US central bank accused of unleashing an inflation shock that will rock financial markets, reports Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
Barclays Capital has advised clients to batten down the hatches for a worldwide financial storm, warning that the US Federal Reserve has allowed the inflation genie out of the bottle and let its credibility fall "below zero".
"We're in a nasty environment," said Tim Bond, the bank's chief equity strategist. "There is an inflation shock underway. This is going to be very negative for financial assets. We are going into tortoise mood and are retreating into our shell. Investors will do well if they can preserve their wealth."
Barclays Capital said in its closely-watched Global Outlook that US headline inflation would hit 5.5pc by August and the Fed will have to raise interest rates six times by the end of next year to prevent a wage-spiral. If it hesitates, the bond markets will take matters into their own hands. "This is the first test for central banks in 30 years and they have fluffed it. They have zero credibility, and the Fed is negative if that's possible. It has lost all credibility," said Mr Bond..
The Fed's stimulus is being transmitted to the 45-odd countries linked to the dollar around world. The result is surging commodity prices. Global inflation has jumped from 3.2pc to 5pc over the last year.
Mr Bond said the emerging world is now on the cusp of a serious crisis. "Inflation is out of control in Asia. Vietnam has already blown up. The policy response is to shoot the messenger, like the developed central banks in the late 1960s and 1970s," he said.
"They will have to slam on the brakes. There is going to be a deep global recession over the next three years as policy-makers try to get inflation back in the box."
He said investors had taken their eye off the slow-motion disaster engulfing the US bond insurers or "monolines". Together these firms guarantee $170bn of structured credit and $1,000bn of US municipal bonds.
The two leaders - MBIA and Ambac - have already been downgraded as the rating agencies belatedly turn stringent. The risk is further downgrades could set off a fresh wave of bank troubles. "The creditworthiness of many US financial institutions will decline in coming months," he said.
The bank warned that engineering and auto firms we're likely to face a crunch as steel and oil costs surge. "Their business models will have to be substantially altered if they are going to survive," said Mr McAdie.