Will inflation remain at or below 2% forever?

Why has inflation stubbornly resisted to rise above 2%, as the Fed has expected it to do? Ken Fisher, founder and executive chairman of Fisher Investments, thinks he has the answer. In an article from USA Today, he states that the reason why inflation has not increased regardless of what stimulus the Fed has created, is because of Quantitative Easing (QE). In the article, Ken states that the effect of the government's repurchasing of billions of dollars’ worth of securities every month, which lowered the long term (30-year) interest rates, also had the effect of reducing the money supply. [1]

Will inflation remain at or below 2% forever? I don’t think so. The Fed has already announced their plans to slowly unwind QE, to sell the assets on their books (initially $10 billion per month and increasing to $50 billion per month) over the next several years. And it would take many, many years to sell those assets, as the accumulation of QE purchases since the 2008 financial crisis has culminated in $4.2 trillion of assets. This “unwinding” of QE should flood the system with the capital it needs to allow the inflationary pressures to take hold. This will take the deflation worry off the next Fed chairman’s (Jay Powell’s) plate. [2]

The next question should be, how will this affect long term inflation expectations? While Ken Fisher’s article seems to indicate that there are no inflation risks in the foreseeable future, I disagree with his conclusion. My expectation is that inflation will slowly creep into our lives, so slowly at first that we will not notice it. But over the long term, say the next 10-15 years, I expect inflation to once again become the beast that will not be contained – like a 1970s rerun.

Inflation or CPI from 1982 to 2017

Figure 1: Annual CPI from 1982 to 2017 [3]

[1] https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/columnist/2017/11/05/why-we-havent-had-much-inflation-and-wont-federal-reserve-head-janet-yellen-has-misplaced-inflation/830274001

[2] Transcript of Chair Yellen’s Press Conference Opening Remarks, September 20, 2017, https://www.federalreserve.gov/mediacenter/files/FOMCpresconf20170920.pdf

[3] https://data.bls.gov/pdq/SurveyOutputServlet

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