Thursday, August 7, 2008

Can it rain and be sunny at the same time?

On Monday of this week, the inflation rate for the month of July was reported to be 0.8% or an annualized rate of 9.6%. This compares with an annualized rate in June of 7.2%. This would appear to be bad news because it means the price of goods and services are going up at a much higher rate than the Federal Reserve Board (Fed) would like to see (1.5% to 2.5%). In such a situation, you would expect to see the Fed increase their key interest rate. On Tuesday, the Fed met and left the key interest rate unchanged at 2%. This also means that the prime leading rate stays at 5%. The stock markets took this as good news, with a healthy advance in prices. The bond market took it as bad news with interest rates rising (and therefore the price of bonds declining). It would seem that, with the price of oil falling for the past week and the economy not looking its best, the Fed decided to gamble that prices will stabilize as oil prices are reduced. The lower oil prices could benefit food and transportation costs. This in turn could mean that inflation will be reduced. What we are seeing, in any event, is that the current Fed is more concerned with the economy than with inflation. Ed Mallon