As economists debate forecasts for interest rate increases — how likely? how big? how soon? — advisors looking at portfolio strategy face a more straightforward question: How have various asset classes performed during years with varying levels of inflation?

In the years since 1970, the median annual rate of inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, has been 3.37%; the average rate over the past 44 years has been 4.27%. (The linkage between the federal discount rate and the Consumer Price Index is fairly distinct, with about a 70% correlation between the two since 1970.) The average is higher than the median in this case because of three particular years — 1974, 1979 and 1980 — in which inflation exceeded 12%, skewing the average upward but with virtually no impact on the median.

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