September 29, 2021
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Insights
Confronting the challenges of persistent transitory inflation
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Andrew Keirle
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Kenneth Orchard
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Quentin Fitzsimmons
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Ju Yen Tan
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Saurabh Sud

Global Fixed Income Team

Each month, our portfolio managers, analysts, and traders conduct an in‑depth review of the full fixed income opportunity set. This article highlights a key theme discussed.

How to position against potential inflation risks in fixed income.

KEY INSIGHTS
The peak in global inflation keeps being pushed higher, challenging the view that the current wave of price pressures is transitory (temporary). During our latest policy meetings, the investment team discussed the current inflation dynamics, how central banks are responding to them, and, in particular, how bond investors might seek to navigate the period ahead.

Time for a higher inflation premium

Across developed markets, inflation has soared higher in recent months, driven by a combination of economies reopening, higher energy prices, and supply chain bottlenecks. In the eurozone and the UK, price pressures are close to decade highs, while in the US, annual consumer prices have risen above 5% for the first time since 2008.

“Almost everyone has been wrong about inflation this year – it continues to remain stubbornly high and reach new peaks,” said Arif Husain, portfolio manager and head of International Fixed Income. “Given the conditions, it may be prudent for fixed income investors to factor a higher premium for the inflation risk,” added Mr. Husain.

So far, there are limited signs of this taking place in bond markets, where interest rates remain close to record lows. “The bond market appears to be firmly of the belief that the inflation spike is transitory, but this perspective is looking increasingly risky the longer prices stay elevated,” warns Mr. Husain.

Developed market central banks have hardly reacted to the rise in inflation because, as shown by their forecasts, they expect the pressures to be temporary and cool by next year. For example, the European Central Bank (ECB) expects headline inflation to fall from an average of 2.2% this year to 1.7% in 2022.

“The bond market appears to be firmly of the belief that the inflation spike is transitory, but this perspective is looking increasingly risky…”
– Arif Husain, Portfolio Manager, Head of International Fixed Income

Opportunity for central banks to reset inflation expectations

At present, central banks are merely signaling the start of dialing back crisis‑era support – they are not proposing to remove accommodative policies or tighten monetary policy yet.

There is a risk that central banks may fall behind the curve in tackling inflation – though in some cases this might be deliberate. For the past decade, many developed countries have been stuck in a low inflation environment despite the best efforts of central banks to engineer pressure on prices. “The current price spike could act as a potential opportunity for select developed central banks to reset inflation expectations higher after years of failing to meet their price target,” noted Mr. Husain.

The ECB may be one of those banks, as the recent sharp rise in European energy prices is expected to drive inflation temporarily above target. “The ECB will likely not lean against temporary inflation pressures generated by the energy price rise but instead keep policy easy to help generate second‑round effects,” said Mr. Husain.

The potential for political change in Europe could also tilt inflation to the upside, which we believe bolsters the compelling case for inflation‑linked bonds in the region. For example, Germany’s next coalition government is likely to increase spending, which could potentially stimulate greater inflation.

Exploiting potential inflation risk in bond portfolios

Flexibility has been key to navigating inflation so far in 2021, and we expect this trend to continue. It has become apparent over the course of the year that not all inflation‑mitigating instruments work at the same time, and this served as a reminder that dynamism is required to access the full opportunity set.

In the first three months of the year, for example, underweight duration positions in developed countries such as the UK and the US typically performed well as yield curves steepened on the back of rising inflation expectations. When yields began to fall in the second quarter, however, these positions no longer worked. Then in June, after the Federal Reserve had finally acknowledged the risk of inflation, short‑dated US inflation‑linked bonds appeared to work well.

Looking beyond developed markets has also been important this year. For example, being underweight duration in select Eastern European countries, such as Poland and Hungary, where inflation pressures were rising also proved beneficial at times.

“I believe this theme of persistent transitory inflation will manifest itself at different times in various geographical locations…”
– Arif Husain, Portfolio Manager, Head of International Fixed Income

At present, we believe that inflation risk may be managed through exposure to eurozone inflation‑linked bonds, as inflation expectations remain largely underpriced in Europe compared with the US Another way of managing the inflation threat could be to adopt short‑duration positions in countries where price rises could potentially be more structural. This includes the UK, where shortages in global goods and labor supply problems should drive further price rises later this year.

“I believe this theme of persistent transitory inflation will manifest itself at different times in various geographical locations, so while pressure may subside in one region, it could rise in another. It is, therefore, important to keep monitoring the conditions and adapting to them as they change,” said Mr. Husain.

ID0004553 (09/2021)

202109‑1849926

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Arif Husain

Head of International Fixed Income
Portfolio Manager, T. Rowe Price Dynamic Global Bond Strategy

Arif Husain is Head of International Fixed Income at T. Rowe Price. He is lead Portfolio Manager for the Dynamic Global Bond and Global Aggregate Bond Strategies. Mr. Husain is also Co-Portfolio Manager for the firm’s International Bond, and Institutional International Bond Strategies. He is a vice president of T. Rowe Price Group, Inc. and T. Rowe Price International Ltd.

Mr. Husain has 25 years of investment experience, eight of which have been with T. Rowe Price. Prior to joining the firm in 2013, he spent 14 years as director of both European Fixed Income and Euro Portfolio Management at AllianceBernstein. He was also a member of the global fixed income and absolute return portfolio management teams. Mr. Husain previously worked as assistant director of European Derivatives Trading at Greenwich NatWest and also traded interest rate swaps at Bank of America National Trust & Savings Association.

Mr. Husain received a B.Sc. (hons.) in banking and international finance from the City University, London Business School. He also has earned the Chartered Financial Analyst designation.

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This website does not constitute a distribution, an offer, an invitation, a personal or general recommendation or solicitation to sell or buy any securities in any jurisdiction or to conduct any particular investment activity. This has not been reviewed by any regulatory authority in any jurisdiction.

Information and opinions presented have been obtained or derived from sources believed to be reliable and current; however, we cannot guarantee the sources accuracy or completeness. There is no guarantee that any forecasts made will come to pass. The views contained herein are as of the date noted on the website and are subject to change without notice; these views may differ from those of other T. Rowe Price group companies and/or associates. Under no circumstances should the material, in whole or in part, be copied or redistributed without consent from T. Rowe Price.

It is not intended for distribution to retail investors in any jurisdiction.

Issued in Australia by T. Rowe Price Australia Limited (ABN: 13 620 668 895 and AFSL: 503741), Level 50, Governor Phillip Tower, 1 Farrer Place, Suite 50B, Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia. For Wholesale Clients only.

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This site is intended for Wholesale Clients. I have read the terms detailed below and confirm that I am a Wholesale Client and that I wish to proceed.

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Information contained in the T. Rowe Price website is not intended for investors in any jurisdiction in which distribution or purchase is not authorised, including the jurisdiction of the reader of this information, where applicable. For example, the information herein is not for distribution to and does not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation of any offer to buy any securities in the United States of America to or for the benefit of United States persons. In certain jurisdictions, such as Australia, an investor must qualify as a wholesale client. Information contained in this website is not for retail investors. Information obtained from this site is intended specifically for the individuals who have agreed to these Terms and Conditions and may not be redistributed without prior consent from the T. Rowe Price Legal department.

The information is designed for wholesale clients in accordance with the definition set out in Australian Corporations Act, including financial intermediaries, and is published for informational purposes only.

Persons who do not fall into the definition of wholesale client should not act upon the information contained herein.

This website is for general informational purposes only. This does not constitute or undertake to give advice of any nature, including fiduciary investment advice, and prospective investors are recommended to seek independent legal, financial and tax advice before making any investment decision. T. Rowe Price group of companies including T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc. and/or its affiliates receive revenue from T. Rowe Price investment products and services. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. The value of an investment and any income from it can go down as well as up. Investors may get back less than the amount invested.

This website does not constitute a distribution, an offer, an invitation, a personal or general recommendation or solicitation to sell or buy any securities in any jurisdiction or to conduct any particular investment activity. This has not been reviewed by any regulatory authority in any jurisdiction.

Information and opinions presented have been obtained or derived from sources believed to be reliable and current; however, we cannot guarantee the sources accuracy or completeness. There is no guarantee that any forecasts made will come to pass. The views contained herein are as of the date noted on the website and are subject to change without notice; these views may differ from those of other T. Rowe Price group companies and/or associates. Under no circumstances should the material, in whole or in part, be copied or redistributed without consent from T. Rowe Price.

It is not intended for distribution to retail investors in any jurisdiction.

Issued in Australia by T. Rowe Price Australia Limited (ABN: 13 620 668 895 and AFSL: 503741), Level 50, Governor Phillip Tower, 1 Farrer Place, Suite 50B, Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia. For Wholesale Clients only.