Beating inflation? HK people are well-versed
You may have to seriously keep your future economic and financial plans in check — inflation may return to haunt us in 2017 and beyond.
It used to be one of the most dreaded words in economic parlance. But, in the past decade, Japan, for instance, has been trying, unsuccessfully, to bring back inflation as the panacea for its stagnant economy.
In the past few months, the US Federal Reserve had been putting an interestrate hike on hold, awaiting stronger signs of rising wages and consumer prices. But now, a robust economic performance, increased consumer spending and higher oil prices are working hand in glove to make inflation very much a reality.
Another key factor that could boost inflation stems from US President-elect Donald Trump’s economic policies which, among other things, call for higher spending on infrastructure development to stimulate economic growth. Such an expansive fiscal policy, accompanied by Trump’s pledge to cut taxes, would almost certainly lead to a widening budget deficit which, in turn, would push up prices.
Soaring inflation — the bane of many developed economies, including Hong Kong, in the eighties and early nineties — was licked by globalization. The flood of inexpensive imports involving a vast variety of merchandise from emerging markets has helped stabilize prices in the developed economies.
Increased domestic demand could be met by imports rather than boosting production that would lead to rising wages. In the US, for instance, workers’ average wages have remained static for years.
Hong Kong could be hit by imported inflation from the US through the currency peg, as well as the rising tide of trade protectionism in the US and, possibly, Europe. Exports growth has slowed for many months, while financial services’ contributions to the economy have contracted.
A recent study showed that most Hong Kong employers surveyed would freeze hiring staff next year. Some of the major banks were reported to have trimmed their professional staff headcount to bring down costs.
Investors may have forgotten how to grow wealth in an inflationary environment marked by surging interest rates and commodity prices. To many Hong Kong people, though, buying property remains the safest way to deal with inflation.
In the wake of the latest US interest ratehike, Hong Kong could be hit by imported inflation from the US next year through the currency peg.