In March 2022, the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U), the most common measure of inflation, rose at an annual rate of 8.5%, the highest level since December 1981. It’s not surprising that a Gallup poll at the end of March found that one out of six Americans considers inflation to be the most important problem facing the United States. When inflation began rising in the spring of 2021, many economists, including policymakers at the Federal Reserve, believed the increase would be transitory and subside over a period of months. One year later, inflation has proven to be more stubborn than expected. It may be helpful to look at some of the forces behind rising prices, the Fed’s plan to combat them, and early signs that inflation may be easing.
Time is usually the number one contributor to financial success when it comes to investing. Over the short-term, it is nearly impossible to predict whether the financial markets or world economies will go up, down, or even sideways. Historically, indices have gone up more often, especially over rolling periods of time.
During the intensely volatile first 100 trading days of 2022, the stocks of companies in the S&P 500 index delivered their worst performance since 1970.¹ The S&P 500 continued to tumble, and the benchmark index descended into a bear market — typically defined as a sustained drop in stock prices of at least 20% — on June 13, 2022. When the market closed, the S&P 500 had dropped 21.8% from its January 3 peak, and the tech-heavy NASDAQ, already in bear territory, had plunged 32.7% from its November 19, 2021 peak.² Some investors who are nervous about the future and their portfolios seem to have taken a defensive stance by selling riskier assets, including investments in growth-oriented technology stocks.