20 Dec 2021

Alternatives are Tough

I wrote a lot about inflation in 2021 for pretty obvious reasons. I also wrote that bonds are difficult investments to own right now because the expected inflation rate over the coming decade is more than the current interest rates. After receiving a lot of inquiries about bond alternatives like REITs, utilities, and the like, I wrote an article shooting down those too. This article is a variant on that… Read More

6 Dec 2021

Illustrating Inflation

For years now, inflation has been an afterthought in the investing conversation because it’s been so dormant. In fact, for a few years, the worry was centered around deflation. And yet, here we are, somewhere in a pandemic (I’d like to think near the end, but omicron is a good reminder that we just don’t know what’s around the corner), and we’re talking about supply-chain bottlenecks and looking at government… Read More

15 Nov 2021

Inflation Runs Hot

This past Wednesday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the Consumer Price Index (CPI) data for October, which showed inflation on consumer goods growing at a rate not seen in thirty years. This concerning trend is illustrated in the chart below. The orange line tracks the annual growth rate of the CPI since the 1960’s. This line includes all prices and categories. The white line tracks the same index, but… Read More

13 Sep 2021

Inflation and the Price of Milk

The inflation that we all worried about earlier this year is showing up in the monthly numbers. It’s too early to say whether the higher readings are transitory, as the Fed would say, or here to stay. The most recent reading showed that inflation for the 12-months ending in July is 4.2 percent for ‘core’ inflation, and 5.3 percent for headline inflation. What’s core inflation? It’s the headline number but… Read More

9 Aug 2021

The Fed and the Long Term

Over the weekend, I watched a Front Line documentary on PBS that came out in July, called The Power of the Fed. You can watch it here, although you may have to be a member (like me!). The documentary chronicles the power of the Federal Reserve, with particular attention to the bond-buying program called quantitative easing that followed the 2008 global financial crisis. The documentary makes the case that the… Read More

12 Jul 2021

When You Think One Thing, Think Again

Over the past few months, markets and investors were worried about the possibility of inflation coming back. And, there was and is good reason for concern: the economy is rebounding quickly, finding examples of labor shortages is easy, there is still massive monetary stimulus in place, and there are discussions of even more fiscal stimulus to come. I’ve personally been a little bit skeptical, mostly because I remember all of… Read More

17 May 2021

Inflation Data Spooks Market

Markets were caught off guard last week by several inflation data points last week, and the biggest surprise came from the core inflation rate which was expected to come in at 0.3 percent for the month but was 0.9 percent instead. Most of the time stocks and bonds move independently of each other, but stock and bond prices fell on the inflation news because it could prompt the Federal Reserve… Read More

8 Mar 2021

Investing for Inflation

Last week, I looked at some of the investor concerns about inflation, noting that inflation expectations had jumped recently (you can read the full article here). As the economy comes out of the covid-induced recession, the government is still responding aggressively, which has some investors concerned that there will be too much money chasing too few goods, leading to higher prices. This week, I promised to describe some of the… Read More

1 Mar 2021

Worried About Inflation?

Although some of the weakness was thought to be technical in nature, it is also the latest chapter in an ongoing tough market for bonds amid rising inflation expectations, a reasonably strong macro-outlook, solid corporate earnings, improving covid trends, and expectations for continued fiscal stimulus. Only energy posted a win for the week, up 4.3 percent. Utilities and consumer discretionary stocks were down -5.0 percent respectively, and technology fell by… Read More

18 May 2020

Worried About Inflation?

In response to the economic shutdown caused by covid-19, the government has effectively printed almost $5 trillion dollars. Congress passed a fiscal stimulus package of $2.9 trillion and the Federal Reserve has bought more than $2 trillion in bonds from the open market. Moreover, there is a debate in Washington to see whether Congress should pass another stimulus package and the Fed has committed unlimited funds to fight the economic… Read More