Rising Rents Are Fueling Inflation, Posing Trouble for the Fed
Comment of the Day

October 15 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Rising Rents Are Fueling Inflation, Posing Trouble for the Fed

This article from the New York Times may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

“Many participants pointed out that the owners’ equivalent rent component of price indexes should be monitored carefully, as rising home prices could lead to upward pressure on rents,” minutes from the Fed’s September meeting, released Wednesday, said.

Rent is less critical to the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge, the one it officially targets when it shoots for 2 percent annual inflation on average, than it is to the C.P.I. But it is a big part of people’s experience with prices, so it could help shape their expectations about future cost increases.

Those expectations matter a lot to the Fed. If consumers come to anticipate faster inflation, they may begin to demand higher wages to cover their rising expenses. As businesses lift prices to cover rising costs, they could set off an upward spiral. Already, some key measures of inflation outlooks — notably the New York Fed’s Survey of Consumer Expectations — have jumped higher.

The Fed is already preparing to start slowing the large bond purchases it has been making during the pandemic to keep longer-term interest rates low and money flowing around the economy. If inflation stays high, the Fed may also come under pressure to raise its policy interest rate, its more traditional and more powerful tool. That might slow mortgage lending, cool the housing market and weigh down inflation.

But doing that would come at a big cost, slowing the labor market when there are 5 million fewer jobs than before the pandemic. So for now, Fed officials are getting themselves into a position where they can be nimble without signaling that they’re poised to raise rates.

Eoin Treacy's view

David Ricardo’s Iron Law of Wages dictates that the prevailing base rate will be enough for people to scrape by.  Since the cost of everyday items people spend money on to survive keeps rising, there is only one way for wages to go.

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