The Fed’s favorite lowball inflation gauge is hot, not seen in decades, even without a ‘base effect’
The majestic inflation overrun has arrived.
By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.
The Fed’s preferred measure of inflation, typically the lowest inflation measure provided by the US government – far below even the Consumer Price Index which already underestimates real inflation – and therefore our Lowest inflation measure, and therefore the Fed’s preferred inflation measure, has been released. this morning, and it was a doozie, despite being the most underrated inflation measure the United States has offered so far.
The personal consumption expenditure price index excluding food and energy, the core PCE index, jumped 0.7% in April from March, after jumping 0.4% in March from February, according to Economic Analysis Office today. These two months combine into an annualized core CPE inflation rate of 6.4%, meaning that if price increases continue for 12 months at the pace of the past two months, annual inflation would be 6.4% as measured by the lowest measure The United States has done so.
This was the highest two-month annualized rate since 1985. And it shows how suddenly inflation has warmed up in March and April.
Over the past three months – so in April, March and February – the annualized increase in core CPI inflation has been 4.9%, the highest since 1990.
The annualized PCE index eliminates the legitimate problem of the ‘base effect’ which is now plotted to sweep the inflation data (I discussed the base effect in early April to prepare for what was to come. ).
The base effect only applies to year-to-year comparisons. In March of last year, the PCE base price index fell 0.1% from February, and in April, it was down 0.4% from March. So comparing today’s PCE index to that April drop (the lower “base”) would include the base effect.
The BEA also publishes an annualized version of the PCE price index in its quarterly GDP report. In the first quarter, this annualized PCE price index rose 3.7%. But being quarterly, it did not include the April peak.
The three-month annualized base PCE eliminates the base effect. It shows the pace of inflation over the past three months and projects what it would look like if it continued for an entire year. It was 4.9%, the highest since 1990:
Year over year and not annualized, the core CFE jumped 3.1%, the largest increase since 1992. That includes the base effect. But that also includes another effect, in the opposite direction: the very low core PCE inflation rate last fall is dampening the current inflation surge. So this metric exaggerated the current rate of underlying PCE inflation due to the base effect; and that underestimated the current PCE rate of inflation due to very low inflation in the fall of last year. The two effects combined probably balance each other out:
So this core PCE is the lowest lowball inflation measure the United States has concocted so far. And this is the one the Fed uses as a criterion for its “symmetrical” inflation target of 2%. The green line in the graph above indicates the 2% target.
“Symmetric” for the Fed now means that inflation can run a little over 2% for a while after being below 2%. The Fed did not say exactly how far the core PCE can exceed the 2% target and for how long it can exceed it. But he said it would be “patient”.
My gut tells me that some of the crazy price increases we’ve seen recently will eventually go away, such as the WTF used vehicle price spikes and new vehicle price increases amid stories that even GM dealerships have to offer. and Ford sell trucks at or above. sticker, and among the data showing that these price increases have generated record gross profits for dealers.
My gut tells me that part of this situation will calm down, that buyers will eventually have enough, and sales will go down to those prices, and prices will have to go down. But they probably won’t go back to where they were, but will stay significantly higher and eventually start rising again from there.
And meanwhile, services will pick up the pace, such as airline ticket prices, or rents, or health care expenses, or a million other services. This movement is now launched. Some of the price spikes will be “temporary” and then give up some of the gains, before resuming their ascent, while others will take their place and climb into an inflation game for which the consumer will pay.
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