US Economy

Trump's policies may be Reagan-like, but the economy's not, says former Reagan economist

Rally sentiment realistic?

Despite what some call its Reagan-esque economic policies, the incoming Donald Trump administration is inheriting an economic landscape that is very different from what President Ronald Reagan had when he took office, economist John Rutledge told CNBC on Wednesday.

"There are two differences, one is interest rates and the other's inflation," Rutledge, who was one of the chief architects of Reagan's economic plan, told "Squawk on the Street."

Rutledge, chief investment officer at Safanad, said that when Reagan came into office, inflation was in a downturn.

Today, "we've got eight years of monetary stimulus, an extraordinarily tight labor market, and margins that have been squeezed by rising labor costs and soft prices," all of which are reversing on improved expectations for growth, he said.

And in 2017, contrary to the Reagan era, inflation will be on the uptick, Rutledge said.

"We've got a year coming here where the labor price pressure is pushing though into product prices [and] inflation numbers are up. That's why you see the bond yields up, because inflation's coming around, which means I would prefer stocks that are protected from inflation and not the ones that will be hurt by inflation," he contended.

Rutledge's top asset pick is real estate — the opposite of what was recommended when Reagan was beginning his presidency, the economist said.

Markets ready for Trump administration?

Steven Wieting, global chief investment strategist at Citi Private Bank, said Wednesday that the new administration's agenda will be positive for some equities and negative for others, but overall, U.S. assets should remain strong.

"The expectation for greater policy divergence and economic outperformance driven by fiscal stimulus, driven by tax cuts, corporate and personal income, these are the sorts of things that will drive outperformance of U.S. assets," he told "Squawk Alley."

But boosting U.S. growth, demand and profits will come at a cost, Wieting cautioned.

"There is a price to pay for this. You have to make the budget deficit larger," the strategist said. "That immediate effect will imply a price over the long run, and the bigger question is what will happen to spending in the very long run?"

Still, Wieting said the market rally proves that those concerns are still far off, and that the economy should adjust with the new administration.

"I think that markets are about here and now, and we've changed the contours of this recovery over the next two years," he said.

Appearing with Wieting, Deutsche Bank Securities' Torsten Slok said he would be watching for inflation numbers to stay under control. If they don't, the risk arises that the Federal Reserve will get into an uncomfortable push and pull with the economy and the markets.

"If inflation is under control, then everything is good. Then we should see higher equities, higher rates and a higher dollar," Slok, who is the firm's chief international economist, told CNBC.

"The problem is, if inflation overshoots the 2 percent target that the Fed has, then we run the risk that the market gets idea that the Fed is behind the curve and ... that means that the Fed has to be much more aggressive in slowing growth," he said.

Still, the consumer is in good spirits, which Slok said was a positive sign for 2017.

"If you correlate the confidence indicator for consumers with actual consumer spending, it does show a very strong correlation so it's quite significant, the move we have seen this week, and what that means for consumer spending bodes quite well," the economist said.