The latest Consumer Price Index reports inflation for December 2022 was 9.2%.
So, while inflation is slowing, high inflation is still very much with us. With this in mind, how can investors protect their wealth?
Keep on reading for all the details or click on a link to head straight to a section…
- What is inflation?
- Why are prices rising so much?
- Why is inflation bad?
- What investments do well during high inflation?
what is inflation?
Inflation refers to the rate at which goods and services are rising by. There are numerous ways to measure inflation, but the Consumer Price Index (CPI) is the most commonly reported. The CPI is updated once a month by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and is measured by analysing price rises for a typical ‘basket of goods.’ This basket contains roughly 650 items chosen by the ONS.
It’s worth knowing that September’s CPI figure is particularly important. It’s one of the variables that determines the amount the State Pension will rise by. Under the triple lock, the UK state pension is guaranteed to rise by September’s CPI figure, average wage growth, or 2.5%.
Because inflation is so high – far higher than 2.5% and average wage growth – we now know the State Pension will rise by 10.1% in April. This was confirmed the Chancellor in his Autumn Statement.
CRITICISMS of the consumer price index
The CPI has its fair share of critics. Some economists believe the CPI doesn’t reflect the true rate that prices are rising by. Many also suggest the typical ‘basket of goods’ used to calculate the CPI isn’t fit for purpose. For example, the CPI does not take into account house price rises, or hikes in council tax.
why are prices rising so much?
While the Government often points to the Ukraine war as a reason behind soaring costs, it’s worth understanding that UK inflation was already running very high before the Russian invasion began.
Let’s not forget that the Bank of England printed billions of pounds through ‘quantitative easing‘ to support the UK economy through the pandemic. This massively increased the amount of cash in circulation.
We’re now seeing this new cash sloshing around in the economy, chasing the same number of goods and services as before. The result is rising prices.
In addition, the Bank of England also slashed interest rates during the pandemic. It followed a policy of keeping rates as low as possible, for as long as possible. While this kept borrowing costs down, there’s a clear link between ultra-low interest rates and high inflation.
Given the Bank’s actions over the past few years, we shouldn’t be too surprised to see prices soaring right now. The chickens are simply coming home to roost.
why is inflation bad for investors?
Rising inflation is bad news if you’ve savings or investments. That’s because when inflation rises, the value of your wealth will fall UNLESS you earn a return that’s at least equal to inflation.
This is far harder to achieve than it sounds. For example, while savings rates are rising right now, you still won’t find an account paying anything close to 9% interest.
On a similar note, major stock market indices, both in the UK and abroad, have all suffered over the past year or so. As an added sucker punch for investors, bond prices also plunged in 2022.
what investments do well during high inflation?
Given the difficult period for investors, you may believe keeping up with inflation is a futile pursuit. Yet, it’s fair to say that some asset classes typically do better than others during periods of high inflation. Let’s take a look at some of them:
Commodities can refer to useful assets such as precious metals – such as gold and silver – as well as electricity, oil, natural gas, wheat and grain.
Rising commodity prices can sometimes be the cause of rising inflation. So, if you invest in commodities, you should benefit if prices rise – even if these prices rises lead to more inflation.
If you don’t want to buy physical commodities, it’s possible to buy a commodity-heavy ETF or ETC through an investing platform, such as eToro.
2. REAL ESTATE INVESTMENT TRUSTS
Despite high inflation and the UK’s bleak economic outlook, housing is an asset that often defies gravity. According to Nationwide’s latest Index, UK house prices are now 9.5% more expensive than a year ago.
While it remains to be seen whether the UK housing market can continue to impress – especially with mortgage rates now rising fast – it would take a brave individual to bet against bricks and mortar.
If you’re optimistic house prices will continue heading upwards, buying property isn’t the only way you can get in on the action however. Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) provide a way to gain exposure to commercial and residential property, without having to shake hands with a well-dressed estate agent.
To learn more, take a look at our article that explains how to invest in property using REITs.
3. Inflation-linked bonds
Another option to protect your portfolio from inflation is to buy an inflation-linked bond. These are pretty self-explanatory. When inflation rises, so does the value of these bonds. When inflation falls, the opposite happens. This is why interest rates have a massive impact on the value of these bonds.
You can buy inflation-linked bonds though a specialist ETF such as the ‘Vanguard Short-Term Inflation-Protected Securities ETF.’ This ETF is available to buy though eToro.
4. specific sectors
When it comes to trying to beat inflation, it can be worthwhile thinking about investing directly in sectors that are likely to do well amid rising prices. Here are four sectors that typically do well:
- Healthcare. When times get tough we can all cut back on luxuries. Yet sectors within the healthcare sphere are unlikely to be impacted too much by high inflation as demand is inelastic. For this reason, drug stores and pharmaceuticals could be good companies to invest in when inflation is high.
- Supermarkets. Demand for consumer staples is also inelastic. Think about it… we all need to buy groceries, even if we have a begrudging attitude towards higher prices.
- Energy companies. Energy is a utility that we all need to heat our homes. While we can all do our best to cut back when prices rocket, demand for energy will always be high, regardless of the economic situation.
- Mining companies. Similar to the impact on commodities, inflation can have a big, positive impact on the profits of mining companies. This is because when demand for raw materials rises, the value of commodities also increases.There are a host of mining companies listed in the FTSE 100, including Anglo American, Antofagasta Holdings, BHP Group Plc, Fresnillo, and Rio Tinto Plc.
Warning: While the above asset classes have performed strongly in the past, there’s no sure-fire way of hedging against inflation. Past performance of an investment class shouldn’t be used as a reliable indicator of future returns. Always do your own research before making any investment decisions.
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Disclaimer: MoneyMagpie is not a licensed financial advisor and therefore information found here including opinions, commentary, suggestions or strategies are for informational, entertainment or educational purposes only. This should not be considered as financial advice. Anyone thinking of investing should conduct their own due diligence.