Has global inflation peaked?

Plus: Egypt’s $3B IMF deal, protests continue in Iran, and Mongolian coal protests in -20°C

Hi there Intriguer. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has walked back his promise to award the Polish men’s football team a $6.7 million bonus for achieving the best result at the World Cup since 1986. It’s a huge backflip, but considering Poland’s current inflation rate of ~17%, he’s probably got better uses for those millions.

Today’s briefing is a ~4.3 min read:

  • 📈 Inflation has peaked: Three signs from the global economy.

  • ➕ Plus: Egypt’s $3B IMF deal, protests continue in Iran, and Mongolian coal protests in -20°C.

🎁 🍷 Don’t forget we’re giving away 6 bottles of wine to help you ring in the holidays. Enter to win by referring us to your friends. More referrals = more chances to win!*

📰 GLOBAL HEADLINES
🤿 DEEP DIVE

Has global inflation reached its peak?

In brief:

  • Inflation rates have been spiking this year, but it looks like they may have peaked.

  • While commodity prices, freight costs, and inflation expectations are finally cooling, the challenge will be returning to a sustainable 2% inflation rate.

Chair of the Federal Reserve Jerome Powell. Via Giphy

Some (potential) good news

Inflation has been one of the year’s most significant issues, but price increases might finally be slowing down.

  • Last week, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said: “It is far too early to declare goods inflation vanquished, but if current trends continue, goods prices should begin to exert downward pressure on overall inflation in coming months.”

And it’s not a regional phenomenon either: the inflation rate has declined in many countries globally, including Uruguay, Botswana, Singapore, Spain, and the US.

Why is inflation slowing?

It appears as though commodity prices are finally cooling off, which is easing inflationary pressure in the economy. Here are three (non-oil-based) indicators that tell us that inflation may have peaked.

1. 🍞 Food prices are stablising

Food prices are one of the most important consumer categories for calculating the inflation rate. Thankfully, the FAO food price index for November 2022 was only 0.3% higher than the November 2021 figures and has remained almost unchanged for two months in a row.

Fertiliser prices have also significantly declined from their peak earlier this year, which is excellent news considering previous worries about a looming food crisis.

2. 🚢 Trans-Pacific container prices are falling

Aside from commodity costs, freight prices have been steadily decreasing since March 2022. This suggests that an end to the pandemic supply chain bottleneck might be in sight.

In its November 2022 Asia Pacific market update, shipping giant Maersk notes that “[o]cean spot freight rates have also continued to see a dramatic fall and are now close to levels seen in the second half of 2020.”

3. 🧠 Consumers are expecting less inflation

Finally, consumers themselves are expecting a decline in inflation rates next year. The EU’s Consumer Expectations Survey released earlier this week shows that the median consumer expects inflation to reach 5.4% in 2023, down significantly from the current 10% annual rate.

It's not over yet

While inflation is finally slowing down, prices for things remain as high as Snoop Dogg on a random Wednesday (his words, not ours). And getting inflation under control will be a challenge.

[t]he [European Central Bank’s] goal of pushing the inflation rate back to just under 2% on a sustainable basis seems a long way off.”

Commerzbank economist Christoph Weil in an interview with Reuters

This has two crucial implications:

  1. Central banks will keep hiking interest rates into 2023.

  2. Consumers will continue to feel the pinch in the near term.

The bottom line: it’s good news that inflation appears to be easing, but it will take time for it to flow through the global economy.

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🔦 REGIONAL SPOTLIGHT

Africa & the Middle East

🇨🇩 DR Congo

Mining giant Glencore, the biggest Western company operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has agreed to pay $180 million to settle corruption allegations.

  • Glencore has already paid over $1.3B in fines this year and has been accused of bribery in at least six countries.

🇪🇬 Egypt

Egyptian authorities are awaiting a $3B IMF deal, which could be finalised as soon as next week.

  • The Egyptian economy isn’t doing great: despite two currency devaluations this year, the gap between the official and black market Egyptian pound exchange rate keeps growing.

🇮🇷 Iran

Despite mixed messages from Iranian officials, it looks like Iran’s ‘morality police’ won’t be permanently disbanded after all.

  • The government may still approve a few cosmetic reforms, but that hasn’t been enough to appease calls for a three-day nationwide strike.

🇹🇿 Tanzania

Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan has opted to cancel this year’s Independence Day celebrations - for a good cause.

  • The $445,000 party budget has instead been put towards building dormitories for primary schools.

🇹🇷 Turkey

A new Al-Monitor/Premise poll suggests Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is facing tough competition in next year’s presidential election.

  • Much may yet change from now until June, but the poll suggests voters are dissatisfied with Erdoğan’s approach to the country’s skyrocketing inflation.

🗞 IN OTHER NEWS...

The ‘Coal Mafia’ strikes again

Protestors in Ulaanbaatar. Credits: Byambasuren Byamba-Ochir/AFP/Getty Images.

The news: Thousands of people took to the freezing streets of Ulaanbaatar earlier this week to protest against corruption within the country’s coal sector.

  • Some even attempted (but ultimately failed) to make their way into Parliament.

The vanishing coal: Reports have emerged that 385,000 tons of coal have disappeared from stockpiles near the border with China.

  • Over 30 senior officials from Mongolia’s state-owned coal mining company are already under investigation for embezzlement.

Some context: This is the second time this year Mongolians have protested against their government, which they argue to be incompetent and corrupt.

  • Despite the country's mineral riches, nearly one in three Mongolians live below the national poverty line.

Why it matters: Mongolia’s mineral wealth accounts for ~26% of its GDP and ~90% of its exports, with China being Mongolia’s biggest coal purchaser.

  • China has been working on expanding its coal trade with Mongolia, investing in rail infrastructure to decrease transport times and costs.

  • Keen to keep its hands clean, Beijing will likely be displeased to find itself tangentially connected to a high-profile corruption case.

🍸 PARTY TIME

Judging by the Intrigue Slack this morning, further resilience training is clearly required.

We want to thank the more than 50 Intrigue readers who joined us for drinks in Washington, DC on Wednesday night! We count ourselves incredibly lucky to have such a great community.

We hope everyone had as much fun as we had and felt better than the Intrigue team did waking up yesterday…

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