Most economists expect inflation to pick up over the next few months as lockdown restrictions ease and shops and restaurants reopen. But is this a cause for concern?
As lockdown measures begin to lift, financial markets are making their adjustments in anticipation of a rise in inflation, with bond yields picking up (meaning prices have fallen) and stock markets rotating from defensive sectors into cyclicals.
What is inflation?
Put simply, inflation measures the change in the prices of goods and services. If it rises then it takes more of our cash to buy things. We all experience inflation in our daily lives, from filling up our cars with fuel, buying groceries or using public transport.
In the UK, the official measure of inflation is the Consumer Prices Index. It’s published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which monitors what people are spending their money on, using a basket of everyday goods and services.
The ONS adjusts the basket from time to time to reflect our changing spending habits. During lockdown, there was a shift with products like hand sanitiser and hand wipes being added, and items like white chocolate and ground coffee dropping off the list.
Inflation is all an illusion… or is it?
It’s easy to ignore the impact of inflation on your finances. Most people’s spending habits this month compared with the same time a year ago would probably stick to the same patterns – regardless of inflation at the time – because the differences seem small and therefore wouldn’t affect the way they spend.
If you’re trying to save money though, it’s worth remembering that with interest rates currently lower than the rate of inflation, the real value of any cash savings is falling. In other words, the cost of living is increasing at a faster rate than your savings are growing, which means the spending power of your money is actually falling.
How will inflation affect investments?
Many people in the UK are preparing to spend the cash they’ve saved over the past year when the lockdown ends and shops, restaurants and entertainment venues reopen. Activity is likely to return to pre-pandemic levels and the expectation is that inflation is likely to pick up. Some economists are worried about inflationary pressures. In addition to this is the effect of government stimulus packages on the economy, which would provide another tailwind.
However, experts believe it’s likely to be a short-lived phase and should not pose a longer-term challenge to fixed income or equity markets. The Bank of England does foresee inflation rising towards the 2% mark but believes it will be a temporary phenomenon. Continuing deflationary forces like ageing demographics, technological innovation and global supply chains cast doubt over predictions of a new era of inflation.
Ultimately if you want to beat inflation in terms of finding some good returns on your savings, investing is the best option at the moment – due to cash savings rates being at such low levels.
One of the best ways to ensure your investments are given the strongest opportunity to navigate the effects of inflation on financial markets is through a global, multi- asset portfolio that’s actively managed by a professional team of investors. Speak to a financial adviser to find out more.
One of the best ways to ensure your investments are given the strongest opportunity to navigate the effects of inflation on financial markets is through a global, multiasset portfolio that’s actively managed by a professional team of investors. Speak to a financial adviser to find out more.