Shoppers keep a safe distance from a checkout counter in Torrance, California.
Al Seib | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images
The coronavirus pandemic is easing, but the new normal may not look like 2019.
One reason is that the prices of some goods and services have soared due to inflation and could continue to rise, especially if the government pushes ahead with President Joe Biden’s proposed $ 6 trillion spending plans.
This is a major concern for most wealthy investors, according to CNBC’s latest millionaires survey. According to the report, up to 65% of millionaires are concerned about inflation caused by recent government spending. Of these, 34% said they were very concerned.
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The survey, conducted online by Spectrum Group on behalf of CNBC in April and May, included 750 respondents with fixed assets of $ 1 million or more.
In April, the core price index – a key indicator of inflation in the US that excludes the volatile costs of gasoline and groceries – rose 3.1%, according to the Department of Commerce. That was higher than the forecast of 2.9% and the inflation rate of 1.9% of the previous month. Including food and fuel, the reading was 3.6%, the fastest pace in 13 years.
The Federal Reserve generally estimates the rate to be around 2%. After the pandemic recession, however, the Fed announced that it would let inflation run a little higher in order to boost the employment rate.
Inflation, especially if it continues and persists, can be a problem for both consumers and investors. Higher costs place a greater burden on wallets, and the overall environment can also weigh on riskier assets.
“In general, stocks do better in a low-inflation environment than in a high-inflation environment,” Goldman Sachs’ US equity strategist David Kostin said in an interview with CNBC’s Squawk on the Street on Tuesday. “Alternatively, falling inflation is generally better than rising inflation.”
Reduction of fears of inflation
While many investors are concerned about inflation, some groups see it as more of a problem than others. For example, 85% of Republican millionaires are concerned about rising prices compared to 42% of their Democratic counterparts.
Younger investors are also more concerned than their elders. 52% of Millennial Millionaires said they were “very concerned” about inflation, compared to 40% of Generation X and 31% of baby boomers surveyed. Overall, men were more concerned about inflationary pressures than women.
Another reason why rising inflation worries investors is that it could get the Fed to hike rates. That could be a headwind for stocks and means that borrowing will become more expensive.
So far, the Fed has not yet said when it will start raising rates, but it may start discussing when it will soon. Up to 64% of millionaires said they believe interest rates will rise in the next year.
The economic background
Of course, some of these stresses are a normal part of stabilizing the economy after a shock like the coronavirus pandemic.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has argued that rising prices are related to the pandemic, such as supply chain disruptions and spikes in spending as the economy reopens. She said more government spending, even if it triggered inflation and higher interest rates, would be a good thing during a Monday interview with Bloomberg News.
“If we ended up with a slightly higher interest rate environment, it would actually be a plus for society and the Fed,” she said.
Investors seem to agree that the economy and the stock market as a whole are on a growth path. Up to 65% of respondents said the economy will be stronger by the end of 2021 than a year earlier, and 77% expect the S&P 500 index to finish the year up 5% or more.
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Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.