The world, Dr Johnson said, is in greater need of reminder than of instruction, so we take the opportunity to remind you that the best performing stocks are ones that benefit from inflation.
By far the best performer among the sectoral exchange-traded funds during 2021 to date has been XOP (oil exploration and development, with a 40% year-to-date price return. Oil is in the low $60’s, but it doesn’t take a long memory to recall that it traded above $100 a barrel in 2014.
We’re bullish on oil prices, with transportation demand returning, the dollar weakening, and the global rig count at a half-century low.
Electric vehicles may replace oil one day – but not if the costs of copper, nickel and cobalt keep rising, which will make EV’s uneconomical. So we continue to like the oil sector.
The second-best performer in the sectoral ETF lineup was financials (for example XLF), with a 22% price return year-to-date. Financials like inflation (as long as inflation doesn’t push the Federal Reserve to squeeze credit, but that’s not going to happen for quite some time).
Inflation tends to steepen the yield curve as we have observed on several recent occasions. That helps banks, which borrow short and lend long.
Federal Reserve officials continue to insist that inflation is transitory and doesn’t require any response from the central bank during the foreseeable future. That means the Fed will let inflationary pressures build up and admit that inflation is a problem much later – sometime in 2022, perhaps.
So the place to be is in equities that benefit from inflation, rather than in industries where inflation is likely to squeeze margins.