Some investors are becoming increasingly convinced that the battle against inflation has already been won. Several prominent hedge fund managers believe that inflation is here to stay.
One such manager, Citadel founder Kenneth Griffin, recently raised concerns at a conference. Griffin pointed out that as countries shift their focus towards being less dependent on foreign competitors, a process known as deglobalization, costs will inevitably rise. This reversal of the deflationary pressure that the U.S. economy has experienced over the past few decades could lead to a significant increase in baseline inflation, potentially lasting for decades.
Griffin’s worries about lasting inflation are not unfounded. Other notable figures in the finance industry, including Bridgewater founder Ray Dalio, have also cautioned against heightened inflation due to various reasons, and have highlighted the potential challenges that higher interest rates could pose to the U.S. debt burden.
Should these concerns materialize, investors may face the reality of higher interest rates, both with and without accounting for inflation.
In the past week, there has been a rally in bonds and stocks as investors speculate whether the Federal Reserve’s aggressive campaign against inflation may be coming to an end. Despite poor performance this year, exchange-traded funds such as the iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF (TLT) have seen significant inflows, indicating that some investors are preparing for a potential shift towards falling rates, which would drive prices higher.
However, if Griffin’s predictions hold true, the Federal Reserve may have more work to do if it wishes to adhere to its long-standing commitment to maintain a 2% inflation target. This is because prior to recent years, the Fed received indirect support from companies utilizing global supply chains and workforces to reduce costs.
In summary, the belief that inflation is here to stay is gaining traction among investors. The potential consequences include higher interest rates, which could pose challenges for both investors and policymakers. It remains to be seen how the situation will unfold, as the global economy continues to undergo significant transformations.
Protecting Against Inflation: A Closer Look at Investment Options
With the current geopolitical climate, two ongoing wars, and escalating tensions with China, the White House has prioritized bringing supply chains back to the United States in an effort to reduce reliance on foreign governments. While this decision aims to strengthen national security, it does come with higher costs.
Experts warn that in a worst-case scenario, the US debt could spiral out of control if higher interest rates compel federal officials to resort to printing money to keep up with the mounting debt.
In light of this concern, many investors are seeking ways to protect themselves against inflation without exposing themselves to the risk of rising interest rates.
One straightforward approach is to hold cash. After a prolonged period of negative real rates, various options such as Treasury bills and money-market accounts are offering substantial returns above the recent annual inflation rate, which stands at approximately 3.4%.
Prominent investor Ray Dalio from Bridgewater Associates expressed his preference for cash over bonds during a conference in September. He cited the high yield offered by cash-like investments, particularly Treasury bills, which currently yield over 5%. Additionally, Dalio expects further interest rate increases to attract global investors to Treasuries.
In a further sign of the US Treasury Department’s commitment to combating inflation, they have recently increased the real rate offered on I Series Savings Bonds to 1.3%. As a result, investors who hold these bonds for their 30-year duration are guaranteed to outpace inflation by that margin.
It is worth noting that I Series Savings Bonds cannot be redeemed for one year, and if redeemed within five years, investors forfeit the last three months’ worth of interest. The Treasury does impose an annual purchase limit of $10,000 per investor for these bonds, with a few limited workarounds available.
Interestingly, retail investors have a unique advantage over hedge funds in accessing I bonds. Therefore, it may be wise for individual investors to take advantage of this opportunity.
In conclusion, the current economic climate calls for investors to explore strategies to protect against inflation. Holding cash and considering investments such as I Series Savings Bonds are viable options to safeguard one’s wealth. By staying informed and making informed decisions, investors can position themselves advantageously.