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The disastrous inflation read has markets rattled. From gold to Bitcoin, here’s how the highest inflation in 40 years wobbled markets

February 10, 2022, 6:01 PM UTC

Higher-than-expected inflation numbers shook the markets Thursday morning, creating volatility for stocks, gold, and cryptocurrencies. 

January’s consumer price index, often considered the most reliable measure of inflation, revealed Thursday that inflation in the U.S. is at its highest level since 1982.

Prices have climbed over 7.5% since last year, the CPI showed, a bigger jump than most economists expected. Although the month-to-month inflation rate painted a more muted picture, and it’s likely that inflation peaked months ago, markets are acting spooked. 

Here are the major assets that either fell or jumped, sometimes both, as the markets reacted to the worst inflation in 40 years.

Stocks

All three major U.S. stock indexes were down on Thursday morning. The tech-heavy Nasdaq index was the worst hit, down nearly 2% as a flurry of tech stocks sold off following the CPI’s release. The Dow was down 0.3%, and the S&P 500 was down 0.9%.

Mega-cap tech stocks fared the worst after the inflation data came out. Google owner Alphabet, Apple, and Amazon all fell more than 1% Thursday morning.

Gold

Gold, an asset that is often used as a hedge against inflation, also fell in the morning by 0.37%.

Gold has long been considered a safe bet during high inflation, a “hedge,” because of its limited supply and reputation as a safe haven during economic instability. A fall like this likely reflects fears about the future value of the dollar.  

By noontime, though, the inflation hedge seemed fully on, with the price per ounce recovering to virtual breakeven.

Crypto

Another supposed inflation hedge, crypto, also fluctuated after the CPI report was released. Bitcoin dropped by $1,000 per token in minutes, and Ethereum fell by 4.5% in the morning. In the hours after the initial release, however, Bitcoin rallied and was able to turn its drop into a 0.8% gain

Bright spots in stocks

Some stocks, however, surged after the latest inflation numbers. Disney, coming off the heels of an especially profitable fourth-quarter earnings report, saw its stock rise over 5% Thursday morning. In its earnings report, Disney predicted robust growth and a sustained increase in subscribers for its streaming service, avoiding the fate that befell rival Netflix’s low subscriber count and poor earnings report last quarter.

The Omicron variant has disrupted global manufacturing and supply chains, a big reason behind the four-decade high inflation metrics the U.S. has experienced recently. The data reported in this month’s CPI show increases in the price of common goods including food, gas, cars, and rent, putting a burden on the average consumer. 

The Fed is expected to make a decision soon on how many times and by how much it intends to hike up interest rates this year to counter inflation. While the Fed uses its own index, Personal Consumption Expenditures, instead of CPI to measure inflation, the eye-watering sums of this month’s CPI are likely to influence the central bank’s decisions.

On Thursday morning, shortly after the CPI’s release, President Biden released a statement acknowledging the distress higher prices were causing American families.

“We have been using every tool at our disposal, and while today is a reminder that Americans’ budgets are being stretched in ways that create real stress at the kitchen table, there are also signs that we will make it through this challenge,” the president said.

Biden highlighted the promising January jobs report as a sign that things were slowly getting back to normal, citing low unemployment and wage growth, and was hopeful that forthcoming policy actions could soon alleviate the pressure. 

“While today’s report is elevated, forecasters continue to project inflation easing substantially by the end of 2022,” he said.

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