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These ETFs can help investors navigate stubbornly high inflation in 2023

Inflation has been a dominant theme for markets and the economy in 2022 and, despite some signs that it may have peaked, investors can’t forget about rising prices just yet, according to iShares. The ETF arm of BlackRock said in its 2023 outlook that living with inflation would be one of the key topics for next year. The Federal Reserve targets 2% inflation and has been aggressively hiking interest rates in an effort to cool off rising prices, which has created ripple effects throughout financial marekts. Gargi Pal Chaudhuri, head of iShares Investment Strategy Americas, said that she expects inflation to still be above 3% by the end of 2023, driven by services inflation. “On the goods front, I think the normalization can be pretty smooth back to sort of that 2% level, maybe even lower than that. … However, there’s also the other part of inflation which is services inflation. Services inflation makes up about 60% or so of the consumer basket,” Chaudhuri said. The firm listed several funds that could help investors protect against continued inflation. One way to play this is through infrastructure vehicles, like the iShares U.S. Infrastructure ETF (IFRA) . The fund has outperformed this year, falling less than 1% on a total return basis. “What you’re getting exposure to is industries like utilities, industrials and materials. Really the value oriented sectors of the real economy,” Chaudhuri said. Some of the fund’s top holdings include PG & E Corp. , Olympic Steel and EnLink Midstream , though no single position currently makes up more than 1% of portfolio. The investment profile and the fundamentals of these types of companies should be attractive in an inflationary environment, Chaudhuri said. “Many of these are companies that have longer-term contracts. And these contracts reset with inflation. So if inflation goes from 2 to 2.5 to 3, you’re actually going to almost have that pricing power built in,” she added. Other infrastructure funds on the market include the Global X U.S. Infrastructure Development ETF (PAVE) , though it has fallen more than 4% this year. A more narrow fund that iShares listed was its MSCI Global Agriculture ETF (VEGI) , whose top holdings include Deere and Archer-Daniels-Midland . The fund has a total return of 9% this year. In the fixed income space, there are more direct ways to guard against inflation. One of them is the iShares TIPS Bond ETF (TIP) , which holds Treasury-Inflation Protected Securities. The iShares strategy team is positive on fixed income in general heading into next year, but the TIPS fund could ease the stress for investors around key data reports. “You’re going to get that principal protection when, or if, inflation surprises to the upside,” Chaudhuri said. The iShares TIPS ETF have a total return of about -10.4% this year. Similar products from Schwab (SCHP) and State Street (SPIP) have returned -10.2% and -11.0%, respectively.

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