Guest post by Azizonomics.
I have written before that there is no single rate of inflation, and that different individuals experience their own rate dependent on their own individual spending preferences. This — among other reasons — is why I find the notion of single uniform rate of inflation — as central banks attempt to influence via their price stability mandates — problematic.
While many claim that inflation is at historic lows, those who spend a large share of their income on necessities might disagree. Inflation for those who spend a large proportion of their income on things like medical services, food, transport, clothing and energy never really went away. And that was also true during the mid 2000s — while headline inflation levels remained low, these numbers masked significant increases in necessities; certainly never to the extent of the 1970s, but not as slight as the CPI rate — pushed downward by deflation in things like consumer electronics imports from Asia — suggested.
This biflationary (or polyflationary?) reality is totally ignored by a single CPI figure. To get a true comprehension of the shape of prices, we must look at a much broader set of data:
Summary: This paper presents a simple heuristic measure of tail risk, which is applied to individual bank stress tests and to public debt. Stress testing can be seen as a first order test of the level of potential negative outcomes in response to tail shocks. However, the results of stress testing can be misleading in the presence of model error and the uncertainty attending parameters and their estimation. The heuristic can be seen as a second order stress test to detect nonlinearities in the tails that can lead to fragility, i.e., provide additional information on the robustness of stress tests. It also shows how the measure can be used to assess the robustness of public debt forecasts, an important issue in many countries. The heuristic measure outlined here can be used in a variety of situations to ascertain an ordinal ranking of fragility to tail risks.
Full paper here.
Weekend reading on oil prices. Oilprice.com was fortunate enough to speak with the world’s leading energy economist, Professor James Hamilton. James is a professor in the Economics Department at the University of California, San Diego. (via Doug Short).
Interview conducted by James Stafford of Oilprice.com
James Stafford: Oil prices have shot up in the last month. What range do you see oil prices trading in over the next 12 months?
James Hamilton: Oil prices have always been very volatile. If you look at 12-month logarithmic changes in WTI going back to 1947, you come up with a standard deviation of 0.27. In other words, 25% moves up or down within a year are fairly common, and 50% moves or greater have also been seen on a number of occasions.
If you look at options prices at the moment, they imply the same level of uncertainty looking forward. For example, somebody today is willing to pay $2.90/barrel for a NYMEX option to buy oil in September 2013 at $120/barrel, consistent with a standard deviation of annual log changes of 0.26. The market is saying that prices that high or higher are not that remote a possibility.
And if you look at current fundamentals, it’s not hard to imagine big moves in either direction coming fairly quickly. The price of oil would surely collapse if we saw a significant economic downturn in China (something nobody can rule out) or if Iraq succeeds in producing even half of its ambitious production targets (though I personally consider the latter unlikely). On the other hand, a military confrontation with Iran could produce a pretty spectacular price spike. If the Strait of Hormuz were to close, for example, it would represent a shock to world production that in percentage terms would be 3 times as big as the 1973-74 OPEC embargo.