From Copper to Corn, Markets Show Peak Inflation Fear Has Passed

With investors anxious to hear the Federal Reserve’s latest take on inflation after last week’s hot reading, certain corners of the market are already simmering down.

Take lumber, one of the biggest gainers among commodities in the past year as stuck-at-home Americans poured money into remodeling. It’s slumped 40% since its peak in May. The booming housing market has also cooled, with an index that measures consumer plans to buy homes tumbling last month. And copper has eased from an all-time high.

The slowdown in price gains in some key inputs doesn’t mean the surge in headline inflation numbers is a false signal -- there remain numerous areas of the economy where supply constraints and torrid demand have left prices at multiyear highs. But for a central bank deciding whether and when to scale back policy assistance, some of the market signals offer reason to continue to be patient.

The Treasury market, for one, has shown itself unperturbed by the latest readings that highlighted the fastest year-over-year acceleration since 2008. Stocks haven’t minded either, with the S&P 500 breaking out to its first record since early May last week.

“Even though inflation metrics are high, the pressure is starting to come off and that leaves investors to say, ‘Gee, the Fed is right, the Fed knows what it’s doing, and we don’t have to worry about the Fed hiking rates too quickly or an inflation problem in this economy,’” said Tom Essaye, a former Merrill Lynch trader who founded “The Sevens Report” newsletter.

And while the Treasury market’s signal remains a point of debate, with some investors citing technical pressures and a surge in demand after buying by foreign governments, other bond-derived inflation predictors have been declining as well. After reaching the highest levels in a decade, breakeven rates across tenors have slipped in recent weeks, dragging Treasury yields lower.

Here’s a sampling of what market-watchers are seeing: