Has Inflation Peaked? Bond Market Yields Suggest Uncertainty…
Where Does Inflation Go from Here?
A peak in service inflation may be on the horizon. A noteworthy example is Walmart, one of the nation’s largest employers, which recently announced that new hires will be earning less. This adjustment signifies a potential slowdown in wage inflation, which had surged to unsustainable levels due to the pandemic, supply chain bottlenecks, and substantial government stimulus. Initially encouraged by the Fed, this wave of inflation is unlike anything witnessed in the past 40 years and was largely due to the assumption that inflation would be transitory.
While we are witnessing some moderation in inflation concerning goods (though still too high by our standards), service inflation remains persistently elevated. This is placing significant strain on businesses of all sizes, as consumers are becoming less tolerant of higher-priced goods and services. This is why the Fed is not rushing to lower interest rates.
The situation becomes increasingly complex when we consider why interest rates remain high despite indications that inflation might be cooling off. Two key factors come into play. Firstly, the price of oil, hovering around $90 per barrel, is preventing a more significant drop in inflation. Although the Consumer Price Index (CPI) has declined from over 9% to roughly 3.2%, moving from 3.2% to 2% will be a lengthy process for the Fed. Secondly, the massive budget deficits of many developed nations are no longer being disregarded by bond traders (this includes the United States). Our government’s debt burden has led bond buyers to demand higher yields to compensate for the perceived risks associated with holding such bonds.
Lastly, it is important to recognize that interest rate cycles are lengthy, whether on the ascent or descent. We are currently on an upward trend. Unless significant adverse events occur, this trajectory is likely to persist. Assuming a 3% long-term inflation rate, it is not inconceivable that longer-dated bonds trade between 4% -5%.
In the Next Two Weeks…
Keep a close watch on next week’s inflation readings and the subsequent week’s Federal Open Market Committee meeting. In the current climate, everything revolves around inflation and interest rates. Additionally, pay attention to the 10-year Treasury bond, which is teetering at the 4.25% mark. If it breaches 4.35%, the markets could face a challenging remainder of the year.