Inflation expectations reached a record high. Is gold preparing a counterattack to punish gold bears?
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Rise In The Inflation Expectations
In a classic Monty Python sketch, nobody expects the Spanish inquisition. In the current marketplace, everyone expects high inflation. As the chart below shows, the inflation expectations embedded in US Treasury yields have recently risen to the highest level since the series began in 2003.
Houston, we have a problem, an unidentified object is flying to the moon! The 5-year breakeven inflation rate, which is the difference between the yields on ordinary Treasury bonds and inflation-protected Treasuries with the same maturity, soared to 2.76% on Monday. Meanwhile, the 10-year breakeven inflation rate surged to 3.17%. The numbers show the Treasury market’s measure of average CPI annual inflation rates over five and ten years, respectively.
The chart is devastating for the Fed’s reputation if there’s anything left. You probably remember how the US central bank calmed investors, saying that we shouldn’t worry about inflation because inflation expectations are well-anchored. No, they don’t!
Of course, the current inflation expectations oscillate around 3%, so they indicate that the bond market is anticipating a pullback in the inflation rate from its current level. Nevertheless, the average of 3% over ten or even just five years would be much above the Fed’s target of 2% and would be detrimental for savers in particular, and the US economy in general.
I’ve already shown you market-based inflation expectations, which are relatively relaxed, but please take a look at the chart below, which displays the consumer expectations measured by the New York Fed’s surveys. As one can see, the median inflation expectations at the one-year horizon jumped 0.4 percentage point in October, to 5.7%. So much for the inflation expectations remaining under control!
Implications for Gold
Surging inflation expectations are positive for the gold market. They should lower real interest rates and strengthen inflationary worries. This is because the destabilized inflation expectations may erode the confidence in the US dollar and boost inflation in the future. So, gold could gain as both an inflation hedge and a safe haven.
And, importantly, the enlightened Fed is likely to remain well behind the curve in setting its monetary policy. This is even more probable if President Biden appoints Lael Brainard as the new Fed Chair. She is considered a dove, even more dovish than Powell, so if Brainard replaces him, investors should expect to see interest rates staying lower for longer. So, inflation expectations and actual inflation could go even higher.
Hence, the dovish Fed combined with high inflation (and a slowdown in GDP growth) creates an excellent environment for gold to continue its rally. After all, the yellow metal has broken out after several months of consolidation (as the chart below shows), so the near future seems to be brighter.
There are, of course, some threats for gold, as risks are always present. If the US dollar continues to strengthen and the real interests rebound, gold may struggle. But, after the recent change, the sentiment seems to remain positive.
Anyway, I would like to return to the market-based inflation expectations and the famous Monty Python sketch. With an inflation rate of 3%, which is the number indicated by the bond market, the capital will halve in value in just 24 years! So, maybe it would be a too-far-reaching analogy, but Monty Python inquisitors wanted to use a rack to torture heretics by slowly increasing the strain on their limbs and causing excruciating physical pain (luckily, they were not the most effective inquisitors!). Meanwhile, inflation hits savers by slowly decreasing the purchasing power of money and causing significant financial pain.
With the inflation rate at about 6%, hedging against inflation is a no-brainer. It’s a matter of financial self-defense! You don’t have to use gold for this purpose – but you definitely can. After several disappointing months, and the lack of gold’s reaction to inflation, something changed, and gold has managed to break out above $1,800. We will see how it goes on. I will feel more confident about the strength of the recent rally when gold rises above $1,900.
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Arkadiusz Sieron, PhD
Sunshine Profits: Effective Investment through Diligence & Care