Nick Glinsman and Sam Rines are back in this QuickHit episode special Cage Match edition about inflation, part two, where we start looking into things like raw materials cost versus processing and manufacturing bottlenecks. Also discussed are the wage inflation and labor availability and how long these impacts will last. And finally, we start talking about central banks. What will the Fed do? Will it do anything? When will it do it?
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This QuickHit episode was recorded on April 28, 2021.
The views and opinions expressed in this nflation: Buckle up, it may get worse QuickHit episode are those of the guests and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Complete Intelligence. Any content provided by our guests are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any political party, religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.
TN: What the people in the middle. So the manufacturers, what capacity do they have to absorb these price rises? What are you guys seeing when you talk to people when you read? Are you seeing that manufacturers can absorb the lumber prices, the copper prices and other things, or are they passing that directly along?
NG: Sorry, Sam. I’m jumping in here. The beauty of that question right now is there was a major headline, the Financial Times talking about margin compression of how US corporates are going to be increasing prices. It was today. You have the likes of Chipotle. We’ll go on to that. That’s a labor cost issue. But the other company, you know, J&J, various bare necessities manufacturers for nappies for kitchenware also they’re saying they’re going to have to put price pressure through to the consumer and as we were discussing just before we started, there’s the elasticity of price increases is very high.
The elasticity of price decreases is extremely low. And I would contend that this becomes a rolling, snowball effect as these prices get passed through to the consumer. There are other costs that will be passed through to which we can talk about later on labor side. But this clearly, one of the signals that our well worth watching, on the margins in the corporate reporting, and all of them are suggestive of higher prices to the consumer.
Then you look at the ISM prices paid. I have a chart, a model that looks at that versus the CPI. And if that sticks to what it’s done over the last couple of decades, it’s indicative of CPI, actually, the big figure having a getting up to somewhere around four, maybe even higher.
TN: Which was kind of a China 2011 scenario of four to six percent CPI.
NG: Correct. But also also the the process of decoupling, as long as it may be, that process has created a demand because of the supply shock.
There’s a supply shock in the system. The demand is adjusting there, too, so that work as additional demand to fill in the gaps, so if the decoupling replacement process is long standing, the demand is still there, it’s a matter and then catching up. There’s a price disparity caused by that.
TN: Yeah, we definitely have a mismatch, at least in the short term. And will those supply chains catch up? That’s a real question. Sam, what’s your view on that in terms of manufacturers being able to absorb these cost and margin pressures?
SR: So I’ll jump to the housing market as my example, which I think is one of the more interesting ones filtering, filtering through down into lumber.
A very close friend of mine in Houston is delaying the start of one hundred and ninety homes that were supposed to be going into, well… He has the pads laid. He won’t build those homes until lumber prices go down. It’s the largest backlog he’s ever had. And that got us talking and kind of working through the market. And when you look at the market for pine studs in the US, it’s an intriguing look into kind of where the cost pressures are coming through, where mills are making mills that make the two by fours are making an absolute fortune off of the disruption.
But if you own a pine stand of several thousand acres, the tree that you are cutting off of it is the exact same price that it was a year ago. You have seen none of the prices at all.
TN: So there’s not a supply, a raw materials supply issue. It’s a processed materials issue.
SR: Yes. Exactly. So it’s the supply chain breaking down. You didn’t have enough. You didn’t have the mills up and running for a couple of months. You had about 40 percent of the capacity offline. And that created a shock to the system that eventually will be sorted out at some point.
We didn’t destroy any capacity for two by fours. We’re building even at the current rate, we’re building one point seven million homes. That’s nowhere near what we were doing in 2005. And yet lumber is four times where it was. So, yeah.
NG: May I ask a question because you’re obviously in touch with that level on a micro basis? So one of the things that I’ve been told by several different sources is they don’t disagree with your number coming down eventually. The problem the homebuilders now have is labor shortage.
SR: That might be a problem in the northeast. That might be a problem in a kind of coastal problem in the US, where I have fewer contacts in construction. But in the south, there’s no labor shortage. Wages are still very strong. You have some projects that were delayed for large oil which created a supply of able bodied plumbers, electricians, where there’s a shortage elsewhere. So I would say that’s probably very true for parts of the country.
There’s anecdotally, Beth. Beth Iron Works? One of the major boat docks in the north, northeast is driving around an RV trying to recruit people to come, trying to recruit welders. That was a problem before Covid that was and will remain a problem. The trades will be a big issue. Common labor, particularly in the South, does not appear to be an issue. That is an issue in the north.
NG: I’ve heard it’s an issue in Florida, actually, which is back to you point about coasts. Sorry, I interrupt.
TN: We’re in Texas. It’s the Promised Land. I mean, I think you…
NG: Would agree with you on that one.
TN: OK, so we’ve gone long. I know these are very detailed issues, but I’m going to ask another question. I did ask for some questions over Twitter.
So one of them came in from Brent. This was around supply chain disruptions, which we’ve already talked about. There’s another from Jerrett Heath. He says, “Will it be velocity or magnitude that causes the Fed to react to inflationary pressures?”
So what do you guys think? Are we going to see kind of the magnitude inflation push the Fed to react or what’s going to push the Fed to react to start to taper a little bit, if they do at all?
NG: I would say both at the same time. My great fear is that there is, and this was actually covered by the Wall Street Journal, but I’ve written and spoken about this as well. I sit there looking at the Fed becoming reactive rather than proactive, and the punch bowl analogy is gone, and that worries me enormously because they have great confidence in something that they’re forecasting as transitory and we know what their forecast record is, and if you really want a bad forecast record, just go to Frankfurt and see what the ECB is all about.
Now, it’s interesting to me that the conventional wisdom, the consensus forecast is for tapering to the end of this year as opposed to next year. It seems like the more people talk about the inflation pressure, the greater it is. But I wonder whether we will get tapering. That’s what worries me about the Fed.
I’ve been really working hard on looking at what Claudia Sahm has written and said over the last couple of weeks. She wrote an op ed in The New York Times and Bloomberg. She’s said… She’s an ex-economist for the FOMC and the Board of Governors, actually. And you get the feeling that the priorities are unemployment with equity, racial equity as opposed to equality. Furthermore, you get the feeling that financial stability… Both of those more important than inflation.
Now, if that’s the case and we start to see any signs of a taper tantrum, I worry that this Fed is going to do a proactive. Either stop the idea of tapering or do a twist or something that eases this market. I think they’ve got themselves, we have a very political Fed that, if it’s reactive by nature, it could be procyclical by action. And that’s where I find I really worry about it.
Then, we’ve got Powells term expiry February. Well, Lail Brainard is one of Janet Yellen’s favorite people. And if she gets in, we’re going full MMT. So those are my concerns about the tapering, its focus on financial stability and the risk that reactive policy will be procyclical.
TN: Interesting. OK, that’s great. Thank you. Sam. Help me understand, what’s your point of view on this? What gets the Fed to react and how do they react?
SR: Yeah, so I would go with neither of those will get the Fed to react. It’s not a question of should they or, you know, what they think they should do. But it’s a question of will they. And they won’t react to inflation. They do not care about the magnitude. They do not care about the velocity. And they won’t care for at least another nine months because we know the combination that they’re going to look through, the combination of basic facts and supply chain disruptions, at least through the end of the third quarter. They do not care. And then they will start the clock on their four quarters of inflation above or at two percent, and they want full employment before they raise. That’s four percent at least on measured unemployment.
So I would say, it, whatever you want to look at for inflation numbers, they don’t care. And maybe they should, but they don’t.
TN: So they don’t care yet. Or they don’t care period?
SR: They don’t care, period, until it’s been until it’s been a year of around 2 percent in this summer and fall don’t matter to them.
NG: Let me add one or it’s too late.
NG: I’m with you. You and I seem to agree. I mean, that is exactly the impression I got from Claudia Sahm’s words. I mean it was just straight up. And that’s where I worry, you know, I have a huge respect for Lail Brainard. She is a very, very accomplished economist. But she’ll go full MMT is what Janet Yellen wants. It’s what the Democrats want and I really worry about that.
Plus, you combine this with here we go back to Larry Summers. You combine this with this fiscal effort and one thing that, so in American terminology, progressive policies typically have historically been inflationary. In English terminology, is what I am, these socialist policies have a history of inflation. More government intervention, more pushing against the string of inefficient allocation of resources. Labor restrictions, minimum wage, universal basic income. It all leads to in one direction.
So I agree with you, Sam. I think the Fed doesn’t care and I think, hence, the reactive. When they react, it’s going to be, in my view, potentially too late. It’s already started.
TN: So I just sent out on Twitter a chart that Sam published about three weeks ago from another source on the negative impact of fiscal stimulus, and as we end up ’21, like in Q3, Q4 of ’21, that fiscal stimulus starts to have a negative impact. And certainly in ’22, the US fiscal stimulus has a negative impact.
So, you know, there are a number of things to worry about, not just with inflation, but with the efficacy of some of this fiscal stimulus that’s going into the market.
So with that, I want to thank both of you guys. Honestly, we could talk about this for hours. I would love to have this discussion with you guys again, you know, even in a couple of weeks to talk about other issues. So let’s see where this goes. But thank you so much. Thank you very much for your time on this. I really appreciate it.
We’ll get this out as quickly as possible. Thanks to everyone who’s watching this. Thanks for everyone who submitted questions. For those who did submit questions, for the questions we used, we’ll give you guys a month of CI Futures and look forward to the next time. Thanks for joining us.