Thus, if you stayed home and fasted you were not, apparently, much affected by inflation in December or, for that matter, the whole year.
It should be noted for the record that the general population is having a hard time believing these numbers. Tell most people that inflation is practically not existent and they will look at you like you're crazy. But then again, most people eat and drive and use energy in all sorts of forms.
But the past is the past, and what we are interested in is seeing if there is not some investment insight from all of this, i.e. could inflation increase more than expected? I happen to believe so. Let's go back to the early 1980s when the situation was flip flopped. Here is a graph of the period 1975 to 1982 of the CPI:
In the early 1980s, right after Volcker's so-called "Saturday Night Massacre," in which he changed monetary policy from controlling interest rates to controlling the growth rate of the money supply, prices started falling and nobody believed it. Why? Because, as shown in the graph, inflation had consistently ratcheted upwards as shown by the red line which is the year-over-year change in the CPI. But people who were actually shopping for groceries were seeing the prices start to come down.
In fact, I attended a meeting of money managers in downtown Washington D.C. right around this time, at which a prominent economist from Merrill Lynch took a poll from the podium on how many in the room believed that inflation would fall. If you squint as you look at the graph, you see that inflation was at approximately 12.5%. As I recall, only 1 or 2 hands went up out of maybe 60 investment manager attendees!
I present all of this because it seems to be the flip side of what we are experiencing today. Most economists see no inflationary pressures in the near future. Although energy costs are rising, they aren't seen as a problem. In fact, the last time oil rose above $100/barrel, supply eventually drove it back down. Investors should note there was also another development - the nastiest economic downturn since the 1930s. Today oil is rising, and we are at the beginning of a global economic recovery.
The bottom line of all of this is that I believe investors need to be careful in here because inflation could come sooner and be more feisty than expected. It is important to look at investments and question how they will perform if this turns out to be the case. In particular, longer term fixed income instruments could be problematic.
Better safe than sorry!