Talking Point  

Global inflation puts advisers on alert

  • To assess the impact of inflation.
  • To understand how inflation affects different asset classes.
  • To ascertain how best to structure portfolios.
Global inflation puts advisers on alert

Tesco, Toblerone and technology: inflation has affected all of these over the past few months.

Last year, Tesco famously announced it would fight off the worst of any Brexit-induced price inflation, after a major supplier - Unilever - said it would have to put up the price of certain goods, including that much-loved and yet much-hated food cupboard stalwart, Marmite.

Following swiftly on from Marmitegate came Tobleronegate: the price of raw cocoa rising so much that the nation's adored Alpinesque chocolate treat was reduced to an edible toast rack.

Economists have pinned this price rise on the drops in sterling as a result of the UK's vote to leave the European Union, and according to some, this inflation should not necessarily be seen as a sign of a failing economy.

Guy Stephens, technical investment director at Rowan Dartington, comments: "While we expect inflation to rise as the effects of sterling's fall are reflected in import cost rises, this is not bad inflation as caused by rampant wage growth and an overheating economy. Excessive demand is not a problem."

Yet it is affecting some households and savers. While the price-lifting and value-eroding power of inflation - a double-edged economic sword - can be seen in the goods people buy and consume, it is often less visible in long-term savings. 

Figure 1: What's in the consumer price index? 


Investors and savers wanting a measure of security and certainty have, in times of economic turmoil, turned to the relative safety of cash: deposits, savings accounts, cash Isas, National Savings & Investments' premium bonds and even money market funds.

Yet while there is a high level of assurance in cash, with protection under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme of the first £75,000 of cash savings, the interest rates available to investors is risible. 

Since the Bank of England's financial policy committee reduced the rates from 0.5 per cent to 0.25 per cent on 11 August 2016, high street banks and building societies have been reducing their own rates on savings and e-savings accounts. 

For example, Santander's basic savings account stands at a mighty 0.01 per cent interest rate. 

Last year, the FCA published data showing the lowest interest rates offered by 32 providers of easy access cash savings accounts and easy access cash Isas.

The data formed part of the FCA’s so-called ‘sunlight remedy’, which aims to shine a light on firms’ strategies towards their long-standing customers. 

Given that inflation estimates from the Bank of England have suggested inflation could creep up to 2.8 per cent over the next 12 months, perhaps even peaking at 3 per cent by the end of 2018, this should raise the alarm for your cash investors. 

Find me a cash Isa with relatively good ease of access and not requiring a high minimum investment, which pays me more than the estimated 2.8 per cent inflation, and I'll send you a free copy of whichever book happens to be on my desk at the time.