Ireland gets deflation

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For the time being, I am more worried abut the potential inflationary effects of quantitative easing than about the deflationary impact of deleveraging.  But, the latest news from Ireland shows us that deflation is alive and well. This comes via the Irish Independent:

Consumer prices recorded a second annual drop in April as the cost of energy, clothes and food declined amid a deepening recession.

Prices based on a European Union measure dropped 0.7 percent from a year earlier after falling at the same rate in March, the Cork-based Central Statistics Office said today. The decline in March was the first annual drop since the data were first collected in 1996. Prices rose 0.1 percent in April from the previous month.

Crude oil has dropped around 60 percent since reaching a record $150 a barrel in July. At the same time, waning consumer demand as unemployment rises has prompted stores to cut prices.Tesco this month said it will reduce prices at some Irish stores by as much as 22 percent.

Rising unemployment and tax increases have “heightened consumers’ reluctance to spend,” Lynsey Clemenger, an economist at Ulster Bank in Dublin, said in an e-mailed note today. “Prices have further to fall, as the consumer strike continues.”

The EU measure excludes mortgage interest payments. Based on an Irish gauge, prices fell 3.5 percent in April from a year earlier, the biggest decline since 1933.

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In my opinion, the ECB’s recent announcement that it was getting into the covered bond market has a lot more to do with Spain and Ireland than it does with Germany.  Spain and Ireland suffer from their joining the Euro to escape the impossible trinity of free exchange rates, independent monetary policy and free capital movement.  Having sacrificed monetary policy for a fixed exchange rate, the Spanish and Irish are seeing some horrific debt deflation dynamics.  The ECB seems to have awoken to this and is now engaged in quantitative easing via the covered bond market (although Trichet denies this). See Edward Hugh’s take on this from a Spanish perspective.

So, Ireland has joined the deflation camp along with Spain, the U.K., Switzerland and China, to name a few.  If you think this deleveraging cycle is too powerful for the money printers to override, you’ll see the increasing number of countries with deflationary numbers as a bad harbinger.  However, if like me, you are equally concerned about the upturn in commodity prices and the steepness of the yield curve, you will also see inflation as a looming threat.

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To be continued.

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