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US Producer Price Jump: Will CPI Follow Today?

Carolane de Palmas | Wednesday 15 May 2024

Despite the Federal Reserve's vigorous efforts to curb inflation through rapid rate hikes since 2022, inflation has persisted into 2024 above the desired 2% mark. Interest rates are currently hovering within a target range of 5.25% to 5.50%, the highest since 2001. 

Yesterday, on Tuesday, May 14th, the US wholesale price data revealed an acceleration in inflation for April 2024. The question now is whether today's (Wednesday, May 15th) Consumer Price Index (CPI) will reflect a comparable trend.

Let's delve deeper into this week's inflation metrics to potentially anticipate their implications for the US economy:

A person using a computer and analyzing CPI data

American Producer Prices Climb to a Yearly High

On Tuesday, May 14th, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the Producer Price Index (PPI) for the month of April, which increased 2.2% for the 12 months ending in April on an unadjusted basis, after a 1.8% increase in March. This was higher than expected and also the largest increase recorded in over a year, when the PPI rose 2.3% in April 2023.

The Producer Price Index often serves as a valuable leading indicator for inflationary pressures because it tracks businesses’ input costs. These costs encompass commodities, packaging, and other supplies. 

When these input costs rise, then it costs more for businesses to create goods. They can then decide to raise their final selling prices to maintain profit margins, which can translate to higher prices for consumers and higher inflation.

Is Stickier Inflation Jeopardising a Soft Landing?

Many Fed officials have expressed their hesitation to lower key interest rates until a consistent decline in price increases materialises, but this might take longer than initially anticipated, as inflation seems to be stickier than expected.

Despite inflation proving to be more persistent than anticipated, it doesn't automatically signal an imminent increase in interest rates by the Federal Reserve. However, as fresh inflation patterns unfold, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) could opt to maintain higher interest rates for an extended period.

At the annual general meeting of the Foreign Bankers' Association in Amsterdam yesterday, on May 14th, Jerome Powell, the head of the Fed central bank, noted that the rapid disinflation experienced in 2023 has considerably decelerated in 2024, prompting a reassessment of the US monetary policy direction. 

Powell emphasised the low likelihood of the Federal Reserve opting for an interest rate hike as the next step but highlighted that traders should anticipate that rates will remain unchanged for a more prolonged period than previously expected.

While market forecasts previously indicated three rate cuts in 2024, as indicated by the Fed's dot plot in December 2023, beginning around May or June 2024, economists now anticipate only two rate cuts, with the first anticipated in September 2024.

All Eyes on April CPI Release

The US April CPI report, due today, Wednesday, May 15th at 8:30 AM ET (12:30 PM GMT), may be causing jitters after a higher-than-expected Producer Price Index pointing to hotter-than-expected inflation.

While analysts forecast a slight annual slowdown to 3.4% (down from 3.5% in March), a 0.4% month-over-month increase is still expected, mirroring March's rise. Core inflation is also projected to dip slightly year-over-year (3.6% vs.3.8%) and month-over-month (0.3% vs. 0.4%). (Source: Yahoo Finance)

Conclusion

While the US inflation seems to have been relatively sticky in 2024 with a recent uptick, today's report may be key for the Fed. It could reveal if inflation is easing towards the FOMC’s 2% target, or if price hikes remain persistent. This new piece of data could significantly impact the Fed's assessment of inflation’s trajectory and its future monetary policy decisions.


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