Technology is having a massive disinflationary impact on the global economy and, when it comes to interest rates and monetary policy, we need to rewrite the playbook to a certain degree, noted a strategist from BlackRock in a recent interview with FS Insider.
“We are literally at the precipice of this dramatic hockey stick effect in terms of the scale at which you have technological evolution and its disinflationary impact,” said Shayan Hussain.
Tech stands to completely change the fabric of the global economy. Many goods have actually already entered into disinflation or deflation in the last 20 years, he noted. If we think about iPhones, for example, in 1995 it would have cost $1.4 million to buy a computer with similar computing capacity.
All of this is possible due to Moore's Law and increased automation with computers, electronics, and software feeling the greatest impact.
Other areas aren't immune, however. Automobiles, one of the largest ticket items purchased by consumers, are quickly becoming very sophisticated computers on wheels, as Musk once said about the Tesla Model S, also noting that his car company "is a software company as much as it is a hardware company."
According to BlackRock's analysis, the all-in costs to drive a Tesla Model 3 for five years is a meager $15 a day, without factoring in resale value, Hussain noted. Those costs (and the pressure on other car manufacturers) is likely to increase.
Technological deflation “is taking place in every corner of the economy,” he said.
The other clear progression that we’re seeing is the waning effectiveness of brand power in terms of pricing because of platforms such as Amazon.
“Why is Whole Foods so important to Amazon?” he asked. “It’s because of their generic brands. … That’s where the economy is going. It’s not necessarily about the brand itself. It’s about the content and a greater focus on the quality of the content.”
The moderation or weakness in inflation is not a function of any kind of demand impact, Hussain noted. Rather, it’s a function of a significant and historic supply-side shock.
Consider energy. Spikes in inflation have historically been a function of energy prices, Hussain noted. With the advent of horizontal fracking in the United States, we’ve seen efficiency and production increase and price pressures come to bear as a result.
What this means is that, not only is our economy radically changing, but central banks, which have historically targeted levels of inflation, will likely have to rethink their strategy.
“When thinking about monetary policy, you kind of have to rewrite the rulebook to a certain degree, because what we’ve done over the last nearly 10 years at this point has never been done in history to this scale. There’s no playbook.”