M2 Growth and Why Inflation Concerns Are Overblown

by: Mark J. Perry

Federal Reserve data show that the M2 growth rate on an annual basis fell in the week ending March 8 to 1.5%, the lowest money growth rate since May 1995 (see graph above). Notice also in the graph above that M2 growth in 2001 was actually above 10% for a longer period of time, than the money supply growth in early 2009. Further, there has been a much sharper decline in money growth in the last year than the decline between 2002 and 2005, when the growth rate fell but never went below 2.5%. In each of the last 10 weeks, M2 growth has been below 2.5%. Considering that average annual inflation never got higher than 3.4% in 2005 following the 10% M2 increase in 2001, so it just doesn't seem like there's enough money growth to create inflationary pressure now, at least nothing higher than maybe 3%.

Dallas Fed President Robert McTeer seems to agree in his Forbes article "Why Inflation Worries Are Overblown":

"It will no doubt come as a surprise to many that money growth has been moderate since its initial explosion at the end of 2008 (see chart above). That’s because they hear so much about the expansion of the Fed’s balance sheet, which would normally imply an expansion of bank reserves and money. Fed assets have more than doubled with virtually all the increase taking place in late 2008. The asset expansion has produced a sharp rise in bank reserves, and hence the monetary base, which is composed of bank reserves and currency outside the banking system.

However, banks have not used those reserves to expand loans and investments at a rate large enough to produce rapid money expansion. Instead, banks have accumulated reserves far in excess of the amount required to back their deposit liabilities. This accumulation of “excess reserves” is no doubt the result of banker uncertainty and fear about their viability during the period of crisis. In particular, banks are remaining more liquid than regulations require to protect their remaining capital. Virtually all of the expansion in the Fed’s assets are matched by an expansion of excess reserves—excess from a regulatory standpoint, but obviously not excess to the bankers themselves since they are holding them voluntarily."