Economics and markets

Inflation beyond the current spike

October 09, 2021

Could higher inflation persist?

What’s been driving U.S. inflation higher

Figure 1. The key drivers of U.S. inflation are sending mixed signals
A line graph shows the core U.S. Consumer Price Index from June 1971 through June 2021. That measure was relatively high from the mid-1970s through the early 1980s, and it moved up from low levels starting in late 2020. Below the line graph is a heat map for the same period that plots drivers of inflation: growth, slack, globalization and U.S. dollar, inflation expectations, technology, Federal Reserve policy, and fiscal policy. Each driver is represented by colored bands that change to red if the driver has inflationary impact and to blue if the driver has deflationary impact. In 2021, fiscal policy, Fed policy, and growth are red, indicating a higher inflation risk. Inflation expectations and slack are blue, indicating a lower inflation risk.
The challenges in forecasting inflation
Our model’s outlook for inflation: Higher than before the pandemic, but not runaway
Figure 2. Scenarios for inflation based on potential fiscal stimulus
A line chart shows the actual level of the core Consumer Price Index in the first two quarters of 2021. It also shows four scenario forecasts: downside, baseline, upside, and “go big.” All four scenarios anticipate upturns in inflation from the fourth quarter of 2021 through the first quarter of 2022 and again toward the end of 2022. Only the “go big” scenario exceeds 3% in the fourth quarter of 2022, but all the scenarios at that point are above the Federal Reserve’s average inflation target of 2%.
Key takeaways for investors
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