Nov 15, 2019

Maybe inflation isn't dead

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
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Reproduced from Institute of International Finance; Chart: Axios Visuals

The main reason the debt has been such a non-issue is that inflation in the U.S. and most industrialized countries has stayed persistently low.

Why it matters: However, more fund managers and economists are increasingly saying they're worried that may not hold.

What they're saying: The main factors holding down inflation, at least in the U.S., are technology and income inequality, says David Kelly, chief global strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management. That's been helped by the U.S.-China trade war, which has damaged business sentiment and investment, holding down demand.

  • "You’ve got this increasingly unequal distribution of income that is preventing aggregate demand from getting too high."
  • "You can’t change the information technology, but if you do push up aggregate demand you could suddenly have a rush of inflation."

What to watch: Kelly also sees the unequal growth of assets in relation to the growth of the real economy as keeping inflation contained. But that could change.

  • "We’ve been avoiding that right now because the ownership of the assets is so tilted towards upper-income individuals who don’t spend them."
  • "But the day that those assets get spent, or people think they’re going to get spent, or you have MMT or big tax cuts for the poor, things are going to get sticky," Kelly says.

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