US inflation ticked higher last month, and now the Federal Reserve (the Fed) has a decision to make: unleash another inflation-battling (and economy-cooling) interest rate hike or leave things as they are and see how it all pans out. But one thing seems clear: that 2% inflation target’s not going to hit itself.
If you’re struggling for anything original to say about inflation, try this: what’s wrong with 4%, as a target? That’s the rate at which the supercore measure of inflation (the gauge that excludes the more volatile prices of food, energy, and housing) rose in August versus last year. While most pundits concluded that US inflation is still running too hot, and the Fed has more work to do, blah, blah, blah, a growing camp now says the Fed might just need to adjust to a new reality – and maybe that’s an inflation target around 4%. Would it be so bad? It’s not likely to damage the economy, and a bit of inflation can do wonders for anyone carrying too much debt. Food for thought, at the very least.
In company news, by far the biggest event of the week was the much-anticipated return of British semiconductor giant Arm to the public markets. Arm is arguably the most important chipmaker in the world. Nvidia shareholders might laugh that off, but central processing units (CPUs) are in basically everything these days, and pretty much all of them are made using Arm’s technology. Arm’s IPO was oversubscribed – meaning there was more demand for shares than supply – and that’s why the stock soared 25% when it started trading.
In Europe, the ECB popped interest rates up by another 0.25 percentage points as its slugfest with inflation rumbles on. What’s more, the central bank downgraded its economic growth forecast and upgraded its inflation target. And that’s just, ouch. It also printed out this doozy of a statement: “Based on its current assessment, the Governing Council considers that key interest rates have reached levels that, maintained for a sufficiently long duration, will make a substantial contribution to the timely return of inflation to the target”. In other words: rates are going nowhere from here.
Zara owner Inditex’s results showed the trendy chain’s first-half profits surged 40% compared to a year ago. That’s an impressive result, given other retailers are struggling to pass on cost increases to shoppers while simultaneously keeping the cash registers ringing. The secret for Inditex is in its fast-fashion DNA. The firm's locally sourced goods can replenish shelves as fast as the garments fly off them, and that means it can stay ahead of the inflation curve while offering only the newest threads.
When rumors of China banning iPhones for government workers broke, Apple shareholders panicked a little. And it’s no wonder: the country accounts for nearly 20% of Apple’s sales, so even the threat of some sort of ban would be bad news. Other firms with big Chinese sales should watch out too. Until now, the China-US tit-for-tat trade battles have been mostly about semiconductors and other “strategically important” technology. But who’s to say the government won’t suddenly take aim at other industries?
Initial public offerings (IPOs) are big deals, especially ones that value a firm at $50 billion or so (like Arm’s). For professional investors who are lucky enough to be allocated some of the freshly minted shares, it can be a way to make a quick buck, especially if the investment bankers involved can make a big enough hoo-ha about it and the shares rip higher on the first trading day. And for those bankers, well, it’s a nice payday too. They rake in millions in fees on big deals. So, all in all, Arm’s IPO was a good day at the office, then.
Now, retail investors wanting a piece of the Arm action had to wait for those shares to start changing hands on the Nasdaq, so the 25% pop in the stock on day one might be a touch frustrating. Mind you, it’s important to not jump to too many conclusions here. At least part of the stock move is down to the sheer excitement of the deal and the fact that there hasn’t been an IPO of this magnitude for a while. It might be a good idea, then, to let the dust settle a bit. Stocks tend to be volatile in the early days after going public, after all.
Whether Arm is worth the roughly $60 billion valuation it’s achieved since its fresh outing is open to debate. But there’s little doubt that its listing has brought some feel-good factor. You can bet that other private firms looking to go public will be energized by Arm too. German sandal maker Birkenstock, for one, seemed to take advantage of Arm’s publicity to punt around its own IPO ambitions. And we could see a few others pop their heads up in the weeks to come.
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