Can you predict what the economic future of the U.S. will be next month? How about next year? If you’re not sure, Solomon Exam Prep suggests you look at leading indicators, which are economic measures that have been found to anticipate a change in the economy. They are also tested subjects on securities licensing exams such as the FINRA Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam and the NASAA Investment Adviser (Series 65) exam.
One important leading indicator is inflation. So, we asked Solomon LinkedIn followers to predict whether the rate of inflation in 2022 will increase, decrease, or stay the same. According to the poll, a whopping 81% of respondents believe that inflation will increase in 2022. Ten percent predict that inflation will stay the same, and nine percent think it will decrease.
For securities licensing exams, leading indicators are important to understand because they are believed to have predictive power, and therefore, allow economists to see what the economic future may hold. That is why Solomon Exam Prep study guides for the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE), Series 7, Series 65, and Series 66 all discuss inflation. So, what exactly is inflation and why does it occur?
What is inflation and why does it happen?
Inflation means an increase in the prices of goods and services and a decline in the purchasing power of a currency. It can be understood as a part of business cycles, which are fluctuations in the economy. A business cycle has four phases. The first phase, expansion, is characterized by an increase in economic activity and above-average economic growth. In this phase, the production of goods rises and unemployment falls. Lenders make credit more available because they believe businesses and people will be able to repay their loans. Available credit means lower interest rates, which fuels expansion, resulting in more jobs.
The expansion phase feels good because jobs are plentiful, and wages rise. But a risk of the expansion phase is the possibility of inflation because increasing wages and available credit tend to boost prices. Inflation can result when demand for goods and services outstrips their supply. This usually occurs near the end of an expansionary phase, when too much money is chasing too few goods. Inflation can occur because of:
- High consumer confidence in the economy
- An economy that has reached its production potential
- Excess money in the economy
- Increases in wages and other production costs, such as a rise in commodity prices
What does inflation mean for investors?
With rising prices come rising interest rates. For example, if the cost of living is increasing at 5%, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), investors will be unwilling to purchase a bond paying 4% and lose purchasing power. Lenders will need to raise interest rates to keep up with inflation.
In an inflationary environment, investors may be less inclined to make long-term investments. The possibility that a long-term bond or other long-term investment will not keep up with inflation may drive investors to short-term and variable-rate bonds. Unfortunately, to grow, many businesses, especially capital-intensive companies such as oil and gas refineries, airlines, and telecommunications companies need to borrow for the long-term. As a result, an inflationary environment can reduce business investment and cause an economic downturn.
What are inflation expectations?
To return to the Solomon LinkedIn poll – does it matter what people think will happen with inflation in the future? The short answer is yes, and there’s even a term for this: inflation expectations. Inflation expectations refer to the rate at which people and businesses expect prices to rise in the future. Inflation expectations are important because they can actually affect the real rate of inflation. For example, if everyone expects prices to increase by two percent over the next year, then businesses will likely raise their prices by two percent or more, and workers will want comparable salary increases.
If the Solomon LinkedIn poll results are any indication, inflation expectations for the next year are that prices will increase. Do you agree that 2022 will see a rise in the rate of inflation? Comment below to share your thoughts on the topic.
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