Consumer Inflation Report Looks Mixed for August

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The second week of September has not been all that active for economic releases. After a somewhat disappointing reading on wholesale inflation from the Producer Price Index (PPI), now there is at least some positive surprise on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for August.

The U.S. Department of Labor released its August CPI reading, showing that prices of all goods rose by 0.4%. This beat the Bloomberg consensus estimate of a 0.3% gain, but that range of 0.3% to 0.4% shows that the “beat” is more of a rounding issue. The core CPI, excluding food and energy prices, met expectations with a 0.2% monthly gain over July.

Where things change and look like lower price pressure is around the year-over-year numbers. As a reminder: the Federal Reserve has a 2.0% to 2.5% target range, where it wants inflation to justify more interest rate hikes.

The headline annualized inflation reading was 1.9%, and that matched the Bloomberg consensus estimate. The core CPI was up just 1.7% in August, but this was still above the 1.6% consensus estimate.

Thursday’s report may seem dull, but it was at least the first time since May that the core CPI reading was not under expectations. It was still less than 2%, but it was at least above estimates.

Areas that picked up in pricing were housing and transportation, and energy costs were up going into Hurricane Harvey, but food prices were lower.

The Labor Department report said:

Increases in the indexes for gasoline and shelter accounted for nearly all of the seasonally adjusted increase in the all items index. The energy index rose 2.8 percent in August as the gasoline index increased 6.3 percent. The shelter index rose 0.5 percent in August with the rent index up 0.4 percent. The food index rose slightly in August, with the index for food away from home increasing and the food at home index declining.

The index for all items less food and energy rose 0.2 percent in August. Along with the shelter index, the indexes for motor vehicle insurance, medical care, and recreation all increased in August. The indexes for airline fares and for used cars and trucks were among those that declined in August.