How might lower inflation affect your investments?
Recent economic data points towards global inflation continuing to fall, leaving consumers breathing a tentative sigh of relief. At AJB Wealth, we consider how reducing inflation affects our clients’ portfolios, and how we can adjust strategies to deliver the best possible returns.
Inflation has a profound impact on investments, and in periods of high inflation, investors try to protect portfolio values by holding assets that tend to perform well in that environment.
However, as we speed towards 2024, the tide is turning. The Office for National Statistics puts the Consumer Price Index (CPI) measure of inflation at 4.6% in the year to October 2023, well below the 11.1% recorded in October 2022. The Bank of England and other forecasters expect price rises to continue to slow, and inflation to return to more normal rates, of around 2 per cent, by the end of 2025.
‘Tactical investors are already employing different strategies, with bonds playing a more important part in portfolios,’ says Paul Willans, MD of AJB Wealth, based near Winchester, Hampshire. ‘This will be particularly true if lower inflation comes hand in hand with slowing economic growth.’
Impact of lower inflation on investments
1. Fixed-income securities: Bonds
Lower inflation is linked to lower interest rates, as the Bank of England and other central banks ease controls on the availability of money to maintain economic growth, by lowering interest rates. This increases the appeal of higher-yielding assets, such as gilts and bonds, and the price that investors will pay for them.
When purchasing an existing bond, an investor is buying the right to a future income and will accept a yield that is competitive against prevailing interest rates. This means that existing bond owner can demand a higher price for their bonds.
Of course, as we have experienced in recent years, the reverse is true and, in a rising interest rate environment, the capital value of bonds falls. Put simply, it’s like a seesaw.
As inflation continues to fall, the holders of bonds should see the value of their assets rise. Bonds also provide certainty. This is especially important if economic growth stalls, meaning equity prices and dividends are likely to suffer. UK GDP is forecast to be 0.6% in 2023, and 0.7% in 2024, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).
The desirability of bonds will depend on where we are in the cycle, and what we want to achieve in terms of capital growth, income and certainty.
Historically, shares have performed well when inflation is low, but this is a generalisation, with many factors at play – particularly economic growth. Different types of companies and sectors will be affected differently.
Generally speaking, low inflation is linked to higher spending and greater confidence amongst both consumers and businesses. As companies may have increasing sales, but do not have steeply rising costs, they may be able to improve profit margins. This may lead to larger dividends and higher share prices.
Growing companies in particular may benefit most from lower inflation as lower interest rates make it cheaper to borrow money. Particular sectors that seem to thrive in lower inflation conditions include technology and healthcare.
The rate of falling inflation, relative to other countries, will also impact on currency exchange rates. This can impact on whether exported goods and services will become more or less competitive.
Investment strategies for lower inflation
Diversifying across, and within, asset classes is considered a fundamental strategy for managing risk. This can help mitigate volatility and enhance returns.
Within fixed interest, this can mean buying bond with a short-life (or ‘duration’) while interest rates are rising, in order to mitigate capital loss, but switching to longer-duration bonds, when interest rates are falling.
2. Risk management
Periods of lower inflation can create a false sense of security, leading investors to underestimate risks. It’s important to ensure that a thorough risk assessment is done, taking into account factors such as market volatility, geopolitical events, and changes in interest rates. Your wealth manager will assess both your attitude to risk, and your capacity to take risk.
3. Regular portfolio reviews
‘Whoever is managing your investment portfolio, it’s vital that it is reviewed on a regular basis,’ says Willans. ‘Not only do market conditions and economic factors change, but your own personal circumstances and goals may evolve. AJB Wealth can review your portfolio and formulate a robust plan taking into account both the economic environment and your personal situation.’
Changing economic environments offer both challenges and opportunities. By understanding the impact of declining inflation on different asset classes, it is possible to make strategic adjustments and get into position for financial success. AJB Wealth has the knowledge and tools to help clients make the most of their assets.
‘As active managers, we can be nimble and adapt to short-term opportunities, rather than just hoping that it’ll turn out alright in the long run,’ says Willans.
To discuss your own situation, please speak to us. Our experienced and highly-qualified team at AJB Wealth can work with you to help you achieve financial efficiency and security. To arrange an initial consultation, book a meeting, or call us on 01483 774 070.
Important: The content of this bulletin is for general consideration only and does not constitute advice. No action must be taken, or refrained from being taken, without first seeking appropriate advice. This company accepts no responsibility for any loss occasioned as a result of any such action, or inaction. It’s important to remember that investments can fall, as well as rise. In the event of early encashment, you may receive less back than your original investment.