Roman Chuyan, CFA
July 18, 2016
The Federal Reserve has been trying to boost inflation since the financial crisis, and inflation finally did begin to rise this year. In fact, core (excluding food and energy) consumer price index inflation was at 2.2% in June (the orange line on the chart below).
CPI Inflation Rates and Wage Growth, 20 Years
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta
Some data suggest that inflation pressures are rising this year, as I highlighted previously – including continued rise in housing costs and the recent pickup in wage growth. According to the Atlanta Fed’s Wage Growth Tracker, which measures year-over-year change in median wage (the blue line above), wages increased by 3.5% from last year in May, its fastest growth since wage growth fell precipitously in 2009. This is very good news for employees as their real (after-inflation) wages are finally growing. However, it might also mean somewhat-higher upward pressure on prices.
Total inflation (including volatile food and energy prices) rebounded last year despite the continued plunge in crude oil (see chart below) and other commodities. Commodities stabilized this year – for example, crude oil price seems to have settled in the mid-$40 range. While still below year-ago levels, most commodities have rebounded strongly from their January-February lows: the CRB Index is up 7% YTD. Just released on July 14th, the producer price index rose by 0.54% in June from previous month, after rising 0.36% in May.
Inflation Rate vs. Crude Oil Price, 10 Years
Rising inflation will push interest rates up (bond prices down), and may force the Fed to hike short-term Fed Funds rate in order to contain inflation, sooner than currently expected. The view that inflation will rise is still uncommon – although some asset managers voiced concern (e.g., Goldman and DoubleLine), most observers still expect continued low-inflation environment. If the rise in inflation is sharp, the selloff in the bond market might be significant.
Model Capital Management LLC is a tactical investment manager. For details about Model Capital’s fundamental, forward-looking approach to tactical investment management, visit here; review the list of our tactical management strategies here. Please contact us for information on how we work with advisors.