Duke economists urge calm amid rising inflation, emerging COVID-19 variant

30November 2021

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) — Amid rising inflation economists at Duke University are calling for calm.

Prices are rising at a rate not seen in 30 years, but if consumers make drastic changes to combat the high prices, experts warn that could make matters worse.

Connel Fullenkamp, a Duke professor of economics, said the emerging COVID-19 omicron variant, which has been detected in other parts of the world but not yet in the U.S., is already providing short-term relief from inflation. Oil prices are dropping as assumptions that demand for oil will go down.

However, he said the variant might prolong and postpone recovery for the crippled supply chain.

“We were hoping that the supply chain issues that were feeding some of the inflation would get resolved quickly, but with the rise of omicron, one of the things it could do is both suspend production in parts of the world and continue to gum up the supply chain even worse,” said Fullenkamp.

Emma Rasiel, a Duke professor of economics, is urging consumers to not feed the vicious cycle of inflation.

If people are worried prices could keep going up, Rasiel said they may be tempted to hoard and stockpile nonperishable goods, which in turn, is what drives up prices.

“Inflation is self-fulfilling in many ways,” said Rasiel. “If everybody believes there will be inflation, there will be.”

Rasiel said consumers, through their behavior, have the power to mute the impact of inflation.

“Don’t make dramatic changes to long-term retirement portfolios,” she said. “Panic often has people coming out of more risky investments and putting it into savings. I would sort of strongly recommend not doing that.”

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