Keeping you up to date on the latest data releases.
The headline CPI jumped up at an annualized rate of 6.8 percent in February, and while food and energy price increases were significant contributors to the overall increase, there is some evidence of broad-based price gains. Energy prices rose 48.5 percent in February, and in contrast to previous months, household energy prices rose alongside motor fuel prices. Still, over the past 12 months, household energy prices are up just 1.5 percent. Food prices rose 6.8 percent in February (their largest monthly increase since September 2008), as five out of the six major grocery store groups posted increases.
Excluding food and energy prices, the index rose 2.4 percent in February, outpacing its near-term (3-month) growth rate of 1.8 percent. Over the past 12 months, the “core” CPI is up 1.1 percent. Measures of underlying inflation produced by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland—the median CPI and the 16 percent trimmed-mean CPI—showed some interesting disagreement in February, as the median rose 2.4 percent, while the trim was up 3.8 percent during the month. February’s increase in the trimmed-mean measure pushes up its near-term (3-month) growth rate to 2.6 percent, somewhat elevated compared to a 1.9 percent increase in the median over that time period. Over the past year, the median is up just 1.0 percent, and the trim has risen just 1.2 percent.
Digging into the price-change distribution reveals why the trim was a little higher than the median in February. Nearly half of the overall index (by expenditure weight) rose at rates above 3.0 percent in February (the highest level since September of 2008), compared to an average of 23 percent over the prior six months. Further out on the upper tail, nearly 17 percent of the market basket rose at rates above 12 percent in February, and the 16 percent trimmed-mean picked up on some of that. On the other end of the distribution, just 8 percent of the index posted outright price declines, in stark contrast to the average over the prior six months of 32 percent.