DOUBLE-WHAMMY: Rate Hikes And Inflation Loom Large In US Economy

Written by Wes Walker on April 29, 2022

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Joe was awfully dismissive when the press asked whether he was worried about a recession. He checked his notes and gave whatever answer had been written there for him.

The context of that recession question included actual figures of economic contraction at a point in history where America ought to be bouncing back from a government-gun-to-our-head economic shutdown.

Gross domestic product unexpectedly declined at a 1.4% annualized pace in the first quarter, marking an abrupt reversal for an economy coming off its best performance since 1984, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

The negative growth rate missed even the subdued Dow Jones estimate of a 1% gain for the quarter, but the initial estimate for Q1 was the worst since the pandemic-induced recession in 2020. GDP measures the output of goods and services in the U.S. for the three-month period. —CNBC

A few paragraphs later that same article warned:

“In retrospect, this could be seen as a pivotal report,” said Simona Mocuta, chief economist at State Street Global Advisors. “It reminds us of the reality that growth has been great, but things are changing and they won’t be that great going forward.”

Biden can be as flippant as he wants about the likelihood of the economy taking a serious hit, but there are still a couple of huge red flags flying right now that are not going anywhere.

Those red flags are inflation and interest rates.

When inflation rises, we lose buying power at every level. Consumers have less disposable income to throw back into the economy and employers have larger overhead which means raising prices further or cutting back on money spent on staffing, R&D, or investing to expand for instance.

Interest rates are at levels not seen since Reagan inherited Carter’s economic nightmare and the fed is poised for a sharp rise in interest rates in an effort to reign it back in. (If we still used the same inflation metrics as we did then, who knows how much higher those stats would be now?)

The Federal Reserve is set to take its most aggressive action in decades to rein in inflation when it meets this week — a move that would have implications for the entire economy.

The Federal Open Market Committee, which dictates the country’s monetary policy and is led by Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, is expected to hike its interest rate target by half a percentage point in order to drive down inflation when it meets next Tuesday and Wednesday.

…The situation the Fed finds itself in is historic. Consumer prices rose a staggering 8.5% for the 12 months ending in March, the fastest rate since 1981. In addition to hiking interest rates, the Fed is also likely to begin shrinking its balance sheet by $60 billion in treasuries and $35 billion in mortgage-backed securities each month.

Desmond Lachman, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told the Washington Examiner that the central bank will have a difficult time threading the needle of dampening inflation while trying to avoid a recession.

Further fueling recession fears, the yields — that is, the rate of earnings generated by the security over time — on certain shorter-run Treasury notes have at times in recent weeks risen higher than those on certain longer-run notes, a situation that is called an “inversion.” The sign means that investors believe inflation won’t be a problem over the long run because the economy is going to enter a recession. —WashingtonExaminer

Biden may be unconcerned about a recession when he’s reciting prepared talking points.

But in the real world where facts still matter? It’s part of the conversation.

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