June Inflation Largely Attributable to Gasoline Prices

July 22, 2014

by Doug Short

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released the June CPI data this morning. Year-over-year unadjusted Headline CPI came in at 2.07%, which the BLS rounds to 2.1%, essentially unchanged from 2.13% the previous month. Year-over-year Core CPI (ex Food and Energy) came in at 1.96% (rounded to 2.0%), up from the previous month's 1.83%. Of particular interest is the fact that month-over-month Core CPI (less food and energy) rose only 0.05% (rounded to 1.0). The headline MoM increase was largely driven by higher gasoline prices (which have dropped eight cents per gallon over the last two weeks).

Here is the introduction from the BLS summary, which leads with the seasonally adjusted data monthly data:

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.3 percent in June on a seasonally adjusted basis, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 2.1 percent before seasonal adjustment.

In contrast to the broad-based increase last month, the June seasonally adjusted increase in the all items index was primarily driven by the gasoline index. It rose 3.3 percent and accounted for two-thirds of the all items increase. Other energy indexes were mixed, with the electricity index rising, but the indexes for natural gas and fuel oil declining. The food index decelerated in June, rising only slightly, with the food at home index flat after recent increases.

The index for all items less food and energy also decelerated in June, increasing 0.1 percent after a 0.3 percent increase in May. The indexes for shelter, apparel, medical care, and tobacco all increased in June, and the index for household furnishings and operations rose for the first time in a year. However, the index for new vehicles declined after recent increases, and the index for used cars and trucks also fell.

The all items index increased 2.1 percent over the last 12 months, the same figure as for the 12 months ending May. The index for all items less food and energy rose 1.9 percent over the last 12 months, a slight decline from the 2.0 percent figure last month. The index for energy increased 3.2 percent over the span, and the food index rose 2.3 percent.   [More…]

Investing.com was looking for increases of 0.3% for Headline and 0.2% for Core CPI. Year-over-year forecasts were 2.1% for Headline CPI and 2.0% for Core.

The first chart is an overlay of Headline CPI and Core CPI (the latter excludes Food and Energy) since the turn of the century. I've highlighted 2 to 2.5 percent range, which the Federal Reserve currently targets for the CPI's cousin index, the BEA's Personal Consumptions Expenditures (PCE) price index.

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The next chart shows both series since 1957, which was the first time the government began tracking the core inflation metric.

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In the wake of the Great Recession, two percent has been the Fed's target for core inflation. However, at their December 2012 FOMC meeting, the inflation ceiling was raised to 2.5% while their accommodative measures (low Fed Funds Rate and quantitative easing) are in place.

Federal Reserve policy, which has historically focused on core inflation as measured by the core PCE Price Index, will see that the more familiar core CPI has reached the PCE the target range of 2 to 2.5 percent.

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