Over the past few months (not to mention last 7 years), the topic of America’s “missing inflation” has gained major prominence, because while supposedly every other aspect of the economy is humming along (which really just means that record numbers of waiters, bartenders and temp workers are hired and collect minimum wage salaries), CPI remains so low it (together with China to a lesser extent) was used as justification by the Fed to not hike rates for 55th consecutive FOMC meeting, even though 75% of polled economists said, after 9 years of ZIRP, Fed lift off would take place last week.
One problem with the Fed’s measures of inflation, as we have documented in the past, is that they are wrong, if not with malicious intent, then purely due to definitional purposes. Recall our July comparison between CPI and PCE and our warning that “With The Spread Between CPI And PCE Blowing Out The Most Since 2009, Is The Fed Making A Big Mistake” in which we warned that “with a rate hike, as small as [25 bps] the Fed can and will almost certainly start a chain of events that results in the “ghost of 1937″ waking up. We don’t know if, like during the first Great Depression, it leads to a 50% plunge in stocks, but for those long risk here, it hardly makes sense to stick around and find out.”
The Fed did not hike.
But a bigger problem for the the Fed’s measures of how the overall economy is doing (and/or overheating) is that the Fed telling the vast majority of Americans that inflation is negligible, leads to riotous laughter.
The reason for this is a simple, if dramatic, one: the U.S. transformation from a homeownership society, to one of renters.
We hinted at the key features of this unprecedented