 3:23pmGrey Clock 3 min

Stagflation—a toxic cocktail of stagnating growth and rising prices—is generally viewed as a relic of the 1970s. But economists are warning it could make a comeback.

What is stagflation?

The term is broadly defined as sluggish growth tied with rising inflation. Economists haven’t given it much thought since the 1970s, when U.S. consumers lined up to fill their cars with high-price gasoline and the jobless rate hit 9%.

Earlier this week, the World Bank sharply lowered its growth forecast for the global economy this year and warned of several years of high inflation and tepid growth reminiscent of the stagflation of the 1970s.

Stagflation spells trouble for the economy. Rising inflation erodes consumer purchasing power, and weaker demand hurts companies’ profits and causes layoffs.

Stagflation also puts the Federal Reserve in a bind because the central bank’s job is to keep both inflation and unemployment low. The Fed can raise interest rates to curb inflation—a path it has started on and intends to continue this year—but if it moves too aggressively it risks strangling spending and tipping the economy into a recession.

Why is stagflation a risk now?

Inflation is close to a 40-year high, and economists are worried about economic growth because of the war in Ukraine as well as lockdowns in China and supply-chain disruptions related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Are we in a period of stagflation now?

Not necessarily. Inflation is high, but unemployment remains near a half-century low. The U.S. economy contracted in the first quarter as supply disruptions weighed on output, but most economists expect growth will resume in the second quarter because of strength in consumer and business spending. Stagflation would be a sustained period of both higher inflation and slower growth, not just one quarter.

Stagflation remains a risk to the U.S. economy, and there are similarities between the situation in the 1970s and today. Surging prices for oil and food are pushing up the cost of living, and business executives are voicing concerns about the outlook for the economy.

But the key difference between the situation in the 1970s and today is employment. During the 1970s and early 1980s, the unemployment rate at times was around 10%. It was just 3.6% in May 2022. U.S. layoff announcements, for now, are few and far between.

What is the difference between stagflation and inflation?

Inflation refers to an increase in prices for goods and services. The Fed likes to see a bit of inflation. It targets 2% inflation a year, because that signals healthy demand in the economy. But if inflation rises too quickly, the rapid price increases erode households’ purchasing power. Stagflation is a situation in which prices are rising, but demand is weakening and economic growth is slowing or contracting. As a result, businesses make less money and cut jobs, driving up unemployment. At worst, that pushes the economy into a recession.

Has stagflation happened before?

Yes, stagflation occurred from the early 1970s to the early 1980s, when surging commodity prices and double-digit inflation collided with high unemployment.

British Parliamentarian Iain Macleod is credited with first using the word stagflation in 1965. “We now have the worst of both worlds—not just inflation on the one side or stagnation on the other, but both of them together. We have a sort of ‘stagflation’ situation.”

Its seeds were planted in the late 1960s, when President Lyndon B. Johnson revved up growth with spending on the Vietnam War and his Great Society programs. Fed Chairman William McChesney Martin, meanwhile, failed to tighten monetary policy sufficiently to rein in that growth.

In the early 1970s, President Richard Nixon, with the acquiescence of Fed Chairman Arthur Burns, tried to tame inflation by imposing controls on wage and price increases. The job became harder in 1973 after the Arab oil embargo drastically drove up energy prices, and overall inflation. Mr. Burns persistently underestimated inflation pressure: In part, he didn’t realize that the economy’s potential growth rate had fallen and that an influx of young, inexperienced baby boomers into the workforce had made it harder to get unemployment down to early-1960s levels.

As a result, even when the Fed raised rates, pushing the economy into a severe recession in 1974-75, inflation and unemployment didn’t fall back to the levels of the previous decade.

The stagflation of the 1970s ended painfully. Fed Chairman Paul Volcker drastically boosted interest rates to 20% in 1981, triggering a recession and double-digit unemployment.

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: June 14, 2022.



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Milestone birthdays and anniversaries, weddings, and graduations are momentous life occasions that some like to mark with large and elaborate celebrations.

And the deep-pocketed set are still in catch-up mode after a party-throwing standstill during the pandemic that went on for many months during the height of the lockdowns and social distancing. Bashes since then have become ever more extravagant and experiential—mere get-togethers, they’re not.

Hosts are also seeking any excuse to throw an event and having parties with the same “wow” factor for far less significant reasons, or for micro-occasions as they’re called, and even “just because,” according to luxury event planners who work with this elite set.

Colin Cowie, a planner based in New York and Miami who regularly orchestrates multimillion-dollar gatherings and was behind Jennifer Lopez’s and Ben Affleck’s wedding, calls it the “event revolution.”

“Large-scale events have become the norm,” Cowie says. “The wealthy, who are used to celebrating their life moments in a big way couldn’t do anything during the pandemic and are now going all out for anything they host.”

His company, Colin Cowie Lifestyle, plans 30% more events today than pre-Covid and has a lineup booked for the next two years. An example includes an upcoming million-dollar dinner party in the Hamptons simply to socialise with friends. It’s an affair with free-flowing Dom Perignon, centre-cut filet mignons, and unlimited caviar.

Colin Cowie Lifestyle plans 30% more events today than pre-Covid
Calen Rose

Other high-end planners also attribute the rise of over-the-top celebrations to a “live life to the fullest” attitude that’s become prevalent in the last few years. But they say that these parties aren’t necessarily about spending more than before—rather, they’re increasingly creative, thoughtful, and, with respect to weddings, longer.

Lynn Easton, a Charleston-based planner, says that her typical wedding used to span two days and entailed a rehearsal dinner plus the wedding itself. “Now, it’s a five-day bonanza with events like a groomsman lunch,” Easton says.

Easton also plans glitzy milestone birthdays such as one for a 60th where the host flew 60 friends and family to a private island. Dinners were multi-hour affairs in various locations around the isle with the showpiece being a five-course meal where the food was presented on dishes that were hand-carved in ice.

Another planner, Victoria Dubin, based in New York and Miami, says that, in a new precedent, the weddings she’s tapped to design kick off with striking welcome meals. She recently planned an al fresco rehearsal dinner at the Brooklyn pizzeria Roberta’s that recreated a Tuscan garden. Elements included potted herbs, lemon trees, vintage olive oil cans, ceramic plates, and table cards presented with palm leaves in limoncello cans.

Another planner, Victoria Dubin, recently planned an al fresco rehearsal dinner at the Brooklyn pizzeria Roberta’s that recreated a Tuscan garden.
Aletiza Photo

Pashmina shawls hung from chairs to keep guests warm, and freshly baked pizzas and Aperol spritzes were in ready supply throughout the evening.

Stacy Teckin, the groom’s mother, hosted the party with her husband, Ian, and says she sought to pull off a dinner that made an impression on their guests. “The wedding was delayed because of Covid, and now that we had the chance to celebrate, we wanted to go all out,” Teckin says. “I’m not sure we would have done that before.”

In another example, acclaimed planner Norma Cohen threw a wild safari-themed bar mitzvah for a client.

A four-day wedding in Paris where the ceremony was in a historic chateau and the host paid for guests to stay at Hotel Crillon
Norma Cohen Productions

The memorable occasion transpired at Spring Studios in downtown Manhattan and saw 400 guests be transported to the African plains: Details included mammoth replicas of wildlife such as giraffes and elephants, servers in safari themed attire, and entertainment dressed like giraffes. The event was one of several over-the-top parties Cohen’s arranged recently.

A four-day wedding in Paris where the ceremony was in a historic chateau and the host paid for guests to stay at Hotel Crillon, one of the city’s most luxurious properties, also ranks high in Cohen’s memory.

Then there’s a destination party in London that Cohen planned for a client who was turning 40. It as a six-day affair with dinners at swanky spots such as Cipriani, the Arts Club, and Cecconi’s at Soho House. The finale was Lancaster House, a mansion in St. James, where guests were entertained by cabaret dancers from the famed Ibiza club Lio Ibiza and feasted on prime rib and lamb chops and imbibed on Krug champagne.

“People today don’t want to host events,” Cohen says. “They want experiences that take you away to a different place and make you forget that the real world exists.”