Inflation Could Be Much Higher Than You Think

Gold and even Bitcoin should provide an effective inflation hedge against rising inflation, writes Frank Holmes

Frank Holmes | June 16, 2021 | SmallCapPower: I’ve been writing about the possibility of higher inflation for months, and now it looks to have finally made landfall. May’s headline consumer price index (CPI) came in at 5% year-over-year, the highest in over a decade.

(The following is an article originally published on usfunds.com on June 14, 2021)

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The real rate is likely even higher.

Energy commodities, and gasoline in particular, jumped the most of any other measured item. Energy increased 54.5% year-over-year, gasoline 56.2%, as oil prices hit multiyear highs this week on strong travel demand. A barrel of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) touched $71 today, a level we haven’t seen since October 2018.

Take a look at what happens when you strip out volatile energy and food prices. Core inflation, as it’s called, surged 3.8% compared to last year—which doesn’t sound impressive until you realize that’s the fastest rate in nearly 30 years. The last time we saw core inflation this high, the top films in America were White Men Can’t Jump and Basic Instinct, and General Motors topped the list of Fortune 500 companies.

I hope no one reading this is in the market for a new car right now. Thanks to the ongoing semiconductor chip shortage, the supply of new vehicles has all but evaporated, pushing up the price of previously owned cars and trucks. The Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index hit a fresh all-time high in May, suggesting a 48% increase in prices compared to last year. Pickup trucks were up a staggering 70%.

Expectations are mixed for how much longer the chip shortage will last. Goldman Sachs chief Asia economist Andrew Tilton told CNBC last week that he believes we’re in “the worst period” right now, insinuating we’ll see some improvement in the second half of the year. Patrick Gelsinger, CEO of chipmaker Intel, isn’t so sure. He says the shortage could last another two years.

Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst

I think policymakers and analysts are just as torn about the potential longevity of this current rash of inflation. The Federal Reserve insists on describing it as “transitory,” mostly in an effort to allay investors’ fears and calm markets.

Only time will tell if this assessment was accurate, but for the time being, the gesture seems to be working: The S&P 500 closed at a new record high last Thursday, the same day inflation data was released. Meanwhile, gold, historically used as an inflation hedge, barely budged, and bitcoin, a digital version of gold, retreated by as much as 1.8%.

It’s possible that May’s inflation rate was already priced in. That being said, I would still strongly consider adding to my gold exposure, including gold mining stocks. Bitcoin should also be a consideration.

As I’ve pointed out before, I believe the CPI significantly understates the impact inflation has on household wealth. The real rate is likely much higher. An alternate measure, John Williams’ Shadow Government Statistics, shows that inflation could actually be closer to 13% year-over-year. Invest accordingly.

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