Sun. Jun 23rd, 2024

The White House was cautiously reassured after inflation decreased.

By knl9j May21,2024
News

Consumer prices rose 0.3% in April and 3.4% annually, slowing. Not enough to sway the Fed. Economists say high interest rates hurt American morale.

Relief spread from Wall Street to the White House. The Labor Department’s Wednesday CPI index showed April consumer prices rising 0.3% month-over-month and 3.4% year-over-year.

Washington (AP)— Following three high readings, US inflation fell last month due to decreased food and vehicle prices, presumably easing concerns at the Federal Reserve and President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign.

The Labor Department said Wednesday that March-April consumer prices climbed 0.3%, down from 0.4% the month before. Year-over-year inflation fell from 3.5% to 3.4%. The underlying inflation rate, which includes volatile food and energy expenses, fell to its lowest level in three years.

After falling in the second half of 2023, inflation rose unexpectedly in the first three months of this year. The increased readings dashed expectations of taming the worst inflation in four decades and fueled worry that prices could rise again.

Whether inflation continues to fall could impact the presidential race. Republican detractors of Biden have tried to undermine his re-election bid by blaming him for rising pricing. Despite strong hiring and wage growth, consumer prices are still significantly above pre-pandemic levels.

Wednesday’s study suggests price rises may be slowing again. The year-over-year figure has dropped for the first time this year, although inflation remains considerably above the Fed’s 2% objective. Hotels, health care, and auto repairs, which have driven inflation, slowed price increases.

The study “was a tiny step in the right direction,” said Realtor.com chief economist Danielle Hale. The struggle against inflation is ongoing, but the first-quarter 2024 worsening trend may have ended.”

After strong inflation earlier this year, Fed Chair Jerome Powell dropped his 2024 interest rate decrease predictions. Instead, he said the Fed needs “greater confidence” that inflation is falling to their 2% objective before lowering borrowing rates.

Some economists believe the Fed might drop rates twice this year to lower mortgage, auto, and credit card rates if inflation and the economy cool.

Wednesday’s retail sales report revealed that Americans’ spending at stores and restaurants was flat in April after a strong March. A calmer consumer could reassure the Fed that inflation will fall.

Wednesday’s inflation data “keeps alive the prospect of the Fed cutting rates in September,” said Nationwide Financial chief economist Kathy Bostjancic. “The weak retail sales data also supports that.”

Morning trading saw stock prices rise and bond rates fall as Wall Street dealers agreed. S&P 500 stocks climbed 0.5% to an intraday record high. The 10-year Treasury note yield fell, indicating speculators predict lower interest rates. Mortgage rates, which reflect the 10-year yield, may fall.

Shoppers got a respite in April when supermarket costs fell. Avian flu has caused egg prices to fluctuate, falling 7.3%. Both new and used automobile prices fell. However, gas and clothing prices rose.

After three months of 0.4% rises, core prices gained 0.3% from March to April, excluding volatile food and energy expenses. April core prices rose 3.6% year-over-year, down from 3.8% in March. Core prices, which better predict inflation, are closely monitored by the Fed.

A stable inflation rate would benefit consumers and businesses.

Overson Roofing co-owner Pat Overson of Mesa, Arizona, has experienced milder inflation. After rising from 2020 to 2022, his lumber, labor, and asphalt shingle expenses have stabilized in the previous year.

A typical roof replacement costs $12,000 to $15,000, up from $10,000 to $12,000 in 2020, but he claimed that price range has been steady since 2022.

He stated, “Inflation has leveled out for us.”

As mills stopped, lumber prices rose 75% during the epidemic, he added. The price has declined dramatically since then, but it has stabilized at a greater level than before the pandemic. Overson stated that labor costs have stabilized.

Overson says consumers are still buying new roofs, but they are becoming more cautious. According to Overson, customers are getting multiple quotes and even replacing only portion of a roof. More customers are financing repairs.

Biden said Wednesday that “prices are still too high.” However, he said his initiatives will lower prescription medicine prices and boost home construction to lower housing expenses. He also urged grocery stores to decrease pricing.

In a radio interview Wednesday, Republican presidential contender Donald Trump said, “it’s a lot of inflation when added to the inflation that we’ve suffered that’s been so bad.”

In April, apartment rental prices rose 0.4% from March, confounding Fed inflation warriors. The average apartment rent is 5.4% more than last year. Two-thirds of core price growth came from rental and other housing costs.

During the epidemic, more Americans moved in alone or wanted more room, raising rents. Although new lease rentals are rising slowly, consistent with pre-pandemic averages, the earlier gains are still boosting government price data.

Powell termed rentals “a bit of a puzzle” in Amsterdam on Tuesday because new apartment contracts barely increase rents. The government’s policies, which cover all rentals, including those who renew their leases and face larger rises, have not taken into account weaker statistics. Powell said government initiatives should reduce rent rise.

With 11 rate hikes from March 2022 to July 2023, the Fed boosted its main rate to a two-decade high of 5.3% to curb rising prices, which peaked at 9.1% in June 2022.

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