Consumers are starting to voice displeasure with inflation over important items such as food and gas, amongst many other costs. It is hard to say whether inflation will be transitory (the experts keep redefining what transitory means). Some goods such as used cars and lumber are falling in price, while other goods will come down in price as the supply chains open up. However, with a shrinking able work population, wage inflation is stickier and the cost of hiring employees is rising. You are hearing stories of businesses offering 20 per hour for entry-level jobs, as well as, investment banks offering over 300,000 for young investment banking associates who graduate near the top of their class. With rents rising and a tight housing market, it feels inflation will be with us longer than the Fed expected.
So why haven’t long bonds risen? Well, that is a tough question to answer. The Fed controls short-term rates by moving up or down the Fed Funds rate. Typically, longer-duration bonds are not controlled by the Fed. However, some bond analysts believe that the Fed is buying long-dated bonds which have kept rates lower than they should be. Others believe that the Fed will need to act quickly in raising short-term rates and in doing so, potentially harm the economic recovery. Therefore the next couple of monthly inflation readings will likely determine where interest rates move. It will be difficult to argue that inflation is transitory should the readings continue to come in “hot.” This week’s CPI readings were remarkable and at the highest since 1991. There has never been a time where inflation was running this hot and interest rates this low.
Real estate remains a great hedge against inflation, especially with such limited supply in the market. While prices can’t go up at this clip forever, historically low-interest rates are keeping affordability in the housing sector reasonable. Most people finance home purchases and are comfortable with the monthly debt payments. The growing number of non-traditional banks and mortgage companies are helping the higher-priced markets by accommodating borrowers with unique situations (those with hard-to-understand financials or originating from a foreign country). Insignia Mortgage remains very busy placing jumbo loans for these borrowers who are looking for a piece of the California dream.