In February, we adjusted our twelve-month forward outlook to remove Inflation for the U.S. and reverted to Stagnation across all global economies. Last year, markets had to digest Britain’s vote to leave the European Union (EU) and the unexpected victory of Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential election. This year, markets will focus on three political events: first, the general election in Netherlands; second, the presidential election in France, and third, the federal election in Germany.
Investors are now coping with geopolitical and macroeconomic risks, from disintegration of the EU, a hard landing in China, to trade wars and military conflicts. The U.S. economy added 227,000 jobs in January and saw the strongest monthly employment gains since August 2016. The average number of jobless claims applications filed in January reached the lowest level since 1973, while the unemployment rate inched up to 4.8% in January (from 4.7%), as the participation rate recovered along with improving economic confidence.
Both headline and core CPI were stronger in January and producer prices have been trending up. This should not be viewed as the beginning of a new, more dangerous inflation problem, as core goods prices have been decoupling from finished goods producer prices (i.e. the last stage of production) since 2000. This speaks to the massive deflationary pressure at the end of the supply chain: a combination of deflation from imported goods, major technological advances in supply chain management, and logistics. Changing consumer behavior in an e-commerce age also means that consumers are not price takers. These factors imply that any budding inflation pressures are expected to stay trapped at the earlier stages of the supply chain and PPI will not be driving CPI prices higher.