Inflation Seen as ETF Flows Converge With Investor Choices

(Bloomberg) -- The Federal Reserve’s attempt to lift inflationto a level that would reflect a healthier U.S. economy is starting to take hold in the bond market.

For the first time in 19 months, investors are stepping up their buying of exchange-traded funds that hold Treasuries tied to cost-of-living increases, data compiled by Bloomberg show. At the same time, inflation expectations over the next five years surpassed 2% to reach the highest level since May after a government report showed hourly earnings among U.S. workers jumped more on average in February than economists forecast.

The shift in bond-market perceptions shows that some investors now anticipate consumer demand in the world’s largest economy will be strong enough to push inflation toward the Fed’s elusive 2% target. Last year, investors were so convinced the persistent lack of price pressure had become entrenched that Treasury Inflation Protected Securities, or TIPS, posted their worst losses since they were introduced in 1997.

“Inflation is coming,” Michael Pond, the head of global inflation-linked research at Barclays Plc, one of the 22 primary dealers that trade with the Fed, said in a telephone interview from New York. We’re starting to break “free from some of the deflationary shackles of last year. The labor market is picking up, which will cause wages to pick up.”

While a recovery in consumer spending would validate the Fed’s move to scale back its quantitative easing after flooding the U.S. economy with more than $3 trillion since the financial crisis, the risk of inflation has prompted some investors to favor TIPS over Treasuries that pay a fixed rate of interest.

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