Inflation numbers have been heating up. U.S. PPI just came in higher than expected at 0.8%. UK’s CPI also jumped. In India and China, food inflation has been stubbornly high.Hyperinflation is more of an extreme. Over the weekend, John Mauldin wrote that he doesn’t expect hyperinflation in the U.S. because the Fed can print loads of money without bringing about inflation.
But a crucial aspect of hyperinflation is mounting deficits that are financed by printing money as he explains. When prices start jumping 50% every month and people’s incomes and savings get destroyed like they did in the Weimar Republic in the early 1900s, the economy becomes unbearable. Zimbabwe has only too recently lived through it. We’ve highlighted some of the worst cases of hyperinflation in the last century.
What: At its worst Germany reached a monthly inflation rate of 29,500% in October 1923 according to the Cato Journal. In December 1923 4.2 trillion marks would get you USD1.
In the early 1920s hyperinflation had so destroyed the mark that Germans began using it as a substitute for firewood and coal since the currency was cheaper to burn.
Why: Germany's decision to fund its war debts by borrowing instead of taxing its citizen's lead to a surge in inflation in the Weimar Republic, Germany's 1919 parliamentary republic that replaced the imperialist government.
How it ended: The government created an independent central bank and introduced a new currency, the rentenmark, that could be converted into a bond with gold value.
What: Greece's monthly inflation rate peaked at 13,800% in October 1944 with a daily inflation rate of 20.9%, according to the Cato Journal.
Why: WWII left Greece in debt because the government covered its expenses by printing money instead of taxing its citizens. The German-Italian occupation destroyed the economy and eventually citizens lost faith in the currency and the central bank began to issue gold franc coins which cut the demand for the currency.
How it ended: To end hyperinflation Greece joined the international Bretton Woods system in 1953 which fixed exchange rates linking international currencies to the US dollar.
What: Inflation peaked in July 1946 with monthly rate of 4.19 x 1016% and 207% daily inflation rate according to the Cato journal. When 100 quintillion became the highest pengő denomination the government adopted a new currency to cope with the situation and it gave way to a special currency the adópengő but by July 1946, one adópengő equaled 2×1021 pengő.
Why: Hungary's war-time spending sent prices soaring. The country also heavily subsidized the private sector straining the public budget.
How it ended: A new regime came to power in 1946, in the immediate aftermath workers were paid appalling wages but Hungary switched to the forint and stabilised its credit system.
What: China's inflation rate reached a maximum monthly rate of 2178% in May 1949 with an equivalent daily inflation rate of 11%, according to the Cato Journal. The highest denomination at the time was 6 billion yuan.
Why: China's nationalist government took over the nation's banks and switched from silver standard to fiat currency. It then used the currency to monetise its debt and continued printing money during the war with Japan and the civil war fought against Mao's communist forces.
How it ended: China adopted the renminbi and by 1955 inflation began to ease. A revaluation saw 1 new renminbi equal of 10,000 of the old currency.
What: Chile's year-over-year inflation in April 1974 reached 746.29%.
Why: President Salvador Allende nationalized companies and mines, appropriated private land and gave them to workers and printed money to keep the economy afloat. The devaluation of escudos led the market to demand dollars.
How it ended: A US-backed coup d'état brought General Augusto Pinochet to power. He sold government owned companies and instituted the new peso.
Why: Argentina's inflation stemmed from heavy external borrowing and when that was cut off the government devalued the currency to increase its trade surplus.
How it ended: Over the years the government tried economic reforms like The Primavera Plan with a reverse multiple exchange-rate system. This failed. In the 80s it adopted the BB plan with new stabilisation measures.
What: At its peak between May and August 1985 Bolivia's annualized inflation rate rose to 60,000%.
Why: Unlike most countries on this list Bolivia's inflation didn't stem from a war. An unstable political environment led to a collapse of the nation's export industry and it's burgeoning debt to foreign lenders forced the Bolivian government to print more money.
How it ended: President Victor-Paz Esonoro's government implemented monetary and fiscal changes and the government stopped printing money. It increased its revenue base by broadening its tax-base and increasing prices of state-owned oil and other public sector prices.
What: In the late 1980s and early, Nicaraguans would say that 'they were a country of millionaires.' The government had taken to printing currency denominations of 100 million new cordobas. The country saw its annual inflation rate rise to over 30,000% in 1987.
Why: A rebel war, a drop in agricultural exports and US sanctions on the country saw Cordobas devalued against the dollar. The government took to rubber-stamping the currency to higher denominations.
How it ended: The end of armed conflict and economic reforms instituted by former President Violeta Chamorro after the 1990 elections saw inflation levels ease. Chamorro was able to increase foreign investment and draw on U.S. support.
What: Yugoslavia reached a monthly inflation rate of 313,000,000% and a daily inflation rate of 64.6% according to the Cato Journal. At its worst the bank was printing dinars denominations as high as 500 billion.
Why: Yugoslavia's inflation was driven by money printing and made worse by UN sanctions on the country which saw a sharp drop in output. By 1990 the government had used up its own hard currency reserves and began to appropriate savings of citizens by restricting access to their savings in government banks. The eventual break-up of the state only added to the country's inflation woes.
How it ended: In 1994 the government introduced the novi dinar at an exchange rate of 1.3 million dinar: 1 novi dinar. The new currency was pegged 1:1 to the stable German mark.
What: Zimbabwe's annual inflation rate stood at 516 quintillion per cent, according to The Telegraph. At one point the bank printed Zimbabwean dollars with a 100 trillion denomination so shoppers didn't have to lug around sacks of cash.
Why: The nation's inflation rate spiral went out of control because of President Mugabe's policies which involved unmitigated government spending financed by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. Mugabe in turn blamed US and EU sanctions for the country's economic chaos.
How it ended: In 2009 the government abandoned Zimbabwean dollars that had essentially become junk currency and allowed the use of the South African rand and the US dollar.
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