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Inflation vs Stagflation: What’s the Difference?

Between 1973 and 1975, the nation’s unemployment rate doubled to 9%. Annual inflation peaked at 14%, and didn’t decline substantially until the early 1980s after the Federal Reserve jacked up interest rates under the leadership of Paul Volcker. Economists are closely watching the trends in growth, unemployment, and inflation along with the potential catalysts that could trigger stagflation including supply disruptions and central bank policies.

We are seeing signs of slow economic growth, with real GDP declining at an annual rate of 0.6% in the second quarter of 2022. First, this GDP decline comes on the heels of rapid (5.9%) GDP growth in 2021 as the world started to normalize from the 2020 pandemic restrictions, so it is a comparison to the pent-up united technologies raytheon merger demand we saw in 2021. And, second, this is actually an improvement from negative 1.6% GDP growth in the first quarter. The only difference between inflation and stagflation is economic growth. Typically, inflation is coupled with economic growth and can even be a byproduct of a rapidly expanding economy.

  • Inflation is a singular phenomenon that can have multiple causes and many inflationary episodes don’t fit neatly into one of the categories above.
  • Of course, as the stagflation of the 1970s illustrated, this relationship isn’t always stable or predictable.
  • The OPEC oil embargo in 1973 also contributed to the unwanted economic event in the US.
  • “It is also damaging to fixed-income markets, as rising interest rates push bond prices lower and depress equity valuations.”
  • Read on to learn more about this economically depressing decade of oil embargos, brownouts, gas lines and crazy inflation.

“Mortgages are great inflation hedges, as you get to repay in watered-down dollars,” Kotlikoff suggests. “Yes, mortgage rates are high, but after inflation, they are actually still negative.” Plus, with interest rates rising and expected to go even higher, now is a smart time to pay down any variable interest-rate debt, such as credit card balances, before it becomes even more expensive. “Stagflation is recession accompanied by inflation,” Kotlikoff says.

Causes of Stagflation

Note that this isn’t an exhaustive list, although most causes of past periods of stagflation tend to fit into these categories. As an example, the end of the gold standard (where currencies were directly linked to gold) is widely considered to have contributed to the stagflation in the U.S. in the 1970s. Founded in 1993, The Motley Fool is a financial services company dedicated to making the world smarter, happier, and richer. The Motley Fool reaches millions of people every month through our premium investing solutions, free guidance and market analysis on, top-rated podcasts, and non-profit The Motley Fool Foundation. Oil prices surging to the brink of $100 per barrel and the specter of higher-for-longer inflation have renewed concern about stagflation risks, however.

  • Real estate also served as a good hedge, as it was less correlated to stocks.
  • But many have offset the damage, at least in part, with wage increases driven by high demand for workers and resilient consumer spending.
  • And, second, this is actually an improvement from negative 1.6% GDP growth in the first quarter.
  • As noted above, central banks like the Federal Reserve, often referred to as the Fed, and the European Central Bank (ECB) prefer modest inflation to none at all, as insurance against destabilizing deflation.

Stagflation was first recognized in the 1970s, when an oil shock prompted an extended period of higher prices but sharply falling economic growth. What the Keynesians didn’t realize was that there were other powerful economic forces that could throw inflation into an upward spiral. To really understand how stagflation works, you have to take a trip back to the 1970s. Read on to learn more about this economically depressing decade of oil embargos, brownouts, gas lines and crazy inflation. Meanwhile, the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, coming after a year of lower global oil production, has caused a spike in energy prices akin to that of the seventies, Hunter said.

The causes of stagflation during that period remain in dispute, as did the likelihood of a reprise in 2022 amid high energy and food prices, rising interest rates, and persistent supply-chain snags. When the economy is growing, the Fed raises interest rates to limit the amount of money in circulation. When the economy slows, the Fed lowers interest rates to encourage borrowing and increase the amount of money in circulation. The goal is to strike a precarious balance where the economy grows at a healthy rate without allowing inflation to get out of control.

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“I think we’re going to see higher interest rates to reduce demand — reduce demand by companies, reduce demand by consumers.” The trifecta of slow growth, high unemployment, and fast inflation puts significant pressure on the economy. High prices and a weak national economy are close to a perfect storm for consumers. With stagflation, forex pin bar households struggling to make ends meet face possible employment insecurity, too. Stagflation—a mix of stagnating growth and rising prices—has been generally viewed as a relic of the 1970s. On rare occasions, however, high inflation persists even as the economy slows and unemployment rises, resulting in stagflation, she said.

It has been next to impossible to buy a new car, the inventory of homes on the market has been at an extremely low level, and many industries have been grappling with various supply chain problems. “By early summer, investors looked increasingly confident that the global economy was escaping the plague of stagflation,” analysts at Generali Investments said in a research note published Thursday. Lagomasino cited comments from Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari, acciones baratas who said in an essay earlier this week that U.S. interest rates may have to go “meaningfully higher” to bring down stubbornly sticky inflation. “I think that the big bogeyman out there is stagflation, that we get into this spirit of high inflation and low growth,” Mel Lagomasino, CEO of WE Family Offices, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Wednesday. Economic conditions in early 2022 led many commentators to wonder whether the U.S. was headed for a return to stagflation.

Once Considered a Myth, the Misery of Stagflation Is Very Real

While stagflation is quite rare—the U.S. has only experienced one sustained period of stagflation in recent history, in the 1970s—it’s become a more frequent topic of speculation. The consensus among economists is that productivity has to be increased to the point where it will lead to higher growth without additional inflation. This would then allow for the tightening of monetary policy to rein in the inflation component of stagflation. This implies that attempts to stimulate the economy during recessions could simply inflate prices without promoting real economic growth. Since that time, inflation has proved to be persistent even during periods of slow or negative economic growth. In the past 50 years, every declared recession in the U.S. has seen a continuous, year-over-year rise in consumer price levels.

Some point to former President Richard Nixon’s policies, which may have led to the recession of 1970—a possible precursor to other periods of stagflation. Nixon put tariffs on imports and froze wages and prices for 90 days in an attempt to prevent prices from rising. Once the controls were relaxed, the rapid acceleration of prices led to economic chaos. Critics of this theory point out that sudden oil price shocks like those of the 1970s did not occur in connection with any of the simultaneous periods of inflation and recession that have occurred since the embargo. In October 1973, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) issued an embargo against Western countries.

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As the US faced greater international competition, a drop in manufacturing jobs, and a massively expensive war in Vietnam, unemployment rates and inflation climbed. “Stagflation is unambiguously harmful to the economy, as high inflation and inflation uncertainty distort investment decisions,” says DeKaser. “It is also damaging to fixed-income markets, as rising interest rates push bond prices lower and depress equity valuations.” “During the 1970s, for example, Fed Chairman Arthur Burns responded to soaring commodity prices with inappropriately easy monetary policy that allowed inflation to persist and get firmly entrenched in expectations,” says DeKaser. “The record now shows that, to some degree, this was because he succumbed to political pressure at the time.”

Kotlikoff paints a financially savvy scenario of taking out a long-term mortgage while simultaneously purchasing and holding long-term, inflation-indexed Treasury bonds. “You’ll win on your mortgage repayment if inflation continues or rises and be protected on your Treasury bond investment with one big caveat — the inflation protection is taxed,” Kotlikoff explains. There’s a way to prep your big purchases, such as homebuying, as well.


Thus the menace of inflationism described above is not merely a product of the war, of which peace begins the cure. Keynes detailed the relationship between German government deficits and inflation. The inflationism of the currency systems of Europe has proceeded to extraordinary lengths. The various belligerent Governments, unable, or too timid or too short-sighted to secure from loans or taxes the resources they required, have printed notes for the balance. Many of the offers appearing on this site are from advertisers from which this website receives compensation for being listed here.

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