Cover of MoneyWeek magazine issue no 538

Untapped profits

20 May 2011 / Issue 538

Nigeria - the hot new frontier market

PLUS:

  • Two great value defensive stocks to buy
  • Beat inflation for the next five years
  • The downfall of France's great political hope

Excerpt

The least-worst option for investors 

This time last year, Bank of England governor Mervyn King told us that by now Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation would be down to 1.7%. It isn’t. Instead it is at a near-three-year high of 4.5%. He couldn’t have been much more wrong. Dylan Grice, who I interview this week, has had enough. King, he says, is “deeply flawed” and a prime example of why all central banks should be dumped in favour of free banking – a system under which we leave setting interest rates to the market.

Not everyone would want to go quite so far, but it is true that the world’s central banks have done an almost unbelievably awful job in guessing where inflation will be, and rates should be, over the last decade. You might ask why. I wonder if it isn’t because the changes in price levels since the mid-1990s have not been demand-led, but supply-led. The pleasantly low inflation of the pre-crisis years – which left CPI inflation hovering around the bank’s target and allowed it to justify overly low interest rates – didn’t reflect levels of demand in the West so much as the fast-falling prices of all the consumer goods coming in from the East. And the inflation we are seeing now, again, isn’t about demand in the West. It is about supply: it reflects not a consumption and investment frenzy here, but the newly rising prices of imported consumer goods and of commodities.

So what does the investor do?

• Read the full editor’s letter here: The least-worst option for investors

Follow Merryn on Twitter