Not ‘Putin’s price hike’: Fed chair contradicts Biden, says inflation was 'certainly' high before Russia’s Ukraine invasion. Protect yourself

·4 min read
Not ‘Putin’s price hike’: Fed chair contradicts Biden, says inflation was 'certainly' high before Russia’s Ukraine invasion. Protect yourself
Not ‘Putin’s price hike’: Fed chair contradicts Biden, says inflation was 'certainly' high before Russia’s Ukraine invasion. Protect yourself

Inflation is still white-hot: U.S. consumer price index rose 8.6% in May from a year ago, marking the biggest jump since December 1981.

Who’s responsible for the spiking price levels?

President Joe Biden points to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying that “Putin’s price hike is hitting America hard” after seeing the latest inflation report.

But Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell states otherwise.

When asked whether he thinks the war in Ukraine was a primary cause of inflation in the U.S. at a committee hearing on Wednesday, Powell said, “No, inflation was high before — certainly before the war in Ukraine broke out.”

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One thing is certain: Inflation is rapidly eroding our purchasing power.

And as the Fed raises interest rates aggressively to tame inflation, stocks are getting heavily sold off.

Here’s the good news: Some sectors thrive in periods of high inflation. Owning high-quality assets in these sectors could make your portfolio more resilient in these challenging times.

Energy

One of the surest signs of surging inflation is in the commodities rally we saw since 2021. In fact, commodity prices are commonly believed to be a leading indicator of inflation.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that oil — the most traded commodity in the world — has climbed significantly.

Despite pulling back most recently, the price of crude oil is still up 40% year to date.

Investors can tap into the oil price boom through ETFs like the United States Oil Fund (USO).

Natural gas is another hot commodity. The United States Natural Gas Fund (UNG), which tracks movements in natural gas prices, has soared 65% in 2022.

Strong energy prices benefit producers. In fact, energy was by far the best performing sector of the S&P 500 in 2021, returning a total of 53% vs the index’s 27% return. And that momentum has carried into 2022.

So far this year, investors have enjoyed outsized returns from names like Chevron (20%), Exxon Mobil (35%), and Occidental Petroleum (83%).

Healthcare

The demand for healthcare is found to be quite inelastic to price changes: if you are sick, you are not going to be that price sensitive.

That’s why healthcare companies can still thrive in times of inflation.

And because of its lack of correlation with the ups and downs of the economy, healthcare is a prime example of a defensive sector.

In addition, the sector has a lot of room for long-term growth due to favorable demographic trends — notably an aging population — and plenty of innovation.

Established healthcare companies also have the ability to deliver increasing cash returns to shareholders. For instance, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Abott Laboratories (ABT), and Cardinal Health (CAH) have made it to the list of Dividend Aristocrats – companies that have paid increasing dividends for at least 25 years.

For broad exposure to the sector, investors can look into ETFs like the Vanguard Health Care ETF (VHT) and the Health Care Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLV).

Real estate

As a well-known hedge against inflation, real estate rounds out our list. As the price of raw materials and labor goes up, new properties are more expensive to build. And that drives up the price of existing real estate.

Well-chosen properties can provide more than just price appreciation. Investors also get to earn a steady stream of rental income.

But while we all like the idea of collecting passive income, being a landlord does come with its hassles, like fixing leaky faucets and dealing with difficult tenants.

Thankfully, there are real estate investment trusts, which are companies that own income-producing real estate like apartment buildings, shopping centers and office towers. Many REITs trade on the stock market, so investors can buy and sell them throughout the trading day.

Realty Income (O), for instance, is a REIT with a portfolio of over 11,000 properties. The company has been paying uninterrupted monthly dividends since its founding in 1969 and currently offers an annual yield of 4.4%.

If you don’t want to pick individual winners and losers, ETFs such as the Vanguard Real Estate ETF (VNQ) can provide easy access to the group.

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This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.