Another inflation indicator, the Personal Consumption Expenditure Index (PCE) is declining as well, which is a broader measure of inflation preferred by the Federal Reserve than the Consumer Price Index (CPI). This is probably why Fed Chair Powell sounded more dovish about inflation prospects in Wednesday’s press conference.
The yearly rate of inflation slowed to 6 percent in October from 6.2 percent in the prior month and a 40-year high of 7 percent last summer, as portrayed in the FRED graph below. The PCE index is the best measure of inflation, especially the core gauge that strips out volatile food and energy costs.
“From the same month one year ago, the PCE price index for October increased 6.0 percent (table 11),” said the BEA. Prices for goods increased 7.2 percent and prices for services increased 5.4 percent. Food prices increased 11.6 percent and energy prices increased 18.4 percent. Excluding food and energy, the PCE price index increased 5.0 percent from one year ago.”
The core rate of inflation in the past 12 months slipped to 5 percent from 5.2 percent. It’s also down from a 40-year high of 5.4 percent last February. Consumer’s items were still expensive, however.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s press conference was noteworthy because he signaled that smaller rate increases (than the last 4 0.75 increases) were in the offing because there were signs that the demand for goods and services was softening.
“The time for moderating the pace of rate increases may come as soon as the December meeting,” Powell said, in a speech to the Brookings Institution.
So much depends on what consumers do over the coming months. They continue to push up prices by keeping up with inflation. Consumer spending had fallen somewhat, though the latest figures coming into the holidays were still robust.
Americans spent more in November on gasoline, per the BEA, largely reflecting an increase in prices at the pump. They also spent more on new cars, dining out and hotel stays.
But gasoline prices, a key ingredient of consumer prices, are about to take another plunge. Average national gasoline prices have already fallen to pre-Ukraine war prices of $3.50 per gallon, a boon to consumers over the holidays.
Why? China’s economy is stagnating as its Communist Party insists on locking down its cities, rather than inoculating most of its citizens, a lesson in hubris for a government that chooses coercion over the protection of its citizens.
The lesson ought to be that our Federal Reserve should listen to the citizens as well, who rather than government and the pundits, know what is best for them.
Harlan Green © 2022
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