Inflation matters, but Fed policy matters more.

May 13, 2021
Federal Reserve
Federal Reserve

By Ipek Ozkardeskaya

GENEVA — Fear of seeing a high inflation print today has been a nightmare for the tech stocks since the beginning of the week.

Technology stocks are under a decent selling pressure, even though Nasdaq could recover some 2% of earlier losses to close Tuesday’s session near flat. Dow Jones tanked 1.36% on the other hand, hinting that even the reflation-friendly stocks didn’t help saving the day.

The chances are that we will see a relief rally across all sectors following today’s inflation data, especially if the inflation data doesn’t live up to the market expectations. But even if it does, the Federal Reserve (Fed) doves are not ready to desert the marketplace, just yet.

So, there’s no secret, we will certainly see a strong inflation figure today. The question is, how strong. There are three possible scenarios for today’s release. Either the number will be in line with the consensus of analyst expectations of roughly 3.5%, or it will be softer, or it will be stronger.

If the inflation data is in-line or ideally softer-than-expected, we will likely see a relief rally across the market and the tech stocks could benefit from a wave of optimism backed by the fact that the inflation is not accelerating as fast as feared and that the Fed could continue pumping liquidity into the system and support the rally in equity prices.

A stronger-than-expected inflation read, on the other hand, will add fuel to inflation fears and result in a deeper sell-off across equities.

Yet, any market turmoil may not last long, given that, in any case, the Fed will play down the acceleration in inflation, insist that it won’t be durable enough to threaten its inflation target of an ‘average of 2%’ and the softness in the jobs market requires an extended period of financial support.

In summary, soft or strong, inflation won’t prevent the Fed from pumping more liquidity into the system in the foreseeable future.

Therefore, price pullbacks could be interesting dip buying opportunities for investors willing to benefit from a couple of more quarters of a positive market trend, although we know that as we move forward, the inflation talk will likely intensify before it eases, and that will certainly increase the frequency and the size of price pullbacks, although it may not threaten the bullish equity trend in the immediate future.

Strong or soft inflation, we shall see a further rally in commodity prices.

Oil remains a good reflation play as prospects of improved global demand should continue supporting oil prices, and send the price of a barrel above the $70 per barrel durably.

Gold, on the other hand, should benefit from the rising inflation expectations as long as the US yields remain soft - as long as the Federal Reserve manages to contain the inflation fears and the Fed hawks’ impatience to step in.

Finally, cryptocurrencies will unlikely offer any efficient hedge against inflation, except from a strong decorrelation. Cryptocurrencies have no proven track record as an efficient inflation hedge. On the contrary, past data showed that loss of risk appetite has a negative impact on high-risk crypto prices.

— the writer is senior analyst of Swissquote

May 13, 2021
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