Duff: Inflation is still driving markets, policy, and the economy

CNBC Television
14 May 202403:12

TLDRIn a recent discussion on inflation, Mimi Duff highlighted the importance of PPI data and its potential to influence market volatility. She emphasized that services are a key driver of CPI stickiness, despite goods prices having decreased. Duff anticipates that the Federal Reserve may not ease rates until later in the year, unless there is a significant improvement in the inflation picture. In response to the current economic environment, Duff suggests a strategy focused on fixed income investments, with a preference for a diversified bond portfolio and a short duration stance. She also expresses a positive outlook on corporate credit, while noting a cautious approach due to the current high rates and inflation.


  • 📉 **Inflation and PPI**: Mimi Duff suggests that Producer Price Index (PPI) is expected to decrease, which could be a positive sign for inflation.
  • 🔍 **Services Inflation**: Services sector inflation remains sticky, unlike goods, which have seen a decrease.
  • 📅 **Important Data**: The upcoming data release is considered crucial for the market and policy narrative.
  • 💹 **Market and Interest Rates**: The market is closely watching the interest rate scenario, with discussions around potential rate cuts.
  • 🤔 **Two Possible Outcomes**: Duff outlines two scenarios: one with earnings beating expectations despite high rates and inflation, and another with softening inflation and economy, which could prompt a more aggressive stance from the Federal Reserve.
  • 📉 **Fed Easing**: There is no expectation of Fed easing until later in the year, given the current inflation picture.
  • 🌐 **Policy Easing in Europe**: Some easing of policy has started in Europe, which might precede similar moves in the U.S.
  • 💼 **Fixed Income Preference**: Duff expresses a preference for fixed income investments, considering the current macroeconomic environment.
  • 📈 **Diversified Bond Portfolio**: A diversified bond portfolio is recommended, with a focus on short duration bonds to mitigate risks associated with the deficit picture.
  • 🔑 **Yield and Protection**: The 'belly' of the yield curve is seen as offering a decent yield and protection against an economic slowdown.
  • 🏢 **Corporate Credit**: Corporate credit is seen as attractive, although the transcript ends abruptly before further details can be provided.

Q & A

  • What is the main topic of discussion in the transcript?

    -The main topic of discussion is inflation, its impact on markets, policy, and the economy, as well as the potential outcomes for interest rates and fixed income investments.

  • What does Mimi Duff believe is driving the 'stickiness' in the Consumer Price Index (CPI)?

    -Mimi Duff believes that the services side of inflation is driving the 'stickiness' in the CPI, as goods have come down but services remain persistent.

  • Why is the Producer Price Index (PPI) significant in the context of the discussion?

    -The PPI is significant because it is an important economic indicator that can influence the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and overall inflation trends, which in turn affect market volatility and policy decisions.

  • What are the two possible outcomes for interest rates that Mimi Duff sees?

    -The two possible outcomes are either maintaining high rates and elevated inflation, or a softening of inflation and the economy, which could lead to the Federal Reserve becoming more aggressive.

  • Why does Mimi Duff suggest being overweight in fixed income?

    -Mimi Duff suggests being overweight in fixed income because it provides a better range of outcomes in the current economic environment, offering protection against economic slowdown and a decent yield.

  • What does Mimi Duff's strategy involve regarding bond investments?

    -The strategy involves owning a diversified set of bonds, being heavily invested in equities, and taking a short duration approach compared to the index, focusing on the belly of the curve for yield and protection.

  • How does Mimi Duff view corporate credit in the current market?

    -Mimi Duff finds corporate credit attractive, although the transcript ends abruptly before further details on this aspect can be provided.

  • What does Mimi Duff expect to see in terms of policy easing in Europe and the U.S.?

    -Mimi Duff expects to see further easing of policy in Europe before the U.S., and she does not anticipate the U.S. easing without further improvements on the inflation side.

  • What is the significance of the word 'inflation' as the word of the day?

    -The word 'inflation' is chosen because it is the foremost driver for policy in the country, with a lot of data being released during the week, which will significantly influence market and policy narratives.

  • How does Mimi Duff's investment strategy reflect the current economic environment?

    -Mimi Duff's strategy reflects a cautious approach to the current economic environment by diversifying from equities into a mix of bonds, focusing on short duration, and favoring corporate credit, all aimed at navigating inflation and potential economic slowdown.

  • What is the duration of the index that Mimi Duff's investment strategy is compared against?

    -The duration of the index that Mimi Duff's strategy is compared against is 6.8 years.

  • Why does Mimi Duff's team not favor the back end of the yield curve?

    -They do not favor the back end due to concerns about the deficit picture and the potential for economic slowdown, preferring instead the belly of the curve for yield and protection.



📈 Inflation Data and Market Volatility

The opening discussion focuses on the significance of inflation data and its potential to cause market volatility between the current and the following day. Mimi Duff emphasizes the importance of the Producer Price Index (PPI) and its recent decline, suggesting that services are the primary factor contributing to the 'stickiness' of the Consumer Price Index (CPI), as goods prices have decreased. The conversation also touches on the market's reliance on the interest rate narrative and the possibility of interest rate cuts later in the year, with a focus on fixed income as a strategic investment in response to various economic scenarios.




Inflation refers to the rate at which the general level of prices for goods and services is rising, and subsequently, purchasing power is falling. In the context of the video, it is the primary driver for economic policy and market volatility. The discussion revolves around how inflation data impacts the Federal Reserve's decision-making regarding interest rates and the overall economic outlook.

💡PPI (Producer Price Index)

PPI measures the average changes in prices received by domestic producers for their output. It is an indicator of how seller prices vary and can signal future inflationary trends. In the transcript, Mimi Duff expresses hope that PPI is coming down, which is a positive sign for inflation expectations.

💡CPI (Consumer Price Index)

CPI measures the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services. It is a key indicator of inflation and is closely watched by the public and policymakers. The script mentions that while goods prices have come down, services inflation remains 'sticky,' indicating a persistent element of inflation.


Volatility in financial markets refers to the extent of variation in prices of equity, currency, or commodity over time. In the context of the video, it is tied to the uncertainty surrounding inflation data and its potential impact on interest rates, which can lead to fluctuations in the market.

💡Interest Rates

Interest rates are the cost of borrowing money and represent the percentage of an outlay paid or received for the use of money. The discussion in the video suggests that the current high interest rates and inflation are factors that could influence the Federal Reserve's decision on whether to cut rates in the future.

💡Fixed Income

Fixed income refers to investments that pay out a fixed cash flow, such as bonds. In the video, Mimi Duff suggests being overweight in fixed income as a strategy because it can perform well across a range of economic outcomes, including high inflation or an economic slowdown.

💡Earnings Beat

An earnings beat occurs when a company's reported earnings per share (EPS) exceed analysts' estimates. In the transcript, it is mentioned that earnings have put in a decent beat, which could be a positive signal for the market despite the challenging economic conditions.

💡Economic Slowdown

An economic slowdown is a period during which economic growth slows, often signaling potential trouble for the economy. Mimi Duff discusses positioning investments to provide yield and protection against an economic slowdown, indicating a cautious approach to the current market environment.


In the context of bonds, duration is a measure of the sensitivity of the price of a bond to changes in interest rates. A shorter duration indicates less sensitivity and thus less risk during periods of interest rate volatility. The video mentions being short duration versus the index, which is a strategy to manage risk.

💡Deficit Picture

The deficit picture refers to the state of a country's budget deficit, which is the amount by which government spending exceeds revenue. Concerns about the deficit picture can affect bond yields and economic confidence. In the script, there is a mention of being cautious about the back end of the yield curve due to the deficit picture.

💡Corporate Credit

Corporate credit refers to the creditworthiness of corporations, which is a measure of their ability to meet their debt obligations. The attractiveness of corporate credit can influence investment decisions. In the video, Mimi Duff expresses a preference for corporate credit, suggesting it is a favorable investment in the current economic context.


Inflation continues to be a key driver in markets, policy, and the economy.

PPI (Producer Price Index) is expected to continue its downward trend, which could influence CPI (Consumer Price Index).

The services sector is identified as a significant contributor to the 'stickiness' in CPI.

Goods prices have decreased, but services remain high, indicating a split in the inflationary pressures.

Upcoming data releases are pivotal for market expectations and policy direction.

Interest rate movements are closely tied to inflation data, affecting market sentiment.

Two potential outcomes are considered: either a continuation of high rates and inflation or a softening leading to a more aggressive Federal Reserve response.

Fixed income investments are favored due to their potential performance across various economic scenarios.

Earnings have recently outperformed expectations despite challenging economic conditions.

A softening of inflation and the economy might prompt the Federal Reserve to act more aggressively.

The Federal Reserve is not expected to ease until later in the year, contingent on inflation developments.

Inflation is the word of the day, reflecting its importance in current economic policy discussions.

Policy easing in Europe is observed, with expectations for more easing before similar measures in the U.S.

Fixed income strategy involves a diversified bond portfolio with a focus on shorter duration to mitigate risk.

Investors are long-term and have shifted some equity investments into diversified bonds for better yield and protection.

Corporate credit is viewed as attractive, indicating a positive outlook for this sector.