Inflation Accelerates for Second Straight Month

Consumer prices in August saw the largest monthly gain since June 2022, primarily driven by a surge in gasoline costs. Core service inflation excluding housing was little changed in August, suggesting that the path toward disinflation ahead still has some fluctuations. Meanwhile, shelter costs continued to remain at a high level and was the second-largest contributor to the increase in inflation.

The Fed’s ability to address rising housing costs is limited as shelter cost increases are driven by a lack of affordable supply and increasing development costs. Additional housing supply is the primary solution to tame housing inflation. The Fed’s tools for promoting housing supply are at best limited. In fact, further tightening of monetary policy will hurt housing supply by increasing the cost of AD&C financing. This can be seen on the graph below, as shelter costs continue to rise despite Fed policy tightening. Nonetheless, the NAHB forecast expects to see shelter costs decline further later in 2023, supported by real-time data from private data providers that indicate a cooling in rent growth.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose by 0.6% in August on a seasonally adjusted basis, following an increase of 0.2% in July. The price index for a broad set of energy sources rose by 5.6% in August as all the major energy component indexes increased.  Excluding the volatile food and energy components, the “core” CPI rose by 0.3% in August, following an increase of 0.2% in July. Meanwhile, the food index increased by 0.2% in August with the food at home index rising 0.2%.

In August, the indexes for gasoline (+10.6%) and shelter (+0.3%) were the largest contributors to the increase in the headline CPI. Meanwhile, the indexes for lodging away from home (-3.0%), used car and trucks (-1.2%) as well as recreation (-0.2%) declined in August.

The index for shelter, which makes up more than 40% of the “core” CPI, rose by 0.3% in August, following an increase of 0.4% in July. The indexes for owners’ equivalent rent (OER) increased by 0.4% and rent of primary residence (RPR) increased by 0.5% over the month. Monthly increases in OER have averaged 0.5% over the last eight months. These gains have been the largest contributors to headline inflation in recent months.

During the past twelve months, on a not seasonally adjusted basis, the CPI rose by 3.7% in August, following a 3.2% increase in July. The “core” CPI increased by 4.3% over the past twelve months, following a 4.7% increase in July. This was the slowest annual gain since October 2021. The food index rose by 4.3% while the energy index fell by 3.6% 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 0.2% in August.

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One thought on “Inflation Accelerates for Second Straight Month

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