Looks like some correlation between inflation & %yoy number of employed. More workers, more new demand. (link to data)

Basic Effective Demand Limit, L = labor share index * 0.76

Effective demand on real GDP = rGDP*e*T/L (1 -(1 - 1/e)T/L)

Effective Demand Monetary rule with NGDP targeting = z(T^{2} + L^{2}) - (1 - z)*(T + L) + (1+a)*current core inflation + a*core inflation average - 2a*core inflation target

z = (2L + Natural real rate)/(2L^{2} + 2L) ............................ T = capacity utilization*(1 - unemployment rate)

New economic thinking... effective demand limit upon the utilization of labor and capital

Posted by Edward Lambert on 11/06/2017 in inflation | Permalink | Comments (2)

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Here is a graph that shows the fall of core PCE inflation from its peak in 1981 to the present. (link to quarterly data)

Inflation has fallen with stable swoop downwards. We are currently at about the 0.1 mark on the x-axis showing a core PCE of 1.6% on the y-axis.

The graph implies that inflation is a long way from returning back to the conditions when inflation was high. So the x-axis must tell a story of inflation. What is on the x-axis? Let's look at its equation...

Profit per unit of real gross value added of nonfinancial corporate business: Corporate profits after tax with IVA and CCAdj (unit profits from current production) - (60%*Fed rate +40%*10-year treasury rate)

The equation basically takes the real after-tax profit rate and subtracts a measure of the nominal rate which blends short-term rates with long-term rates.

When nominal rates are high, we would expect inflation to be high too. Why? Well, when inflation goes high, nominal rates go high to control inflation. But there is more to the story. Nominal rates can float inflation upwards, or knock it down depending on how strong nominal rates rise.

Here is the model for the graph. The upsloping red diagonal line is the real cost boundary. Corporations want to be to the right of this red line. Then their after-tax profits are positive and the economy can grow or stabilize. But to the left of this red line, corporations are forced to contract from negative after-tax profit rates.

Net Profit rate = real profit rate - nominal rate + inflation

If corporations can keep prices rising ahead of nominal rates, then they can deal with profit rates being squeezed. But if the central bank does not like rising inflation, nominal rates will get aggressive and can force net profit rates negative. This happened in the Volcker recession. As soon as Volcker jacked up the Fed rate, the data points were pushed to the right of the red diagonal line and the recession ensued, which brought down inflation.

In the model above, the black arrow shows that inflation rises when nominal rates are rising but not strongly enough and inflation can keep ahead of it. Then when nominal rates get aggressive, we follow the dashed red arrow to the left side of the real cost boundary. Then we follow the green arrow down, where inflation is dropping and nominal rates can follow them down.

I view the dynamics like inflation is a mouse and nominal rates are a cat. If the mouse can stay ahead of the cat, the mouse will keep moving in the same direction. If the cat can get ahead of the mouse, the mouse will turn around and head back in other direction.

Currently we are far from the red diagonal line. Real profit rates are at historic highs and nominal rates are low. Yet, people think that inflation will shoot up soon because nominal rates are going up and profit rates are coming down. So corporations will have to react with price increases.

However, real after-tax profit rates will have to come down much farther, and nominal rates will have to rise much further. My view is that real after-tax profit rates may actually rise if corporate taxes are slashed last year. As well, the Fed will most likely raise the Fed rate slowly as Stan Fischer has stated.

Since the model above sees very low inflation pressures for years, the Fed will be justified in raising the Fed rate slowly. Ultimately, bond yields will come back down from the recent increases.

Posted by Edward Lambert on 11/26/2016 in inflation | Permalink | Comments (4)

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I have posted this model of core inflation before. Core inflation on y-axis. Corporate-after-tax profit rate minus nominal rates on x-axis.

The model implies that inflation depends upon the difference between an aggregate corporate profit rate and nominal rates. The more nominal rates cut into corporate profit rates, the more corporations would choose to raise prices to maintain "*net*" profit rates... and thus create inflation.

Olivier Blanchard and Adam Posen wrote last December in 2015 an article titled, *Japan's Solution Is to Raise Wages by 10 Percent*. As wages rise, corporate profit rates come down. So if you want to cut into corporate profit rates but cannot do it by raising nominal rates, then do it by raising wages. Either way, the data points move left on the x-axis making inflation increases more likely.

Olivier Blanchard and Adam Posen give the logic of the model when they say in their article...

"The point is not to redistribute income from business to labor. If anything, employers and other price setters should be encouraged to pass on the increased costs from wages to consumer prices and try to maintain their profit margins."

The key to inflation is making corporations try to maintain their profit margins. But supply-side economics has lowered corporate taxes, lowered minimum wages, weakened unions and more in order to raise corporate profit margins. Is it any wonder that inflation will be low for years to come?

Posted by Edward Lambert on 09/17/2016 in inflation | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Here is a graph from FRED showing monthly percentage movements of core inflation. (link to data)

There used to be ranges that core inflation moved within. The monthly change either hit the maximum of that range or the minimum with some breakout movements in between. Monthly movements made sense by looking at 12-month moving averages.

Since about the year 2000, the visible ranges have disappeared. The monthly movements are more free-form. Thus monthly core inflation numbers should be more accurate now. However, there is still noise in the movements which belie that prices are sticky and should not change so erratically.

The best way to view monthly inflation numbers is with "Annualized" moving averages as Tim Duy does. Here is an example from Tim Duy.

Look at the time period from mid-2010 to mid-2011. You see large positive monthly movements in the second half of 2010 but the 12-month moving average was rising much more slowly. In the first half of 2011, inflation was coming down, but the 12-month moving average was still rising and kept rising until mid-2011. So the noisy monthly movements were designed to keep the 12-month moving average on a steadily rising trend.

Discerning the correct and steady trend of core inflation is the key.

Back in the early 80's, my undergrad teacher would use an 18-month moving average. But if we knew which monthly moving average is being manipulated on a monthly basis, we would understand each monthly change better.

Posted by Edward Lambert on 09/14/2016 in inflation | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Which of these models would you trust to evaluate inflation? (quarterly data since 1957)

Phillip's curve... core inflation plotted against unemployment. (link)

My model plotting core inflation against corporate profit rates minus a mix of short & long-term nominal rates... (link)

Who in their right mind would consider the Phillip's curve over the second model?

Posted by Edward Lambert on 08/24/2016 in inflation | Permalink | Comments (0)

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The Phillip's curve is obsolete. Inflation does not reliably depend on employment. So what other model could we depend on?

This one showing core inflation plotted against an aggregate corporate profit rate minus a mix of nominal rates. (FRED data link)

Mixed nominal rate = 0.56*Fed rate + 0.44*10-year treasury

Here we have quarterly data since 1958. That is 234 data points! Inflation has stayed within the range filled in with red for all those years.

In this graph, we see the last 8 quarters of data highlighted in red. Corporate profit rates have fallen some. The mixed nominal has actually dropped a bit too, but corp. profits rates have dropped more.

The dark blue arrow marks the predicted upper limit of core inflation according to the pattern set up in the model.

**So the model predicts that core inflation will ride along or under this upper limit of around 2.2% as the data points move left on the graph. **

Does core inflation show signs of moving along the upper limit?

Here is core inflation over last 8 quarters (monthly data)...

Core inflation rose to around 2.2% and looks to have stabilized at the upper limit in the model above. I predict that core inflation will continue to follow closely to the projected upper limit.

Posted by Edward Lambert on 08/24/2016 in inflation, predictions | Permalink | Comments (0)

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I have been presenting a new model to explain the forces around inflation. (link1, link2)

Antonio Fatas poses a very good question. *You can lower interest rates, but can you raise inflation?*

"But if monetary policy is being successful we expect inflation expectations and growth expectations to increase. Both of these forces should push long-term interest rates higher not lower! Something is fundamentally not working when it comes to monetary policy and it is either the outcome of some forces that the central banks are unable to counteract or"

I stop right there. For me, there are forces that the central banks cannot counteract. And the new model is revealing some preliminary mechanism to show how.

I applied the model to Japan's situation of low inflation and low nominal rates.

The model builds on the idea that capacity utilization is a force that affects inflation. The current low capacity utilization is a force to push down inflation.

Another force is net profit rates (corporate profit rates - nominal rates). High net profit rates also push down inflation.

Another force is labor share. The current very low labor share in advanced countries, including Japan, leads to an environment where inflation wants to go lower.

So now I input some preliminary data into the model for Japan.

- Natural real rate is negative = -0.6%
- Effective labor share = 70%
- Capacity utilization optimized at 5% unemployment
- Adjust exponential equation of core inflation to allow for deflation, i = 0.036 * e
^{(-13*net profit rate)}**– 1%**

Here is the model assuming a 2% inflation target...

Two things to note here...

- The central bank nominal rate (solid red line) stays at the zero lower bound almost up to the natural limit of capacity utilization (vertical green line)
- Core inflation hovers on the edge of deflation the whole time up to the natural limit.

Even by keeping nominal rates low, inflation still stays low. Antonio Fatas talks about forces. Here we see the forces at work.

Now I solve for the inflation target that brings monetary policy into balance with the forces.

Look at the horizontal dashed green line of the inflation target. It now sits at -0.3%. The model shows that a mild target of deflation is the best monetary policy to balance the forces affecting inflation.

Also note that the base central bank nominal rate sits at the zero lower bound all the way to and past the natural effective demand limit. (vertical green line)

The model reflects the situation in Japan. Loose monetary policy cannot counteract the forces that want to go into balance at a mild deflation level.

Keep in mind that the model probably needs some tweaking to get coefficients right, but the model can explain forces that Antonio Fatas mentions.

The success of Abenomics depends upon raising labor share. A higher labor share would raise the balanced inflation target. I and others have said this from the beginning. This model gives a logic behind the view..

Posted by Edward Lambert on 08/10/2016 in Current Affairs, equation dynamics, inflation, Monetary policy | Permalink | Comments (3)

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I continue to explore the model that I posted this morning extending a relationship between inflation and capacity utilization. The model shows that labor share would determine the most balanced inflation target... and the inflation target then becomes variable depending upon the how labor share changes in the economy.

Remember, it was once thought that labor share was pretty constant. Now that it has fallen so much over the past 15 years, we can study its impact better.

One can read the previous post to see how the model is built.

I want to focus on two points in the model.

- The crossing point of the nominal interest rate (solid red) and the normalized nominal rate (dashed red line).
- The crossing point of estimated inflation (solid yellow) and the inflation target (dashed green).

Both of these crossing points should occur at the natural limit (vertical green line). They should define balance at the natural effective demand limit. Greenspan did a good job of getting these two pairs of lines to cross where they should at the natural limit back in the 90's. We are far from doing it now. But how can it be done? The answer is in labor share.

Let me put up a graph with an effective labor share of 75% with an inflation target of 3%. (Natural real rate is 2% throughout. I have removed the profit rate and net profit rate so that the lines in question can be seen better.)

In the graph, the first pair of lines cross at 5% at the natural limit (vertical green line) as they should, but inflation is coming in below target at the natural limit (yellow line below dashed green). The dynamics of the relationships are calling for a lower inflation target to have balance at the natural limit.

Now I lower the inflation target to 1.84%.

Now the two pairs of lines cross perfectly on the natural limit. What is interesting is that effective labor share was around 75% in this business cycle, implying that an inflation rate below 2% was balanced. That is what we have been experiencing.

Now what if we wanted to always have an inflation target of 2%, but let effective labor share rise back up to 80%?

Now we see that inflation wants to be above target at the natural limit (yellow line is above the dashed green at the vertical green line).

So now I raise the inflation target to 3%.

Now the two pairs of lines cross perfectly in balance at the limit.

The model says that as labor share rises, the inflation target should rise too so that the Fed rate and inflation arrive at the natural limit in balance with monetary policy. So in order to have balance, we need to be able to adjust the inflation target as needed.

Or could it be that an inflation target itself drives labor share and inflation toward the balance point? Just a thought blowing in a brainstorm.

So is their a relationship between labor share and inflation? Here is a scatter plot of actual quarterly data since 1967.

Lo and behold! There is a relationship between labor share and inflation. And it fits the model... I love discovering hidden secrets.

According to the trend line of past data, an effective labor share of 75% would call for an inflation target around 2%. This is close to the model I am presenting. And an effective labor share of 80% would call for an inflation target around 3% to 3.5% which is also close to my model.

If effective labor share ever gets back up to 84%, an inflation target of 5% to 6% would be called for. If we tried to keep even a 3% inflation target, inflation would constantly be trying to rise above our target in an uncontrolled way... 1970's anyone?

The high data points from the 70's may be just from a dynamic of high labor share that wanted inflation above an inflation target that was too low at the time. Then there could have been two basic ways to solve the high inflation.

- Raise the Fed rate a lot which Volcker did
- Raise the inflation target, which would have been even less acceptable.

Now low inflation in the advanced world may simply be a dynamic result of labor share being forced down around the world.

So there you have it... Which came first, the inflation target or the inflation? Well, that could depend on effective labor share.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Posted by Edward Lambert on 08/09/2016 in equation dynamics, inflation, Monetary policy | Permalink | Comments (0)

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I have been in the workshop building a model for inflation, capacity utilization and other things. It builds upon the model for forecasting the profit rate cycle. And also upon the model for the relationship between inflation and net profit rates. The model was provoked by a video from Khan Academy on youtube.

This model has many working parts so I will build it slowly.

When profit rates peak in the aggregate, we have reached the effective demand limit. Capital utilization has been optimized. Think of the effective demand limit as the *Natural* limit of the business cycle in terms of capacity utilization, not full employment of labor.

Equations...

- Profit rate = 0.3435*(c + u - (1.457 - s)*c
^{2}u^{2})/s - 0.5241 - Effective demand upon capacity utilization = s/u = 79.4%

- c = capacity utilization
- u = (1 - unemployment rate), unemployment rate of 5.6% used for graph
- s = effective labor share, (0.76 * Non-farm labor share index), s = 75% for graph.

Capacity is optimized at the effective demand limit. Capacity utilization does not like to go beyond the effective demand limit because profit rates fall. This is the pattern since 1967, the year data for capacity utilization starts.

Now I add in the equation for estimating the Fed funds rate path based on the effective demand limit.

- Effective Demand Fed funds rate estimation = z(c
^{2}u^{2}+ s^{2 }) - (1 - z)(cu + s) + t - z = (2s + r*)/(2s + 2s
^{2})

Added variables...

- t = inflation target, 2% used for graph
- r* = natural real rate, 2% used for graph

The orange line sets an appropriate rate for the Fed funds rate based on the cycle of effective demand. However, that rate can change as the forces around inflation change. I will discuss this a bit later below.

Note how the orange line crosses the effective demand limit at 4%, which is the natural real rate plus the inflation target. So the Fed rate is modeled to be normalized at the effective demand limit. I have drawn in the normalized Fed rate line at 4%.

Now I add in the net profit rate.

- Net profit rate, n = Profit rate - nominal rate

Net profit rate drops as the Fed rate rises.

Now I add in the trend of core inflation.

- Estimated core inflation, i = 3.8 * e
^{(-0.127*n*100)}/100

Inflation is estimated from the net profit rate, n. See this post for example of equation. The coefficients above were chosen to weed out some of the effect of the Volcker recession and to make inflation cross the effective demand limit at the inflation target of 2%.

Note that inflation is less than the 2% target to the left of the effective demand limit. The equation above for the estimated Fed rate assumes that inflation is on target at 2% because no adjustment is made in the equation for inflation off target. The implication is that there is a tendency for inflation to want to go below target when capacity utilization is low and when net profits are high.

The main point of the video by Khan Academy is that inflation tends to rise when capacity utilization is high, but I would also add that net profit rates need to be low too. The other point in the video is that inflation will stay low when capacity utilization is low. I would also add there that net profits need to be high.

Here is how the graph changes just after two iterations if the Fed rate tries to adjust to the tendencies of inflation to be off target.

First, note how the Fed rate waits longer to start rising off of the zero lower bound. Look familiar? Then it has to rise faster to normalize.

Inflation drops just a bit when capacity utilization is below optimal, and rises much faster when beyond optimal. The current stubborn low inflation reflects this model.

Many people criticize the Fed for keeping the Fed rate too low as a recovery gets going, but there is a reason to their madness. They are dealing with forces that try to push inflation lower. Especially now since capacity utilization is very low and net profits are very high. Both add to pressure to keep inflation low. The problem with the Fed is simply that they do not know where the effective demand limit is.

More important than the net profit rate is the real profit rate. Firms look at this in order to invest, set prices and manage their profits.

Equation...

- Real profit rate = n + i = net profit rate + core inflation

Firms keep the real profit rate above zero. The aggregate real profit rate does not like to go below zero. So you see it dropping toward zero beyond the effective demand limit.

Here is the same graph above adding the real profit rate when the Fed rate tries to adjust to strong forces pushing inflation off target.

The real profit rate will drop faster around the effective demand limit as the Fed rate rises faster. Then inflation will rise faster on the right of the ED limit to keep the real profit rate positive. In the graph, the real profit rate slams on the brakes and starts rising again as inflation keeps it above zero. Aggregate profit rates are still dropping, but an immature economy may simply keep increasing capacity utilization as long as the real profit rate is positive. The result is high inflation.

The model is a handy way to gauge where the economy is. The model is a good way to see the forces pushing inflation off target. And the foundation of the model is the aggregate profit rate, which drives the economy as well as sets the effective demand limit upon the business cycle.

Posted by Edward Lambert on 08/08/2016 in business cycle, equation dynamics, inflation, Monetary policy | Permalink | Comments (0)

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There have been calls for a 4% inflation target. But I have my doubts that it would work. Let me show you why.

Look at this chart that plots net profit rate with core inflation... (quarterly data since 1958)

Net profit rate = Corporate profit rate - nominal interest rate

In the graph, mixed nominal rate = 0.56*Fed rate + 0.44*10-year Treasury rate

The plot has hugged and slid along two resistance lines since 1958. Below there is resistance to fall into deflation at the 0% inflation line. To the left is a resistance line for a 0% profit rate over the real cost of money.

Let me explain how that real cost of money boundary is calculated.

- First... corporate profit rate - nominal interest cost gives net profit rate.
- Second... When inflation is equal and opposite to the net profit rate, the real profit rate is 0%.

Here is an example...

Net profit rate = 5% corporate profit rate - 3% nominal interest rate = 2%

So the profit rate is 2% over the nominal cost of money. But then we make core inflation -2% to take away that net profit rate.

Core inflation = -1 * 2% net profit rate = -2%

Zero real profit rate = 2% net profit rate + -2% core inflation = 0%

So basically the line with a -1 slope that crosses through the origin of the x and y axes, gives the line where real profit goes to zero %.

How might we explain the steadfast movement of the data points along the two resistance lines.

Well, we know that there is a resistance to fall into deflation, and there is resistance by corporations to have negative real profit rates.

How can we view the forces at play?

There are forces to increase profits which try to push the data points away from a 0% real profit rate.

There are forces which counteract the forces to increase profits, namely, labor power, perfect competition and price inertia.

These counterbalancing forces work against the forces by corporations to increase profits for themselves.

**So for 58 years, the pattern has been solid.** The data points moved within a definable range.

Could the data points break out into a new pattern farther away from the resistance lines? I do not think so... It has never happened in 58 years of data. The forces are pushed into a balance in the range defined by the red zone in the graphs.

So what if the Fed tried to have a 4% inflation target, like Paul Krugman advises? The zone of a 4% inflation target would probably be like this...

As the green zone sits at a net profit rate of 0%, we could logically conclude that the nominal cost of money would equal any corporate profit rate as a general rule. So if corporate profit rates get back up to 9% in the next recovery, we would assume a nominal interest cost over 7% so that the forces are balanced at a 4% inflation target.

There would never be a nominal interest rate of 7% if inflation was 4%. It is not going to happen. So then we assume a nominal interest rate of 2% to 4%, which would imply an upper limit on the corporate profit rate in a range of 2% to 4%. So corporate profit rates would have to come down a lot in the next business cycle.

Corporations are going to fight tooth and nail against the 4% inflation target.

Actually a 2% inflation target feeds right into the hands of corporations. They can have profit rates above 9% and the forces still be balanced along the 0% core inflation line. The Fed helps them by keeping nominal rates near 0%. Higher profit rates lead to lower labor share and lower effective demand.

The forces from corporations to push net profits as far right as possible have succeeded greatly in the last two business cycles. But they have succeeded too well, and the economy is sick because of it.

A 3% inflation target would be met with nominal rates from 1% to 3%, which would imply corporate profit rates in a range of 3% to 5%. This is a healthier balance than what we have now. And healthier than a 4% inflation target which implies a monetary policy tending to seem too tight.

It seems more reasonable to have a 3% inflation target. Then net profit rates would be mostly positive and very high corp. profit rates would be avoided. Lower profit rates would imply higher labor share, which would increase the Effective Demand on the business cycle. Then there would be higher utilization of labor and capital.

The main idea is that a 3% inflation target would better avoid the part of the zone that slides rightward holding inflation rates at low levels. Then the Fed thinks they have to keep nominal rates low to try and raise inflation. But the inflation rate is basically just stuck in a balance between the forces described above.

A 3% inflation target would lift us out of that low level inflation zone and give us moderate nominal rates. Corporate profit rates would be healthier for the economy as a whole.

So it is a good idea to raise the inflation target. The graphs above suggest that a 2% inflation target is too low, a 4% inflation target is too high, and a 3% inflation target would be more balanced.

The big question is... How do we get out of this rut of low inflation levels? I think the Fed has to raise nominal rates to start bringing down net profit rates, so that corporations feel the need to use the force of inflation (y-axis) to support their profit rates.

Posted by Edward Lambert on 07/28/2016 in inflation, Monetary policy | Permalink | Comments (3)

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Effective Demand = $17.386 trillion

Real GDP = $17.379 trillion

Productive Capacity = $23.479 trillion

UT index is at effective demand limit = +0.03%

Effective demand limit = 74.0%

TFUR = 74.0%

ED Fed rate rule = 3.4%

Estimated Natural Real Interest rate = 2.2%

Short-term real interest rate (fallen from 2.8% peak in 2014) = 2.4%

There is no recession for 1stQ-2018. Chance of recession is growing as economy heads toward 2nd effective demand limit in this business cycle. I am forecasting that economic conditions will begin to contract in the second half of 2018.

Click on Graphs below to see updated data at FRED.

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Edward Lambert: Independent Researcher on Effective Demand.

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- Capital Income Consumption is Finally Falling
- Inflation & changes in the # of employed
- Currently at Inflection Point of Unemployment
- Approaching Effective Demand Limit Again
- Capital is Optimizing again
- Projecting the Effective Demand Limit
- Effective Demand Model did very well
- Watching the Craziness
- Inflation as a Mouse not being Chased
- Projecting a Fed Rate Path