While inflation pressures remain subdued, investors are beginning to hedge their exposure to general price increases. Since the start of 2016, iShares TIPS Bond Fund (TIP) - Get Report , an exchange-traded fund that tracks the performance of U.S. Treasury Inflation Protected Securities, is up 4.7%, a significant move for this low-volatility asset.
The chart below shows price action for iShares TIPS Bond fund over the last five years. The reversal higher in the index is very apparent considering the many years of slow grinding lower.
While global headline inflation figures remain weak, there are a number of developing factors causing concern among investors. For one, commodity prices have rallied higher in recent months. It is premature to think energy and metal prices have bottomed, but buying support has emerged for both asset classes. Increasing commodity prices could lead to rising input costs, ultimately forcing the prices of final goods higher as well.
Additionally, the dollar has begun to weaken after a few years of trending higher. Since mid-2014, PowerShares DB US Dollar Index Bullish (UUP) - Get Report , a fund that tracks the performance of the greenback against other major currencies, is up by about 15%, but early in 2015 it had gained nearly 25%.
The dollar index has formed a large topping pattern and is in the process of moving lower. The U.S. currency has lost strength as a more cautious Federal Reserve prompted the market to price in less aggressive interest rate hikes in 2016.
When the value of the dollar falls, it causes import costs to naturally increase. Over the last few years, the combination of global economic weakness, falling commodity prices and a stronger dollar insulated U.S. consumers from such rising prices. Those dynamics look to be shifting now though, leading investors to seek protection in both TIPS bonds, as well as in gold. Look for both assets to continue to outperform in coming months.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.