Global inflation remains elevated with signs of a slowdown in the US, China and Japan. The marginal easing is due to lower food, medical care, used-car, tobacco and services inflation in August. As a result of lowering inflationary pressures and a continued focus on economic stimulation, we expect most developed markets to keep rates low and postpone hikes further into the future. This seems less likely for emerging markets as some countries have already started hiking rates. We do, however, think that the inflation debate is not as straight forward as “transitory vs structural”. We’ve got so many moving parts here, it’s oversimplistic to suggest that it’s fully structural or fully transitory. The fact of the matter is that a lot of the things that are pushing inflation numbers around are a mixture of both. So, the conclusion from all of this is that, yes, you are going to see higher inflation with a structural element to that. But that doesn’t mean that you are going to have a run-away inflation rate, the truth is probably somewhere in between.
The combination of worries about China corporate bond payments, higher energy prices, potential tapering of bond buying in the US have all led to higher US bond yields. We are aware of the potential negative consequences of ‘higher for longer’ energy/gas prices but believe these are part of the imbalances created by the events of the past 20 months. We are of the opinion that OPEC and shale gas operators will get production going again.
Investors must be mindful of the facts that will support global economic growth and will support equities as an asset class. Developed market interest rates remain low and are negative after fees and inflation. US equity valuations are now less demanding – S&P 500 trading below 20 X 2022 forward estimate earnings. Vaccination success in developed economies is making it possible for economic activity to normalise despite supply imbalances caused by Covid -19 disruptions (eg. the global semiconductor shortage). Earnings growth (8-10% p.a in developed markets) is being supported by pent-up consumer demand. Another positive is the need to rebuild inventories and supply chain stretching out the demand cycle from here. US Manufacturing data showed that orders rose by 1.2% month-to-month in August, suggesting that the economic recovery is starting to gather momentum. This bodes well, especially when considering that this was achieved despite massive supply-side constraints.
There is $2.5 trillion of excess savings in US household balance sheets. A lot of pent-up demand!
Director and Head of Portfolio Management
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