Consumer Prices Looking More Tame Than Producer Prices

After a hotter than expected Producer Price Index (PPI) reading on Tuesday, investors and consumers can breathe a little easier about the inflation onslaught in 2018 that has been feared so much. The Bureau of Labor Statistics showed a more tame report the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for March, one that is closer to the Federal Reserve’s 2.0% inflation target.

Headline CPI, the broadest measure of consumer inflation, came in down 0.1% on the monthly reading for March, compared to consensus estimates of 0.0% from both Bloomberg and Dow Jones.

The core CPI reading, which excludes food and energy, was up 0.2% on the monthly reading in March. Bloomberg and Dow Jones both had their consensus estimates at 0.2%.

Where the consumer inflationary numbers are still elevated, though not anywhere as hot as the producer side, are in the annual readings. Headline CPI for March was up 2.4% from a year earlier, and the core rate was up 2.1% from a year earlier. Tuesday’s annualized PPI readings were up from 2.7% to 3.0%.

A drop in gasoline prices pulled the numbers down in March, which may prove to be temporary. Energy prices were down 2.8%, but gasoline prices were down 4.9%. Apparel also pulled down the index, with a 0.6% drop, and food prices posted only a 0.1% gain.

Medical care prices were up 0.4% and housing prices rose 0.3%, with rent prices also up 0.3%.

Financial markets were lower on Wednesday ahead of and after the CPI report on fears that the United States will target Syria with missile strikes in retaliation for chemical attacks and with the implications that it leaves with Russia. The Dow Jones industrial average was down 200 points and the S&P 500 was down 20 points. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was down 2.5 basis points at 2.76%.