"[As Bernanke sees the world], there is only one course of action remaining: print money and hope for a moderate degree of inflation. The money part was, of course, the announcement yesterday from the Fed.
The inflation part is a leap of faith. If inflation is driven by the so-called “output gap,” i.e., how far the US economy is below potential output, then prices will not increase much, the yield curve steepens moderately, and banks make out like bandits (it’s just an expression).
But if the whole world is moving more into an emerging market-type situation then (a) inflation expectations become deanchored (central bank jargon for “really scary”), (b) potential output falls as we massively deleverage, and (b) people move increasingly into alternative assets - storable commodities spring to mind - and we get some serious inflation.
If oil prices jump, then we have an even bigger inflation problem. Oil is not storable, supposedly. But if you can explain to me exactly why oil prices rose as they did during the first part of 2008, despite the slowing global economy, I might be greatly reassured that we are not heading immediately into a runaway inflation spiral."
Thursday, March 19, 2009