Austria     Belgium     Brazil     Canada     Denmark     Finland     France     Germany     Hungary     Iceland     Ireland     Italy     Luxembourg     The Netherlands     Norway     Poland     Spain     Sweden     Switzerland     UK     USA     

A Cool June, Part 1

June brought a significant cooling of inflation, which is viewed as encouraging news in the Federal Reserve’s ongoing efforts to control rapid price increases. This development has increased the likelihood that the central bank might halt its interest rate hikes after its upcoming meeting this month. According to data released last Wednesday, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose by 3% in the year leading up to June, which is lower than the 4% increase recorded in the year through May. Moreover, it represents only a third of the peak of approximately 9% observed last summer.

The overall measure of CPI is influenced by significant declines in gas prices, which may be temporary. Therefore, policymakers focus on a more refined version known as the core index, which excludes food and fuel costs. The core index exhibited even better results than economists had anticipated. In comparison to the previous year, the core index rose by 4.8%, down from the 5.3% increase in the year through May. Economists had predicted a 5% increase. Furthermore, on a monthly basis, the core index grew at the slowest pace since August 2021.

The deceleration of inflation brings positive implications as it allows consumers to stretch their paychecks further at gas stations and grocery stores. If inflation can sustainably decrease without leading to high unemployment rates or a severe economic recession, it could enable workers to maintain the significant gains they have made in terms of better jobs and wages, which have contributed to reducing income inequality.

The White House, which has faced criticism over rising prices for more than a year, celebrated the recent report. President Biden referred to the current economic situation as “Bidenomics in action.” The stock market also experienced a surge as investors speculated that the Federal Reserve would adopt a less aggressive stance in combating inflation, potentially pausing interest rate increases after the July meeting.

Too Soon

Laura Rosner-Warburton, senior economist and founding partner at MacroPolicy Perspectives, expressed optimism about the news, stating, “This is very promising news. The pieces of the puzzle are starting to come together. But it’s just one report, and the Fed has been burned by inflation before.” However, Fed officials are likely to refrain from declaring victory at this stage. They are still assessing whether the moderation in inflation will be rapid and complete. They are cautious about allowing prices to remain slightly elevated for an extended period, as it could result in permanent accelerated inflation if consumers and businesses adjust their behaviour accordingly.

As a result, officials have indicated their intention to raise interest rates at the upcoming meeting in July. They have also suggested that further rate adjustments may be necessary. However, in light of the new data, economists and investors see a reduced likelihood of additional rate hikes later this year.