Money & The Economy

Inflation Stays Hot In January, Surging Past Expectations

Inflation accelerated on a monthly basis in January, surging past investor expectations as prices continue to climb, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Prices climbed 0.4% on a monthly basis in January after declining by 0.1% in December, while growing 6.4% on an annualized basis from 6.5% in December, according to the BLS. Inflation shot past economists’ expectations, with a Dow Jones poll predicting a 0.4% monthly increase and 6.2% annual hike, CNBC reported.

Since hitting a 40-year high in June of 9.1%, inflation has fallen each month since, but remains more than three times above the Federal Reserve’s target rate of 2%, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The price of food continued to climb in January, up 10.1% on an annual basis from the same time one year ago, according to the BLS. Since hitting a 40-year high of 13.5% in August, the inflation for food at home has moderated slightly, but remains elevated at 11.3%.

Energy costs outpaced overall inflation, up 8.7% overall, with the cost of electricity up 11.9% on an annual basis, the BLS reported. Prices for shelter also grew faster than the average, up 7.9% in January on an annual basis, with the cost of rent up 8.0%.

Economists generally anticipate that housing prices will continue to climb through the spring, due to high demand, before moderating by the end of the year, according to the WSJ. Senior economist Jake Oubina of investment bank Piper Sandler predicts that shelter inflation will reach 8.1% in March but fall to 5.3% by December.

So-called core prices, which discount the price of food and energy, were up 5.6% on an annual basis in January, beating expectations of 5.5% year-over-year growth, according to the BLS.

While investors seem to believe prices will continue to moderate without action by the Federal Reserve, prompting the Fed to cut interest rates this year, Fed officials seem to disagree, according to the WSJ. Michael Schumacher, head of macro strategy at Wells Fargo Securities, warned investors to “forget” about the Fed cutting interest rates until inflation comes down, in an interview with CNBC.

“The Fed cares about inflation, and that’s just about it,” Schumacher told CNBC, rejecting the idea that the Fed might intervene if there was “weakness” in the market. “So, the idea of lots of easing — forget it.”

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