Global home price boom has central banks facing an inflation conundrum

Reuters
Sujata Rao

If real inflation is higher than the official consumer price index is measuring, it could imply that central bank or government policies are more expansionary than they should be.

“If housing does not signal inflation via the CPI, then the economy is more likely to run hot, and what you get over time is generalized inflation pressures,” Pradhan said.

At present rental inflation is subdued due to pandemic hardship, or because low interest rates and remote working are encouraging home-buying.

If housing does not signal inflation via the CPI, then the economy is more likely to run hot, and what you get over time is generalized inflation pressures
MANOJ PRADHAN
Morgan Stanley’s chief cross-asset strategist Andrew Sheets said this may be giving a misleading signal. “The rental market will be weak and the housing market will be strong and that (rental weakness) could show up as a disinflationary force.”

There are strong arguments for excluding headline shifts in house prices from inflation indexes. Housing is, for most people a lifetime purchase rather than an ongoing expense, which they are designed to gauge.

Including house prices in the inflation measures central banks use to guide policy is also widely seen as impractical, given their extreme volatility.

More central banks may however consider adapting inflation indices to include a measure of the costs associated with living in one’s own home, such as maintenance and home improvements.

At present, inflation measures used by the Fed, the Bank of Japan, New Zealand and Australia include so-called owner-occupier costs. But the gauge employed by the Bank of England does not, and they are also not factored into the main inflation measure used by the ECB.