Douglas Porter isn’t quite ready to call a big turnaround for inflation.
Bond prices sank and yields reached a 2016 high this week as markets digested Trump’s surprise victory. Traders, predicting higher interest rates, had trimmed almost US$1.5 trillion in value from corporate and sovereign bonds as of Monday. This has led asset managers to speculate that persistently low growth and low yields may be behind them.
“If we get a bit better productivity growth, if we get some fiscal stimulus, we could see yields begin to turn around to some extent, but I would counsel caution in terms of jumping to the conclusion that yields right now are on a one-way trip north,” Porter, BMO Financial Group’s chief economist, told Advisor.ca at the Portfolio Management Association of Canada’s national conference in Toronto Tuesday.
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Ray Dalio, founder of the Bridgewater Associates investment management group, predicted in a LinkedIn post that a macro shift was underway involving more government stimulus and higher inflation.
Dalio sees the period characterized by increased globalization, free trade, “innocuous fiscal policies,” sluggish growth and low bond yields, giving way to a new period of decreased globalization and free trade, “aggressively stimulative fiscal policies,” and higher U.S. growth, inflation and yields.
“As far as the ideology part of that assessment goes, we believe that we will have a profound president-led ideological shift that is of a magnitude, and in more ways than one, analogous to Ronald Reagan’s shift to the right,” Dalio wrote.
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While there are plenty of reasons to believe the economy is in for a secular rise in inflation, part of what’s pulling yields down is slower growth in the labour force as baby boomers retire, Porter says. He says it’s a drag paired with low productivity growth.
In a presentation at Tuesday’s conference, Porter pointed to slower growth in the working-age population in Canada and the U.S. as a factor.
“No matter what Mr. Trump can do on the fiscal side over the short term, it is not going to change this underlying factor,” he said.
While he sees a U.S. rate hike in December, Porter circled 2018 as the year to watch for more hawkish Fed action. That’s because stimulus spending will be boosting growth and a new, less dovish central bank chair is likely to win the job.
He sees the BoC on hold through 2017 and possibly into 2018. Trump’s victory, which has pushed up the U.S. dollar and pulled the loonie lower, has taken pressure off the BoC to cut rates, he said.
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