Inflation: A 5-Month X-Ray View

by: Doug Short

Here is a table showing the annualized change in Headline and Core CPI, not seasonally adjusted, for each of the past five months. I've also included each of the eight components of Headline CPI and a separate entry for Energy, which is a collection of sub-indexes in Housing and Transportation.

We can make some inferences about how inflation is impacting our personal expenses depending on our relative exposure to the individual components. Some of us have higher transportation costs, others medical costs, etc.

The most conspicuous trend in the table, data through October, had been the volatility of energy, essentially the fluctuation in gasoline prices, which is also reflected in Transportation.

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Here is the same table with month-over-month numbers (not seasonally adjusted). The jump in energy costs are clearly illustrated, reflecting here too in transportation. We also see strong seasonality in apparel costs, which rise at the end of summer.

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The Trends in Headline and Core CPI

The chart below shows Headline and Core CPI for urban consumers since 2007. Core CPI excludes the two most volatile components, food and energy. I've highlighted the 2% to 2.5% range that the FOMC targeted in their December 12, 2012 press release.

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Year-over-year Core CPI made a moderate arc above the 2% benchmark beginning October of 2011. It has now dropped below the 2% - 2.5% range at 1.76%. The more volatile Headline CPI, which had been falling since October 2011, has now risen YoY for the past few months and is now fractionally below two percent (1.94%). Much of the volatility over the past year has been the result of broad swings in gasoline prices (more on gasoline here).

For a longer-term perspective, here is a column-style breakdown of the inflation categories showing the change since 2000.

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Note: For additional information on the component composition of the Consumer Price Index, see my Inside the Consumer Price Index.