Monday, July 4, 2022

Indepen-Dunce Week: Deflater Meister

The Wall Street Journal notes that commodity prices that spiked in April and May have actually dropped all the way below March numbers now that the Fed is putting on the brakes.

A slide in all manner of raw-materials prices—corn, wheat, copper and more—is stirring hopes that a significant source of inflationary pressure might be starting to ease.

Natural-gas prices shot up more than 60% before falling back to close the quarter 3.9% lower. U.S. crude slipped from highs above $120 a barrel to end around $106. Wheat, corn and soybeans all wound up cheaper than they were at the end of March. Cotton unraveled, losing more than a third of its price since early May. Benchmark prices for building materials copper and lumber dropped 22% and 31%, respectively, while a basket of industrial metals that trade in London had its worst quarter since the 2008 financial crisis.

Many raw materials remain historically high-price, to be sure. And there are matters of supply and demand behind the declines, from a fire at a Texas gas-export terminal to better crop-growing weather. Yet some investors are starting to view the reversals as a sign that the Federal Reserve’s efforts to slow the economy are reducing demand.

“Moderating commodity prices are clear evidence that inflation is cooling,” said Louis Navellier, chief investment officer at Reno, Nev., money manager Navellier & Associates.
Now, whether or not that means inflation is cooling or the entire economy is cooling is the question.  The Atlanta Fed clearly seems to indicate that the answer is the latter.

A Federal Reserve tracker of economic growth is pointing to an increased chance that the U.S. economy has entered a recession.

Most Wall Street economists have been pointing to an increased chance of negative growth ahead, but figure it won’t come until at least 2023.

However, the Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow measure, which tracks economic data in real time and adjusts continuously, sees second-quarter output contracting by 2.1%. Coupled with the first-quarter’s decline of 1.6%, that would fit the technical definition of recession.

“GDPNow has a strong track record, and the closer we get to July 28th’s release [of the initial Q2 GDP estimate] the more accurate it becomes,” wrote Nicholas Colas, co-founder of DataTrek Research.

The tracker took a fairly precipitous fall from its last estimate of 0.3% growth on June 27. Data this week showing further weakness in consumer spending and inflation-adjusted domestic investment prompted the cut that put the April-through-June period into negative territory.

One big change in the quarter has been rising interest rates. In an effort to curb surging inflation, the Fed has jacked up its benchmark borrowing rate by 1.5 percentage points since March, with more increases likely to come through the remainder of the year and perhaps into 2023.
If the Atlanta Fed tracker is right, we're in a recession now, Jerome Powell and the Fed have already overreacted, and further rate hikes are only going to make things worse. 

Just in time for the actual Biden Boom to become the "Biden Recession" all over the TV, heading into 2022 campaign season.

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