(Bloomberg) — Add Wincrest Capital founder Barbara Ann Bernard to a growing list of fund managers predicting that inflationary pressures bubbling up as the U.S. economy revives will prove far from transitory.
Much of the Biden administration’s agenda, including reducing wealth inequality and promoting clean energy, support a structural lift to inflation, says the chief investment officer of the Nassau, Bahamas-based hedge fund.
Federal Reserve officials, for their part, have been taking the opposite view, emphasizing ahead of their two-day meeting beginning Tuesday that they expect a recent surge in inflation won’t last. A lot is riding on this debate, and if money managers like Bernard or Paul Tudor Jones prove correct, it could mean that central bankers will have to move ahead with plans to begin normalizing their ultra-loose monetary policy.
“The idea that inflation is transitory is nonsense,” Bernard said in an interview.
The money manager began her career in finance at 15, when she persuaded legendary investor Sir John Templeton — a fellow Bahamian resident — to take her on board for the first of what would become a series of summer jobs at Templeton Global Advisors. Her career also included stretches at Deutsche Bank AG in alternative investments and at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. as an investment banking analyst.
For Bernard, the U.S. administration’s focus on wealth distribution and the potential for higher minimum wages in some states could put more money in more pockets, adding to price pressures. Talk of a carbon tax and increased focus on environmental, social and governance initiatives also stand to add to companies’ costs.
“All of that plus changing supply chains is inflationary,” she said.
To capitalize on that backdrop, she’s been wagering on gains in commodities, favoring nickel and copper. Copper climbed to a record last month alongside a broad surge in commodities on optimism about the global economic recovery.
Hedge fund manager Tudor Jones said Monday in an interview with CNBC that inflation risk wasn’t transitory. If he were on the investment committee of a pension fund, he said he’d “have as many inflation hedges on as I possibly could.”
There are at least a couple things that inflation hawks may want to be wary of. For one thing, the global economy has yet to recoup millions of jobs lost to the pandemic. Secondly, commodities such as lumber and even the housing market have cooled.
Treasuries investors for now seem mostly unfazed by the inflation risk. Yields in the world’s biggest bond market aren’t far above a three-month low set Friday. The rate is down from a March 30 peak of 1.774%. The bond market’s most-watched proxy for inflation expectations has also faded from recent highs.
Bernard’s take is that the market is ill-prepared for what’s ahead.
“There are ways to outrun inflation,” Bernard said. “But if you just sit there, you are going to get rolled over.”
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