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Gasoline, rents curb U.S. consumer price gains in February

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. consumer costs elevated marginally in February amid a decline in gasoline costs and a moderation in the price of rental lodging, the newest indication that an anticipated pickup in inflation possible can be solely gradual.

Strong inflation numbers in January had sparked fears that price pressures have been accelerating, main monetary markets to anticipate a extra aggressive tempo of rate of interest will increase from the Federal Reserve than is presently anticipated.

“These figures should satisfy Fed policymakers that inflation is not too cold, as last spring’s numbers hinted at, or too hot, as might have been inferred from the January print,” mentioned Michael Feroli, an economist at JPMorgan in New York.

The Labor Department mentioned on Tuesday its Consumer Price Index rose zero.2 p.c final month after leaping zero.5 p.c in January. In the 12 months via February, the CPI rose 2.2 p.c, up from 2.1 p.c in January because the flat studying from final yr dropped from the calculation.

Excluding the risky meals and power parts, the CPI gained zero.2 p.c after accelerating zero.three p.c in January. The year-on-year improve in the so-called core CPI was unchanged at 1.eight p.c in February.

Last month’s improve in consumer costs was in line with economists’ expectations. The Fed tracks a distinct index, the non-public consumption expenditures price index excluding meals and power, which has constantly undershot the central financial institution’s 2 p.c goal since mid-2012.

The greenback slipped in opposition to a basket of currencies on the inflation knowledge. The dollar was additionally harm by President Donald Trump’s firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson after a collection of public rifts over coverage on North Korea, Russia and Iran. U.S. Treasury costs rose whereas shares on Wall Street fell.


The CPI report got here on the heels of knowledge final Friday exhibiting a deceleration in wage development in February in addition to a downward revision to January’s improve in common hourly earnings. Average hourly earnings rose 2.6 p.c on an annual foundation in February, stepping down from January’s 2.eight p.c improve.

Against the backdrop of a tightening labor market and powerful financial system, the Fed is broadly anticipated to extend rates of interest at its March 20-21 assembly.

A lady pumps gasoline at a station in Falls Church, Virginia December 16, 2014.
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Given the regular price gains and average wage inflation some economists didn’t imagine the Fed would improve its 2018 rate of interest forecast at subsequent week’s coverage assembly

The central financial institution has forecast three fee hikes this yr. Many economists anticipate that in some unspecified time in the future it is going to increase its projection to 4 fee will increase this yr amid optimism that the sturdy labor market will begin boosting wage development at the very least by the second half of the yr. Policymakers take into account the labor market to be close to or slightly past full employment.

The jobless fee is at a 17-year low of four.1 p.c and economists anticipate it to drop to three.5 p.c by year-end. A weakening greenback and monetary stimulus in the type of a $1.5 trillion tax lower package deal and elevated authorities spending are additionally seen spurring inflation.

A survey of small companies printed on Tuesday confirmed the share of householders reporting greater promoting costs in February hit its highest stage since July 2014. The NFIB survey additionally confirmed almost a 3rd of householders reported elevating compensation to retain or appeal to staff final month, the most important share in greater than 17 years.

FILE PHOTO – A “For Rent” signal is posted exterior a residential dwelling in Carlsbad, California, U.S. on January 18, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

“Solid domestic economic momentum and the impulse from oncoming fiscal stimulus will underpin a gradual build in inflation toward the Fed’s 2 percent target,” mentioned Gregory Daco, chief economist at Oxford Economics in New York.

“In this environment, we expect the Fed will raise interest rates four times this year.”

Gasoline costs fell zero.9 p.c in February after rebounding 5.7 p.c in January. Food costs have been unchanged, with the price of meals consumed at dwelling dropping zero.2 p.c. Food costs rose zero.2 p.c in January.

The core CPI was restrained by a moderation in rents. Owners’ equal hire of main residence, which is what a home-owner would pay to hire or obtain from renting a house, rose zero.2 p.c final month after advancing zero.three p.c in January.

Households additionally paid much less for healthcare. Prices for brand new motor autos fell zero.5 p.c, the largest drop since August 2009, after slipping zero.1 p.c in January. Used automotive and vehicles costs declined after 4 straight month-to-month will increase.

Apparel costs continued to march greater, rising 1.5 p.c in February after surging 1.7 p.c in January. The value of motorized vehicle insurance coverage rose by a report 1.7 p.c final month.

The value of airline fares rebounded after falling in February.

Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci

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