Although price pressures are currently muted, the United States will get an uptick of inflation over the medium term, the world's biggest bond fund management company said on Thursday.
Extensive money printing by central banks to buy securities in emergency measures, such as those the European Central Bank recently announced to stabilize euro zone government bond markets, will ultimately stoke inflation, wrote Mohamed El-Erian, CEO and co-CIO of Pacific Investment Management Co., or Pimco, in a three- to five-year "Secular Outlook" summary.
"This potential evolution from disinflation to inflation will likely proceed at different speeds in different parts of the globe. It is already well in train in emerging economies and will remain so," El-Erian wrote.
This week, gold rose to a record above $1,240 an ounce on concerns about the European sovereign debt crisis.
Flight into gold can also reflect investors' concerns about the potential for paper currencies to depreciate because of central banks' money printing and worries that inflation could gain momentum.
"Over the medium term, the U.S. will be next, with Europe and, even more, Japan lagging," he added.
In the global financial crisis, "too many balance sheets deleveraged simultaneously, threatening a global depression and forcing governments to step in with their own balance sheets to arrest an increasingly disorderly process," El-Erian wrote.
Over the weekend, the EU and IMF announced a huge $1 trillion emergency rescue package for the euro zone to impede broader repercussions from the Greek debt crisis.
"Last weekend's drama in Europe is yet another illustration of this phenomenon," El-Erian wrote.
"Policymakers are now forcefully using the balance sheets of the EU (ultimately Germany) and ECB to compensate for the debt excesses in the periphery (particularly Greece) and the related overexposure of European banks."
By Thursday yields paid on Greece's 2-year notes had plunged to 7.12 percent from 22.4 percent the week earlier, as the rescue plan reassured investors about the country's ability to service debt.
El-Erian told Reuters in a follow-up interview on Thursday that even though Greek bond prices rallied sharply, the firm avoided purchasing the deeply-battered debt and that of Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Italy.
"The question is whether the gains can be sustained under a solution that, until now, is incomplete as it does not address solvency issues," El-Erian said.
He added: "Over history, we have seen similar market moves in other country cases that could not be sustained."
El-Erian warned against taking even bigger measures in the euro zone in the future.
"An even larger-scale use of central bank balance sheets, if it were to materialize, would provide only a temporary respite, and the collateral damage and unintended consequences would be serious, including the impact on inflationary expectations."
Governments worldwide, meanwhile, are seeking central roles in economic matters after using taxpayer money to bail out their financial systems, highlighting what Pimco characterizes as "state capitalism." That translates into lower expectations for returns.
"For investors, this translates into a changing configuration of risks and returns — if you like, a world with a flatter distribution of potential outcomes, fatter tails, and a baseline that is subject to the unsettling dynamics of multiple equilibriums (think path dependency)."
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