The market’s inflation outlook has popped a bit in recent weeks. The stock market has moved higher too. The new abnormal, in other words, remains intact.
Last month it appeared that the stock market and the inflation outlook might finally be going their separate ways. But as we now know, it was only noise. The stock market turned higher and so did the market’s inflation forecast. This abnormal dance continues, courtesy of troubles related to debt-deflation concerns in the realm of macro. In short, more of the same.
The implied inflation outlook touched 2.31% yesterday via the yield spread in nominal less inflation-linked 10-year Notes—the highest since early April. No wonder that the stock market (S&P 500) is at a three-month high.
The message (still) is that higher inflation expectations are still greeted favorably. This news comes as a shock in some corners. Inflation, runs one school of thought, is forever and endlessly evil. That’s a generally sound rule of thumb… most of the time. The mistake is assuming that there are no economic conditions under which this prudent notion breaks down.
Why has this rule cracked in recent years? One way to quantify an answer is by looking at the velocity of money, a rough measure of how fast currency is circulating through the economy. Considering that velocity has dropped to record lows relative to its history over the past 60-plus years, it’s no surprise that the crowd views higher inflation as something other than monetary Armageddon.
The current sentiment isn’t written in stone, of course, but it persists until further notice. What might sever this abnormal linkage? Under what conditions would we return to something closer to normality in terms of the relationship between inflation and equity prices? The answer is obvious: when economic growth is stronger. That, too, is coming… one day. The real challenge is deciding when. Good luck with that.
Meantime, the strange dance of abnormality endures. That's another way of reminding equity bulls that inflation is still your friend... for now.
About the Author - James Picerno is a veteran financial journalist since the early 1990s at Bloomberg, Dow Jones, etc. before becoming an independent writer/analyst/consultant in 2008. James is also the author of Dynamic Asset Allocation (Bloomberg Financial, 2010) and he writes at The Capital Speculator. (EconMatters author archive here)
The views and opinions expressed herein are the author's own, and do not necessarily reflect those of EconMatters.
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