Saturday, January 31, 2015

Nothing So Dear as #cheapmoney

Over the past few years, I've heard from time to time in conversation the desire to take advantage of "cheap" fixed-rate money, before inflation sets in. 

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (US)
10-Year Treasury Constant Maturity Rate [DGS10]
retrieved from Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis [FRED]
January 30, 2015, available at
On the right is a graph (it's actually a composite of some screenshots) from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.  I've marked when I was born, and when I graduated from high school. At my birth and graduation, the yield on the 10-Year Treasury was nearly identical (~7.5%, ~33 basis points apart). Between those dates, the yield was almost always higher, often much higher; since then, it's almost always been lower, mostly much lower. As of 30 January 2015, the yield is 1.64%.

Everyone carries a memory of economic history in their head. As Owen Zidar points out here, it changes more slowly than the speed of circumstances. Brad Delong has consistently argued for the necessity of all of us to "mark our beliefs to market." He maintains a list of prominent economists and institutions who've argued inflation was the foremost concern facing the U.S. economy since 2007 -- and not for the purpose of congratulating them.

Like the economists Brad lists, our formative memories were constructed during a different time. Inflation expectations became anchored. But there are few atheists in foxholes during combat, and for similar reasons, I suspect that inflationistas in debt are rare during deflation -- for falling prices routinely bankrupt entrepreneurs. There is oftentimes nothing so dear as "cheap" money.