The wealth gap rebalancing act

As the markets await some important US data, due out at 1.30pm today- the latest monthly

jobs report-many analysts will be looking beyond the headline unemployment numbers to

something often more important: the average wages data.

The lack of wage growth since the financial crisis over a decade ago isn’t just a US problem;

it’s one that has been an issue across all developed economies, not least here in the UK.

The news earlier this week that Amazon is set to increase warehouse pay has been warmly

received and I must admit; probably not before time.

To my way of thinking, one of the core reasons behind populism has been that lack of wage

growth over the past 10 years, at a time when ultra low interest rates have significantly

increased the value of assets. So if you were rich and owned assets, then you have seen

your wealth increase markedly over that time when the low paid with no assets have fallen

further behind as their wages stagnated- ergo the wealth gap has widened the most in over

50 years at the same time as the so called “Phillips curve” all but disappeared.

Whichever way one cuts that; its not good news, not least for the powers that be, because it

ultimately could have an impact on the modern capitalist system if it continues unabated.

Naturally, there are other reasons for the rise of populism (disruptive technology and

migration to name but two), but for the most part they all boil down to same issue- uneven

income distribution.

The fact that core inflation in the US is currently running at around 2.4% and at about 2.1%

here in the UK; is also a factor because wages simply haven’t even kept up with inflation,

further exasperating the problem. Indeed, in the UK that core inflation rate had been a lot

hotter until most recently, nearer 3%, but looks like its bottomed out now and on the rise


So, I do detect that things are now slowly changing with record low levels of unemployment

in the US and the UK that will surely eventually feed its way into higher wages. When it

comes to wages and inflation though; it often seems like it’s a chicken and egg situation.

Regardless of answering that question; this infers higher global interest rates too which

should have a dampening impact over time on asset prices- namely stocks and property.

The goal for the worlds central banks now; is to somehow manage this reflation without

choking off growth and risking another recession.

So, it’s all a juggling act, but essentially higher wages, above and beyond inflation, should

lead to more spending and hence more growth. This should be a virtuous circle if you like as

long as those central bankers don’t stamp on the brakes too hard.

The one central bank taking a lead in this is the US Federal reserve, but even in the UK we

finally raised rates again, for only the second time in 10 years earlier in the summer,

perhaps for more defensive reasons though? However, the fact that the US is so far ahead

of the pack in this regard is what is underpinning the dollar and whilst some don’t agree with it and certainly the US president doesn’t like it either; its probably a necessary evil that

he may just have to live with until the rest catch up. One thing is for sure though; if that

wealth gap is to narrow, then wages will simply have to rise faster than inflation and

interest rates over the next few years.

Finally, to get a good idea of just how those US interest rates are rising right now, please

take a look a simple chart of US 10 year bonds yields which have moved markedly higher

already this week.

US 10 year bond yields

Key Data releases due later today

1.30pm Canadian September unemployment report

1.30pm US September unemployment report