Stock Returns During Periods of Inflation

Stock Returns During Periods of Inflation

2 Min.

High inflation can be costly for consumers, stocks, and the economy. Value stocks do well in high inflation, while growth stocks shine in low inflation. Elevated inflation often leads to more volatile stock markets.


Inflation is a concern for investors, the Federal Reserve, and businesses. It erodes purchasing power by increasing the cost of goods and services. Rising inflation raises input costs and can reduce consumer purchasing power. Controlling it may also affect economic growth and employment.

Impact of Rising Inflation

Rising inflation is a concern for the Federal Reserve, prompting early detection efforts. Sudden inflation spikes are challenging as companies take time to adjust prices. Consumers also feel the pinch, leading to reduced cash holdings due to declining value.

High inflation can stimulate job growth but can hurt corporate profits, causing concerns and hiring freezes. Investors face confusion as inflation affects the economy and stocks differently. However, specific stock types perform better during high inflation periods.

Stock Returns

Analyzing historical returns during high and low inflation periods can help investors. Research on inflation's impact on stocks has yielded mixed results but generally shows that higher inflation correlates with lower equity values, even in emerging markets.

Since the 1930s, most countries experienced their worst real returns during high inflation periods. Real returns, adjusted for inflation, tend to be highest when inflation is between 2% and 3%. Inflation outside this range suggests larger macroeconomic issues affecting stocks. What's crucial is understanding the volatility inflation brings and how to invest wisely in such conditions.

Growth Stocks vs. Value Stocks

Stocks fall into two categories: value and growth. Value stocks typically have stable cash flows that grow slowly or decline, while growth stocks represent fast-growing but often unprofitable companies.

When using the discounted cash flow method to value stocks, rising interest rates disproportionately affect growth stocks, especially during periods of high inflation when interest rates tend to rise. This means that in times of high inflation, growth stocks tend to face more significant challenges compared to value stocks.


Investors closely monitor the impact of inflation on their portfolios. While stocks theoretically offer protection against inflation due to revenue and profit growth, the reality is that inflation often increases stock market volatility and risk premiums, leading to historically lower equity returns. In general, value stocks tend to perform better during periods of high inflation, whereas growth stocks thrive in low-inflation environments.

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