Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Mystery Of The "Missing Inflation" Solved, And Why The US Housing Crisis Is About To Get Much Worse

"Over the past few months (not to mention last 7 years), the topic of America's "missing inflation" has gained major prominence, because while supposedly every other aspect of the economy is humming along (which really just means that record numbers of waiters, bartenders and temp workers are hired and collect minimum wage salaries), CPI remains so low it (together with China to a lesser extent) was used as justification by the Fed to not hike rates for 55th consecutive FOMC meeting, even though 75% of polled economists said, after 9 years of ZIRP, Fed lift off would take place last week.
One problem with the Fed's measures of inflation, as we have documented in the past, is that they are wrong, if not with malicious intent, then purely due to definitional purposes. Recall our July comparison between CPI and PCE and our warning that "With The Spread Between CPI And PCE Blowing Out The Most Since 2009, Is The Fed Making A Big Mistake" in which we warned that "with a rate hike, as small as [25 bps] the Fed can and will almost certainly start a chain of events that results in the "ghost of 1937" waking up. We don't know if, like during the first Great Depression, it leads to a 50% plunge in stocks, but for those long risk here, it hardly makes sense to stick around and find out."
The Fed did not hike.
But a bigger problem for the the Fed's measures of how the overall economy is doing (and/or overheating) is that the Fed telling the vast majority of Americans that inflation is negligible, leads to riotous laughter.
The reason for this is a simple, if dramatic, one: the U.S. transformation from a homeownership society, to one of renters.
We hinted at the key features of this unprecedented conversion in June, when we wrote the following:
... by now everyone knows that the artificially suppressed, "hedonically-modified" and seasonally-adjusted inflationary readings is what has permitted the Fed to not only grow its balance sheet to $4.5 trillion but to keep rates at 0% for 8 years. Because "how will the economy recover if there is no broad inflation", the Keynesian brains in the ivory tower scream, demanding more, more, more easing just to push inflation higher.

There is only one problem with this: it is all a lie - just ask any average American whose cost of living has soared in the past decade.

Still, with reality diverging so massively from the government's official data, reality just had to be wrong somehow.

Turns out reality was right all along, as revealed by the latest "State of the Nation's Housing" report released by the Center for Housing Studies at Harvard, which showed that while inflation among most products and services may indeed be roughly as the Fed and BLS represent it, when it comes to rent - that most fundamental of staple costs - things have never been worse.

According to the report, for American renters 2013 marked another year with a record-high number of cost burdened households - those paying more than 30 percent of income for housing. In the United States, 20.7 million renter households (49.0 percent) were cost burdened in 2013.

It gets worse: a whopping 11.2 million, or more than a quarter of all renter households, had "severe cost burdens, paying more than half of income for housing." The median US renter household earned $32,700 in 2013 and spent $900 per month on housing costs. Renter housing costs are gross rents, which include contract rents and utilities.
At this point we should perhaps remind readers that according to the latest census data, the US homeownership rate tumbled to 63.4%,the lowest reading since the first quarter of 1967: the lowest in 48 years!

Peeking behind the headline number, an even uglier truth is revealed: the only reason the homeownership rate is as "high" as it is, is due to homeowners in the 65 and over age group. For everyone else, homewonership rates are now the lowest in history!
And with housing increasingly unaffordable for most, or mortgage lending standards so stringer the vast majority simply do no qualify, it means that record number of households are forced to chose less capital-burdensome rent as a form of shelter..."
at http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-09-21/mystery-missing-inflation-solved-and-why-us-housing-crisis-about-get-much-worse

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