Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Proverbial Hawks


No Proverbial Hawks listed

So Deputy Governor Bean says that he and his colleagues at the Bank of England are watching inflation "like proverbial hawks".

Hmm. You have to wonder whether Proverbial Hawks watch the right bit of the field.

Because today's inflation figures have yet again surprised on the upside. CPI inflation has moved back up to 3.3%, and RPI inflation is back up to 4.7%. Inflation has been above the official 2% target for 39 out of the last 48 months, and with VAT going up to 20% in January that record is set to get even worse. Some hawk.

In Tyler's experience what actually happens is this: the economics establishment lock themselves into a particular world view and find it incredibly difficult to admit they've got it wrong. Even when the numbers start telling a different story, people cling on to their world view and explain away the numbers as a temporary aberration.

OK, the facts are these.

In the two years since Lehman blew up and we were told we faced the unfathomable horrors of deflation, the overall price level has increased by 5.2% (CPI). Prices have not fallen. We have not had deflation.

The impetus - as we've blogged many times - has come from import prices. The combination of weak sterling and soaring world commodity prices has pushed up the cost of our imports by 10%.

The Bank and others have argued that we can live with that, because it hasn't fed through into wage increases. In other words, there is no 70s style wage-price spiral in the making.

But wages have certainly not been flat. Despite the rise in unemployment and widespread concern about job security, average earnings have still gone up by over 3%. And although the recovery has only just started, one-third of firms are already reporting skills shortages. As they say in labour market circles, watch this space.

Of course, there is that other explanation for the Bank's inaction - the not-so secret plan to inflate away the UK's debts.

Like we've said before - sell money.

PS A great shame that Mr Dale has pulled the plug on regular blogging. He was one of the original UK political bloggers and was always well worth worth reading. He'll be missed.

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