Transitory-ness In The TIPS Market

With all the debate about the persistence of inflation, one natural thing to ask is: what is the market pricing? Unfortunately for those who are selling a “return to the 1970s” narrative, “Mr. Market” is firmly in the camp of “Team Transitory.” Of course, one imagines that the immediate response is that the “markets are wrong.” Since many of the people in the “inflation is coming!” crowd are also in the “markets are always right” camp, there is a good chance they might modify the argument to “markets are wrong according to some affine term structure model.”

The baseline for our discussion is the most straightforward measure of “forward inflation expectations” is the figure above: the 5-year TIPS inflation breakeven rate, starting 5 years forward. I took the series directly as calculated by the St. Louis Federal Reserve as based on the Fed H.15 fitted Treasury rates, but they used the exact same approximation I would use in this circumstance.

To give a quick primer for those new to the topic, the “breakeven inflation rate” on an inflation-indexed bond (in this case, U.S. TIPS) is that future rate of inflation that gives the same total return as nominal government bonds (conventional Treasuries). That is, it is literally the rate of inflation where the two types of government bonds have the same return (break even). From the perspective of mathematical finance — as used in option pricing — this is where the expected inflation rate is, using the mathematical definition of expectation. One should keep this notion of “expectation” distinct from the notion of “forecast,” as I discuss below.

I showed the forward rate instead of the spot rate (a breakeven over the time period starting now) so that we can see what is priced in after current disturbances have subsided. (I did not even bother looking at spot breakeven inflation rates.)

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Disclaimer: This article contains general discussions of economic and financial market trends for a general audience. These are not investment recommendations tailored to the particular needs of an ...

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