Consumer Price Index: August Headline At 2.70%

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by: Doug Short

By Jill Mislinski

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released the August Consumer Price Index data Thursday morning. The year-over-year non-seasonally adjusted Headline CPI came in at 2.70%, down from 2.95% the previous month. Year-over-year Core CPI (ex Food and Energy) came in at 2.20%, down from the previous month's 2.35% and above the Fed's 2% PCE target.

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

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.2 percent in August on a seasonally adjusted basis, the same increase as in July, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 = months, the all items index rose 2.7 percent before seasonal adjustment.

Increases in the indexes for shelter and energy were the main contributors to the seasonally adjusted monthly increase in the all items index. The energy index increased 1.9 percent in August; a 3.0-percent increase in the gasoline index was the largest factor, but the other energy component indexes also rose. The shelter index increased 0.3 percent in August, the same increase as in July. The food index rose only slightly in August, with the index for food at home unchanged.

The index for all items less food and energy rose 0.1 percent in August, the smallest monthly increase since April. Along with the shelter index, the indexes for airline fares and used cars and trucks were among those that increased in August. An array of indexes declined, including apparel, medical care, communication, recreation, and personal care.

The all items index rose 2.7 percent for the 12 months ending August, a smaller increase than the 2.9 percent increase for the 12 months ending July. The index for all items less food and energy rose 2.2 percent for the 12 months ending August and the energy index increased 10.2 percent; these were both smaller increases than for the 12 months ending July. The food index increased 1.4 percent over the last 12 months, the same increase as for the period ending July. [More…]

Investing.com was looking for a 0.3% MoM change in seasonally adjusted Headline CPI and 0.2% in Core CPI. Year-over-year forecasts were 2.8% for Headline and 2.4% 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. The highlighted two percent level is the Federal Reserve's Core inflation target for the CPI's cousin index, the BEA's Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) price index.

Headline and Core CPI since 2000

The next chart shows both series since 1957, the year the government first began tracking Core Inflation.

Headline and Core CPI

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) were in place. They have since reverted to the two percent target in their various FOMC documents.

Federal Reserve policy, which in recent history has focused on core inflation measured by the core PCE Price Index, will see that the more familiar core CPI is now above the PCE target range of 2 percent.

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