Why the Drivers of Lower Inflation Matter | Kanebridge News
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Why the Drivers of Lower Inflation Matter

Competing effects of central banks, healing supply chains affect recession odds

By NICK TIMIRAOS
Wed, Aug 2, 2023 8:56amGrey Clock 4 min

Recent good news on inflation has ignited a debate over how much central banks’ interest-rate increases are responsible.

The answer matters for where inflation and interest rates are headed. The Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank in the past week lifted their benchmark interest rates to 22-year highs and left the door open to additional increases.

If higher rates weren’t responsible for the progress on inflation to date, that suggests central banks may be able to lower them before a painful recession sets in.

Central banks generally see their influence on inflation coming through higher rates damping the demand for goods, services and workers, which leads to higher unemployment. That in turn puts downward pressure on prices and wages.

Only the second part of that sequence has occurred. Inflation fell to 3% in the U.S. in June, according to the Fed’s preferred gauge, the personal-consumption expenditures price index, down from 7% one year earlier. Yet the unemployment rate, at 3.6% in June, has held steady for the past year.

In the eurozone, inflation declined to 5.5% in June, the lowest level in nearly 18 months, and unemployment has drifted to the lowest in more than 25 years.

There are competing explanations for this.

One camp argues that inflation has been mostly driven by supply shocks that are going away on their own—much as a postwar surge in the late 1940s unwound by itself. The ripple effects gave the illusion of broader, more persistent price increases.

Take the auto market. Sellers weren’t able to meet pent-up demand two years ago, leading to huge price increases, which in turn spawned higher prices later on for car repairs and auto insurance.

Similarly, a surge in household formation during the pandemic sent up housing prices and rents.

The first camp attributes most of the recent decline in inflation to the ebbing of these one-time supply disruptions, not rate increases, which are supposed to work through the labor market. “It’s calling into question a lot of the old assumptions,” said Lindsay Owens, executive director at the Groundwork Collaborative, a liberal think tank.

A second camp, which includes most economists, disagrees. They say monetary policy kept demand for goods, services, and labor lower than otherwise, taking pressure off strained supply chains and allowing price pressures to ease.

Interest rates can also influence behaviour. The prospect that central bankers would risk a recession to bring down inflation may have influenced expectations of price- and wage-setters, including corporate executives who plan annual budgets for investment and hiring.

Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, warned one year ago of an economic “hurricane” as central banks accelerated rate increases. “You’d better brace yourself,” he said in June 2022, and pledged the bank would be “very conservative” with its balance sheet.

“Inflation is coming down precisely because the Fed avoided more excess demand growth, and they anchored inflation expectations,” said Angel Ubide, head of economic research for global fixed income at Citadel, a hedge-fund firm.

Inflation would be higher now if not for Fed rate increases, “and maybe still rising,” said Karen Dynan, an economist at Harvard University.

In 2021, supply-chain constraints meant even marginal increases in demand led to unusually large price increases. The reverse might be true now: Marginal decreases in demand can bring down prices faster, particularly if more supply is becoming available.

The car market illustrates how monetary policy has been transmitted. Rising rates raised monthly payments, damping demand and robbing sellers of pricing power. In addition, since March, banks appear to be rejecting more car-loan applications.

“That’s leading to a new group of people getting squeezed out of the market, and therefore, it’s playing a role putting downward pressure on prices,” said Julia Coronado, founder of economic-advisory firm MacroPolicy Perspectives.

In Europe, economic growth has stalled since late last year. Business surveys in the past week suggest that growth is weakening sharply, especially in manufacturing, which is most sensitive to interest rates.

The net share of banks reporting increased loan demand declined to a record low in the three months through June, according to an ECB survey of banks. Credit growth to households is the lowest since mid-2016.

Asked at a news conference on Thursday about the transmission of ECB rate increases to growth and inflation, President Christine Lagarde said that in the financial system, “a lot has been transmitted. A lot. We know that. In the economy at large, not as much yet.”

A report published by German insurer Allianz identifies three different forces on the U.S. inflation rate since the second quarter of 2022. Higher inflationary pressures from consumption growth, strong labor markets and government spending added 4 percentage points; fading supply-chain disruptions subtracted five points, and Federal Reserve actions subtracted another five. The net impact was that inflation fell 6 percentage points, whereas it would have fallen only one point without the Fed’s actions.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell said rate increases are “working about as we expect, and we think it’ll play an important role going forward” in bringing down prices for the most labor-intensive services.

Monetary policy has also affected the labor market, but this has shown up in declining job-vacancy rates rather than rising unemployment, some economists say.

Hiring plans in the eurozone services sector are dropping rapidly, according to a survey this month by the European Commission, the European Union’s executive body.

“The labor market is normalising on both sides of the Atlantic, reflecting the impact of higher rates,” said Stefan Gerlach, a former deputy governor of Ireland’s central bank.

The debate over the effect of rate increases also matters for how much further, if at all, central banks need to lift them. Optimists underestimated how much strong demand lifted inflation two years ago. Pessimists may be overestimating the importance of constraining demand to bring it down now.

Gerlach expects inflation to continue declining as higher rates sap demand. “I’m worried central banks have done too much,” he said. “They may have felt embarrassed about having misunderstood inflation the first time.”



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Saudi Arabia’s 2024 Summer TOURISM Plans Unveils New Incentives and Global Attractions

“Saudi Summer is Next Door” plans to boost tourism in the Kingdom over four months across seven destinations.

Wed, May 22, 2024 4 min

Saudi Arabia has unveiled its plan to attract international tourists this summer. The strategy includes appealing visa options, complimentary airline tickets for families, a lineup of major events, and opportunities for tax-free shopping.

The initiative, organized under the guidance of Ahmed Al Khateeb, Minister of Tourism and Chairman of the Saudi Tourism Authority (STA), is named “Saudi Summer is Next Door.”

Jeddah

Extensive Summer 2024 Tourism Activities

The initiative will span four months, ending in September, and will be hosted across seven key destinations: Aseer, Al Baha, Taif, the Red Sea, Jeddah, Riyadh, and AlUla.

It features over 550 tourism products and more than 150 specially tailored offers and packages for families and various interest groups including adventure enthusiasts, luxury seekers, and cultural and heritage buffs.

The launch event of the Saudi Summer Program 2024 was attended by notable figures such as Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization, in addition to more than 250 key partners from both public and private sectors, prominent media personalities, and influential opinion leaders.

Showcasing Global Events and Cultural Richness

This year’s program will also welcome back the Jeddah Season and introduce the Aseer Season, each filled with various activities and events for families. The Kingdom will host several significant events as part of the summer program, including the first Esports World Cup in Riyadh, an eight-week competition featuring top esports athletes, and various boxing tournaments in Riyadh and Jeddah.

During the event, Al Khateeb highlighted the latest global tourism trends, the Kingdom’s growth in the tourism sector, and the record-high tourist numbers that have propelled Saudi Arabia to the top of the UN World Tourism list and the G20 nations list.

Al Baha

Al Khateeb emphasized, “Saudi Arabia is witnessing a transformative period in tourism, driven by our vision to position the Kingdom as a premier global destination. The Saudi Summer Program 2024 is our commitment to showcasing the rich cultural heritage, natural beauty, and unparalleled hospitality that Saudi Arabia offers. “We invite local and international tourists to experience the diversity of our seven unique destinations and take advantage of the exceptional offers and packages designed to create unforgettable memories. “This initiative, supported by our strategic partnerships and groundbreaking efforts like the eVisa and increased flight connectivity, demonstrates our dedication to making Saudi Arabia more accessible and appealing to tourists worldwide. “We look forward to welcoming visitors from all corners of the globe to explore and enjoy the vibrant experiences that await them this summer.”

Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization, also remarked, “Saudi tourism is witnessing unparalleled development at all levels, achieving great leaps in recent years, which I witnessed during my multiple visits to this hospitable country.”

Riyadh

“Saudi Arabia has global indicators related to the number of tourists, which has qualified it to top the UN World Tourism list of significant tourist destinations.”

“All of these great achievements for Saudi tourism would not have been possible without proper planning by those in charge of the sector in the Kingdom and the great potential it possesses in terms of diverse climates, stunning natural landmarks, and the generosity of Saudi people who are distinguished by their hospitality, raising the ceiling of ambitions for new achievements.”

STA CEO Fahd Hamidaddin said: “While temperatures in the region rise to high levels during summer, temperatures in the highlands of Saudi Arabia in the southern region decrease to the extent that we even witnessed snowfall in Al Soudah yesterday.” “Through the promotional campaign for the Saudi Summer Program 2024, we seek to highlight the uniqueness of our destinations and their climatic, natural, and cultural diversity, along with the exceptional events and activities happening during summer. “This year’s summer program includes more than 550 tourism products and 150 special offers designed in collaboration with STA’s partners, which include attractive offers from hotels, airlines offering free tickets for children in partnership with major travel, tourism, and aviation companies, and exceptional products in the Aseer Season and Jeddah Season like tax-free shopping offers and many new and exciting experiences such as private beaches for tourists and ladies’ beaches.”

“The campaign slogan “Saudi Summer is Next Door” embodies an open invitation to explore the magic of Saudi destinations and their diversity. This diversity is expressed with simple words that reflect the uniqueness of each destination, such as “Closer,” “Cooler,” “More Beautiful,” and “More Affordable.”

The private sector is a very important component of the success of tourism programs and initiatives, and the Saudi Tourism Authority is committed to empowering it by fostering demand for products and offers that align with the aspirations of tourists globally.

The launch of the Saudi Summer Program 2024 marks a period when visiting the Kingdom has become easier, smoother, and safer through measures such as the availability of the eVisa to citizens of 66 countries, a 20 percent reduction in eVisa prices, and a significant increase in the number of weekly flights from

Gulf cities to Saudi summer destinations, now totaling 1,100.

Residents of the GCC can also benefit from the GCC residents visa, which allows them multiple entries and a stay of up to 90 days in the Kingdom over a year. Moreover, the number of hotel rooms available to travelers is set to increase, with an additional 25,000 rooms expected to be added this year.

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