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U.S. Inflation Eases in April, Though Shelter and Gasoline Prices Persist

U.S. Inflation Eases in April, Though Shelter and Gasoline Prices Persist

May 15, 2024

U.S. Inflation Eases in April, Though Shelter and Gasoline Prices Persist

In April, the U.S. annual inflation rate showed a slight decline according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Despite ongoing price pressures from housing and gasoline, the drop in the inflation rate has sparked some investor optimism for potential interest rate cuts by the Federal Reserve in the future.

The consumer price index (CPI) for last month decelerated to 3.4 percent year-over-year, a marginal decrease from March's 3.5 percent. This deceleration was anticipated by market predictions. On a month-to-month basis, the CPI rose by 0.3 percent, which was a downturn from the previous month's 0.4 percent and fell below the forecasted 0.4 percent.

Core inflation, which excludes energy and food, also softened, reaching 3.6 percent from the previous 3.8 percent, aligning with economists' expectations. The month-over-month core CPI also increased by 0.3 percent, down from the 0.4 percent rise seen prior, meeting the market's projections.

The main contributors to the inflation increase in April were energy and shelter costs, as outlined in U.S. government data. The energy index rose by 1.1 percent, with specific increases in gasoline prices by 2.8 percent and fuel oil by 0.9 percent. Notwithstanding recent drops in crude futures, oil prices maintain elevated levels with U.S. crude up more than 10 percent year-to-date at nearly $79 a barrel. Brent crude has also seen an increase, around 8 percent this year, sitting close to $83 per barrel.

Gasoline prices have surged, with the national average for a gallon reaching $3.61, marking an 18 percent increase year-to-date, as reported by the American Automobile Association (AAA). Shelter costs rose by 0.4 percent from March to April and saw a 5.5 percent increase from the same period last year, defying many economists' and monetary policymakers' predictions of a downturn.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell addressed the persistent shelter costs at a recent press conference, acknowledging a delay in the reflection of a cooling rental market within the CPI data. "Those market rents take years, actually, to get all the way into rents for tenants who are rolling over their leases," Powell stated. "It’s complicated, but the story is it just takes some time for that to get in."

Other categories showed varying movements with the food index remaining unchanged on a monthly basis, new vehicles prices dropping by 0.4 percent, and apparel surging by 1.2 percent. Transportation services saw a significant increase of 0.9 percent and medical care services edged up by 0.4 percent.

The producer price index (PPI), which often precedes future inflation data, showed wholesale prices jumping unexpectedly by 0.5 percent last month, signaling sustained long-term inflationary trends.

Financial markets reacted positively to the CPI data, with major stock indexes like the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 hitting midweek highs. U.S. Treasury yields fell across the board, and the U.S. Dollar Index (DXY) dropped to around 104.50.

Investors appear to be more optimistic that the April inflation figures will provide the Federal Reserve with enough leverage to consider a rate cut. The central bank's next policy decision is scheduled for the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting on June 11 and 12.

The Epoch Times Article


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