Consumer prices in October saw the smallest year-over-year gain since January 2022, and while still elevated, inflation experienced the first month below an 8% annual growth rate since February 2022. However, the shelter index continued to rise at an accelerated pace and the energy index increased after declining for three straight months. As inflation appears to have peaked and has started to slow, this may ease some of pressure on the Fed to maintain its aggressive monetary policy.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose by 0.4% in October on a seasonally adjusted basis, following the same increase in September. The price index for a broad set of energy sources rose by 1.8% in October as a decline in natural gas (-4.6%) partly offset an increase in electricity (+0.1%) and gasoline index (+4.0%). Excluding the volatile food and energy components, the “core” CPI increased by 0.3% in October, following an increase of 0.6% in September. Meanwhile, the food index increased by 0.6% in October with the food at home index rising 0.4%.
Most component indexes continued to increase in October. The indexes for shelter (+0.8%), motor vehicle insurance (+1.7%), recreation (+0.7%), new vehicles (+0.4%) as well as personal care (+0.5%) showed sizeable monthly increases in October. Meanwhile, the indexes for used cars and trucks (-2.4%), apparel (-0.7%), medical care (-0.5%) and airline fares (-1.1%) declined in October.
The index for shelter, which makes up more than 40% of the “core” CPI, rose by 0.8% in October, following an increase of 0.7% in September. This is the largest monthly increase since August 1990. The indexes for owners’ equivalent rent (OER) increased by 0.6% and rent of primary residence (RPR) increased by 0.7% over the month. Monthly increases in OER have averaged 0.7% over the last three months. More cost increases are coming from this category, which will maintain pressure on inflationary forces in the months ahead. These higher costs are driven by lack of supply and higher development costs. Higher interest rates will not slow these costs, which means the Fed’s tools are limited in addressing shelter inflation.
During the past twelve months, on a not seasonally adjusted basis, the CPI rose by 7.7% in October, following an 8.2% increase in September. The “core” CPI increased by 6.3% over the past twelve months, following a 6.6% increase in September. The food index rose by 10.9% and the energy index climbed by 17.6% over the past twelve months.
NAHB constructs a “real” rent index to indicate whether inflation in rents is faster or slower than overall inflation. It provides insight into the supply and demand conditions for rental housing. When inflation in rents is rising faster (slower) than overall inflation, the real rent index rises (declines). The real rent index is calculated by dividing the price index for rent by the core CPI (to exclude the volatile food and energy components).
The Real Rent Index rose by 0.4% in October. Over the first ten months of 2022, the monthly change of the Real Rent Index increased by 0.1%, on average.
I don’t see any good news here. The fact that the inflation rate is based on the increase/decrease from the same month of the previous year tends to distort the report. When inflation is very low the previous year, the reported rate usually shows an increase while when the previous year was very high, the report usually shows a decrease in the inflation rate. That is what is happening currently since the really high inflation rate started last fall. When there is an extended period of high inflation, I believe that the inflation rate for the same month of the previous year should be added to the current month’s rate and compared to the results of the same calculation for previous month to get a truer picture of the inflation trend during any longterm period of elevated inflaion. For example, the inflation rate for September 2021 was 5.390% while the rate for this September was 8.202%. Added together, the inflation rate for the two year period was 13.592%. The inflation rate for October 2021 was 6.222% and the rate for this October was 7.745%. Adding them together, the inflatiion rate for the past two years was 13.967%, an increase of .375%.