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U.S. consumer inflation rises in October

By
Reuters
Published
today Nov 15, 2018
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U.S. consumer prices increased by the most in nine months in October amid gains in the cost of gasoline and rents, pointing to steadily rising inflation that likely will keep the Federal Reserve on track to raise interest rates again next month.

Reuters


Though overall inflation could slow in the months ahead following a recent slump in oil prices, economists said Fed officials were likely to regard any retreat as temporary and focus on underlying price pressures.

The U.S. central bank, which has a 2 percent inflation target, left interest rates unchanged last Thursday after a two-day policy meeting. In its policy statement, the Fed noted that annual inflation measures “remain near 2 percent.”

“Fed officials are likely to look past the swings in energy prices that could slow the overall CPI in coming months to see further upward pressure on underlying prices,” said Ben Ayers, senior economist at Nationwide in Columbus, Ohio.

“As such, we still expect the Fed to raise interest rates in December.”

The Labor Department said on Wednesday its Consumer Price Index rose 0.3 percent last month, the biggest gain since January, after edging up 0.1 percent in September. In the 12 months through October, the CPI increased 2.5 percent, picking up from September’s 2.3 percent rise.

Excluding the volatile food and energy components, the CPI climbed 0.2 percent. The so-called core CPI had gained 0.1 percent for two straight months. In the 12 months through October, the core CPI increased 2.1 percent after advancing 2.2 percent in September.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the CPI climbing 0.3 percent and the core CPI gaining 0.2 percent in October.

The dollar was weaker against a basket of currencies after touching a 16-month high earlier this week while U.S. Treasury yields fell. Stocks on Wall Street initially rose on the inflation data and a rebound in oil prices, which tumbled more than 7 percent on Tuesday, before moving lower.

Oil prices have lost more than a quarter of their value since early October amid a surge in supply and increasing concerns about an economic slowdown. The drag on inflation from oil prices is likely to be offset by a tightening labour market, which is spurring faster wage growth.

The unemployment rate is at nearly a 49-year low of 3.7 percent and annual wage growth recorded its largest increase in 9-1/2 years in October.

“In the medium- to longer-run we believe this increase in wage growth will both push up business costs as well as support demand, leading to firming price inflation,” said Michael Feroli, an economist at JPMorgan in New York.

“In the shorter-run, however, the consumer price outlook will be challenged by the stronger dollar and weaker energy prices.”

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