Inflation Expectations

Updated on January 29, 2024
Article byWallstreetmojo Team
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

What are Inflation Expectations?

Inflation Expectations refer to the opinion on the future inflation rate from different sections of the society, including investors, bankers, central banks, workers, business people. Thus, they consider this rate while basing their decisions concerning various economic activities that they would like to undertake in the future.

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The Feds aim to maximize employment and achieve price stability in the economy. However, they also look to achieve an inflation rate of around 2%. Monetary policies and economic developments can have a major effect on the expectations of inflation in an economy. However, the Feds try to anchor the inflation rate to around 2%.

Key Takeaways

  • Inflation expectations represent the anticipated future inflation rate from various segments of society, including investors, bankers, Central Banks, workers, and businesspeople. 
  • These expectations play a significant role in influencing their economic decisions and activities.
  • There are two main methods to determine inflation expectations: survey-based methods, where individuals are directly asked about their inflation expectations, and market-based methods, which use financial market data to infer inflation expectations.
  • Inflation expectations serve as a precautionary measure, guiding actions and policies towards the expected outcome by taking into account the sentiments and opinions of different economic sectors. 

Inflation Expectations Explained

Inflation expectations are the anticipation of rise in prices from the perspective of consumers, analysts, investors, and businesses. It plays an important role in the actual rise in inflation as businesses would want to increase their prices by the percentage of expected inflation irrespective of if the prices actually soar by that much.

Consumer inflation expectations certainly have their advantages as it factors in the expectations of the various sectors of the economy, thereby enabling the decision-makers to adopt the right decisions in their respective roles, be it households, business, or even central banks. Inflation expectations thus serve as a precautionary measure to headwind the actions towards the desired results by factoring in the sentiment and opinions of different economic sections.

When the Feds declare the US inflation expectations, it so happens that the consumers usually expect the inflation to rise higher according to a Michigan University study. However, the Feds strive to anchor the inflation rate to 2% so that the consumers do not react adversely when the inflation rate is higher than expected for a short-term window.

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Inflation – Explained in Detail

 
 

How to Find?

The two major forums to find what the economy is expecting are the consumers or household and the market itself. Let us discuss both these methods of finding the consumer inflation expectations through the discussion below.

Inflation Expectation Methods

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#1 – Survey Based Method

Central banks of many countries go on to ascertain the forward-looking expected inflation in the country by undertaking surveys that would enable them to adopt the right strategy, be it expansionary or conservative, for that matter.

Example:

For example, the Federal Bank of New York has undertaken a survey of consumer expectations every year ever since the year 2013 June.

Some of the questions undertaken as a part of the survey to gauge the sentiment and inflation expectations of the consumers are listed as under

  1. Do you think your family is better off than 12 months ago?
  2. Do you think your family will be better off in the next 12 months
  3. What do you think will be the interest on SB accounts 12 years from now
  4. Do you think the stock prices will be higher than that they are now
  5. Over the next few months do you think there will be inflation or deflation?
  6. What do you expect the rate of inflation to be in the next 12 months
  7. What is the current employment situation?

Further, another example of the survey-based measure would be that of the Survey of Professional Forecasters (SPF), which tends to be a group that would closely track the economy as a whole. 

The SPF would provide specific forecasts of inflation based on the consumer price indexConsumer Price IndexThe Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measure of the average price of a basket of regularly used consumer commodities compared to a base year. The CPI for the base year is 100, and this is the benchmark  point.read more (CPI) and the personal consumption expenditures price index (PCE).

#2 – Market-Based Method

Under this method, the gauge of inflation in the economy is done by understanding the TIPS (Treasury Inflated Protected SecuritiesTreasury Inflated Protected SecuritiesTreasury inflation-protected securities (TIPS) are inflation-indexed bonds issued by the US government. Since its principal is indexed to the US consumer price index, it provides a hedge to the inflation risk. With increasing inflation, TIPS's principal values also rise, hedging the bond's inflation risk.read more), which increases the bond’s principal amount on par with inflation. This method understands the price difference between the Treasury noteTreasury Note and the real inflation-protected security that trade in the market.

For example, If one were to consider the yield on a ten-year bond of a  country is 4.5%. Then the yield on the same country’s 10-year inflation-protected bongos is 2.5%. We can thus infer that the market is currently pricing in a 4.5% – 2.5% = 2% average annual inflation over the next ten years.

Inflation Expectations Example 1

The TIPS method can be considered informative as it tends to react more to all of the incoming information.

Advantages

Let us understand the advantages of the US inflation expectations through the discussion below.

Limitations

Even though it plays an important role for businesses, government, and consumers, there are a few hurdles that prove to be a disadvantage. Let us understand them through the explanation below.

  • Time-consuming: The survey method of inflation, which is to be undertaken by interviewing several households, is often a very time-consuming affair and certainly demands laborious efforts from the research team.
  • Deviations from actual: More often than not, the expected inflation will deviate from the actual inflation in the economy.
  • Self-sustaining character: Usually, it is noticed that once inflation goes on to become embedded in a country, the businesses, consumers, workers, and all of the economic actors of every kind will begin to expect it certainly and thus build those expectations into their actions.
  • In turn, this collective reaction on their side creates sort of an inflationary momentum of its own. Such expectations would give inflation more of an autonomous character and cause it to persist in the economy even after the initial cause has disappeared.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is the importance of inflation expectations?

Inflation expectations are crucial for shaping economic behavior and policy decisions. They represent the anticipated rate of price increases that consumers, businesses, and policymakers expect to occur in the future. These expectations influence various economic activities, such as spending, saving, investment, and wage negotiations. 

2. What will be the consequences of high inflation expectations?

High inflation expectations can have several adverse consequences for an economy. When people anticipate rising prices, they may engage in precautionary actions such as hoarding goods, spending hastily, or demanding higher wages to protect their purchasing power. This can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy, causing actual inflation to rise. Additionally, high inflation expectations can lead to uncertainty, making it challenging for businesses to plan investments and for consumers to make long-term financial decisions. 

3. How do inflation expectations affect aggregate supply?

Inflation expectations can impact aggregate supply through their influence on businesses’ production decisions. When firms anticipate higher future costs due to expected inflation, they may adjust their supply behavior. Additionally, inflation expectations can affect wage negotiations. Workers who expect higher future inflation may demand higher wage increases to maintain their real purchasing power. These wage increases can feed into production costs, leading to cost pressures for businesses and potentially impacting aggregate supply. 

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