[This blog post is an excerpt from a commentary published at TSI last week]
Popular measures of inflation such as the CPI and the PPI are backward looking, but the financial markets are always trying to look forward. To be more specific, current prices in the financial markets are determined by what’s expected to happen in the future as opposed to what happened in the past. An implication is that prices in the financial markets are influenced to a far greater degree by changes in the expected future CPI (inflation expectations) than changes in the reported CPI.
The expected CPI is indicated by the TIPS (Treasury Inflation Protected Securities) market. For example, the following chart shows the expected CPI factored into the price of the 5-year TIPS. According to this measure, the market’s inflation expectations peaked in mid-November and made a 2-month low during the first half of this week.
Contrary to the opinions of many commentators on the financial markets, gold tends to underperform the industrial metals when inflation expectations are rising and outperform the industrial metals when inflation expectations are falling. Therefore, if inflation expectations have peaked then the Industrial Metals Index (GYX) should have peaked relative to gold.
The following chart comparison of the GYX/gold ratio and the Inflation Expectations ETF (RINF) shows that GYX peaked relative to gold in mid-October, meaning that the downward reversal in the GYX/gold ratio led the downward reversal in the expected CPI by about one month.
The sustainability of the recent downward reversal in inflation expectations is yet to be determined, but our guess is that it has marked the start of a trend that will continue for 6-12 months or longer. An implication is that it is time to start favouring gold over industrial metals.