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The Top 6 Infrastructure Investment Opportunities

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Infrastructure Investment

Infrastructure Investment

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The Top 6 Infrastructure Investment Opportunities

The U.S. government is putting a focus on infrastructure investment. For years, the country’s infrastructure—critical structures and facilities like roads, power supplies, and internet access—has been in poor condition.

Now, the government is pledging billions of dollars in funding. In this graphic from New York Life Investments, we explore how this public commitment translates into six potential infrastructure investment opportunities.

Breaking Down the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was signed into law in November 2021. It includes nearly $550 billion in new investments.

CategoryInvestment Amount
Transportation$283.8B
Broadband$65.0B
Energy & Power$65.0B
Water$63.3B
Climate & Cybersecurity Resiliency$47.2B
Environmental Remediation$21.0B

Based on these commitments, here are the six categories that present potential infrastructure investment opportunities.

1. Transportation

52.0% of new government funding

Because infrastructure has been underfunded for some time, transportation systems are in a state of disrepair.

  • 43% of roads are in poor or mediocre condition
  • 231,000 of the country’s 617,000 bridges are in need of repair or preservation work

New government funding will enable the expansion and repair of transportation infrastructure.

The infrastructure investment opportunity: Funding could increase revenue and provide stable long-term contracts to engineering, materials, and construction companies.

2. Broadband

11.9% of new government funding

Millions of Americans don’t have access to broadband (high speed) internet, and the number of people who don’t use it is even higher due to affordability issues.

  • People without access: 14.5 million
  • People who don’t use broadband: 120.4 million

New government funding will increase access and help reduce prices.

The infrastructure investment opportunity: Funding could boost the customer base and revenue of internet service providers.

3. Energy & Power

11.9% of new government funding

The U.S. has set a goal to have net zero emissions by 2050, yet the country gets most of its energy with fossil fuels.

SourcePercent of U.S. Energy Consumption in 2020
Petroleum34.7%
Natural Gas 34.0%
Renewables12.5%
Coal9.9%
Nuclear8.9%

New government funding will help build electric power transmission lines and facilitate clean energy technology.

The infrastructure investment opportunity: Funding could boost the revenue of utility, manufacturing, and renewable energy companies.

4. Water

11.6% of new government funding

U.S. water infrastructure is aging, with 14-18% of potable water lost through leaks. The annual costs of wasting this treated water is projected to increase from $7.6 billion in 2019 to $16.7 billion in 2039.

New government funding will modernize water infrastructure, invest in water storage and recycling, and remove lead pipes.

The infrastructure investment opportunity: Funding could boost the revenue of engineering firms and companies that build, install, and repair water pipes.

5. Climate & Cybersecurity Resiliency

8.7% of new government funding

Climate disasters and cyber attacks are leading to increased costs & destruction of infrastructure. In 2020, there were 22 U.S. climate disasters that each cost over $1 billion in damage—with a total cost of $100 billion.

Type of DisasterCost in 2020
Tropical Cyclone$57.5B
Severe Storm$35.5B
Wildfire$17.3B
Drought$4.7B

New government funding will invest in protection against cyber attacks, floods, droughts, and other climate disasters.

The infrastructure investment opportunity: Funding could boost the revenue of companies involved in cybersecurity, weatherization, environmental consultation, and construction.

6. Environmental Remediation

3.9% of new government funding

Contaminated sites are causing environmental harm or hindering land reuse, and there are more than 450,000 of them across the country. New government funding will clean up contaminated land, reclaim abandoned land mines, and plug orphaned oil and gas wells.

The infrastructure investment opportunity: Funding could boost the revenue and long-term contracts of environmental remediation companies.

Public Funding, Private Infrastructure Investment Opportunities

A boost in government funding is likely to create increased activity in private infrastructure-related areas:

  • Engineering
  • Construction
  • Materials
  • Internet Service Providers
  • Clean Energy Tech
  • Pipe Installation
  • Cybersecurity
  • Environmental Consultation

By paying attention to where the money is going, investors can consider a variety of categories that provide critical services—and capitalize on upcoming trends.

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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

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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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