Categories
Central Banks
Q&A with Andrew Cormack
Andrew Cormack
Portfolio Manager Based in London
KEY TAKEAWAYS
  • Valuations almost everywhere remain expensive; investors may need to be more vigilant and consider avoiding reaching for yield.
  • The US short-term inflation outlook remains highly uncertain. Secular forces will likely keep long-term inflation benign.
  • Many EM sovereigns have attractive real yields, which could become more attractive if inflation proves transitory.
  • Adopting a flexible investment strategy will likely prove to be beneficial in the current market environment.

It feels as though US policy makers have spent the entire post-global financial crisis period trying to generate inflation. Now that it’s here, it seems like the wrong kind of inflation. How do you see inflation playing out in the US?


Inflation is clearly on the rise, but this should be expected when you shut down an entire economy, flood consumers with cash and then re-open the economy. The question is whether this inflation is likely to be transitory or persistent. It’s helpful to look at the supply side and the demand side of the economy separately.


In the short term, we are seeing very strong pent-up demand but restricted supply, and that's pushed inflation up, creating a challenge for the US Federal Reserve (Fed). Private and corporate balance sheets are very strong which has allowed the economy to bounce back quicker than we would normally expect following such a deep recession.


Another key consideration is the impact the new Omicron variant will have on inflation. If policy makers choose to impose tighter restrictions and enforce new “work from home” policies, this will likely slow the progress we’ve seen recently in the labour market and intensify supply-chain disruptions. In short, I think lockdowns extend the persistence of inflation. This is something to pay close attention to early in the new year.


I do think it’s important to differentiate between the short and long-term. There are big secular disinflationary forces that have been entrenched for decades and it will take more than a temporary supply and demand imbalance to stop or even reverse these. For example, there is still a lot of debt in the economy. Debt is essentially borrowing growth from the future, therefore high levels of debt put downward pressure on future growth, potentially leading to lower inflation in the long run. Inequality remains a big problem both in the US and globally, and arguably the wealth divide between the least and most well-off in society has widened during COVID-19. I believe inequality is disinflationary because money that flows into the wealthiest hands tends to be money that is saved rather than consumed. I think these secular disinflationary forces are important and, in the US, will likely keep long-term inflation benign and long-term bond yields low.


So, the outlook for policy makers is really uncertain. Since most of the uncertainty seems to lie in the short-term, I expect the volatility in interest rates to mainly impact short and intermediate maturity US bonds, rather than the long end.


This inflation challenge is not just a US phenomenon. How are you seeing inflation in other parts of the world?


I think the near-term inflation problem is very much a global one. In the UK, labour markets are incredibly tight. Following Brexit, many workers who previously filled low-wage positions in retail and hospitality have relocated back to Europe, and their labour cannot be replaced easily without the lure of higher wages. Demand has also been very strong as the economy rebounded, helped by relatively high vaccination rates.


 


Risk factors you should consider before investing:

  • This material is not intended to provide investment advice or be considered a personal recommendation.
  • The value of investments and income from them can go down as well as up and you may lose some or all of your initial investment.
  • Past results are not a guide to future results.
  • If the currency in which you invest strengthens against the currency in which the underlying investments of the fund are made, the value of your investment will decrease. Currency hedging seeks to limit this, but there is no guarantee that hedging will be totally successful.
  • Depending on the strategy, risks may be associated with investing in fixed income, emerging markets and/or high-yield securities; emerging markets are volatile and may suffer from liquidity problems.


Andrew Cormack is a fixed income portfolio manager at Capital Group. He has 18 years of investment industry experience and has been with Capital Group for three years. He holds a first-class honours degree in actuarial science from the London School of Economics and Political Science. He also holds the Investment Management Certificate. Andrew is based in London.


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Past results are not a guarantee of future results. The value of investments and income from them can go down as well as up and you may lose some or all of your initial investment. This information is not intended to provide investment, tax or other advice, or to be a solicitation to buy or sell any securities.

Statements attributed to an individual represent the opinions of that individual as of the date published and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Capital Group or its affiliates. All information is as at the date indicated unless otherwise stated. Some information may have been obtained from third parties, and as such the reliability of that information is not guaranteed.