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Five Trends for Investors to Watch Amid a COVID-19 Recovery

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COVID-19 Recovery

This infographic is available as a poster.

5 Trends for Investors to Watch Amid a COVID-19 Recovery

If history tells us anything, crisis forges change.

Like other pandemics throughout history, COVID-19 led to tectonic shifts in society, markets, and government policy. People and businesses are rethinking traditional work structures, while inflation concerns are rising amid trillions in stimulus injections. But what impact does this have on investors?

To answer this question, this infographic from New York Life Investments pinpoints five trends to watch amid a COVID-19 recovery.

1. Inflation

Today, investors are closely watching inflation. Core factors that influence inflation include:

  • Increasing money supply
  • Rising raw materials costs

Between 2020 and 2021, the money supply in the U.S. rose over 28%. Meanwhile, building materials and supplies, as shown through the producer price index, have jumped 44% between May 2020 and May 2021.

In fact, as of May 2021, inflation has seen its greatest rise in over a decade, with year-over-year figures increasing 5%.

The Opportunity

To hedge against potential inflation risk, investors can consider the following asset classes:

  • Infrastructure
  • Bank loans
  • Gold
  • Commodities
  • Real estate
  • Treasury inflation-protected securities (TIPS)

2. Innovation

How companies navigate digital disruption will likely affect their revenues and future operations. Notably, during COVID-19, companies that adopted new technologies saw higher revenues than their peers, according to one survey.

Companies that reported over 25% revenue growth  
First to experiment with new technologies during the crisis72%
Not the first to experiment with new technologies during the crisis33%
Invested more in digital-related expenditures67%
Did not invest more in digital-related expenditures31%

*Responses from 899 C-level executives and senior managers representing the full range of regions, industries, company sizes, and functional specialties. Compared to industry peers, time period is over three years.
Source: McKinsey, 10/05/20

The Opportunity

Frontier technologies have the potential to reshape markets and productivity both during and after a COVID-19 recovery. Here are among a few examples:

  • Artificial intelligence (AI)
  • Big data
  • Internet of things (IoT)
  • Robotics
  • Solar photovoltaic (PV)

3. ESG

Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing continues to break records, attracting nearly $2 trillion in assets as of Q1 2021.

 Global ESG assetsGlobal ESG fund flowsGlobal ESG funds
Q1 2020$841.5B$45.7B3,297
Q1 2021$1.9T$185.3B4,524

Sources: Morningstar 04/30/21, Reuters 01/28/21

The Opportunity

Within the sustainable investment landscape, three particular segments may be poised for potential growth: green bonds, solar PV, and transition finance.

Green Bonds: In the last year, green bond issuance has quadrupled to $131 billion globally.

YearGlobal sustainable bond growthNumber of issues
Q1 2015$6B22
Q1 2016$14B30
Q1 2017$26B58
Q1 2018$28B84
Q1 2019$39B123
Q1 2020$35B123
Q1 2021$131B314

Source: Refinitiv 04/23/21

Solar photovoltaic (PV) installations: Global solar PV installations are set to rise roughly 28% over two years.

YearPV installations (conservative)PV installations (optimistic)
2020e129145
2021p151194
2022p165205

Source: Bloomberg NEF 03/01/21

Transitional finance: These are financing tools designed for big carbon polluters to adopt greener alternatives. In the future, these types of vehicles could accelerate. For instance, bonds whose interest rates would likely increase if sustainability targets aren’t met.

4. Future of Work

Since COVID-19, job markets have faced a historic change. One study shows that 22% of the U.S. workforce are projected to be working remotely by 2025, equal to roughly 36 million Americans.

 Percentage of respondents
Employees who would prefer to work from home42%
Percent of the workforce projected to work from home by 202522%
Would maintain traditional working-at-the-office schedules10%

Sources: Center for the Digital Future 08/26/20, Upwork 12/15/20

The Opportunity

As traditional work models shift, key industries could be impacted, for instance:

Video conferencing: Global market size is projected to jump from $9.2 billion in 2021 to $22.5 billion in 2025.

Office space: Future office space preferences are changing. According to one study, here is how CEOs view their office space needs going forward.

  • 76% less office space is needed
  • 18% no change
  • 6% more office space needed

Interestingly, it is estimated that one-third of power, utilities, and renewables companies are looking to add more office space going forward.

5. Healthcare

Health costs related to the pandemic are set to reach a staggering $2.6 trillion.

At the same time, digital healthcare investment hit record levels last year:

    • 2020: $21.6 billion
    • 2019: $13.9 billion

The Opportunity

Especially as behavior shifts to digital platforms, the demand for healthcare innovation is likely to expand. Here are three segments of health expenditures, and their potential to be virtualized:

      • Urgent care visits: 34%
      • Office visits: 24%
      • Home health visits: 20%

One estimate suggests that 20% of all healthcare spending in the U.S. could be conducted virtually, worth $250 billion.

COVID-19 Recovery: The Next Stage

New and powerful trends—from AI to ESG investing—have the potential to structurally change systems and industries.

At the same time, many of these trends aim to solve complex problems. How investors adapt could have lasting effects on their portfolios. Thanks to these underlying shifts, new opportunities for investors are underway amid a COVID-19 recovery.

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Infographics

5 Key Questions Investors Have About Inflationary Environments

This infographic explores questions on today’s inflationary environment as the economy faces persistent price pressures.

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Inflationary Environment

This infographic is available as a poster.

5 Key Questions on Inflationary Environments

What does a changing inflationary environment mean for financial markets, and how could this impact investors?

While there are no clear answers, the above infographic from New York Life Investments looks at key questions on inflation and the potential implications looking ahead.

1. What Are the Main Factors Driving Inflation?

Often, investors closely watch core inflation since it doesn’t factor in volatile energy and food prices. In September, core inflation rose 0.6% from the previous month while headline inflation, as represented by the Consumer Price Index, increased 0.4%.

DateCore InflationHeadline Inflation
Sep 20220.6%0.4%
Aug 20220.6%0.1%
Jul 20220.3%0.0%
Jun 20220.7%1.3%
May 20220.6%1.0%
Apr 20220.6%0.3%
Mar 20220.3%1.2%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 10/13/22.

Earlier in the pandemic, surging second-hand car prices and supply-chain distortions were factors driving up inflation. But as dynamics have shifted, rising services costs, including housing, have played a significant role.

Along with these factors, a strong labor market is adding to price pressures. Nominal wages increased 6.3% annually in September, after hitting almost 7% in August, the highest in 20 years.

For this trend to reverse, unemployment levels may need to rise and interest rates may need to increase to cool an overheating economy.

2. What is the Effect of Fiscal Stimulus on Inflation?

In response to a historic crisis, the U.S. government allocated over $5 trillion in fiscal stimulus. The Federal Reserve released research that suggests that the fiscal stimulus contributed to 2.5 percentage points in excess U.S. inflation.

Specifically, the fiscal stimulus affected supply and demand dynamics, stimulating the consumption of goods. At the same time, the production of goods didn’t increase, which elevated demand pressures and price tensions.

As the short-term implications begin to unfold, the longer-term structural effects of record stimulus remain far from clear.

3. How Do Interest Rates Impact Inflation?

When inflation is running high, the Fed often hikes interest rates to cool an overheating economy.

Consider how in February 1975 there was a 17% difference between core inflation and real interest rates, an instance when the Fed got “behind the curve”. This shows that the real rate is far below the core inflation rate.

Sometimes, this prompts the Fed to raise rates to combat inflation. After several rate hikes, inflation fell to 4% by 1983, bringing the real rate and core inflation closer together. The table below shows when this gap rose to the double-digits between 1974 and early 2022:

DateCore InflationReal RateDifference
Oct 197410.6%-0.5%11.1%
Nov 197411.0%-1.5%12.5%
Dec 197411.3%-2.8%14.1%
Jan 107511.5%-4.4%15.9%
Feb 197511.9%-5.6%17.5%
Mar 197511.3%-5.8%17.1%
Apr 197511.3%-5.8%17.1%
May 197510.3%-5.1%15.4%
Jun 19759.8%-4.3%14.1%
Jul 19759.1%-3.0%12.1%
Jan 198012.0%1.9%10.2%
May 198013.1%-2.2%15.3%
Jun 198013.6%-4.1%17.7%
Jul 198012.4%-3.4%15.8%
Aug 198011.8%-2.2%14.0%
Sep 198012.0%-1.1%13.1%
Oct 198012.2%0.7%11.6%
Dec 20215.5%-5.4%10.9%
Jan 20226.0%-6.0%12.0%

Source: Peterson Institute for International Economics, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, 03/14/22. The real policy interest rate is the Federal Funds Rate minus Core Inflation over 12 months.

In January 2022, this gap reached 12%, hinting towards further interest rate action from the Fed.

Over the last 11 tightening cycles since 1965, six resulted in soft landings and three resulted in hard landings. Whether or not the recent tightening cycle will result in a hard landing, also known as a significant decline in real GDP, remains an open question.

4. How Long Will Inflation Last?

From the vantage point of 2022, the direction of inflation is as complex as it is uncertain. Below, we show where inflation may be headed in the near future based on analysis from the Federal Reserve.

 2022P2023P2024P
PCE Inflation5.4%2.8%2.3%
Federal Funds Rate4.4%4.6%3.9%

Source: Federal Reserve Board, 09/21/22. Reflects median projections for PCE Inflation and the Federal Funds Rate.

By 2024, inflation is expected to fall closer to the 2.0% target amid higher interest rates. What other key factors could influence inflation going forward?

 2023 Projection
U.S. Real GDP Growth1.2%
Interest Rates4.6%
Housing Price Growth-10.0%
Unemployment Rate4.4%

Source: Federal Reserve Board 09/21/22, Morningstar, 08/07/22. Interest rates represented by the Federal Funds Rate. Housing Price Growth represented by median U.S. home prices.

A combination of slowing GDP growth, higher interest rates, decreasing housing prices, and higher unemployment could potentially dampen inflation leading into 2023.

5. What May Lessen the Impact of Inflation On My Portfolio?

During inflationary periods, value stocks have tended to perform well, based on data from Robert Shiller and Kenneth French. In fact, value stocks saw nearly 8% annualized outperformance over growth during the 1970s and over 5% outperformance during the 1980s.

Similarly, tangible assets like commodities and real estate have tended to weather these periods thanks to their ability to increase portfolio diversification and stability across economic cycles. For instance, between 1973 and 2021, commodities have averaged 19.1% during inflationary periods while real estate assets averaged 5.0%.

The Big Canvas

Generally speaking, periods of high inflation over history are quite rare. Since 1947, the average U.S. inflation rate has been 3.4%.

Inflation (1947-2021)Percentage of Time Spent
Below 0%16%
Between 0 and 5%57%
Between 5 and 10%20%
Above 10%7%

Source: CFA Institute, 07/19/21.

Against a changing environment, investors may consider balancing their portfolios with more defensive strategies that have been historically more resistant to inflation.

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Infographics

A Visual Guide to Stagflation, Inflation, and Deflation

In this infographic, we show the key differences between stagflation, inflation, and deflation and how they impact the economy and investors.

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A Visual Guide to Stagflation, Inflation, and Deflation

Today, high inflation and slowing economic growth have contributed to stagflation worries.

As of August 2022, the U.S. inflation rate has risen to 8.3%, above the central bank target of 2%. Yet unlike the last period of stagflation in the 1970s, unemployment—a key ingredient for stagflation—remains low.

In this infographic from New York Life Investments, we show the key differences between stagflation, inflation, and deflation along with the broader economic implications of each.

Main Features of Inflationary Environments

What are the main characteristics of each inflationary scenario?

 Economic GrowthInflationUnemployment
StagflationSlowsIncreasesIncreases
InflationIncreasesIncreasesDecreases
DeflationSlowsDecreasesIncreases

The key markers of stagflation are weak growth, persistent inflation, and structural unemployment—meaning that high unemployment levels continue beyond a recession.

In a stagflationary scenario, inflation expectations continue to rise each year. This can happen when inflation stays too high for too long, enough for expectations to shift across the economy. This was the case in the U.S. in the 1970s, until the Federal Reserve fought inflation with steep interest rate hikes.

Here’s a closer look at some of the main causes of each scenario and how they’ve historically impacted households and businesses.

1. Stagflation

The term stagflation is the combination of ‘stagnation’ and ‘inflation’.

The primary causes include the expansion of the money supply feeding into higher inflation, as well as supply shocks, which can drag on economic growth.

During periods of stagflation, consumers spend more on items such as food and clothing, while earning less—reducing their purchasing power. Less purchasing power can eventually cause people to buy less, leading to falling corporate revenues, which can ripple across the economy.

Case Study: 1970s Stagflation

The stagflation of the 1970s saw inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, increase from 1% to 14% between 1964 and 1980.

Price pressures, driven by skyrocketing energy prices in the 1970s, contributed to a sharp economic downturn. By 1980, unemployment reached 7.2%.

YearAnnual
Inflation Rate
Unemployment Rate
(December)
Annual
GDP Growth
19641.3%5.0%5.8%
198013.5%7.2%-0.3%

In response, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates as high as 20% in 1981. Soon after, inflation sank to 5% by 1982 and unemployment levels improved.

2. Inflation

Inflation is the rise in the price of goods and services across the economy. Broadly speaking, low and stable inflation is associated with periods of economic growth and low unemployment. It can be driven by rising consumer demand.

The expectation of predictable inflation allows consumers and businesses to prepare for the future, in terms of both their purchases and investments.

Case Study: 1990s-2000s

Over the 1990s and 2000s, the U.S. saw relatively low and stable inflation.

Rapid global population growth, the absence of oil shocks, and expanding global trade contributed to falling costs across industries. Between 1990 and 2007, inflation averaged 2.1% compared to 8.0% during the 1970s as price pressures became less volatile.

YearAnnual
Inflation Rate
Unemployment Rate
(December)
Annual
GDP Growth
19905.4%6.3%1.9%
20072.9%5.0%2.0%

Today, several central banks adhere to a 2% inflation target to ensure prices remain stable and predictable.

3. Deflation

Deflation is the fall in prices of goods and services in the economy.

In many cases, its main causes are demand shortfalls, reduced output, or an excess of supply. For households, spending may stall as consumers wait for prices to fall. In turn, declining prices may lead to a lag in growth for businesses.

Sometimes, deflationary periods raise concerns of slower economic growth. However, supply-driven deflationary periods may be associated with lower prices, raising real incomes and boosting output as exports become more competitive.

Case Study: 1930s Great Depression

Prior to WWII, deflationary episodes were more common than today. One prime example is the Great Depression of the 1930s, when real GDP fell 30% between 1929 and 1933 and unemployment spiked to 25%.

YearAnnual
Inflation Rate
Unemployment Rate
(December)
Annual
GDP Growth
1930-2.7%8.7%-8.5%
1933-5.2%24.9%-1.2%

Tightening monetary policy contributed to this environment. In fact, between 1930 and 1933, the U.S. money supply contracted roughly 30%, while average prices fell by a similar amount.

Historical Asset Class Performance

Which asset classes have historically tended to perform well across different types of inflationary environments?

Average Real Annual Total Returns
(1973-2021)
GoldilocksDisinflationReflationStagflation
U.S. Equities16.1%8.4%14.6%-1.5%
U.S. Treasuries4.3%8.1%-2.0%0.6%
U.S. T-Bills0.8%1.7%0.0%0.4%
Commodities0.4%-5.6%21.0%15.0%
Gold-2.5%1.3%-1.1%22.1%
REITs18.1%3.5%14.0%6.5%

Defensive assets like gold and commodities have historically performed well during stagflationary periods, with average returns of 22.1% and 15.0%, respectively.

Meanwhile, U.S. equities have typically performed well during moderate inflation, or ‘goldilocks’ environments, characterized by falling inflation and rising economic growth.

Both U.S. equities and Treasuries have shown the strongest real returns in deflationary or ‘disinflationary’ periods of slowing growth and inflation, at over 8% returns on average each.

Understanding Different Inflationary Environments

Today’s inflationary period is jarring for investors after an extended period of low and stable inflation. With this in mind, the economy has historically cycled through different types of inflationary periods.

While central banks aim to influence price stability and employment through monetary policy, investors can influence their portfolio by adjusting their asset allocation based on where the inflationary environment may be heading.

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