Irish Negotiations on Brexit

Re-Blogged From Stratfor

When Irish politicians from both sides of the border met on Aug. 4 to discuss the consequences of Brexit on Northern Ireland there were at least some areas of agreement. Both the Republic and the province would, ideally, like to preserve the free movement of people and goods across the border once the United Kingdom leaves the European Union. However, as is so often the case, views within the province are divided. While nationalists in Northern Ireland give high priority to the open border with the Republic, unionist politicians want to find a balance between minimizing the disruptions created by Brexit and making sure that Northern Ireland remains a part of the United Kingdom.

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Shrinkflation – Real Inflation Much Higher Than Reported

By Mark O’Byrne – Re-Blogged From http://www.Gold-Eagle.com

  • Shrinkflation – Real inflation much higher than reported and realised
  • Shrinkflation is taking hold in consumer sector
  • Important consumer, financial, monetary and economic issue being largely ignored by financial analysts, financial advisers, economists, central banks and the media.
  • Food becoming more expensive as consumers get less for price paid
  • A form of stealth inflation, few can avoid it
  • Brexit is the scapegoat for shrinkflation by the media and companies
  • Consumers blame retailers rather than central banks
  • Gold hedge has doubled in value since 2007 

Shrinkflation: no one left untouched

600 new words entered our official lexicon this week as the Oxford English Dictionary announced the latest new additions to their online records.

One of the words reportedly up for consideration was shrinkflation. It did not make the final cut and as a result continues to be defined by the authority as ‘a portmanteau, made from combining shrink: ‘to become or make smaller in size’, with the economic sense of inflation: ‘a general increase in prices and fall in the purchasing value of money’.

In order for a word to be accepted into the OED it must have been in use for at least five years. But the latest list suggests that this isn’t the case and exceptions can be made. The inclusion of ‘superbrat’, a word which is usually associated with the behaviour of John McEnroe in the 1970s, actually dates back to the the 1950s.

Yet, shrinkflation continues to elude the world’s authority on the English language. This seems bizarre to us given both the word and the phenomenon and something consumers have been experiencing for a number of years.

Although it is understandable in the context of an important consumer, financial and economic issue which is being largely ignored by financial analysts, financial advisers, economists and the media.

We first covered the shrinkflation phenomenon back in 2014 when we reported how  Dr. Philippa Malmgren had highlighted this ‘shrinkflation’ trend in a new book.

Shrinkflation: A New Phenomenon?

As we mentioned last week, shrinkflation is a phenomenon that is not unique to the current financial crisis. In 1916 The Seattle Star ran a front-page story on the issue, ‘“[Inspectors] went from bakery to bakery Thursday checking up on the bread situation…And here is what they found: ten-cent loaves of bread have shrunk from 32 ounces to 22 ounces, and standard 5-cent loaves, that used to weigh 16 ounces, now average 11 ounces.”

Search Graph for Shrinkflation (Google)

Granted, back in 1916 the word ‘shrinkflation’ was not in use but it had a place firmly in the economy. Use of the word shrinkflation has been picking up pace since at least 2012. We can see this by the examining the search history for the phrase on Google.

You can clearly see a peak in the search for the term in November 2016. It was at this point when news of the newly designed Toblerone hit the British newspapers. Mondelez, Toblerone’s manufacturers had announced they would be reducing the bars from 170 grams to 150 grams in the UK which would affect the shape.

Mondelez’s justification for the change was due to an uptick in ‘many ingredients’ prices’, the company specifically blamed the drop of the euro against the Swiss franc in January, and an increase in cocoa prices over the last three years.

Cocoa Prices – Money Week

It’s not just Toblerone fans who are feeling the pinch on chocolate bars. Creme Eggs and Quality Street (other British high street favourites) have been shrinking, with price remaining the same.

Other household items and food prices have also been affected.

Brexit Is The Scapegoat

Even though we can go back nearly 100 years to witness shrinkflation and see evidence of it in our household items and online searches, it is only in the last year that manufacturers and the media have managed to find a reason for its existence.

Brexit is being blamed – as it is being blamed for a number of woes being experienced in the UK at present.

Brexit seems to be bearing the brunt of the blame for the recent shrinkages, thanks to the impact of the referendum of the price of sterling. You don’t need to have a PhD in economics to understand the effect this has on prices.

12 months since the vote sterling is still weak, it is 15% down against the US dollar, and 14% against the euro. Things are expected to get worse, with HSBC analysts expecting the pound to hit parity with the euro by the end of the year.

There is little doubt that a weak currency will impact the cost of raw goods and materials which make up chocolate bars and other items. However shrinkflation existed even when the pound was strong.

No Sign Of Easing Up

In 2015 the Irish Times reported on this very topic and referred to a 2014 Which? survey:

Aunt Bessie’s Homestyle Chips were reduced in size from 750g to 700g, while a box of Surf with Essential Oils washing powder fell in size from 2kg to 1.61kg. In 2014 there was 750g of mixed vegetables in a Birds Eye Select bag; today it is 690g. Cif Actifizz Multi-Purpose Lemon Spray and Domestos Spray Bleach Multipurpose Cleaner were reduced in size from 750ml last year to 700ml today…

‘The shrinkage does not end there. In previous years, Which? has recorded one- litre tubs of Carte D’Or ice cream turning into 900ml tubs, while a litre of Innocent smoothies became 900ml. Magnum ice creams, which used to be 360ml, are now 330ml, and the size of a bar of Imperial Leather soap fell from 125g to 100g, a reduction of 20 per cent…

‘The list goes on. A packet of 48 Persil washing tablets turned into a packet of 40, a decline of 16.6 per cent, while 56 Pampers Baby Wipes used to be a packet of 63, an 11.1 per cent reduction.’

This was well before the EU referendum. It was impossible to blame a weak currency, instead this was and remains all about the impact of real inflation on consumer prices. This is despite having been told for years that inflation was very low.

UK Inflation Expectations (FT)

Inflation expectations are relatively low amongst households in the UK, EU and U.S.

Only now are we beginning to see both officials and individuals wake up to the presence of inflation in the UK. In May consumer prices accelerated faster than BoE expectations. They hit a four-year high of 2.9% and are expected to exceed 3% in the coming months.

In the UK, there are some concerns and dissent has increased in the BoE’s monetary policy committee (MPC) over the suitability of its record low interest rate policy in regard to rising inflationary pressures. It has been some time since we have seen any sign of concern regarding inflationary issues, from members of the MPC.

Meanwhile in households it looks like it has taken the appearance of a chocolate bar to drive the message home that businesses are experiencing price pressures. Unfortunately this has merely come out as anger towards companies rather than the central banks and governments who are ultimately responsible for this inflationary issue.

Unjust for consumers or time to take responsibility?

Which? magazine and consumer action groups have tried to bring retailers to account for what are considered to be misleading practices.

In Ireland, the Consumer Association’s Chief Executive stated

“I don’t know if we can say consumers are being deliberately misled but they are being put in a position where it becomes very difficult to make informed decisions.”

“I think the worst example of this is the widespread shrinking of products. The content gets smaller but the price and the packaging stays the same. These are price increases by stealth, and by any measure inflation of this nature is abnormal in the current environment. I think they are appalling.”

As we have seen with quantitative easing, bank bailouts and the overall financial crisis consumers seem to be relatively disinterested in fighting back against these practices that ultimately cost them more.

A YouGov survey found that 46 per cent those polled would prefer to pay more for an item than see it shrink. Yet 36 per cent said they’d be satisfied if the pack got smaller, but the price stayed the same.

The same survey run by YouGov Portion Sizes and Health found that firms risk losing over a third of their customer base if they cut pack sizes by 15 per cent.

While there is uproar on Facebook pages about this topic, the concerns of some consumers are not being voiced by politicians, economists, central bankers or the media.

Depite the zeitgeist of the moment, this isn’t about retailers taking advantage of consumers. Shrinkflation is a very serious byproduct of a practice which has been going on for many years now.

Shrinkflation is just inflation in stealth mode and is the consequence of currency debasement on a scale that the world has never seen before.

It brings the economy’s problems literally to the kitchen table.

We are finally at a point where those who have so far been apparently untouched by the financial crisis i.e. the middle classes who still have jobs, they have seen their homes increase in value and they still go abroad twice a year, are beginning to see their cost of living increase.

As are the working classes, pensioners and those on low salaries or fixed incomes.

They will soon recognise that no one is left unharmed by the monetary and economic policies which followed the financial crisis.

Easy monetary policy is wealth ignorant. It gives little regard to how you spend your money and where you hold your cash. That’s why savers have to make room for those real assets which cannot be shrunk down and magicked away.

Investments such as gold and silver by their very nature are immune to the shrinkflation effect and are an important hedge against it.

Next time you’re considering that bar of Toblerone at the supermarket checkout, just imagine how much is missing compared to when you would have bought with the proceeds of your first payslip.

Then consider how much a bar of gold would have changed since then, the fact is that it hasn’t. You would still have the same sized bar, with the same gold content and it is worth a lot more now.

Gold in USD – 10 Years

Gold is twice the price it was before the crisis in 2007. While many household goods and products are higher in price or the same price but a much smaller size.

Shrinkflation is happening and real inflation is much higher than is being reported or people realise.

Your purchasing power and your wealth can be preserved from the ravages of shrinkflation, just don’t expect it to happen courtesy of central banks and governments.

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French Election Could See Euro Break Up

By Mark O’Byrne – Re-Blogged From GoldCore

David McWilliams, economist, writer and journalist, has warned that the coming French election may lead to the euro breaking up and that Ireland should have a ‘plan B’ and ‘print punts’ in order to be ready for the collapse of the “single currency.”

David McWilliams at Ireland’s Banking Inquiry

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Ireland’s Monetary Gold Reserves: High Level Secrecy vs. Freedom Of Information (Part I)

By Ronan Manly – Re-Blogged From http://www.Gold-Eagle.com

This article and a sequel article together chronicle a long-running investigation that has attempted, with limited success to date, to establish a number of basic details about Ireland’s official monetary gold reserves, basic details such as whether this gold is actually allocated, what type of storage contract the gold is stored under, and supporting documentation in the form of a gold bar weight list. Ireland’s gold reserves are held by the Central Bank of Ireland but are predominantly stored (supposedly) with the Bank of England in London.

At many points along the way, this investigation has been hindered and stymied by lack of cooperation from the Central Bank of Ireland and the Irish Government’s Department of Finance. Freedom of Information requests have been ignored, rejected and refused, and there has also been outright interference from the Bank of England. Many of these obstacles are featured below and in the sequel article.

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Globalization Faces Challenges

By John Browne – Re-Blogged From http://www.Silver-Phoenix500.com

For much of the second half of the 20th Century, and even into the new millennium, “Globalization” was the dominant theme used to describe the drift of the world economy. It was widely considered both natural and inevitable that the world economy would continue to integrate and that national boundaries would become less constraining to commerce and culture. And with the exception of the eternal “anti-globalization” protesters, who robotically appeared at large gatherings of world leaders, the benefits of globalization were widely lauded by politicians, corporate leaders and rank and file citizens alike. But a casual glance at the world headlines of 2016 suggests that the belief in globalization has crested, and is now in retreat. What are the consequences of this change?

International trade has existed for millennia. But few modern historians would characterize the trade caravans that crossed the Himalayas and the Sahara as sources of international conflict. Rather, they are widely seen as a useful means to bring goods that were plentiful from one region to other regions where they were scarce. Along the way, routes like the Silk Road in Asia created a great number of positive secondary benefits in culture and politics. But relatively modern developments such as ocean-going sailing ships, modern navigation, and steam and diesel power, have greatly increased the size and scope of trade. Globalism was also boosted rapidly by technological advances in communications, including intercontinental jet travel, fax machines, satellite telephones, the Internet, real time money transfers and massive investment flows to international and emerging markets.

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Property Bubble In Ireland Developing Again

By Mark O’Byrne – Re-Blogged From http://www.Silver-Phoenix500.com

Budget 2017: “Good Work To Halt Second Property Crash Undone In A Day”

David McWilliams has pointed out in two of his most recent articles how Budget 2017 and the latest mortgage tax grant risk creating a “second property crash”:

“We are faced with similar concerns on the horizon now. Unlike 2008, when this country went bust, or in 2012, when the euro as a currency was in real danger of falling apart, there is no serious internal threat. In 2012, the world’s central bankers cutting interest rates to zero prevented the disintegration of the euro. This may have saved the currency then, but it means that today central bankers have no ammunition left if there is another downturn. Interest rates are as low as they can go.

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Things Go From Bad to Worse for Ireland

By Dan O’Brien – Re-Blogged From http://www.independent.ie

Twenty years ago this month I moved to Malta to work in the European Commission’s diplomatic mission on the island. With the Mediterranean state seeking to become a member of the EU, my job, as the mission’s economic and political affairs officer, was to be a cog in the complicated process of the country joining the bloc.

But within weeks of arrival, the government unexpectedly changed. The new administration was almost alone among European political parties at the time in not wanting membership of the EU. The Maltese had something akin to their Brexit moment. The accession process was halted in its tracks.

As is the case now with Theresa May’s government, it was far from clear what kind of relationship the new Maltese administration wanted with Europe. Like the Brexiteers last June after the referendum, the island’s opposition hadn’t expected to win and were not prepared for the consequences of its victory.

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