Increased Home Vacancies Expected to Moderate Inflation

by: David Enke

The flood of borrowing in the U.S. is eventually going to force us to pay the piper, with some arguing that the bill may come sooner than later. Others have argued for continued deflation over the next 12-18 months (see previous post).

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, the move from deflation to inflation might not be as sharp as expected (see Bloomberg article). As it turns out, rising home vacancies across the U.S. are depressing rents, the largest item in the consumer price index released by the labor department.

Home and apartment rents, as well as owners' equivalent rent, make up 30 percent of the CPI. As of the third quarter of 2008, the number of empty homes stood at 19 million, signaling that deflation may be here to stay for a while - or at least worries of inflation can wait until 2010, at the earliest. While not a perfect scenario, an environment with lower inflation will allow the Fed some extra time before it needs to start raising rates, thereby giving lower rates more time to do their magic without the threat of stagflation.