Why Investors Care
A price index measures the change in price between time periods for a given set of goods and services. It summarizes a set of prices for a variety of goods and services collected from a number of outlets. The consumer price index is the most widely followed indicator of inflation. An investor who understands how inflation influences the markets will benefit over those investors that do not understand the impact. Inflation is an increase in the overall prices of goods and services. The relationship between inflation and interest rates is the key to understanding how indicators such as the CPI influence the markets- and your investments. Inflation (along with various risks) basically explains how interest rates are set on everything from your mortgage and auto loans to Treasury bills, notes and bonds. As the rate of inflation changes and as expectations on inflation change, the markets adjust interest rates. The effect ripples across stocks, bonds, commodities, and your portfolio, often in a dramatic fashion. By tracking inflation, whether high or low, rising or falling, investors can anticipate how different types of investments will perform. Over the long run, the bond market will rally (fall) when increases in the CPI are small (large). The equity market rallies with the bond market because low inflation promises low interest rates and is good for profits.
The CPI is used to help set monetary policy and for monitoring economic performance. It is used by the government to adjust New Zealand Superannuation and unemployment benefit payments once a year, to help ensure that these payments maintain their purchasing power. Employers and employees use the CPI in wage negotiations.