With inflation concerns on the rise, let’s look at the effects it could have on industries; who will outperform, who will underperform, and which stocks to watch if we do see an inflationary 2022.
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Historic industry and stock performance
The best-performing stocks in inflationary environments have proved to be energy, financials, precious metals, property real estate investment trusts (REITs), and consumer staples. Other than precious metals, many of these industries would be deemed the most essential services for consumers and they aren’t inventory-heavy sectors.
On the underperformance side of things are communications, IT, mortgage providers, and consumer discretionary businesses. Companies that are labor-intensive, or outside the realm of “must-haves” for consumers and businesses usually struggle, along with those that are tied to high price-earnings (P/E) multiples, which leads me to growth stocks.
Growth stocks generally suffer in inflationary environments for a number of reasons. With higher inflation expectations, projected discounted cash-flows are often hurt, which consequently drags down P/E ratios and valuations. Many smaller growth companies also rely on access to capital to expand, and credit can be more difficult or expensive to attain.
This doesn’t mean all growth stocks will be pummelled in an inflationary environment, but it can be a good idea to be more particular about stock picks. Service companies with lower labor costs, enough cash to fund investment, and access to revolving credit facilities can be things to watch out for, and the more essential its service is, the better.
The revolving credit facility is an important one to note — this means the borrower can get additional credit, or repay loans if rates are fluctuating. Inflation can bring with it higher interest rates, and companies can handle exposure more efficiently.
Two stocks to watch
Tech as a whole may not be the best option, but Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) has one of the most resilient business models in the market. While ad spending could decline in the short-term in an inflationary environment, users will still use its platforms out of necessity for its search and enterprise segments, and for free entertainment from its YouTube platform.
The company has a reasonable P/E ratio of 28 and is well-capitalized too, with $136 billion in cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities in its most recent quarter.
Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.B) is managed by the most prominent investor duo of all time, Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger. With more than a century of combined experience in the markets, the pair have navigated almost any macroeconomic trend imaginable, so a situation like this should be business as usual for them.
Berkshire as a holding company owns a diversified portfolio of investments across industries, but portfolio concentration is geared towards banking and insurance, and as discussed, the financial sector usually performs quite well in this environment.
Berkshire also has a fortress of a balance sheet to navigate any downturn, with a cash pile of over $149 billion, which also presents the opportunity to purchase shares in businesses at discounted valuations, if the opportunity arose.
Inflation isn’t necessarily a bad thing, in fact, it can be a sign of a healthy economy. The real concern generally applies when it gets way out of hand, to the point where there are different prices being charged on a weekly basis — take Argentina as an example, where inflation is over 40% — it means companies operating there pose a higher risk.
Once contained, however, inflation is manageable, so there’s no need to spin out of control if you’re working off a long-term investment thesis.
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