Why Akre Sees Stagflation Ahead

Top fund manager Chuck Akre says a constrained consumer will mean continued slow growth for the U.S. — part of why he sees stagflation coming.

Akre tells Bloomberg that robust growth can’t occur in a consumer-driven economy like the U.S. when unemployment is as high as it is right now. Credit also isn’t flowing as freely as it did in the 1990s or 2000s, he says, and the scars of the 2008 financial crisis have made many leery of taking on debt. All of that means growth should continue to be sluggish, Akre says.

With growth likely to remain slow, Akre says the U.S. isn’t likely to grow its way out of its debt woes. Lowering interest rates would be another possible way out, but rates are already near zero. “The only logical solution is to devalue the currency so that the value of the debt, which is fixed, declines in inflation-adjusted terms relative to the size of the economy,” Akre says. “Doing that will cause stagflation like the 1970s — inflation plus the slow growth we already have.”

In such a climate, Akre is high on discount retailers, like Ross Stores and TJX Companies. And he likes companies with pricing power, which can withstand inflation. He also talks about Mastercard and Visa, which he likes because they can capitalize on the continuing shift from cash to credit.