The consumer price index rose 6.8% in November compared to the same month a year ago. That is the highest rate since 1982. Despite arguments to the contrary, inflation is not likely to fade soon. Prices of many household items are rapidly rising, and the price of gasoline is soaring.
There is one school of thought that inflation is much worse than government figures show. Billionaire investor Bill Ackman used the word “raging” to describe the current rise in prices in an interview with Bloomberg. Many Americans agree. The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index dropped sharply in November almost entirely due to anxiety about inflation.
Perhaps the most well regarded voice about the severe damage rising prices can do to the economy is that of Larry Summers, the former United States Secretary of the Treasury and Director of the National Economic Council. He has argued that new government stimulus packages, which drive up incomes, could also pour gas onto the inflation fire.
The Federal Reserve also faces a daunting challenge. Jerome Powell was just reappointed by President Joe Biden to another term as chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. This was largely on the strength of the Fed’s work to push a national economic recovery from the COVID-19 driven recession. But can he do just as good a job with inflationary pressures?
The Fed can raise rates in an attempt to tap down rising prices, but higher interest rates could undercut the buying power of many consumers and businesses. Both the stock market and the extremely healthy real estate market could be undermined by a decision to raise rates. (These are the states where home prices went up the most in the last 12 months.)
The Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index Summary report indicated a wide range of price increases by category. To find the household items that had a 12-month double-digit price increase in November, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the report.
Energy prices rose an extraordinary 33.3% compared to the same month last year. Used car prices rose 31.4% due almost entirely to the shortage of new cars caused by a shortage of computer chips used in vehicle electronics systems. The price of most meats continued to rise in the double digits. The price of vegetables was up 2.2% and of sugar up 3.3% — these are among the few items used by American households that are not becoming expensive rapidly. (See also which prices dropped — the price of this household item has plunged.)
Gasoline topped the list of rapidly rising prices, with the price of unleaded regular jumping 60.1% in November compared with last year. Oil prices drove almost all of this. Crude oil prices were below $50 a barrel a year ago. Recently, they topped $80 a barrel.