Best of the Week
Most Popular
1. Investing in a Bubble Mania Stock Market Trending Towards Financial Crisis 2.0 CRASH! - 9th Sep 21
2.Tech Stocks Bubble Valuations 2000 vs 2021 - 25th Sep 21
3.Stock Market FOMO Going into Crash Season - 8th Oct 21
4.Stock Market FOMO Hits September Brick Wall - Evergrande China's Lehman's Moment - 22nd Sep 21
5.Crypto Bubble BURSTS! BTC, ETH, XRP CRASH! NiceHash Seizes Funds on Account Halting ALL Withdrawals! - 19th May 21
6.How to Protect Your Self From a Stock Market CRASH / Bear Market? - 14th Oct 21
7.AI Stocks Portfolio Buying and Selling Levels Going Into Market Correction - 11th Oct 21
8.Why Silver Price Could Crash by 20%! - 5th Oct 21
9.Powell: Inflation Might Not Be Transitory, After All - 3rd Oct 21
10.Global Stock Markets Topped 60 Days Before the US Stocks Peaked - 23rd Sep 21
Last 7 days
Stock Market January PANIC AI Tech Stocks Buying Opp - Trend Forecast 2022 - 21st Jan 21
How to Get Rich in the MetaVerse - 20th Jan 21
Should you Buy Payment Disruptor Stocks in 2022? - 20th Jan 21
2022 the Year of Smart devices, Electric Vehicles, and AI Startups - 20th Jan 21
Oil Markets More Animated by Geopolitics, Supply, and Demand - 20th Jan 21
WARNING - AI STOCK MARKET CRASH / BEAR SWITCH TRIGGERED! - 19th Jan 22
Fake It Till You Make It: Will Silver’s Motto Work on Gold? - 19th Jan 22
Crude Oil Smashing Stocks - 19th Jan 22
US Stagflation: The Global Risk of 2022 - 19th Jan 22
Stock Market Trend Forecast Early 2022 - Tech Growth Value Stocks Rotation - 18th Jan 22
Stock Market Sentiment Speaks: Are We Setting Up For A 'Mini-Crash'? - 18th Jan 22
Mobile Sports Betting is on a rise: Here’s why - 18th Jan 22
Exponential AI Stocks Mega-trend - 17th Jan 22
THE NEXT BITCOIN - 17th Jan 22
Gold Price Predictions for 2022 - 17th Jan 22
How Do Debt Relief Services Work To Reduce The Amount You Owe? - 17th Jan 22
RIVIAN IPO Illustrates We are in the Mother of all Stock Market Bubbles - 16th Jan 22
All Market Eyes on Copper - 16th Jan 22
The US Dollar Had a Slip-Up, but Gold Turned a Blind Eye to It - 16th Jan 22
A Stock Market Top for the Ages - 16th Jan 22
FREETRADE - Stock Investing Platform, the Good, Bad and Ugly Review, Free Shares, Cancelled Orders - 15th Jan 22
WD 14tb My Book External Drive Unboxing, Testing and Benchmark Performance Amazon Buy Review - 15th Jan 22
Toyland Ferris Wheel Birthday Fun at Gulliver's Rother Valley UK Theme Park 2022 - 15th Jan 22
What You Should Know About a TailoredPay High Risk Merchant Account - 15th Jan 22
Best Metaverse Tech Stocks Investing for 2022 and Beyond - 14th Jan 22
Gold Price Lagging Inflation - 14th Jan 22
Get Your Startup Idea Up And Running With These 7 Tips - 14th Jan 22
What Happens When Your Flight Gets Cancelled in the UK? - 14th Jan 22
How to Profit from 2022’s Biggest Trend Reversal - 11th Jan 22
Stock Market Sentiment Speaks: Are We Ready To Drop To 4400SPX? - 11th Jan 22
What's the Role of an Affiliate Marketer? - 11th Jan 22
Essential Things To Know Before You Set Up A Limited Liability Company - 11th Jan 22
NVIDIA THE KING OF THE METAVERSE! - 10th Jan 22
Fiscal and Monetary Cliffs Have Arrived - 10th Jan 22
The Meteoric Rise of Investing in Trading Cards - 10th Jan 22
IBM The REAL Quantum Metaverse STOCK! - 9th Jan 22
WARNING Failing NVME2 M2 SSD Drives Can Prevent Systems From Booting - Corsair MP600 - 9th Jan 22
The Fed’s inflated cake and a ‘quant’ of history - 9th Jan 22
NVME M2 SSD FAILURE WARNING Signs - Corsair MP600 1tb Drive - 9th Jan 22
Meadowhall Sheffield Christmas Lights 2021 Shopping - Before the Switch on - 9th Jan 22
How Does Insurance Work In Europe? Find Out Here - 9th Jan 22
MATTERPORT (MTTR) - DIGITIZING THE REAL WORLD - METAVERSE INVESTING 2022 - 7th Jan 22
Effect of Deflation On The Gold Price - 7th Jan 22
Stock Market 2022 Requires Different Strategies For Traders/Investors - 7th Jan 22
Old Man Winter Will Stimulate Natural Gas and Heating Oil Demand - 7th Jan 22
Is The Lazy Stock Market Bull Strategy Worth Considering? - 7th Jan 22
METAVERSE - NEW LIFE FOR SONY AGEING GAMING GIANT? - 6th Jan 2022
What Elliott Waves Show for Asia Pacific Stock and Financial Markets 2022 - 6th Jan 2022
Why You Should Register Your Company - 6th Jan 2022
4 Ways to Invest in Silver for 2022 - 6th Jan 2022
UNITY (U) - Metaverse Stock Analysis Investing for 2022 and Beyond - 5th Jan 2022
Stock Market Staving Off Risk-Off - 5th Jan 2022
Gold and Silver Still Hungover After New Year’s Eve - 5th Jan 2022
S&P 500 In an Uncharted Territory, But Is Sky the Limit? - 5th Jan 2022

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

How to Protect your Wealth by Investing in AI Tech Stocks

Food Price Inflation, Monetary Policy & Financial Markets

Stock-Markets / Food Crisis Apr 29, 2008 - 04:23 AM GMT

By: John_Mauldin

Stock-Markets Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleThe second is by good friend and Maine fishing buddy David Kotok, the chief investment officer of Cumberland Asset Managers ( www.cumber.com ). He was recently in Africa where he met with the head of the central bank of a small country with headline inflation of 10%. The problem is that "core inflation" is 5% and food inflation is 15%, yet accounts for 50% of the GDP. He asked a group of financial thinkers (including your humble analyst) to ponder what that central banker should do. Do you set high rates and target overall inflation or set lower rates and not worry about food inflation.


Why should we worry about inflation in a small African country? Because the principles are the same, and it makes a real difference where the Fed comes down at the end of the day on this very question.

This week's reading should be very helpful and thought-provoking. I hope you enjoy this read as much as I did.

John Mauldin, Editor
Outside the Box

Food Price Inflation, Monetary Policy & Financial Markets

By David Kotok

Suddenly food price inflation has become the premier hot topic. The media is now attuned to food issues including emerging market country riots.

In the US, the politicians are gearing up to castigate the speculators and blame everyone but themselves. They conveniently forget that they are the ones who passed the ethanol subsidy and they are the ones who appropriate taxpayer money to pay farmers not to grow crops. And so the political circus begins.

Notice how the three presidential candidates are silent on how the US ethanol subsidy has caused a food price explosion in grains. They avoid the issue of US policy starving many in the world. 1 billion very poor people sustain themselves on $1 or less a day. We have doubled the cost of their food.

Ethanol directly impacted corn which, in turn, also drove up maize. In addition, the substitution of wheat and rice are not easily occurring because of crop issues and concomitant price inflation in those items.

Well Cumberland is in the financial market and money management business. We eat food. We don't grow it and we don't process it. So let's try to inject some serious monetary policy issues into this media hysteria and political cacophony.

In the mature countries, food is a minor portion of the price index. And some of the food costs originate from eating out and some come from food processing. Processed food cost is heavily dependent on the inputs which are non-food items. Labor, machinery, transportation and distribution all come in to play. So in the mature countries we see that the food price inflation may be topical and attention getting but it is not a crisis.

Also, the major mature countries are mostly in food surplus. In the US we are very efficient in running our agriculture enterprise. We actually pay farmers not to till their soil. This is dumb. It occurs only because of our sorrowful Congress who has learned how to bribe the farm belt for votes at the expense of the rest of us.

In the US food has a 14% weight in the consumer price index. Compare that with Canada at 17%, the Euro zone at 16%, England at 11% and Japan at 25%. Only Japan lacks the fullness of food self sufficiency. Sure, food price inflation is important. But it is not the most important issue in these major economies.

The reverse is true for the emerging markets. In some of them the food price component is as much as half the price index. In a few it is above half. Since many of these economies are open to some degree, the importation of food price inflation is hitting them particularly hard. Some are responding with tariff adjustments. Others have actually embargoed food exports. Of course they ultimately make matters worse when they restrict world trade and in the end all suffer because of this protectionism.

What about monetary policy?

Here is where it gets difficult. We will admittedly simplify now and we acknowledge to our critics that we know there are second order effects and are ignoring them to make our point. In our view, monetary policy cannot easily and directly address food price inflation when the source of the inflation is in the raw food commodity. This is also true for energy costs when the source is in the oil or natural gas. The whole concept of "core" inflation vs. total inflation originates in this notion that monetary policy should be directed at the price level changes it can affect.

Let's get to the inflation problem in an emerging economy. Our example is imaginary for simplicity's sake. But it reflects characteristics that are very similar to many countries and regions in the emerging markets of the world.

We developed this simple and theoretical case study and then sent it to a number of economist friends. We suggested that following facts: the economy in question is a small and open emerging market. The food price component is 50% of the price index and is inflating at 15%. The non-food component is inflating at 5%. Thus the overall index is inflating at 10%. In this small and open economy, the main items in the food component are based on maize; therefore, the US ethanol policy which has raised the corn priced has also pressured an increase in the maize price.

Suppose you are the governor of the central bank. You have to set your policy interest rate. Do you base that decision on overall inflation rate of 10% or on the core inflation rate of 5%? Or are you going to confront the food inflation rate of 15%. Let's further assume that your economy is growing at a trend rate of 5% and all other aspects are in trend or neutral position. You have no negative output gap and no above trend pressures. Your only direct problem is what to do about inflation.

My economist friends who answered offered a suggested policy rate as low as 6% and as high as 13.5%. The answers were about equally divided and the respondents sample size is over 20. The distribution of answers was distinctly bi-modal. About half the answers were bunched in the lower range of 6%-8%; the other half were in the double digit area between 11% and 13.5%.

The divided views centered on whether or not to target food, ignore food, or blend policy. No one wanted to set the interest rate above the 15% food price inflation. Nearly all acknowledged that this central bank would have difficulty in communicating whatever it decided. Most respondents worried about changes in inflation expectations because of the complexity of this issue. Most believed the citizens in the country would not understand the monetary policy dynamics that led to the decision.

Some worried that setting the policy interest rate in double digits would impose a very high financing cost on the non-food portion of the economy and cause it to go into recession. They argued that the real (inflation-adjusted) rate of interest for that non-food half of the economy would be 7% or so. That would set the threshold of finance too high.

Others argued that the monetary policy expectation effect would cause the rate of inflation to accelerate if the policy rate was not set in double digits. They were willing to take the recession in the non-food area in order to keep inflation expectations under control. No one mentioned substitution effects. Perhaps that was overlooked. Or it may be because rice and wheat are not easy cultural substitutes and those grains are each experiencing their own price pressures.

In sum, almost two dozen folks with some monetary economics expertise were equally divided on this technical question. It is a question that impacts billions of citizens in this world and many countries, their governments, their currencies and, possibly, their political stability.

We do not know the correct answer. Our view would support the lower interest rate and we would focus on the non-food portion of the economy but we can argue the other side with equal vigor. For us a lot would depend on how the food price inflation spreads into wages and if it could trigger a broader wage/price spiral.

In many respects this question is now being asked of the major and mature economy central banks as well. It appears that the European Central Bank (ECB) favors the higher mode while the US Federal Reserve is positioned in the lower one. For the emerging markets it appears that there is quite a mix of policy and that it is made more complicated by the management of each currency's foreign exchange rate. In sum, our simple case study is actually quite complex when applied in the real world.

David R. Kotok, Chairman and Chief Investment Officer

 

I trust you enjoyed this week's Outside the Box. And for the record, I thought rates in our hypothetical African country should be at the lower end. Targeting food inflation with high interest rates would hammer the productive, job creating portion of the economy. I have been to 15 countries in Africa and they are in desperate need of jobs. Better to target inflation through control of the money supply and encourage capital formation and foreign direct investment. But it is a tough question.

Your glad I don't have to be a African central banker analyst,

By John Mauldin

John Mauldin, Best-Selling author and recognized financial expert, is also editor of the free Thoughts From the Frontline that goes to over 1 million readers each week. For more information on John or his FREE weekly economic letter go to: http://www.frontlinethoughts.com/learnmore

To subscribe to John Mauldin's E-Letter please click here:http://www.frontlinethoughts.com/subscribe.asp

Copyright 2008 John Mauldin. All Rights Reserved
John Mauldin is president of Millennium Wave Advisors, LLC, a registered investment advisor. All material presented herein is believed to be reliable but we cannot attest to its accuracy. Investment recommendations may change and readers are urged to check with their investment counselors before making any investment decisions. Opinions expressed in these reports may change without prior notice. John Mauldin and/or the staff at Millennium Wave Advisors, LLC may or may not have investments in any funds cited above. Mauldin can be reached at 800-829-7273.

Disclaimer PAST RESULTS ARE NOT INDICATIVE OF FUTURE RESULTS. THERE IS RISK OF LOSS AS WELL AS THE OPPORTUNITY FOR GAIN WHEN INVESTING IN MANAGED FUNDS. WHEN CONSIDERING ALTERNATIVE INVESTMENTS, INCLUDING HEDGE FUNDS, YOU SHOULD CONSIDER VARIOUS RISKS INCLUDING THE FACT THAT SOME PRODUCTS: OFTEN ENGAGE IN LEVERAGING AND OTHER SPECULATIVE INVESTMENT PRACTICES THAT MAY INCREASE THE RISK OF INVESTMENT LOSS, CAN BE ILLIQUID, ARE NOT REQUIRED TO PROVIDE PERIODIC PRICING OR VALUATION INFORMATION TO INVESTORS, MAY INVOLVE COMPLEX TAX STRUCTURES AND DELAYS IN DISTRIBUTING IMPORTANT TAX INFORMATION, ARE NOT SUBJECT TO THE SAME REGULATORY REQUIREMENTS AS MUTUAL FUNDS, OFTEN CHARGE HIGH FEES, AND IN MANY CASES THE UNDERLYING INVESTMENTS ARE NOT TRANSPARENT AND ARE KNOWN ONLY TO THE INVESTMENT MANAGER.

John Mauldin Archive

© 2005-2019 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in