Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Monetary policy conference; and inflation past present and future

On May 6 the annual Hoover monetary policy conference returned. It was great. In particular, the opening panels by Rich Clarida, Larry Summers, and John Taylor, and the final panel with Jim Bullard, Randy Quarles, and Christopher Waller were eloquent and insightful. Alas, the videos and transcripts aren't quite ready so you have to wait for all that. There will also be a conference volume putting it all together. 

In the meantime, I wrote a paper for my short talk; and thanks to the Hoover team I also have a transcription of the talk. The paper is "Inflation Past, Present and Future: Fiscal Shocks, Fed Response, and Fiscal Limits." It pulls together ideas from a bunch of recent blog posts, other essays, bits and pieces of Fiscal Theory of the Price level. Sorry for the repetition, but repackaging and simplifying ideas is important. Here's the talk version, shorter but with less nuance: 

Inflation Past, Present and Future: Fiscal Shocks, Fed Response, and Fiscal Limits

Here we are. Inflation has emerged, and the Fed is reacting rather slowly. 

Why? Where did inflation come from, is question number one, and Charlie Plosser gave away the answer in his nice preface to this session: The government basically did a fiscal helicopter drop, five to six trillion dollars of money sent in a particularly powerful way. They sent people checks, half of it new reserves, half of it borrowed. It's a fiscal helicopter drop. Imagine that this had been simply $6 trillion of open market operations. Well, as Larry just told us, $6 trillion more $10 bills and $6 trillion fewer $100 bills won’t make much difference. If there had been no deficit, it certainly wouldn't have had such a huge effect. 

The impulse was not the fault of interest rate policy either. Interest rates have just been flat. One can blame the Fed for contributing to the great helicopter drop, but not for a big interest rate shock. 

So that's the inflationary impulse, but where is inflation going now? Now, attention turns to the Fed. Interest rates stayed flat while inflation got going from the fiscal shock, as you see in the first graph. 

So the next question is, does this slow response; this period of nominal interest rates far below inflation,  constitute additional monetary stimulus, which creates additional inflation on its own? Or are we simply waiting for the fiscal (or supply, if you must) shock to blow over? 

Sloar panel tariffs

 T.J Rodgers in the Wall Street Journal is classic: 

Solar panels are key to the transition to carbon-free energy. Since the Earth will be unlivable due to the climate catastrophe if we don't move now, at least according to the Administration, you would think they would be doing everything to encourage solar panel installation. Since mother Gaia does not care where panels are produced, you would think the Administration would not either. If China can produce them cheaper, all the better for the Earth. If China wants to tax its citizens to subsidize our solar panels better still. It's the least they could do in return for adding a new coal-fired power plant about once a week. You would be wrong. Our policy is 

 a punitive 2012 tariff levied by the U.S. Commerce Department.

That raises the price substantially: 

Our politicians disingenuously campaign for conversion to solar energy, but their propensity for top-down economic controls is forcing American homeowners to pay $2.65 per watt on average to install a residential solar system today, according to Clean Energy Associates. The equivalent fully installed residential solar costs are $1.50 in Europe, $1.25 in Australia and $1 in India—because these places practice, and get the benefits of, free-market capitalism in their solar markets.

Oh, those pesky free-market capitalists in Europe, Australia and India. 

Monday, May 23, 2022

The climate finance emperor's clothes

Stuart Kirk of HSBC (head of worldwide responsible investing!) gave an eloquent short speech on climate financial risk.  Youtube link in case the above embed doesn't work. 

Most of the points are familiar to readers of this blog, but they are so artfully put and in such a high visibility place, that you should watch anyway. 

Why the catastrophism? 

"I completely get that at the end of your central bank career there are many many years to fill in. You've got to say something, you've got to fly around the world to conferences. You've got to out-hyperboae the next guy [or gal]" 

A fun bit of hypocrisy: 

"Sharon said, `we are not going to survive'..[ but] no-one ran from the room. In fact most of you barely looked up from your mobile phones at the prospect of non-survival." 

Regulatory bother

"what bothers me about this one is the amount of work these people make me do" 

A good point: Markets are not pricing in end of the world. 

"Markets agree with me. Despite the hyperbolae, the more people say the world is going to end... the more the word "climate catastrophe" is used around the world, the higher and higher risk assets go. "