Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Measure the Wage-Price Spiral and Economic Growth Discrepancies During Hyperinflation

There will be little warning in the event hyperinflation begins in the US.  There aren't many real-time tracking tools that function well during hyperinflation besides the prices of food and energy in your local neighborhood.  I expect the federal government to continue to rely upon the Employment Cost Index (ECI) to track wages and the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to track prices.  Economists traditionally regard a wage-price spiral as a hyperinflationary phenomenon.

I believe it will also prove worthwhile to track the difference between Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Gross Domestic Income (GDI).  They are theoretically supposed to be equivalent but the BEA has revised the calculations behind GDP so much that there is now a noticeable statistical discrepancy between the two figures.  Here's the BEA's 2010 explanation for its preference of GDP over GDI as a reporting metric.  I can live with the preference for more timely data sources, but the ideal solution would be an interagency effort to get the GDI source updates more frequently.  Here's the BEA's regular update of differences between GDP and GDI.  If you get lost, just go to the BEA's website and find this info on the page for GDP, or use that site's search function that we paid for with our taxes.

Here's the FRED chart for GDP.

Compare it to the FRED chart for GDI.

They compare pretty darn well according to my eyeballs.  I'll perform more robust statistical comparisons if they start seriously diverging.  I expect the statistical discrepancy between GDP and GDI will describe the nature of any stagflation period during the early onset of hyperinflation.  If the discrepancy grows rapidly, it will indicate a rapidly stagflating economy that will tempt policymakers (specifically the Federal Reserve) to increase any hyperinflationary stimulus.  Comparing the discrepancy to ECI and CPI will indicate how quickly the hyperinflationary response takes effect.  Rapid rises in ECI and CPI will show the wage-price spiral taking effect.  This is all Alfidi Capital theory at this point.  Time will tell whether my expectations prove correct.

These statistics won't be useful as triggers for investment decision points once hyperinflation really gets roaring.  Their monthly and quarterly updates won't be frequent enough for a wage-price spiral that adjusts daily in the real world.  They will instead be useful as integrity checks for policymakers.  Any attempt to suppress knowledge of deteriorating economic conditions will reduce policymakers' credibility in the eyes of the public.