This extract from John Mauldin’s Thought’s From The Frontline suggests that the downturn in US housing could be bad for inflation:
Indeed, there may be some concerns that the CPI (Consumer Price Index) number could come under pressure from the housing component. Given that home prices are falling, that may be considered odd by many. But CPI does not measure home prices. It measures something called owner’s equivalent rent. And even as house prices rose by 93% in real terms (per Bob Shiller) in the last decade run-up, rent in real terms did not go up all that much, so the cost of a new home was not reflected in the CPI.
Now, we may have the opposite problem. As more and more people cannot get a mortgage coupled with a very precipitous rise in foreclosures, we are seeing more people who need to rent. Rental property availability in many markets is quite tight, which means that rent prices are increasing. If you go to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and look at the housing rent data, it is not too hard to think that the housing component of CPI could easily rise by more than 4% in the fourth quarter given the current trend.
Since the housing component is about 30% of the total CPI, a 4% inflation in housing could be significant. And oil is over $80 and rising. The dollar is falling, meaning that import prices are going to rise. And should we mention that food costs a lot more than this time last year?