I used to watch this British show with my mom when I was young called “Some Mothers Do Av Em”. In one scene, the main character who was somewhat inept goes to an elderly man’s house to fix his boiler. In the process of fixing the water heater he ends up blowing up the entire house with a sudden “kaboom”. As he’s leaving, he turns and says to the bewildered man, whose house is now in ruins, “well, that’s all I can do for now”. I laughed for days after I saw this episode.
We have a sinking feeling that we may be hearing something akin to that last statement before too long with respect to our economy from politicians and central bankers alike as they leave the building. Ultra-low interest rates fueled by massive central bank support globally coupled with unprecedented government spending from major economies as well as pandemic induced shortages has led to a sudden spike in prices.
Our measure of inflation in Canada, the consumer price index (CPI) is showing a benign 2% year over year clip per the Bank of Canada website. But if you ‘ve been to the lumber yard, bought groceries, looked at real estate or crypto currency prices lately you will realize that this number is most likely not accurate or reflective. Many products and core inputs such as chlorine and computer chips are in short supply. Both increased demand coupled with decrease supply increases prices.
Politicians have used terms such as Modern Monetary Theory to push through a loose fiscal and monetary policy centered around spending more money than we have. There is nothing modern about it though as debasing a currency through increased supply is as old as currency itself. This is one of the reasons gold has held its value for so long. If history is any indicator, the likely outcome will be higher inflation which acts as a tax on all of us. The irony is that the more governments spend the higher their approval ratings. But what if there’s a war, another pandemic, or another recession? Where’s the foresight?
We believe that inevitably central banks will reluctantly have to reign in low interest rates and tighten the noose to stave off inflation. Whether it is on their own or forced tightening from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The future is not known but it is fairly obvious that with such high debt loads, small hikes in interest rates will have prolific effects on the interest payments of governments and homeowners. Another irony is that high spending governments will have much less to spend on social programs if higher rates do emerge.
So how can you protect yourself when there is a rise in inflation or another financial hiccup. One of the best ways to protect your wealth is to stay invested and keep saving and investing. In times of rising prices cash is not your friend. The inflation rate is generally the rate at which your cash is depreciating (losing purchasing power). Most companies can often pass on higher prices to the end consumer. In fact, Coca-Cola recently announced that they will pass on any price increases to us, the end user. Share prices and dividends should remain positive for investors of their stock. Banks stocks also gain from an environment where interest rates are rising. This also applies to material companies and equipment suppliers. Generally, it is the consumer left footing the bill for higher prices.
You will often hear us say that we don’t have a crystal ball (which we don’t). But we do believe that investing in a diversified portfolio is the best way to weather storms that may arise. It’s not timing the market it’s time in the market that has proven successful over the last 100 plus years.
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