Money Moves Markets

Global real money squeeze approaching recession threshold

March 4, 2022 by Simon Ward

Global real money trends were signalling economic weakness before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The consequent spike in commodity prices threatens a recession warning signal.

Global six-month real narrow money growth – the key monetary leading indicator followed here – turned negative before the six global recessions preceding the covid shock – see chart 1. The covid recession was not a genuine cyclical contraction because it was caused by a government shutdown of economic activity rather than endogenous spending weakness.

Chart 1

Chart showing Global Industrial Output & Real Narrow Money.

With most data now in, six-month real narrow money growth was an estimated 1.4% (not annualised) in January. This decomposes into nominal money growth of 3.8% and six-month consumer price momentum of 2.3% – chart 2.

Chart 2

Chart showing G7 + E7 Narrow Money & Consumer Prices.

CPI momentum seemed likely to moderate before the invasion, based on a slowdown in the six-month change in commodity prices into December – chart 3. The latest spike suggests renewed upward pressure. A reasonable expectation is that the six-month CPI change will match the 2008 peak of 2.9% if commodity prices remain at current levels.

Chart 3

Chart showing G7 + E7 Consumer Prices & Commodity Prices.

The global inflation measure, however, will receive an additional boost from a surge in Russian consumer prices due to the rouble’s collapse. Russian six-month CPI momentum was 4.9% (again, not annualised) in January but could rise to 15-20% – chart 4. Admittedly, a larger rouble fall in 2014-15 was associated with a lower six-month inflation peak of 11.3% but the depreciation then was driven by oil price weakness, which had an offsetting effect. Russian energy prices could decline as international buyers switch to other suppliers leading to a domestic glut, but any fall is unlikely to be as large as in 2014-15, while sanctions and consequent shortages may put upward pressure on other items.

Chart 4

Chart showing Russia Consumer Prices & USDRUB.

Russia has a 4% weight in the G7 plus E7 measures calculated here so a 10-15 pp rise in six-month CPI momentum from the current level would push up global CPI momentum by 0.4-0.6 pp.

The combined effect of the commodity price spike and rouble collapse, therefore, could be to boost global six-month CPI momentum by 1 pp or more. A slowdown in six-month nominal money growth of 0.5 pp would then be sufficient for real money growth to turn negative. A slowdown of this magnitude, or greater, is plausible on the basis of QE tapering and rate rises to date, without factoring in widely expected (but unwise) future policy tightening.

A further rise in global six-month CPI momentum – if the above scenario proves correct – may take several months to play out so a recession warning from real money might not be received until well into Q2.