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In today’s note, we focus on the growing risk of deflation in the aftermath of the pandemic. The coronavirus is a pure negative externality that initially caused a negative supply shock that was rapidly offset by a negative global aggregate demand shock resulting from social distancing and lockdown measures. The fact that global commodity prices are plunging also speaks to the fact that we are dealing with a demand shock. Evidence is mounting that global aggregate demand is doomed to remain weak in the coming months due to the hysteresis effect, which increases the risk that many countries will flirt with deflation this year and next year.
In the United States, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis has built an index to track the risk of deflation: the Prices Pressures Measures (PPM). It measures the probability that the personal consumption expenditures prices index inflation rate (PCEPI) over the next twelve months will fall below zero. It includes 104 series such as foreign prices variables, PPI, labor market indicators etc. (for additional information of the PPM and its construction, please see here). According to the Prices Pressures Measures, there is probability of 0.76 (that is, 76%) that the U.S. will fall into deflation over the next twelve months. Clearly, the Fed’s favorite deflation probability indicator is in risk-zone. This is the second highest level ever reached since its creation, after the peak of January 2009 at 0.82. We observe the same worrying trend in many developed countries, but also a drastic fall in inflation forecasts for many emerging countries.