Investor Essentials Daily

Far from the 1970s

May 20, 2024

The last time the U.S. experienced stagflation was in the 1970s, characterized by high inflation, high unemployment, and slow economic growth.

Despite concerns, the current economic climate does not mirror that era. Inflation and unemployment rates are significantly lower than in the 1970s, and while economic growth has been modest, it is expected to improve with significant investments in sectors like artificial intelligence and infrastructure.

The Federal Reserve’s firm stance on interest rates is helping to keep inflation under control, steering the economy towards a balanced “Goldilocks” state, which is neither too hot nor too cold.

Overall, while there are weaker areas in the economy, such as consumer staples, the broader economic and employment outlook remains strong, suggesting a positive trajectory rather than a return to stagflation.

Investor Essentials Daily:
The Monday Macro Report
Powered by Valens Research

The last time the U.S. saw stagflation was in the 1970s…

The term refers to a period of high inflation, high unemployment, and low economic growth.

Back in the 1970s, inflation was in the high single digits and economic growth was much weaker. At one point, unemployment topped 8%.

The entire period was known as the “decade of inflation.” The average inflation rate for the whole 10 years was nearly 7%.

That’s more than double what it is today.

And while “real” GDP growth slowed down to a bit below 2%, that’s still outpacing inflation.

Remember, real GDP growth accounts for inflation. That means GDP growth outpaced inflation by 1.6 percentage points.

We don’t expect that weak economic growth to last for long, though.

The U.S. is investing heavily in different sectors of the economy that will help boost growth…

Artificial intelligence continues to be one such area… Its market is expected to exceed $1.8 trillion by 2030.

And semiconductor and infrastructure companies have received billions of dollars in federal funding. That’s slowly starting to translate into economic growth.

Of course, there’s a possibility that with this growth comes more inflation… But because the Fed is holding firm on interest rates, we don’t see a scenario where inflation rises back to what it was in the 1970s.

For now, though, we agree with Powell. We don’t see the stagflation that many folks are worried about. We think the Fed is actually doing a good job of making sure inflation stays under control.

The economy seems like it’s heading to ‘just right’ levels…

In other words, it’s a “Goldilocks” economy. It’s not too hot. And it’s not too cold.

In fact, inflation is stickier because of our healthy growth. So long as GDP growth rebounds a bit and doesn’t get too hot, and inflation stays around where it has been, we aren’t heading for stagflation.

That is not to say the economy is perfect. There are pockets of the economy that aren’t as strong… such as the low-end consumer.

With stickier inflation, consumer staple companies haven’t been as strong as the rest of the market. But the overall economy and employment are not seeing the same issues.

The economy is still strong… and the Fed won’t let it get strong enough to spur higher inflation. While economists are worried, this is the exact type of “goldilocks” economy that can drive the stock market higher.

Best regards,

Joel Litman & Rob Spivey

Chief Investment Strategist &
Director of Research
at Valens Research

View All

You don’t have access to the Valens Research Premium Application.

To get access to our best content including the highly regarded Conviction Long List and Market Phase Cycle macro newsletter, please contact our Client Relations Team at 630-841-0683 or email

Please fill out the fields below so that our client relations team can contact you

Or contact our Client Relationship Team at 630-841-0683