Traders Skeptical on Growth as They Dial Back Inflation Bets

2019 has seen U.S. equities bounce back after a volatility-laden fourth quarter in 2018, but traders are dialing back their inflation bets, which sends a message of skepticism that continued growth through 2019 is sustainable.

A mix of data regarding manufacturing, business confidence and consumer data have tempered growth prospects, which has prevented inflation from going past the 2 percent target the Federal Reserve set. 2018 marks the seventh year inflation hasn’t gone past this target.

Earlier this year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) lowered its global growth forecast, pointing to ongoing trade wars dampening China’s economic outlook as well as rising interest rates in the United States. The IMF trimmed its growth expectations to 3.5 percent from 3.7 percent, while global growth outlook for 2020 was also cut to 3.6 percent from 3.7 percent.

“I’m in the camp of those who are doubtful,” said Zhiwei Ren, managing director and portfolio manager at Penn Mutual Asset Management.

Additionally, over three-quarters of business economists are foreseeing a U.S. recession by the end of the year 2021, according to a semiannual National Association for Business Economics (NABE) survey. The survey results show that 10 percent expected a recession at the beginning of this year, while 42 percent are expecting one within a year. Another 25 percent expect to see an economic contraction by the beginning of 2021 while the rest have no opinion or see a recession happening after 2021.

The capital markets will get another indication of where inflation might be heading on Friday when the Labor Department publishes its monthly jobs report. Thus far, historically-low unemployment levels and wage growth have been the ongoing trend.