Jason Furman, an economist at Harvard University, said many forecasters have done what investors sometimes call “perfection pricing”: assuming everything will be fine, even if that’s not the more likely.
“You can look at the individual items: there have been a lot of them: what if inflation in X, Y, Z goes down?” he said. “And no: what if inflation in A, B, C increases?”
Many of the factors prompting economists to raise their inflation forecasts are no longer even tied to supply chains.
Matthew Luzzetti, chief US economist at Deutsche Bank, recently revised up his inflation projections because rental costs are rising so rapidly in the consumer price index. Between that and wage growth, he thinks, high inflation will last unless the Fed steps in.
“For some time, inflation forecasters had anticipated that the property side would return to more normal dynamics” just as prices for services, such as rents, began to rise, he said. Service prices have indeed increased, but the normalization of good prices continues to be “postponed”.
Consumers continue to spend more of their budget on goods rather than services — purchases like travel and manicures — compared to before the pandemic. This means that global producers are still struggling to meet demand. Even potentially short-lived disruptions, such as those occurring in China, can add to a snowball of delays and shortages.
Data released this month showed that the U.S. trade deficit hit a record high in January, at the height of the Omicron wave, in part due to surging imports of cars and energy. The average time to ship a container from a Chinese factory to a US warehouse had stretched to 82 days in February, according to Freightos, a logistics platform, from 45 days two years earlier.