News and Analysis

Goldman Sachs Says Inflation Is Bigger Threat To Global Economy Than COVID-19
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 11: A person shops in the meat section of a grocery store on November 11, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. U.S. consumer prices have increased solidly in the past few months on items such as food, rent, cars and other goods as inflation has risen to a level not seen in 30 years. The consumer-price index rose by 6.2 percent in October compared to one year ago.
Mario Tama via Getty Images

A new Goldman Sachs analysis says that inflation will eclipse new COVID-19 outbreaks as the primary threat to global economic growth.

The investment bank explained on November 8 that the Federal Reserve will likely begin hiking interest rates as inflation in the United States continues:

Higher-than-expected US inflation recently prompted us to pull forward our forecast for Fed liftoff by a full year to July 2022. We now expect core PCE inflation to remain above 3% — and core CPI inflation above 4% — when the QE taper concludes, which would make a seamless move from tapering to rate hikes the path of least resistance. After liftoff, we see a second hike in November 2022 and two hikes per year after that.

The key to this gradual pace is a partial moderation in goods prices and in overall inflation, driven by a combination of slowing demand and rising supply. On the demand side, we expect spending on goods to moderate as US government income support normalizes and service activity rebounds. Although US real goods consumption remains nearly 10% above trend, this already represents a decline of 5% since the peak in March when households received stimulus checks, and the adjustment likely has further to go.

Since medical advancements will continue to slow COVID-19 spread, Goldman Sachs expects a reduction in consumer fear over the virus. Rising price levels may therefore replace COVID-19 as a primary bottleneck to economic recovery:

This means that the biggest risk to the global economy may no longer be a renewed downturn because of fresh virus outbreaks, but may now be higher inflation because of tight goods supplies and excessive wage pressure. Although we expect a significant part of the goods supply squeeze to abate over the next year, at present the stress on supply chains is substantial and inventories in semiconductors, durable goods, and energy markets are very low. In such an environment, even a moderate production outage resulting from covid outbreaks in China, an energy demand spike related to a cold winter, or other short-term disruptions could have sizable economic effects.

On Wednesday, the Department of Labor announced that year-over-year inflation for consumer prices reached 6.2% last month — the highest rate of increase in thirty years. 

“I do think we’re moving into a new phase where inflation is broader and where things are going to get a little more intense,” MacroPolicy Perspectives economist Laura Rosner-Warburton told The Wall Street Journal. “Part of that reflects that [supply-chain] bottlenecks are not resolved going into the holiday season, when a lot of purchases get made, and that the economy is doing really well, so you have strong demand.”

“Inflation is clearly getting worse before it gets better, while the significant rise in shelter prices is adding to concerning evidence of a broadening in inflation pressures,” Principal Global Investors chief strategist Seema Shah told CNBC.

Last week, the Federal Reserve announced that it will begin tapering its monthly asset purchases — marking the first reduction in aggressive monetary stimulus since the onset of COVID-19 and the lockdown-induced recession. Though interest-rate targets will remain untouched, the central bank will slash bond purchases by $15 billion in November and December. 

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