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aws全区号( and China failed to rattle markets; 2022 might be different



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Recovery path: People are silhouetted in an office building in Beijing. China’s economy became the first to recover from the pandemic, adding to the promise of a continuation of an impressive multi-decade rise. — AFP

A year ago, most economists expected that the Covid-19 pandemic would continue to weigh heavily on the global marketplace, and that the recovery process would be far from smooth. But two changes to the landscape – rapid inflation, and questions about the viability of investing in China – caught nearly everyone off-guard.

Even if we had foreseen these developments, it is unlikely that we would have gotten right their broader implications. And we probably wouldn’t have guessed that markets would by and large take the news in stride.

That bears remembering as we attempt to make projections for the coming year while still dogged by the pandemic and other uncertainties.

The inflation surprise

I know of no forecaster who came close to projecting a nearly 7% United States inflation rate for the end of this year, and that includes those of us who pushed back as early as six months ago against the notion that this bout of inflation would prove to be transitory during 2021.

Today, unusually high and persistent inflation has become the consensus call. Yet even now, there is an under-appreciation of the current inflation dynamics, including supply-chain disruptions and worker shortages associated with the new Covid-19 variant, Omicron.

The surge in inflation is even more striking given that, unlike what textbooks and prior experience would suggest, its impact on markets has been muted.

Yields on government bonds, for example, have been relatively subdued, with 10-year US Treasury notes still trading around 1.50%. Indeed, if anything, yields adjusted for inflation have fallen deeper into negative territory. Meanwhile, stocks have gone from one record high to another, reaching a total of 70 for the S&P 500 Index this year.

This makes the new year an uncertain proposition for the economy, for markets and for public policy.

Will inflation derail economic growth while also worsening inequality? How long will it take for the Federal Reserve to catch up to inflation realities, and which policy measures will it deploy?

How quickly will a tightening of market financial conditions follow the pivot to fewer stimulus policies from central banks? How big will the economic and financial impact be, in the US and across the world?

Will yields rise as bond investors look to limit the erosion in the real value of their investment? If so, how will stocks react?

Which countries and sectors are particularly sensitive to higher market volatility?

What makes this even more interesting is that it comes with significant political and institutional stakes. From the ability of Democrats to retain control of Congress to the damaged credibility of the Federal Reserve, the 2021 inflation surprise will reverberate throughout 2022.


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