Booming labor market puts ‘boomflation’ back on the map for investors

The concern has instead turned to what a heartbreaking labor market and soaring costs for everything mean for stock and bond portfolios, particularly if it turns into a mix of growth and higher inflation with lasting resistance.

How to even call such a scenario? “Boomflation,” said Kent Engelke, chief economic strategist at Capitol Securities Management, pointing to annual wage gains set at 5.2% on Friday, which should help fuel growth.

On the darker side, however, inflation is at a 41-year high in June, which could be even harder to control after more workers in July left the labor pool.

“In the immediate term, this directly challenges the idea that the Fed is going to end up raising rates when it gets the key rate above 3%,” Engelke said by phone, adding that he suspects the final target is now closer to 4%.

The surprisingly robust jobs report focuses on next Wednesday’s consumer price index update for July, with many on Wall Street hoping for signs that inflation may finally be peaking.

“It’s good from a consumer perspective,” Yung-Yu Ma, chief investment strategist at BMO Wealth Management, said of the jobs report, adding that many households were struggling. “Even with strong wage increases, average inflation has been higher,” he said.

“The challenge is that it makes it harder for the Fed to bring inflation down.”

60/40 works, again

The bottom doesn’t really feel like it’s falling out of the US economy, but assets from stocks to bonds to cryptocurrencies have all suffered nothing short of a bombardment in the first half of the year. ‘year. What happens next?

“Stagflation fears, that kind of fall,” said Dec Mullarkey, managing director of investment strategy and asset allocation at SLC Management.

He also thinks recession fears have been a little overblown, especially with relatively strong second-quarter corporate earnings. “Stock markets saw this and held the line,” he said. “Everyone called it a bear market bounce. I haven’t been in that camp.

Instead, Mullarkey said he’s bullish on both stocks and bonds, especially when you can get relatively low-risk exposure to the U.S. investment-grade corporate bond market at a yield of about 4.3%.

While short-term Treasury rates have “flew in circles,” he also appreciates the increased stability seen in the TMUBMUSD30Y 30-year yields,
3.072%
nearly 3.065% on Friday.

“We like a balanced approach,” Ma said. “To the extent that there could be more challenges in equities, fixed income is providing more support than it did in the first half.”

But Ma also said there will be “huge, huge focus” on Wednesday’s CPI reading for signs of recalcitrant inflation. “Especially in light of the jobs report, if both point to more sticky inflation, it’s possible the narrative will change, where the Fed will eventually have to raise interest rates.”

The Fed’s aggressive rate hikes since March have already pushed the federal funds rate into a range of 2.25% to 2.5%, with larger rate increases now likely.

Lily: July jobs number prompts traders to predict another Fed rate hike

A “neutral” rate of 3%

Higher wages may pinch corporate profits, though households are earning more to offset soaring prices for gas, groceries, cars and housing. A stronger labor market is easing recession fears. But the Federal Reserve’s inflation fight has become more difficult.

What if it boils down to some level of tolerable boomflation in the United States, given all the strings pulled by the government during the pandemic to keep households from losing their homes and to keep the economy from collapsing in a deep and long recession?

“It really comes down to the question of whether the world can live on 5% wage increases,” Mullarkey said, adding that a lot of the wage gains were for low-income workers. “It could be a healthy catch-up that is deserved.”

Regarding labor shortages, he also said it was not accurate to blame older workers who have retired. “We’re missing 2 million workers who would have come from overseas,” Mullarkey said, pointing to immigration restrictions put in place under the previous administration. “It put a dent in our workforce.”

Another approach could be for the Fed to consider abandoning its idea that a 2% annual inflation rate is a “neutral” target.

“What looks like a commitment from the Fed to hit 2% inflation is a tough number to hit,” BMO’s Ma said, adding that it also risks the central bank “tightening too tightly, seeing no way easy to lower inflation other than the slowdown”. the economy more than people would probably like to see it slow down.

On the other hand, from an economic and market point of view, “it’s good to have a bit higher range of 2% to 3% because of the sticker points of inflation and tight labor market,” he said. “There is nothing magical about 2%.”

Although he doesn’t think the mood at the Fed is still there.

Other economic data available for the week ahead are the New York Fed’s 3-year inflation expectations, followed by the NFIB Small Business Index on Tuesday. Next is Wednesday’s important CPI indicator for July and Friday’s consumer sentiment reading.

U.S. stocks closed mixed on Friday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA,
+0.23%
up 0.2%, but with a weekly loss of 0.1%, according to Dow Jones Market Data. The S&P 500 SPX index,
-0.16%
and Nasdaq Composite COMP,
-0.50%
posted weekly gains of 0.4% and 2.2%, respectively, both marking a third consecutive week of gains and their best stretch since April 1.

Related: ‘One of the strongest job markets in the last 50 years’ : Looking for a pay rise? This jobs report has good news for you.

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