t the end of February 2023, the price of oil (WTI and Brent), Henry Hub and ICE natural gas, aluminum, copper, steel, corn, wheat, and the Baltic Dry Index are below the February 2022 levels.
The Supply Chain Index and the global supply-demand balance, published by Morgan Stanley, have declined to September 2022 levels. However, the latest inflation readings are hugely concerning.
Considering the previously mentioned prices of commodities and freight, if price inflation were a “cost-push” phenomenon, it would have collapsed to 2 percent levels already. However, both headline and core inflation measures, from the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to Personal Consumer Expenditure Prices (PCE) show extremely elevated levels and rising core inflationary pressures.
We have mentioned numerous times that there is no such thing as “cost-push” price inflation. It is only more units of currency going toward relatively scarce goods and services.
The monetary aspect of inflation has been proven on the way up and in the commodity correction. The Federal Reserve’s rate hikes have deflated the price of commodities despite rising geopolitical tensions, supply challenges, and robust demand growth. Rate hikes make it more expensive to store, take long positions, and finance margin calls. Powell offset the entire supply-demand tightness impact on prices.
Governments cannot blame price inflation on Putin’s war or the so-called “supply chain disruptions” anymore. Printing money above demand is the only thing that makes prices rise in unison. If a price rises due to an exogenous reason but the quantity of currency remains equal, all other prices do not rise. A PCE index of 4.5 percent in January 2023 with all the main commodities below the January 2022 level shows how high inflationary pressures are.
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