Should You Be Concerned About Inflation?

by M Financial | Sep 9, 2021
Should You Be Concerned About Inflation?

 

 

If you pay attention to financial news, you are probably seeing a lot of discussion about inflation. You have likely seen price increases in some of the goods and services you purchase, and if so it's natural to be concerned.

The larger question is whether these price increases are temporary, caused by factors such as supply-chain issues and labor shortages that will be resolved as the economy continues to emerge from the pandemic, or whether they indicate a fundamental imbalance that could cause widespread long-term inflation and hold back economic growth.

 

Most economists believe the current spike is primarily due to transitory factors that will fade in the coming months. 

Supply and Demand

Take lumber for example. Early in the pandemic, many lumber mills shut down or cut back on production because they expected a major slowdown in building. In fact, demand for housing and home renovation increased during the pandemic, as many people who worked from home wanted more space, a different location, or improvements to their current homes. Low supply and high demand sent lumber prices soaring.

Chips and Cars

Another example of pandemic-driven imbalance between supply and demand is used car and truck prices, which have skyrocketed almost 30% over the last 12 months and represent a substantial portion of the overall increase in Consumer Price Index. Used vehicles are hard to find in large part because fewer new cars are being built — and fewer new cars are being built because there is a shortage of computer chips. A single new car can require more than 1,000 chips, and when auto manufacturers were forced to close their factories early in the pandemic and new vehicle sales plummeted due to lack of demand, chip manufacturers shifted from producing chips for cars to producing chips for high-demand consumer electronics such as webcams, phones, and laptops.

Fundamental Forces

Imbalances between supply and demand are to be expected as the economy reopens, and most such imbalances should work themselves out in the marketplace. But other forces could fuel more extensive inflation. Massive federal stimulus packages have provided consumers with more money to spend, while ongoing stimulus from the Federal Reserve has increased the money supply and made it easier to borrow.

If wages and prices increase too quickly and consumers earning higher wages are willing to spend regardless of rising prices — because they expect prices to rise even higher — the wage-price inflation spiral could be difficult to control.

Looking Forward

The next few months may indicate whether inflation is slowing down or changes in monetary policy are necessary. Unfortunately, prices do not always come down once they rise, but it may be helpful to keep in mind that prices of many goods and services did decline during the pandemic, and the higher prices you are seeing today might not be far out of line compared with prices before the economic slowdown. As long as inflation begins trending downward, it seems likely that the current numbers reflect growing pains of the recovery rather than a long-term threat to economic growth.

Our role as financial professionals is to help guide and equip clients with the tools they need regardless of what news "worries" the financial markets. If you’re concerned about your financial future, or want to make sure you’re on the right track, schedule time with us today.

 

 

 

Securities and advisory services offered through LPL Financial, a registered investment advisor. Member FINRA / SIPC. Financial planning offered through M Financial Planning Services, a Registered Investment Advisor and a separate entity.

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Author: M Financial

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