Table of Contents Show
- The April CPI Report: Key Findings
- Federal Reserve’s Role in Inflation
- Future Outlook: Prices, Interest Rates, and Inflation
- Impact of Inflation on Various Sectors
- Inflation Winners and Losers
- Core Consumer Price Index
- Fed’s Preferred Measure of Inflation
- The Fed’s Inflation Target
- Market Reactions to the CPI Report
- CPI Report for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers
The latest Consumer Price Index (CPI) report released by the Labor Department reveals that inflation edged slightly lower in April, marking a tenth consecutive month of decline. This development is expected to keep the Federal Reserve on course to pause interest-rate increases at its next meeting. In this article, we take a comprehensive look at the CPI report, including its implications for inflation, the economy, and the Fed’s future decisions.
The April CPI Report: Key Findings
The CPI report showed that consumer prices increased 4.9% in April from a year earlier, down from 5% in March and a 40-year high of 9.1% last June. This marks the smallest yearly increase since April 2021. On a monthly basis, prices rose 0.4% following a 0.1% increase in March.
Core CPI and CPI
Core prices, which exclude volatile food and energy items and capture longer-lasting trends, increased 0.4% from March following a similar rise the previous month. That lowered the annual increase from 5.6% to 5.5%.
Gasoline and Grocery Prices
The report revealed that gasoline prices jumped 3% in April, while grocery prices dropped for a second straight month. Used car prices surged 4.4% after nine months of declines. Rental costs rose but at a slower pace.
Despite the mixed results for shoppers and drivers, the data offered some signs that inflation is continuing to cool. Airline fares dropped 2.6% in April, and hotel prices plunged 3% after four straight monthly increases.
Federal Reserve’s Role in Inflation
Interest Rate Hikes
The Federal Reserve has hiked a key interest rate by 5 points over the past 14 months in an aggressive campaign to counter inflation. However, the Fed signaled last week that it will likely pause this campaign as it assesses the impact of its recent decisions on the economy and inflation.
Impact on Borrowing
The ten consecutive rate hikes have made borrowing more expensive. The annual percentage rate on a new credit card has jumped from slightly above 16% to almost 24%. Meanwhile, Freddie Mac’s 30-year mortgage rates have increased from 3.6% to 6.4% in the past year.
Future Outlook: Prices, Interest Rates, and Inflation
While gas prices increased in April, they are down 12.2% from a year ago. In recent weeks, pump prices have fallen again, with regular unleaded gasoline averaging $3.53 a gallon.
Grocery prices edged down 0.2% in April, the second straight monthly drop, and the yearly rise eased to 7.1% from 8.4%. The cost of commodities such as wheat and corn has fallen in recent months due to easing global demand.
Fed’s Future Actions
Although inflation has edged down just gradually, the Federal Reserve is expected to pause its aggressive campaign of interest rate hikes. Persistently high inflation could, however, prevent Fed officials from cutting rates to combat a weakening economy for a longer period.
Mortgage rates are likely to descend lower later in the year as consumer price inflation calms down and changes the thinking of the Fed from tightening to possibly loosening monetary policy.
Impact of Inflation on Various Sectors
Rent and Inflation
Rent was the chief driver of inflation in April, but the increase continued to moderate. Rent picked up 0.6%, up from 0.5% in March but down from a string of stronger gains. On an annual basis, the increase was unchanged at 8.8%. Economists expect rents to fall, based on new leases, but that shift has been slow to filter through to existing leases.
Used Car Prices
Used car prices leaped 4.4% in April as a flurry of wholesale cost increases finally showed up in retail prices. However, they are still down 6.6% yearly. Prices had been tumbling after a pandemic-related run-up that pushed up costs by about a third.
Apparel and Other Goods Prices
Apparel prices increased 0.3% in April, while some goods prices softened as supply-chain snarls continued to improve. New car prices fell 0.2%, furniture and bedding costs were down 0.5%, and appliance prices declined 1.9%.
Some services became a bit less pricey despite Americans’ return to pre-COVID travel and other activities. Airline fares fell 2.6%, hotel rates slid 3%, and medical care services dipped 0.1% after a 0.5% decline the previous month.
Inflation Winners and Losers
The ten consecutive rate hikes by the Federal Reserve have made it more expensive to borrow, whether you’re buying an appliance with a credit card or getting a car loan.
Home Buyers and Sellers
Though a lack of homes for sale and a still robust job market is keeping home prices high, costs dipped slightly year-over-year in February and March. Rates may decline further before the end of the year if consumer prices continue to slip, convincing the Federal Reserve to pull back on interest rate hikes and making the marketplace more enticing to home buyers and sellers.
Core Consumer Price Index
The core consumer price index is a measure of how consumer prices shift, not counting the costs of energy and food which are typically the most volatile components of the broader consumer price index.
Fed’s Preferred Measure of Inflation
The Personal Consumption Expenditure price index, the Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of inflation, is scheduled to be released on May 26. The next consumer price index report will be released on June 13.
The Fed’s Inflation Target
The Federal Reserve’s target is an inflation rate of 2%. It has said that the 2% goal “is most consistent with the Federal Reserve’s mandate for maximum employment and price stability.”
Market Reactions to the CPI Report
Stock markets were lower in the early afternoon after investors saw that inflation was making strides toward easing, even if it remained too high. The S&P 500 was 0.3% lower after giving up most of an earlier gain. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down by 292 points, or 0.9%, at 33,271 as of 1:47 p.m. Eastern time, and the Nasdaq composite was 0.2% higher.
CPI Report for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) on a monthly basis. This index is used to annually adjust benefits paid to Social Security beneficiaries and Supplemental Security Income recipients.
In conclusion, the April CPI report indicates a gradual decline in inflation, giving the Federal Reserve room to pause its interest rate hikes. However, the future of inflation remains uncertain, with various sectors experiencing different levels of impact. As the economy continues to recover from the pandemic, it will be crucial for policymakers to closely monitor and respond to these evolving trends.