"US" Hyperinflation Predictor @ Home

The goal of Hyperinflation Predictor @ Home is to do Monte Carlo simulations of consumer transactions taking into account the target nation's economic credit / debit state. The economic and demographic makeups of each nation is to be considered, and economic regionalism will be part of the model.

Each task will consist of a block of {10,000 synthetic people / workunit} that engage in transactions with each other, corporations and governments. As the model is developed in future the possibility of 100,000 people could be considered.

What is hyperinflation?
In economics, hyperinflation is inflation that is "out of control", a condition in which prices increase rapidly as a currency loses its value. Formal definitions vary from a cumulative inflation rate over three years approaching 100% to "inflation exceeding 50% a month." In informal usage the term is often applied to much lower rates.

As a rule of thumb, normal inflation is reported per year, but hyperinflation is often reported for much shorter intervals, often per month.

The definition used by most economists is "an inflationary cycle without any tendency toward equilibrium." A vicious circle is created in which more and more inflation is created with each iteration of the cycle. Although there is a great deal of debate about the root causes of hyperinflation, it becomes visible when there is an unchecked increase in the money supply (or drastic debasement of coinage) usually accompanied by a widespread unwillingness to hold the money for more than the time needed to trade it for something tangible to avoid further loss. Hyperinflation is often associated with wars (or their aftermath), economic depressions, and political or social upheavals.

Modern analysis
In 1956, Phillip Cagan wrote The Monetary Dynamics of Hyperinflation, generally regarded as the first serious study of hyperinflation and its effects. In it, he defined hyperinflation as a monthly inflation rate of at least 50%. International Accounting Standard 1 requires a presentation currency. IAS 21 provides for translations of foreign currencies into the presentation currency. IAS 29 establishes special accounting rules for use in hyperinflationary environments, and lists four factors which can trigger application of these rules:

  1. The general population prefers to keep its wealth in non-monetary assets or in a relatively stable foreign currency. Amounts of local currency held are immediately invested to maintain purchasing power.
  2. The general population regards monetary amounts not in terms of the local currency but in terms of a relatively stable foreign currency. Prices may be quoted in that foreign currency.
  3. Sales and purchases on credit take place at prices that compensate for the expected loss of purchasing power during the credit period, even if the period is short.
  4. Interest rates, wages and prices are linked to a price index and the cumulative inflation rate over three years approaches, or exceeds, 100%.
Models of hyperinflation
Since hyperinflation is visible as a monetary effect, models of hyperinflation center on the demand for money. Economists see both a rapid increase in the money supply and an increase in the velocity of money if the (monetary) inflating is not stopped. Either one, or both of these together are the root causes of inflation and hyperinflation. A dramatic increase in the velocity of money as the cause of hyperinflation is central to the "crisis of confidence" model of hyperinflation, where the risk premium that sellers demand for the paper currency over the nominal value grows rapidly. The second theory is that there is first a radical increase in the amount of circulating medium, which can be called the "monetary model" of hyperinflation. In either model, the second effect then follows from the first — either too little confidence forcing an increase in the money supply, or too much money destroying confidence.

In the confidence model, some event, or series of events, such as defeats in battle, or a run on stocks of the specie which back a currency, removes the belief that the authority issuing the money will remain solvent — whether a bank or a government. Because people do not want to hold notes which may become valueless, they want to spend them in preference to holding notes which will lose value. Sellers, realizing that there is a higher risk for the currency, demand a greater and greater premium over the original value. Under this model, the method of ending hyperinflation is to change the backing of the currency — often by issuing a completely new one. War is one commonly cited cause of crisis of confidence, particularly losing in a war, as occurred during Napoleonic Vienna, and capital flight, sometimes because of "contagion" is another. In this view, the increase in the circulating medium is the result of the government attempting to buy time without coming to terms with the root cause of the lack of confidence itself.

In the monetary model, hyperinflation is a positive feedback cycle of rapid monetary expansion. It has the same cause as all other inflation: money-issuing bodies, central or otherwise, produce currency to pay spiralling costs, often from lax fiscal policy, or the mounting costs of warfare. When businesspeople perceive that the issuer is committed to a policy of rapid currency expansion, they mark up prices to cover the expected decay in the currency's value. The issuer must then accelerate its expansion to cover these prices, which pushes the currency value down even faster than before. According to this model the issuer cannot "win" and the only solution is to abruptly stop expanding the currency. Unfortunately, the end of expansion can cause a severe financial shock to those using the currency as expectations are suddenly adjusted. This policy, combined with reductions of pensions, wages, and government outlays, formed part of the Washington consensus of the 1990s.

Whatever the cause, hyperinflation involves both the supply and velocity of money. Which comes first is a matter of debate, and there may be no universal story that applies to all cases. But once the hyperinflation is established, the pattern of increasing the money stock, by whichever agencies are allowed to do so, is universal. Because this practice increases the supply of currency without any matching increase in demand for it, the price of the currency, that is the exchange rate, naturally falls relative to other currencies. Inflation becomes hyperinflation when the increase in money supply turns specific areas of pricing power into a general frenzy of spending quickly before money becomes worthless. The purchasing power of the currency drops so rapidly that holding cash for even a day is an unacceptable loss of purchasing power. As a result, no one holds currency, which increases the velocity of money, and worsens the crisis.

That is, rapidly rising prices undermine money's role as a store of value, so that people try to spend it on real goods or services as quickly as possible. Thus, the monetary model predicts that the velocity of money will rise endogenously as a result of the excessive increase in the money supply. At the point when ordinary purchases are affected by inflation pressures, hyperinflation is out of control, in the sense that ordinary policy mechanisms, such as increasing reserve requirements, raising interest rates or cutting government spending will all be responded to by shifting away from the rapidly dwindling currency and towards other means of exchange.

During a period of hyperinflation, bank runs, loans for 24 hour periods, switching to alternate currencies, the return to use of gold or silver or even barter become common. Many of the people who hoard gold today expect hyperinflation, and are hedging against it by holding specie. There may also be extensive capital flight or flight to a "hard" currency such as the U.S. dollar. This is sometimes met with capital controls, an idea which has swung from standard, to anathema, and back into semi-respectability. All of this constitutes an economy which is operating in an "abnormal" way, which may lead to decreases in real production. If so, that intensifies the hyperinflation, since it means that the amount of goods in "too much money chasing too few goods" formulation is also reduced. This is also part of the vicious circle of hyperinflation.

Once the vicious circle of hyperinflation has been ignited, dramatic policy means are almost always required, simply raising interest rates is insufficient. Bolivia, for example, underwent a period of hyperinflation in 1985, where prices increased 12,000% in the space of less than a year. The government raised the price of gasoline, which it had been selling at a huge loss to quiet popular discontent, and the hyperinflation came to a halt almost immediately, since it was able to bring in hard currency by selling its oil abroad. The crisis of confidence ended, and people returned deposits to banks. The German hyperinflation (1919-Nov. 1923) was ended by producing a currency based on assets loaned against by banks, called the Rentenmark. Hyperinflation often ends when a civil conflict ends with one side winning. Although wage and price controls are sometimes used to control or prevent inflation, no episode of hyperinflation has been ended by the use of price controls alone. However, wage and price controls have sometimes been part of the mix of policies used to halt hyperinflation.

Recent historical hyperinflation
Zimbabwe is the first country in the 21st century to hyperinflate. In February 2007, Zimbabwe’s inflation rate topped 50% per month, the minimum rate required to qualify as a hyperinflation (50% per month is equal to a 12,875% per year). Since then, inflation has soared.   

The last official inflation data were released for July and are hopelessly outdated. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has been even less forthcoming with money supply data: the most recent money supply figures are ancient history—January 2008. 

Absent current official money supply and inflation data, it is difficult to quantify the depth and breadth of the still-growing crisis in Zimbabwe. To overcome this problem, Cato Senior Fellow Steve Hanke has developed the Hanke Hyperinflation Index for Zimbabwe (HHIZ). This new metric is derived from market-based price data and is presented in the accompanying table for the January 2007 to present period.

As of 14 November 2008, Zimbabwe’s annual inflation rate was 89.7 Sextillion (1021) percent. Since mid-November 2008, the weekly update of the HHIZ has been put on hold. The market-based price data from Zimbabwe have deteriorated and, at present, cannot be used to update the HHIZ. HHIZ updates will be resumed as soon as the quality of the data reaches a satisfactory level.

Hanke Hyperinflation Index for Zimbabwe (HHIZ)
Date Index Monthly Inflation Rate Annual Inflation Rate
5-Jan-07 1.00 13.70%
2-Feb-07 1.78 77.60%
2-Mar-07 3.14 76.70%
5-Apr-07 6.90 56.20%
4-May-07 6.75 -2.15%
1-Jun-07 20.70 207.00%
6-Jul-07 53.00 60.40%
3-Aug-07 49.10 -7.29%
7-Sep-07 82.50 70.60%
5-Oct-07 219.00 165.00%
2-Nov-07 642.00 193.00%
28-Dec-07 2,010.00 61.50% 215,000%
25-Jan-08 2,250.00 11.80%
29-Feb-08 8,260.00 259.00%
28-Mar-08 17,700.00 115.00%
25-Apr-08 57,100.00 222.00%
30-May-08 442,000.00 498.00%
26-Jun-08 23,600,000.00 5,250.00% 41,400,000%
4-Jul-08 49,200,000.00 3,740.00% 93,000,000%
11-Jul-08 81,800,000.00 2,080.00% 167,000,000%
18-Jul-08 122,000,000.00 1,030.00% 250,000,000%
25-Jul-08 157,000,000.00 566.00% 317,000,000%
29-Aug-08 6,330,000,000.00 3,190.00% 9,690,000,000%
26-Sep-08 794,000,000,000.00 12,400.00% 471,000,000,000%
3-Oct-08 3,570,000,000,000.00 15,400.00% 1,630,000,000,000%
10-Oct-08 32,300,000,000,000.00 45,900.00% 11,600,000,000,000%
17-Oct-08 1,070,000,000,000,000.00 493,000.00% 300,000,000,000,000%
24-Oct-08 124,000,000,000,000,000.00 15,600,000.00% 26,100,000,000,000,000%
31-Oct-08 24,600,000,000,000,000,000.00 690,000,000.00% 3,840,000,000,000,000,000%
7-Nov-08 4,890,000,000,000,000,000,000.00 15,200,000,000.00% 593,000,000,000,000,000,000%
14-Nov-08 853,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.00 79,600,000,000.00% 89,700,000,000,000,000,000,000%

How will the simulation work?

Finite state properties of synthetic people
Finite state properties of corporations
Finite state properties of the national economy should include a table of commodity prices, singularly or over time.

This dataset will probably be a "time stepped array" that will be time stepped. Its state can be imputed, but dataset can also feed a simulation for hindcasting.
Inputs that should be ignored
National economies targeted for simulation

Work Unit Production Cycle
Get demographic set (ex: Auckland Province or NZ as a whole)
From census data
Get economic data sets
Multiple sources, not just governmental
Create synthetic economy of persons, corporations

Issue work units

Running work unit should show snapshots of inputs and outpus
People like screensavers
Merge datasets into economic outcomes
Temporal snapshots also possible here
Sanity check, correct algorithms for instability or poor model logic

Publish data (PDFs on site)

See also

Created by
Max Power

Initial idea
02 SEP 2008

21 DEC 2008

Last modified
20 July 2012