Inflation Blinders

December 31st, 2020

While the Fed is desperately trying to ignite the spark of inflation, the wildfire it created rages uncontrolled. The conflagration can be easily spotted when looking at asset prices. But remember, the Fed doesn’t count surging asset prices as inflation. Indeed, encouraging bubbles has become a primary function of central banks.   Hence, it removes those prices from all of its meaningless and warped inflation calculations.

For examples: the 19 commodities in the CRB Index have surged by 54% since the April low. Nothing to worry about here, this makes the fed happy. Real estate prices are in an echo bubble from the crash of 2008. Homeowners with mortgages, representing about 63% of all properties, have seen their equity increase by 10.8% in the past year, according to CoreLogic. Again, that’s great news for existing homeowners—especially those that speculate in real estate and own multiple properties. And, it’s the best news for banks that own MBS and derive their income from making new loans.

Unfortunately, these institutions are once again making loans to people who have little chance of paying them back—but we’ll worry about that when the next crisis emerges and the government will have to bail them out again. Of course, it’s terrible news for renters and first-time home buyers. However, Mr. Powell isn’t concerned about the middle class nearly as much as he is about pumping up the financial services industry.

Then we have the stock market. The Median PE ratio of the S&P 500 is now 30.8. The Historical Median PE ratio is just 17.3. According to Ned Davis Research, the stock market would have to correct by 43.8% just to get back to a normal valuation–not to the point of undervalued or cheap you understand–just back to average. I’ll remind you that markets tend to overcorrect to the downside, not just stop at fair value.

Don’t forget about the Fed’s most preferred bubble…bond prices. Fixed income has been taken up to the thermosphere across the board. Bringing yields down on US treasuries bills to 0%. And, Junk bond yields to provide 300bps below what Treasury yields normally offered.

There has been a 700% increase in the fed’s balance sheet in the past dozen years. To be perfectly precise, that $6.4 trillion increase in base money supply is the root of all inflation. M2 money supply is up a record 25% this year. One consequence of the Fed’s actions has been a 14% fall in the USD since April, which was during the initial breakout of COVID-19. Mr. Powell is printing money at the pace of one trillion four hundred forty billion dollars per year. He promised at the December FOMC meeting and press conference to keep up this rate of counterfeiting up until the unemployment rate plunges and core PCE climbs above 2% in a sustainable manner. He also now believes racism and climate change are under the auspices of monetary policy.

But the truth is, low inflation is a delusion of the Fed. Its newly created money goes primarily into asset prices where inflation now runs rampant.

Why are asset prices rising far ahead of core PCE inflation? The sad truth is most of the increase in base money supply cannot be lent out to consumers and businesses because they are already saturated in debt. So, the inflation created hangs around Wall Street. But, in the wake of the next crisis, that money supply boom should not only become manifest on Wall Street; but pervade throughout the economy. This is because the Treasury and Fed will cooperate to directly send money to consumers and small businesses rather than just hand it out to big banks. We saw this happen earlier this year and it should be come standard operating procedure in the near future.

The Jan. 5th runoff election in Georgia is key because it could grease the skids towards runaway stagflation if the Democrats win both senate seats. In either outcome, however, the destination towards Universal Basic Income and MMT is inexorable.

Here’s how dire the situation really is: The U.S. government’s deficit in the first two months of this fiscal budget year ran 25.1% higher than the same period a year ago. The total was $429.3 billion; and yes, that’s nearly one half trillion dollars in just two freaking months. All of which must be, and will be, monetized by the fed with alacrity. These types of banana republic numbers are evident even before we have the ultimate crash, which will be brought on by the coming bond market implosion due to insolvency and inflation.

When you predicate GDP growth on the back of asset bubbles the economy becomes addicted to the practice. Hence, the fed becomes trapped in its never-ending support of these same asset bubbles. For if it was to ever stop manipulating money supply and remove its indiscriminate bid for bonds, interest rates would soar and the bubbles will all crash. Thus, wiping out whatever anemic and unsustainable growth that was created.

This is why buying and holding a basket of stocks and bonds can no longer work. In fact, it could destroy your retirement. In contrast, actively managing your money in a way that seeks to own the correct assets during bull markets and seeks to protect and profit during a bear market has become crucial.

Michael Pento is the President and Founder of Pento Portfolio Strategies, produces the weekly podcast called, “The Mid-week Reality Check” and Author of the book “The Coming Bond Market Collapse.”