Haver Analytics
Haver Analytics
| Jun 12 2024

German Inflation Progress Stalls

Monthly German inflation has been volatile with the HICP headline logging -0.3% in March, surging by 0.8% in April, and gaining 0.2% in May. The HICP Core rose by 0.2% in March and by 0.3% in each month, April to May. The domestic CPI has been steadier monthly and better-behaved. Still, among the four measures, German inflation over three-months still runs too-hot at annual rates ranging from 2.8% to 3.6%.

Sequentially these four inflation paths for HICP Vs the CPI and for headlines Vs the cores show either inflation stuck at a pace too-high or at a pace too-high and still accelerating. The HICP headline rises by 2.8% over 12-months, steps up to 2.9% over 6-months, then steps back down to 2.8% over 3-months. This contrasts to the domestic CPI measure that runs cooler but shows acceleration gaining 2.4% over 12-month and six-months then steps up to 2.7% over three-months. Both core rates at least ‘tend-toward’ acceleration. The HICP core is at 3.3% over 12-month and rises to 3.8% over 6-months and 3-months. The Core domestic CPI gains 2.7% over 12-months steps down to 2.6% but then steps up to 2.8%, a three-month pace above the 12-month pace.

In addition to the sequential trends in the table described above, the chart shows a progression of year-over-year rates, 6-month rates and three-months rates. Viewed as time series all these profiles have stopped falling and each is up from its cycle low and at least ‘stuck’ if not accelerating.

The ECB, of course, targets EMU inflation not German inflation. But Germany is the largest EMU economy, and its results get the largest weight in the inflation index the ECB does target. Having German inflation this stuck, or accelerating is not good for EMU.

The details of German inflation data look better (these derive from the domestic CPI series). We see inflation is accelerating in fewer than 50% of the categories over each month February to March, March to April, and April to May. That is very good news. Over the broader sequential timeline, inflation accelerates compared to its year-ago pace in only 18% of the categories. Over six-months, however, a time horizon when the CPI did not accelerate compared to its 12-month pace, and the core actually weakened, the breadth of inflation rose sharply to 72.7%! It was accelerating in nearly three-quarters of the categories. But that broad acceleration did not impact the headline results much.

All that simply points out that inflation has many dimensions; its calculation will depend on the period one chooses to measure it, the index one uses to describe it, and that, in turn, will involve the application of a weighting scheme. When inflation is not broadly experienced across index components but is embedded in components with large weights it may hit the index harder than breadth would imply. For this reason, I like to look at inflation on several measures and across various horizons.

A perspective on German Inflation When we take this eclectic approach for German inflation we see some good news at the grass-roots level as accelerating inflation does not appear to be broadly experienced. However, it is intense enough in categories with large weights to keep the inflation metrics pressured. The good news is that the hint at inflation acceleration is weak. The diffusion data suggest underlying pressures may be more isolated rather than spreading and it may be that some of the lumpier categories shed trend tendencies more slowly. For the time being, the German inflation data are not good news and they do show inflation stuck too high.

A Global Phenomenon Not to be Dismissed Stuck inflation is also part of a global phenomenon, so I would be reluctant to dismiss ‘sticky inflation’ and to treat it as transitory phenomenon that will eventually behave itself. We have already seen that mistake made once. There seems to be a lot of wishful thinking by central bankers these days. A nice long period of inflation containment and success has immediately brought people to the conclusion that all the sweat, toil, and sacrifice taken to get inflation low in past years was perhaps, unnecessary. Many now seem to believe that inflation will behave all on its own. But there is little evidence of that. And with global conditions shifting and China no longer competing to export goods as aggressively (or being allowed to) and with the geopolitical shift going to the display and acquisition of global power, influence, and territory, the peace dividend is certainly spent. Government budgets are more likely to be too-fat than too-thin. This means monetary policy is going to have to go ‘back to work’ to provide a counter-weight instead of resting on its past laurels. And few seem to appreciate that.

  • Robert A. Brusca is Chief Economist of Fact and Opinion Economics, a consulting firm he founded in Manhattan. He has been an economist on Wall Street for over 25 years. He has visited central banking and large institutional clients in over 30 countries in his career as an economist. Mr. Brusca was a Divisional Research Chief at the Federal Reserve Bank of NY (Chief of the International Financial markets Division), a Fed Watcher at Irving Trust and Chief Economist at Nikko Securities International. He is widely quoted and appears in various media.   Mr. Brusca holds an MA and Ph.D. in economics from Michigan State University and a BA in Economics from the University of Michigan. His research pursues his strong interests in non aligned policy economics as well as international economics. FAO Economics’ research targets investors to assist them in making better investment decisions in stocks, bonds and in a variety of international assets. The company does not manage money and has no conflicts in giving economic advice.

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