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A source of U.S. low inflation? It's your phone -BlackRock strategist
June 21, 2017 / 3:45 PM / 5 months ago

A source of U.S. low inflation? It's your phone -BlackRock strategist

NEW YORK, June 21 (Reuters) - Americans’ love of their smartphones and apps may be contributing to the sluggish pace of inflation that is worrying Wall Street and the Federal Reserve, the top bond strategist at BlackRock, the world’s biggest asset manager, said on Wednesday.

Consumers are relying less and less on devices such as cameras, radios and televisions, and services such as taxis and stores, replacing them with programs in their iPhones and other high-end phones, according to Rick Rieder, BlackRock’s chief investment officer of global fixed income.

Companies like Amazon.com Inc, Netflix Inc and Uber Technologies Inc have enticed consumers with convenience and low prices through their phones. As a result, they have upended traditional retailers, entertainment outlets and transportation services, Rieder said in an article published on Wednesday.

“Technological innovation is disrupting traditional business models of many industries, putting a lid on prices and influencing inflation in the economy overall,” he wrote.

The core rate of the consumer price index, the U.S. government’s broadest inflation gauge, increased 1.7 percent year-on-year in May, the smallest such rise since May 2015, the Labor Department said last week.

On Monday, Chicago Federal Reserve President Charles Evans, when asked about Amazon’s proposed $13.7 billion buyout of up-market grocer Whole Foods Market Inc at an event in New York, said new competitors with a technological edge entering in major industries pose possible long-term implications that inflation will remain low.

Some of the recent pullback in inflation also stemmed from lower energy prices resulting from global oversupply, analysts said.

This technological shift will likely persist, Rieder said, making it difficult for inflation to meet the Fed’s 2 percent target, which policymakers deem optimal to support stable economic growth.

“This is an increasingly challenging paradigm to execute upon today in the more modern commerce era we live in,” Rieder said. “We believe both investors and policymakers need to abandon an overly rigid view of price change.”

Reporting by Richard Leong; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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