Kondratieff (Kondratiev) was a great Russian scientist who discovered the 50-70 year cycles in market economies in his 1920’s works. For his failure to proclaim the death of capitalism he was arrested and eventually executed by the communist regime.

As the whole market economy is essentially the monetary phenomena, the Kondratieff Wave can be reduced to basic monetary principles:

  1. The wave consists of the two legs of inflationary cycle – first part is 30 years of inflationary trend, which ends with absurdly high inflation, then there is another 30 years of disinflation, which ends with absurd deflation
  2. The whole wave is one big credit cycle – it starts with very low outstanding credit levels, when the authorities are forced to increase the monetary base not by credit increase but by printing money. Then the credit grows and the 60-70 year cycle ends with absurd credit levels and then everything collapses with massive defaults

The charts

The first principle can be illustrated with the following chart (click to enlarge):

10 year treasury yield

As you can see, the current K-wave, which started in 1949 with 2.5% yield on 10-year Treasury note, finished the leg up with absurd 15%+ yield. Currently we are in the down leg with 10Y/30Y bouncing around 4.7%-5%. This leg will be completed when the yield goes down to 2.5%.

The second principle can be illustrated with the following chart:

Mortgage debt

Here the consumer mortgage debt is used as a proxy for the 60-year trend of rising debt levels, which finally reached the absurd levels, as it should. The current Kondratieff wave will be completed when the mortgage debt will collapse back to historic levels of the start of new wave, i.e. 10%-15% of GDP. Obviously, it means that $4-$6 trillion of outstanding mortgage debt will end up in default, which means many millions of homes will foreclose and losses will devastate the banking sector.

The same could be illustrated with the growth of financial debt (assumed by banks, insurance companies, GSE’s and all the likes):

Financial debt

Unwinding of that debt back to 10% of GDP will complete the cycle.

Above is another illustration of the same trend: debt piles up and then defaults in 50-70 years cycles.

I think the length of the Kondratieff wave (50-80 years) is fundamentally related to the length of the human life, as every cycle is repeating the human mistakes made in the previous cycle. As the pop of the housing bubble and accumulation of the credit bubble in 1920’s is not witnessed by any of the currently living people, the pumping up the bubbles was cheered and celebrated as it was back in roaring twenties.

The Kondratieff wave consists of the four seasons, with the season definition not necessary very strict. I will try to describe them in details

Spring

The Spring starts after the devastation of the Winter of the previous cycle. At this moment the balance sheets of corporations and individuals are quite healthy, the debt level is low, consumption is low and well below incomes. The newspapers will call that “the nation of savers“. For example, one can hear a lot about Japan being “the nation of savers” in 1990’s and 2000’s. In fact there is nothing special about Japan, they entered their Spring season of the K-wave in 2006 and they are saving a lot because that’s what Winter and Spring seasons are all about.

In Spring the economic expansion is moderate, the necessary increase of monetary base to cover the bigger economy needs is covered by modest debt growth and modest monetary inflation.

Based on the charts above the Spring can be defined as the 1949-1966 period. The 30-Y Treasury yield stayed in the sub-4.5% range all that time, i.e. inflation was growing, but growing very slowly. The debt was expanding moderately and was easy to service in the period of low inflation

Summer

The Summer period is 1966-1981. The growth is pretty good, but the inflation finally gets out of hands. The growing inflation makes debt servicing problematic, which prevents individuals and corporations to take too much more debt. But the economy needs money, so the Feds are forced to turn on the printing press as they just can’t force more debt into the system. Obviously, the rampant inflation makes the debt servicing even more problematic, which creates a vicious cycle of Feds printing more and more money.

At the end the inflation becomes so bad that it becomes a political problem. Feds finally don’t have any choice but to kill the inflation by raising the interest rates above 10%. The treasury yield jumps to 14%, the economy is knocked down into recession and everybody start moving money from active sectors into attractive treasury bonds. The 32-year bear market in T-bonds is over and the bull market starts

Autumn

This period is the best. US economy is enjoying it from 1981 t0 2007, 26 years of fun. Autumn is a debt bonanza. Falling inflation and interest rates allow consumers and corporations load up debt without increasing debt servicing obligations. Feds are happy because they can slow down the money printing machine as now banks and broker-dealers can create money all by themselves, without the Fed help. Feds are also happy because it’s very easy to control inflation. The debt load is so big that slight changes in interest rates can accelerate or slowdown the economy as desired.

It is important to differentiate that while in Summer stage money supply is growing in an inflationary way in Autumn it’s all just leverage (or debt). Money is a claim for goods, leverage is a claim for money. The banks are creative in the ways they create leverage, as they can’t physically print the currency with the president faces. Instead, they create all kind of derivatives, collaterized debt obligations, mortgage-backed securities and stuff like that. It’s a big fun to print those papers and collect fees!

It is very important to mention that during the Autumn the increasing number of borrowers (individuals or corporations) are becoming the Ponzi units. Ponzi borrower is the one who needs a constant increase of its debt burden in order for new debt to be used to service the old debt obligations. Usually it works fine as the assets used as debt collaterals are exploding in price. Until they don’t.

Autumn is typical for all kind of bubbles. For example, the 1920’s in US were famous for real estate bubble, credit bubble and stock market bubble. It was very bubbly time.

The efficiency of debt is declining sharply during the Autumn:

Debt to GDP

As you can see it takes more and more of debt to get the same GDP growth

Winter (or Depression)

All the fun must end.

The last Autumn bubble will eventually pop. The reason that bubble pops is not the increase of interest rates or any other Fed mistake. Feds do it all right. The bubble usually pops on its own weight, because the increasing number of Ponzi units need a constant increase of debt to stay solvent. Eventually creditors go to strike and deny the new credit. At this time the collateral used for the debt is falling in price, because the music stops and there is no enough chairs. This is called the Minski moment, when most Ponzi units are denied new credit all at once.

The collapsing credit is essentially equivalent to the collapse of monetary base, because the debt obligations are essentially money, or at least very similar to money. The collapse of money supply is called deflation. It leads to the decrease of all kind of prices – goods, real estate, labor, stock market. There is no enough money and too much goods competing for money. It’s a time of oversupply. Too many factories, too many factory workers. Too many farmers, too many oranges. Too many banks and too many bankers. Too many homes and too many defaulted homeowners. The solution to the problem is massive elimination of all excesses. There are massive defaults, bankruptcies and foreclosures. There are ghost towns with empty homes. People are laid-off because they are not needed.

How to fix that? Very smart Ben Bernanke suggested that he can drop money from helicopters. He is very smart and he had sent a very clear message to those who listen. The only solution to the problem he knows is to use helicopters. The only solution. So, if indeed he does not plan to drop money from the sky then there is no other way to fix the problem. I don’t know the way either, and nobody knows, because there is no way. The Winter of K-wave has to happen the same way as the winter happens in the nature, every single year.

The main idea of Kondratieff was that the market economy self-heals itself each time it goes into trouble. USA was the strongest country in the world in 1929, and it still was the strongest country in 1940’s, after the Great Depression. So the Great Depression does not break the economy, it heals it. The idea is that all the bad debt must be eliminated, which probably means that pretty much all debt must be eliminated. The nation of spenders is converted into the nation of savers, which can export more than it imports, which produces more than it consumes, which saves more than it spends.

When the Spring comes, all the leafs are green and flowers are ready to flourish

Relationship between stocks and bonds in Kondratieff context

Let see the relationship between stocks and bonds in different phases of Kondratieff wave.

First of all let separate corporate bonds and government bonds. The yield of corporate bonds is composed from inflationary issues and credit risk issues. The yield of Treasury bonds are composed from inflationary expectations and some geopolitical issues, but mostly it’s just about inflationary expectations.

The relationship between corporate bonds and stock market is easy. When yield spreads are widening, the stock market will drop – immediately or with some delay. When yield spreads are tightening back the stock market is bullish or is about to become bullish. That’s pretty much it.

The relationship of Treasury bonds and stock market is much more interesting.

In the first three periods of Kondratieff wave stocks and bonds are moving in the same direction. In Winter stocks and bonds are moving in opposite directions

Why is that? In inflationary context the main problem is, you guess it, the inflation. So when the economic expansion is maturing the inflation heats up and bonds are turning bearish. The peak of inflation requires a violent credit tightening from the Feds, which is producing the economic contraction and bear market in stocks. When bonds are finally turning bullish it usually means that the Feds can finally relax the credit and money supply and the stock market will signal that the next economic expansion is underway.

In deflationary context it’s all different. Then the main problem is deflation, not inflation. The inflationary phase of the economic cycle is pretty relaxing and does not threaten the economic growth that much. People don’t even understand why the Feds are fighting that inflation when the things are so good. So the booming commodities and stagnating Treasury bonds are not bearish at all. New unprecedented heights of the oil prices are coincident with new heights of the stock market. That was not the case back in 1970s.

But things become quite different when treasury bonds are becoming bullish. In deflationary context it is signaling that the happy inflationary period is over and the ugly deflationary period is about to start. The stock market will not drop right away as all the classic books written during the inflationary context tell that rising Treasuries are bullish. But that’s wrong, which comes as a surprise.

The bear stock market in the deflationary context is very ugly, much more ugly then in the inflationary context. The reasons for that are:

  1. In the inflationary context the inflation itself is adding to the stock prices, as money get cheaper. The stock market falls 15%-30% and it’s pretty much it
  2. In the deflationary context the bull market of ultra-safe Treasuries is soaking up money from everything, from the stock market, commodities market and real estate market. When the safest possible instrument is so bullish – why would you risk your money in the stock market?

So I don’t expect the 2007 bear market to be gentle, bad things are coming soon (I’m writing this September 11 2007, let never forget WTC)

The start of new Winter

Based on above, we can determine the approximate dates of entering the new Kodratieff Winter in the first decade of new century. The detailed charting and analysis is presented in this post.

You can see that in 1980s and 1990s stocks and bonds are usually moving in the same direction, with bonds slightly leading.

But we can observe that this relationship was broken with the first deflationary scare in 1998, but the normal order was restored in 1999-2000:

It seems to me that 1998 was a dress rehearsal of Kondratieff Winter. The chart shows that economy entered the Winter period in 2000 but the normal order was restored again in 2003:

Please click on the following chart:

The stocks and bonds diverged in December 2006 until August 2007, then briefly synchronized for 3 months and finally broke apart in October 2007.

The above charts show that Winter has hard time to start due to high awareness of Federal Reserve about a possible deflationary tailspin. Both Greenspan and Bernanke did everything to postpone the day of reckoning as far into future as they can, most likely making the matters worse when the gravity finally wins.

The tentative starts of Kodratieff Winter in 1998 and 2000 were averted. It seems that early 2007 can be marked as the third and powerful start

***

Copyright Theroxylandr, reference is necessary when the content is used

Call for charts: if you can give me the charts covering the previous cycles I will appreciate, thanks

57 Responses to “Kondratieff wave”

  1. Optimistic Joe Says:

    Hi Theroxyland,

    Very nice article. Great summary of the mainstream K-wave publishers, too, so rather in the herd-thinking, if you ask me.

    I also follow the Kondratiev or Long Wave. For me, however, the cycle is always 54,3 years long. Staring from the last wave in 1949 this means it bottomed in April 2003. (The cycle earlier was 1896-1949) If you go back 1949, 1896, 1842 etc. you’ll find it correlates well to the troughs in interest rates – this is the primary indicator.
    From where I’m at, we are already in the 4th year of the new inflationry expansion, just as in 1953 the last time. As from 1949-53, the stock market and RE market have been expanding very strongly and the shift in the corporate and commodity area is that from an oversupply to and overdemand – and raising prices. We also experience strong gains in productivity, which can be expected in the early phase of inflationary expansion. Eventually, higher rates and a sense of corporate flubbiness will kill this, but that’s more than 10 years away. I expect the inflationary high of the current cycle in the mid-2030s.
    My understanding is that almost all who use the K-wave interprete it as still being in the winter phase as we did not see a Great Depression-style contraction. This is not necessary for the cycle to bottom, only a low in interest rates. Interest rates have recently broken through the down trend since the early 1980s. This is a confirmation for me. Additionally, the majority is always wrong, in which we agree as thinking outside the herd – and in the case of the K-wave this means for my to interprete it as beining in the spring phase.

    O-Joe

  2. theroxylandr Says:

    Optimistic Joe – both charts I’ve posted point strongly to the fact that we are in the Autumn phase. I don’t like any speculations that may not be supported by charts.

    The first chart must go to 3.5%. The second chart to 15%.

  3. Tank Says:

    Excellent Theroxylandr. Matches with the “Fourth Turning” by Strauss and Howe. The winter winds are starting to blow.

  4. David Yaseen Says:

    Der ist ein großer Artikel!

    (I only took 2 semesters of German, so please forgive me)

    Kondratieff seems to have a good, simple handle on things. It’s easy to get distracted by all the jargon these days. Thank you.

  5. theroxylandr Says:

    Thank you. I like simple, beautiful charts. If you scan my blog all the charts I post are very simple.

  6. Tushar Says:

    In winter phase above you said, ‘It leads to the decrease of all kind of prices – goods, real estate, labor, stock market.’

    We all saw real estate market tanking since almost two years now. Commercial RE has followed the residential since two months now like a waterfall down. (REIT) Stock market has started declining just before two weeks to a serious plunge that didn’t happen in last five years. Last Friday we saw that labor market has started showing signs of weakness the first time since labor market reports three months before that were mostly all strong suggesting strong labor market. Now, if we are still in Autumn phase then when do you think the winter will start? Please don’t just say ‘The first chart must go to 3.5%’. Basically I am trying to figure out when can I short the stock market to hedge against?

  7. Darth Toll Says:

    “Additionally, the majority is always wrong, in which we agree as thinking outside the herd – and in the case of the K-wave this means for my to interprete it as beining in the spring phase.”

    Disagree totally. The majority is not always wrong, that is a misstatement of contrarian theory which holds that the herd is USUALLY wrong at key inflection points. Often the herd is right, especially during the big boom phases of a financial mania when the herd itself creates the big move.

    More importantly, people live longer now and therefore the wave itself is also longer. The wave as it applies to the current situation is based upon a concept that people alive today have no recollection of the run-up to the Great Depression (1920’s) and therefore have no clue as to the danger that we are in. This makes sense and one would expect each season to last longer while people live longer. The same is true of the 4-year business cycle, which STILL has yet to make a 4-year cycle low, even though some insist the low was last June, or that the cycle doesn’t even exist because it is so long!

    No, these cycles do exist, they are based upon human psychology as you know. Each person that lives to 78 or so can be expected to experience each season. There’s an old saying that goes something like this: if it looks like a dog and smells like a dog and barks like a dog, it’s a dog. Today resembles exactly a late Autumn credit environment and 2002 didn’t resemble a K-Winter at all. Therefore you know this cannot be the start of Spring and must be the end of Autumn as theroxylandr describes. JMHO.

  8. theroxylandr Says:

    Tushar, I don’t know when exactly Winter will start. The economy is getting weaker but it still holds.

    I think it is wrong to short the whole market. One should short the weakest groups (like homebuilders, REITs, mortgage lenders) and still be long some protective groups, like healthcare, energy

  9. Vern Kleegleman Says:

    With regard to interest rates, why do you say it peaked at 14.5% when it looks like on the chart that it broke beyond 15%?

    Then in the comments you say the yield has to come back down to 3.5% to complete the wave but in your article you say it started at 2.5%

    I’m not trying to nitpick, just want to make sure I am not missing something.

    Thanks very much for the article.

  10. theroxylandr Says:

    Vern Kleegleman, I’ve replaced the chart after the article was written but did not adjust the text. The previous chart was covering 30-Y bonds, I think.

    I will adjust the text. Thank you for pointing out the error!


  11. IMHO the bottom wave will come around 2017 to 2019. Based on a count from year 2000.The stock market could go as low as 8,000.

  12. x-man Says:

    kind of useless guys

    even if true, the calls are way too subjective, and history rhymes, it doesn’t repeat

  13. mark Says:

    I dont think it will be stocks that crash this time around, they will be kept at artificial levels at all costs..

    However housing as we see in the states will be allowed to crash, after all they (the state) can then blame banks or the people who borrowed the money to finance the housing..

    Yes it is a good thing, not so good if you lose your house, however if all around you are losing their houses too, then it is not such a bad thing, granted it will be hard to start over, however you and everyone is.. so you are not alone..

    I think the UK property market will crash 50%, we are already into the crash cycle prices are dropping, just not at a fast rate yet, that will be after christmas… when debt laden people will simply need a way out..

  14. francis Says:

    winter hasnt come yet but lambs are being born, daffodills are shooting out the ground and the flowers of spring are nearly with us, winter, perhaps blame it on global warming, longer life span, or call it a naturalistic fallacy,however i tend to agree that most financial and economic patterns are linked fundamentally to a human and earthly psyche. the wheel is turning …..

  15. vs Says:

    Great article….

    Reading today on Jan 21, 2008 – before Tuesday that is supposed to bring a collapse to Wall Street it makes for a fun reading … particularly the comments that folloed in Aug-Nov 2007 – …. everything seemed not so bad.

    Welcome to WINTER :)

  16. Yusadit Says:

    This is an excellent article on the Kondratieff wave. We are indeed in the approaching winter. Here’s something that is a good read also:

    http://www.longwavepress.com/Baby_Boomers_Generation_X_SCv1a.pdf

  17. Tom Ingram Says:

    Very interesting.
    Now June ’08 and gas prices are through the roof in the US, that’s the topic of nightly news for months now, plus all kinds of individual factors that different interest groups are pointing to as evidence of a recession or coming ‘winter’.

    I’ve followed some Harry S Dent material to learn more on this subject, but don’t know much more about the real ‘theories’ and calculations required to figure this out. This content, here, is helpful in furthering my understanding of this.

    Thanks.

  18. Dann4300 Says:

    Hello, today government took over “AIG” the beginning of financial apocalypse. Buy Gold if you still have cash :)

  19. lcking56 Says:

    I only learned about K-waves yesterday when my Dad sent me an article about it. For this past October 2008 week, I’ve been wondering if I should ignore the advice to “wait it out” and leave my 401K in the stock market. I have lost $5000+ in the past 2-3 weeks. At age 52, is this good advice at the beginning of winter? Will the next spring start soon enough for me to make back my money before retirement? Or should I pull it all out now while I’ve got a “bird in the hand?” Thanks for this article. It helped me understand this complex topic much more quickly…sort of!


  20. [...] ser diferente. Y si tienen dudas de lo que es un invierno Kondratieff pues aqui va lo que es: Kondratieff wave The Theroxylandr in Flame Magnificamente explicado (en ingles lo siento) pero son los mejores articulos que he leido hace [...]


  21. [...] yo aun lo estoy asimilando. le pongo el link completo para que lo puedan leer con calma: Kondratieff wave The Theroxylandr in Flame __________________ El saber no ocupa lugar…. Pero marca la [...]

  22. nief Says:

    Hi all,

    This is 11 octobre 2008, i think that the winter is coming just begining!

    We have a looong deflation like japan of at least 10 years before spring comes out again…

    dow is 8000 just now!! unbelievable!!

    I had to admit it it all fits! and i´m a bit affraid of what´s coming.

    If i were you lcking56 i´ll be in full liquidity… i think that just this week you lost way beyond 10 000 $

    This is a great article


  23. [...] Aqui lo explican: The Kondratieff Cycle Y aqui las 4 estaciones… para mi la mejor explicacion Kondratieff wave The Theroxylandr in Flame __________________ El saber no ocupa lugar…. Pero marca la [...]


  24. [...] Aqui lo explican: The Kondratieff Cycle Y aqui las 4 estaciones… para mi la mejor explicacion Kondratieff wave The Theroxylandr in Flame __________________ El saber no ocupa lugar…. Pero marca la [...]


  25. [...] sigo pensando que vamos a un invierno kondratieff Kondratieff wave The Theroxylandr in Flame Simplemente hay que meter dinero sacandolo de deuda para evitar la enorme desaparicion de dinero [...]


  26. I had heard of the Kondratieff wave, and looked it up once about 5 years ago, learning that we were roughly in the downsliding B phase. But then I forgot about it, because the central banks know how to fix everything. But the other day I was talking with a friend about the “financial tsunami,” and he asked where we are in the Kondratieff cycle, so I googled it…

    And holy cow! It all fits, as Nief says. The crash of October 2008 is the exact equivalent of the crash of October 1929, and we appear to be headed for the exact equivalent of the Great Depression: 6 to 10 years of deflation. Your article is great because it shows how Greenspan and Bernanke managed to stave off the onset of winter – but it came anyway. Bernanke is still hoping to save the economy with massive injections of money, which might work, but at the price of galoping inflation. I learned to my amazement that Bernanke is considered the greatest living authority on the Great Depression – so that is why they named him! It seems a lot of people may have been perfectly aware of what was coming.

  27. theroxylandr Says:

    Danton Sideways:

    >>> I learned to my amazement that Bernanke is considered the greatest living authority on the Great Depression – so that is why they named him! It seems a lot of people may have been perfectly aware of what was coming.

    Exactly!

    But they never (almost never) mentioned that in public.

  28. David Immer Says:

    I first learned of the K wave in mid 70s and then mostly forgot about it. In 1926 Kondratiev suggested a 54 year cycle. At that time the life expectancy was about 54 years. It is now 79 years after the crash of 1929 and the life expectancy is about 79 years. Do you think there is a correlation here? Is the K wave a predictor of more than economic cycles?


  29. [...] than it spends. When the Spring comes, all the leafs are green and flowers are ready to flourish Kondratieff wave The Theroxylandr in Flame __________________ El saber no ocupa lugar…. Pero marca la [...]

  30. theroxylandr Says:

    >>> It is now 79 years after the crash of 1929 and the life expectancy is about 79 years. Do you think there is a correlation here?

    I think it’s impossible to tell. Only 3-4 completed waves happened in U.S. history and I doubt we can track that in Europe for more than 3-4 cycles as well.

    Statistics is mute here, the event must repeat many times to make any conclusion. I think the true length of K-wave is simply unknown yet.

  31. cruiser9806 Says:

    I have been watching since last january. So far i am up this year bt trading the market. Now the swings are too wild and irrational. Personally i believe the bailout money is being used to sustain the markets via the bank bailouts. Banks are using the money to buy and sell stocks maintaining the status quo. The question i have, since the wave travels from economy to economy, wouldn’t we be wise to say buy japans and china stocks and stay away from US stocks? Wouldn’t this keep personal income savings moving up? Call it market jumping.


  32. [...] esto dentro de esto otro… Kondratieff wave The Theroxylandr in Flame The Kondratieff wave consists of the four seasons, with the season definition not necessary very [...]


  33. [...] of coalescing or "quickening" of the alliances that will govern the next period of growth. Kondratieff wave The Theroxylandr in Flame Vedlo completo en el link __________________ El saber no ocupa lugar…. Pero marca la diferencia [...]

  34. Ogolev Says:

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  35. И как же это можно понять простому человеку?


  36. Нет ничего нового под небом…


  37. Самое важное – уметь отличить важное от срочного.

  38. Ceafdraisse Says:

    Голова трещит. Надо что-либо делать в своем бизнесе. Кстати – перерегистрация ООО – весьма актуальная тема в настоящий момент. Не профукать бы. Вопрос указано решить до конца 2008 года. Мрачно…


  39. Никогда не спорьте с умным: люди могут не заметить между вами разницы!

  40. stock Says:

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  42. Money Guru Says:

    Robert Prechter wrote about the crash in his book “conquer the crash” in 2002 too. He recommended short in summer 2007 and covered end of february 2009, few trading days before the bottom. Now he recommends short again. According to him winter is not over and the greatest depression is just starting since the credit bubble that was fostered for so many years dwarfs the previous examples. So the coming crash is going to dwarf previous crashes. http://www.tradingstocks.net/html/inflation_deflation_credit_bub.html

    The deflating money supply dwarfs FED efforts to reinflate and this is just the beginning. Nation of savers will come true according to Prechter.

  43. Neon Vincent Says:

    “Call for charts: if you can give me the charts covering the previous cycles I will appreciate, thanks”

    Rummage through this person’s posts and you’ll find more about the Kondratieff Cycle than you will believe.

    http://www.safehaven.com/author/7/michael-a-alexander


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  46. Royal Tisch Says:

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  47. Thank you so much for this. Im currently studying business management at university and im revising for a Business Environment exam.

    I really didnt understand the wave until i read through this.. I have to now link to to product innovation cycles!


  48. The simple reality is that the Kondratieff wave can’t be overridden – and the tail end of the Kondratieff wave involves deflation and depression. In fact, the very transition through the later phases of the Kondratieff wave involves high consumer price inflation going to low consumer price inflation eventually going to zero consumer price inflation (which we have had a whiff of already, despite the Fed’s best efforts) followed by negative consumer price inflation, i.e., deflation.

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