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John Authers

Markets Are Signaling a Pyrrhic Inflation Victory

Weakening economic growth has taken over as their biggest concern.

There won't be much to celebrate if the economy is tanking.

There won't be much to celebrate if the economy is tanking.

Photographer: Joe Raedle/Getty Images North America

Inflation almost seems passe. The worry of the moment is now economic growth. That’s not unreasonable, as the latest update shows US gross domestic product declined at an annualized rate of 1.6% in the first quarter. With the huge exceptions of the Covid-scarred first two quarters of 2020, this was the weakest US growth since the spring of 2009:

That has had the effect of seemingly eliminating concerns about inflation, even though the battle against it has barely begun. Breakevens, derived from yields on inflation-linked bonds, have dropped all around the world. The 5-year, 5-year forward breakeven, which aims to capture average inflation for the five years starting five years hence and is the measure most closely followed by the Federal Reserve, has now dropped below its level from much of 2018, before the pandemic. Fast approaching the Fed’s target of 2%, the bond market is saying that inflation is no longer anything to worry about: