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Posts tagged ‘Economics Inflation’

Economic Effects of Inflation

The following are some of the consequences of inflation on a very high level.

  • Loss of Purchasing Power: an increase in prices imply reduced purchasing power of the currency. As prices rise, each monetary unit buys fewer goods and services as prices rise. Increase in the price levels erode the real value of money. Individuals or institutions with cash savings will suffer with the price inflation. High inflation may reduce the incentive to save.

  • Wealth Redistribution: The effect of inflation is not distributed evenly in the economy. It redistributes income from people on fixed incomes to people on variable income that rises with inflation. Few people benefit from inflation such as asset price inflation – eg., value or price of a physical asset, a property, going up. At the same time, few people who seek to acquire the physical asset will need to pay more for the same property. In US, the Fed induced Quantitative Easing (QE) programs created massive asset price inflation in financial markets and real estate in recent years. It is not so surprising to hear chatter about “income inequality” these days.

    Another example is the impact of inflation on lenders and borrowers. Unexpected inflation usually hurts lenders and helps borrowers as lenders receive paid back money that is worth less than what they lent out while borrowers will be paying back loans that are worth less than they were at the time of borrowing. This is one of the reasons Wall Street is more concerned about inflation than the individual with average standard of living.

    Inflation

  • Uncertainty and Confusion: when inflation is high, people are uncertain what to spend their money on. Prolonged period of high inflation discourage businesses from investing because they are uncertain about future profits and costs. During inflationary periods, investors may not be interested in buying debt instruments issued by a country such as bonds as they are denominated in the currency that is being devalued due to the inflation. This uncertainty and confusion can lead to stalled or lower rates of economic growth over the long term.

  • Decline in Global Competitiveness: increased production costs due to inflation make exports cost more abroad causing a drop in demand for exported goods. That in turn can lead to a decrease in demand for the currency, and initiate ripple effects in economy and monetory policy to devalue the underlying currency.

    While devaluation may restore competitiveness – hence exports, it imports inflation by making the import costs rise in proportion. Rising exports combined with expensive imports can cause consumers and firms to purchase domestic goods driving the aggregate demand to increase triggering demand pull inflation. Also with devalued currency, businesses are less motivated to cut unnecessary costs.

  • Boom-Bust Cycles: boom and bust business cycle involve a rapid economic growth on the heels of high inflation followed by a period of economic contraction or recession.

    Boom cycles are usually triggered by loose monetary and fiscal policies with cheap credit and ample money supply. This leads to a rapid rise in economic growth mainly due to higher consumer spending coupled with lower savings pushing aggregate demand upwards consequently causing inflation in all kinds of asset classes. However this kind of rapid boom is unsustainable. Furthermore decline in savings ratio could create an unstable economy. As consumers and lenders start reducing the debt and start saving, the deleveraging process can lead to a slowdown in economic growth which can turn into recession.

  • Bracket Creep and Fiscal Drag: growth in nominal earnings due to inflation may push or drag more tax payers into higher tax brackets resulting in higher income taxes at the expense of minimal or no real increase in purchasing power. Many tax systems are not adjusted for inflation, and income tax codes typically take a longer time to change. As a result, government’s tax revenue rises without explicitly raising tax rates. However with slow government action or unchanged tax policies, people pay higher average and marginal tax rates over time consequently leading to deflationary pressure or drag on the economy due to the lack of demand for goods and services.

  • Menu Costs: when inflation is high, prices frequently change prompting firms and businesses to update price catalogs at the same pace. These adjustments require both time and money. The cost resulting from changing the prices is usually referred as menu costs. Modern technology may help reduce the menu costs, but still it is a cost and inconvenience that is a side effect of high inflation.

  • Opportunity cost of time and energy that individuals spend trying to counteract the effects of high inflation such as searching for good prices, savers holding less cash to keep much of their money in interest bearing accounts and/or to invest in different asset classes with lower levels of inflation etc., This type of cost was historically referred as Shoe Leather Cost.

  • Shortage in Goods: when prices go up too frequently, consumers will buy and hoard durable, non-perishable commodities and other goods including food items to avoid the losses expected from further decline in purchasing power of money, creating shortages of the goods.

    As of this writing, Venezuela’s annual inflation rate is at more than 60%, and long lines at grocery stores is a common sight due to the shortage of food and other supplies.

  • Social Unrest and Revolutions: Inflation can lead to massive demonstrations and revolutions. In recent history, food price inflation caused Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions in year 2011.

  • Hyperinflation: under extreme circumstances, if inflation becomes too high, people may curtail the use of their currency. It can lead to an acceleration in the inflation rate, referred as hyperinflation, which interferes with the normal workings of the economy. Ultimately the nation experiencing hyperinflation may abandon its currency as witnessed by the abandonment of Zimbabwean Dollar by Zimbabwe in year 2009.

Source & References:
Various www sources including investopedia, wikipedia, economicshelp.org

Image courtesy: unknown source on www

[Economics] Inflation

inflation


Inflation is the persistent rise in the prices of goods and services in an economy over a period of time, leading to a reduction in the purchasing power as each unit of currency buys fewer goods and services.


Price inflation is measured by the inflation rate, the percentage change of prices calculated on a monthly or annual basis in a price index. Around the world, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) is the most commonly used index to calculate the inflation rate, which measures the price of a representative selection of goods and services for a typical consumer. For example, if the inflation rate is measured at 5%, a loaf of bread that costs $1 today will cost $1.05 in a year.

What causes inflation?

There are at least three theories that are generally accepted.

  1. In a booming economy, strong consumer demand for goods and services may outweigh the aggregate supply and cause the price levels to rise. In other words, if demand is growing faster than supply, prices will increase. This is often referred as Demand-Pull Inflation, a term mostly associated with Keynesian economics.

    Most modern asset bubbles including the U.S. housing bubble which peaked in 2006 fall into this category. The increase in the value of Gold in the aftermath of 2008 financial crisis is another example.

  2. An increase in prices of inputs like wages, taxes, imports and raw materials, or other influential factors such as natural disasters, depletion of natural resources, government regulation, change in exchange rates etc., may push the costs of production higher and weaken the supply of goods as it becomes more expensive now to make the same volume as they were before the surge in production costs. While the demand for these goods remain consistent, the shortage in supply causes a rise in the overall price level. In other words, inflation happens when costs increase independently of aggregate demand. This type of inflation is referred as Cost-Push Inflation, another term associated with Keynesian economics.

    In 2011, the earthquake and tsunami disaster caused inflation to go up temporarily in deflation-ridden Japan.

    As the push for higher federal minimum wages has gained momentum in U.S. these days, the naysayers often cite references to cost-push inflation — they argue that if the base wages are raised, the manufacturers may feel obligated to pass these increases onto consumers in the form of higher prices.

  3. Over expansion or increase in the money supply in the form of cash and credit may create inflation. If a country prints too much money, the value of the money decreases proportional to the amount of money that was printed. Despite no changes to the aggregate demand or supply, having too much money chasing too few goods can cause the prices of just about everything to increase. If too much money is printed, it becomes worthless to the point where objects are exchanged for goods in place of paper money (bartering).

    zimbabwe inflation

    In year 2000, Zimbabwean Government engaged in money creation activity to fund the Congo war. Coupled with the fact that the money was created with nothing to back it up to give it a value, droughts and private farm confiscation by the government further weakened the supply of food and other locally produced goods. Eventually people holding the Zimbabwean dollar (symbol: Z$) lost confidence in its ability to retain its value, and the series of events that followed led to prolonged hyperinflation between years 2004 and 2009, which ultimately ended with the demise of the Zimbabwean dollar in April 2009. The peak month of hyperinflation occurred in mid-November 2008 with a rate estimated at 79.6 billion percent per month.

    Hyperinflation is not purely a monetary phenomenon — massive supply shock often coupled with external debt denominated in a foreign currency may create a situation involving social unrest that give rise to hyperinflation. A supply shock is an event that suddenly changes the price of a commodity or service mostly due to wars or natural disasters. The collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Yugoslavia, and the Soviet Union all led to the emergence of hyperinflation.

Source: various including investopedia, wikipedia, economicshelp.org, James Montier’s writings

(To be continued ..)