Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inflation v/s Deflation

Cassandra has a post on Inflation v/s Deflation that highlights and links to some interesting points-of-views on the debate. The most interesting bit she quotes from Dr. Perrry Mehrling is:

Everything in the post is correct, and very much on the minds of every Fed watcher. The question is, what does it mean? I have what may be a contrarian view.

It seems to me that what we are seeing is simply the balance sheet consequences of the Fed's decision to take the wholesale money market onto its own balance sheet. Banks (and other entities) that used to lend to one another, are now lending and borrowing through the intermediation of the Fed. This is so not just domestically but also internationally (the huge swap line), since foreign banks used to fund dollar asset holdings in the dollar money market.

In this view, inflation seems much less likely. Why not? If the original wholesale money market borrowing and lending was not inflationary, then why should its substitute be inflationary? Indeed, the real question is whether the expansion of the Fed's balance sheet is keeping pace with the contraction of money market credit more generally. If not, then the consequence may be deflationary.

David Pearson argues in comments that inflation and deflation are also impacted by velocity. The arguments by Cassandra and David Pearson are interesting to say the least.

My thoughts are more aligned with fluid dynamics when thinking of money flow. This is not a laminar flow or a standard textbook turbulent flow. This is, to my mind, a special case of turbulent flow. I think big money will swamp certain markets testing the regulatory strengths of gate-keepers - while we have dry patches of liquidity crunch at some other places. The "tipping point" (as David puts it) is going to be realisation of true value of US treasuries. That will start a true "dance of the headless chickens" in the big-money space.