Keeping you up to date on the latest data releases.
The CPI increased a slight 0.8 percent (annualized rate) in March, following a flat reading in February. The release noted that the overall index was buoyed by an outsized jump in fresh fruits and vegetables prices (up 72.4 percent) which “accounted for 60 percent of the all items increase.” Excluding food and energy prices, the core CPI was virtually unchanged in March (up just 0.5 percent a.r.) and has risen a meager 1.1 percent over the past 12 months (its slowest growth rate since January 2004). Owners’ equivalent rent slipped down 1.3 percent in March and is now flat on a year-over-year basis, which has helped to pull down the core CPI. However, the recent price declines aren’t relegated to shelter. Many discretionary spending categories exhibited price decreases in March (apparel, household furnishings and operations, recreation, food away from home, and miscellaneous personal goods). In fact, 56 percent of the overall index (by expenditure weight) had decreasing prices in March. Over the past three months, roughly 51 percent (a majority) of the index has been in that lowest bin. Moreover, on the other side of the price change distribution, just 25 percent of the index rose at rates exceeding 3.0 percent, compared to an average of 52 percent in 2007 (the year leading up to the recession). As the price change distribution has shifted lower, so has the median CPI and 16 percent trimmed-mean CPI. The median CPI was nearly flat in March, slipping down 0.2 percent, while the trimmed-mean measure increased just 0.3 percent during the month. Over the past 3 months, the median CPI has been unchanged and the 16 percent trimmed-mean is up a mere 0.6 percent. Over the past 12 months, the median CPI is up just 0.6 percent (a record low) and the 16 percent trimmed-mean is up just 1.0 percent.