Price Panic

The Noise

  • Reports from the US Labor Department showed that US inflation surged in April as the economic recovery picked up. Consumer prices jumped 4.2% in the 12 months through to April, up from 2.6% in March and marking the biggest increase since September 2008.
  • On Monday, as the easing of restrictions were given the go ahead, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland recorded no new Covid-19 deaths. This is a sharp contrast to a January peak across the UK, when about 1,800 deaths were recorded in a single day. At the time of writing the seven-day average for deaths is 8.
  • Tensions between Israel and Palestine reached a boiling point on Monday as Palestinian militants in Gaza fired dozens of rockets at Israel. At least 67 people in Gaza and seven people in Israel have been killed.

The Numbers

The Nuance

Confidence that has permeated markets for weeks appeared to lose momentum this week as nonfarm payrolls and inflation figures caused the charging bull to take a moment to catch its breath. Nonfarm payrolls (a measure of US employment) fell far short of expectations whilst inflation printed its highest month-on-month gain since 2008. Despite weakness early in the week, there were signs of a rebound on Thursday as share prices rallied back from their biggest one-day fall since February.

You may well be bored of reading about inflation by now but its importance for market sentiment cannot be overstated. Investors are extremely sensitive to policy decisions at the moment given the extent of monetary and fiscal stimulus; any sign of this being slowed down is going to prompt investors to reassess valuations. Despite Fed Chairman Jerome Powell’s frequent promises that interest rates aren’t going anywhere soon, investors appear to be keeping a close eye on inflation as the measure thatwill force him to act and tighten policy, which would likely introduce short-term volatility as the market incorporates the changing policy into its forecasts.

When inflation prints high, as it did this week, investor sentiment begins to waiver en masse. Will inflation keep rising? Will the Fed have to raise rates? In our view, Powell will not tighten policy until he has almost no other choice but to concede; his repeated promises to keep rates low have tied his own hands for the time being.

Portfolios are positioned with this dynamic in mind; property and infrastructure assets provide contractual income streams linked to actual inflation.Equities themselves have the ability to provide returns over and above the rate of price increases as corporate earnings can rise in line with inflation. This is especially true of high quality businesses such as those we invest in, as their strong market positions afford them pricing power which they are able to pass onto consumers in the event of price increases. Whilst market conditions are slightly turbulent, we continue to ensure portfolios are positioned to prosper against the underlying trends.

Quote of the Week

“Passer-by helps shoplifting seagull make getaway after daring Co-op sandwich heist.”

Daily Mirror

There are some headlines that scream out to you. This is one. Finally there’s a win for the little guy as a seagull plunders a Co-op in Aberdeen. Anyone who has spent time on the Scottish coast will attest to the fact that the seagulls are bold. One moment you’ll be enjoying some deep-fried Scottish health food and then suddenly, in a flash of white and feathers, your chips will be plundered. To all technophobes out there who fear that the machines will eventually outsmart and destroy us, I say the gulls are the real issue. Have a gander at the greatest heist since Hatton Garden by clicking on this link.