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Investment Strategy in an Inflationary Environment

In: The Changing Roles of Debt and Equity in Financing U.S. Capital Formation


  • Zvi Bodie


This paper addresses the issue of how an investor concerned about the real rate of return on his investment portfolio should allocate his funds among four major asset classes: stocks, bonds, bills and commodity futures contracts. It employs the Markowitz mean-variance framework to derive estimates of the pre-tax, real risk-return tradeoff curve currently facing an investor in the U.S. capital markets. Some of the major findings are: 1) Bills are the cornerstone of any low-risk investment strategy. The minimum-risk portfolio has a mean real rate of return of zero and a standard deviation of about 1%. The slope of the tradeoff curve is initially 1, but it declines rapidly as one progresses up the curve to higher mean rates of return. 2) Stocks offer the highest mean and are also riskiest. 3) Bonds play a prominent part in portfolios which lie in the midsection of the tradeoff curve, although not much would be lost if these instruments were eliminated. 4) Commodity futures contracts are the only asset whose returns are positively correlated with inflation. By adding them to the portfolios of stocks, bonds and bills, it is possible to achieve any target mean real rate of return with less risk.
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Suggested Citation

  • Zvi Bodie, 1982. "Investment Strategy in an Inflationary Environment," NBER Chapters,in: The Changing Roles of Debt and Equity in Financing U.S. Capital Formation, pages 47-64 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:11394

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. William C. Brainard & John B. Shoven & Laurence Weiss, 1980. "The Financial Valuation of the Return to Capital," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 11(2), pages 453-512.
    2. Harry Markowitz, 1952. "Portfolio Selection," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 7(1), pages 77-91, March.
    3. Brainard, William C. & Shoven, John B., 1980. "The financial valuation of the return to capital," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue 4, pages 43-104.
    4. Merton, Robert C., 1980. "On estimating the expected return on the market : An exploratory investigation," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(4), pages 323-361, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Zvi Bodie, 1989. "Inflation Insurance," NBER Working Papers 3009, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Mervyn A. King & Jonathan I. Leape, 1984. "Wealth and Portfolio Composition: Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 1468, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. King, Mervyn A. & Leape, Jonathan I., 1998. "Wealth and portfolio composition: Theory and evidence," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(2), pages 155-193, June.
    4. Lawrence H. Summers, 1983. "Observations on the Indexation of Old Age Pensions," NBER Chapters,in: Financial Aspects of the United States Pension System, pages 231-258 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Benjamin M. Friedman, 1983. "The Substitutability of Debt and Equity Securities," NBER Working Papers 1130, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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