Inflation across most regions has started to accelerate over the past few weeks. The recent conflict between the US and Iran, on Iraqi soil, has also put pressure on oil prices. While the situation is still fluid, the sentiment driving markets recently, and the underlying dynamics, are well worth monitoring.
State Street Global Advisors does not anticipate an overshoot in inflation, but it is one of the risks, or grey swans, that remains on investors’ minds. Meanwhile, institutional investors have not necessarily favoured US TIPS lately, continuing a long-term trend. ETF flows for inflation-linked exposures were also somewhat unimpressive in 2019, with just $2.7 billion of inflows when fixed income ETFs gathered more than $260 billion in total.1
Are investors underestimating the risk of an upside surprise? PriceStats® suggests that US inflation was unseasonably robust across the fourth quarter. Coupled with 2018’s collapse in energy prices dropping out of the inflation calculation, this has prompted an abrupt turnaround in the annual inflation rate. Headline and core inflation rates will now converge above 2%, begging the question for the first half of 2020 of whether they will remain below 2.5%.
The main elements in favour of higher US inflation include:
Beyond Middle Eastern tensions and potential domestic US political headline risk, progress on phase one trade deal has partially removed trade war risk and lifted breakevens. Nevertheless, it remains a risk to this more positive picture. We should highlight the more tactical nature of this “positive” inflation story as anticipations for headline CPI beyond Q1 2020 are far less optimistic.
As the recent backdrop has become more supportive for TIPS, and the risk-on mood has helped relative to nominal treasuries, the trend could potentially hold further for a relative value trade in Q1 2020, as illustrated in the chart below.
There are various ways to get exposure to inflation protection, and the duration profiles of indices have an impact on the magnitude of the performance deviation. Another option is to favour short-dated corporate bond exposures and to reduce duration and the indirect negative effect that inflation risk brings with it – higher nominal yields and the ensuing interest risk.
Source: State Street Global Advisors, Bloomberg Finance L.P., as of 2 January 2020.
Sources: Bloomberg Finance L.P., for the period 2-9 January 2020. This information should not be considered a recommendation to invest in a particular sector or to buy or sell any security shown. It is not known whether the sectors or securities shown will be profitable in the future.
Source: State Street Global Advisors, Bloomberg Finance L.P., as of 31 December 2019. Characteristics are as of the date indicated and should not be relied on thereafter.
Source: State Street Global Advisors, as at 31 December 2019. Performance quoted represents past performance, which is no guarantee of future results. Investment return and principal value will fluctuate, so you may have a gain or loss when shares are sold. Current performance may be higher or lower than that quoted. The contained performance data do not take account of the commissions and costs incurred on the issue and redemption, or purchases and sale, of units. Visit spdrs.com for most recent month-end performance. The performance figures contained herein are provided on a net of fees basis. Index returns are unmanaged and do not reflect the deduction of any fees or expenses. Performance returns for periods of less than one year are not annualised. Some of the products are not available to investors in certain jurisdictions. Please contact your relationship manager in regards to availability.
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Exp. Date: 31/01/2020
1Source: Bloomberg Finance L.P., as of 31 Dec 2019.