Inflation Watch A mid-month focus on inflation via Traditional Indexes, Commodity Prices, and Labor Costs
The Core CPI registered its highest YOY increase of the past year. However, a recent NY Fed survey and other inflation forecasts seems to point to softening expectations. During Fed easing regimes, the CPI has been a good indicator of how aggressive the Fed needs to be. The next few months will be critical in assessing our economic situation.
The year-over-year headline number was in line with market expectations but the month-over-month increase missed market consensus (0.1% vs. 0.2% expected). All else being equal, there is a good chance CPI might have peaked for 2018. A stronger dollar is disinflationary while the short term impact of tariffs is higher import prices.
Headline and Core CPI figures hit estimates right on the nose in May, continuing the trend of modest but not outrageous price increases. Energy prices have boosted headline CPI while core CPI continues to be driven by services. With both of the Fed’s mandates pretty much accomplished, appreciate this rare window of time.
We have seen a string of in-line/slightly subpar inflation numbers (including wages) both here in the US and overseas. Two countervailing market forces are at work too: a resurgent dollar and higher oil/commodities prices. Financial conditions would tighten quite a bit if both the dollar and the real yields are up significantly.
Despite the rare decline in the monthly reading, overall inflation trends are positive and in-line with expectations. A break-out on the upside has not happened yet. Inflation break-even rates are also well within the recent range. The overall picture for inflation is positive but uncertainties are higher.
The latest headline and core numbers are in-line with expectations. The breakeven rate retreated from the resistance level but the yield curve flattened again. Despite the overall mixed bag of macro data, there are more positive signs for inflation.We have been recommending patience when it comes to inflation because overall inflation trend is still pretty well contained.
The latest Core CPI number disappointed again. The divergence between inflation break-evens and the yield curve is puzzling. Given the lack of inflationary pressure and the Fed’s projected rate path, it would not surprise us to see a flatter curve without the help of fiscal stimulus in the next few months.
The CPI numbers have disappointed three months in a row. Weak commodity prices do not inspire higher inflation expectations. The global scope of inflation deceleration adds more weight to the recent soft readings. However, lower bond yields relative to nominal growth rate is inflationary and buffers the impact of weak inflation and rate hikes.
The latest CPI is weaker and the softness was sooner than we expected. More alarming is the recent broad-based deterioration in economic data. Lower inflation expectations have flattened the yield curve recently, which hurt Financial stocks. We believe inflation has likely peaked for the time being and patience is the right approach for the reflation trade at this point.
The dovish rate hike is a positive for inflation and credit. A hawkish message right now would have been quite detrimental and self-defeating in terms of realizing two more hikes later this year. We believe achieving sustained 2-3% inflation could be harder than most people expect going forward. Overall, we are encouraged by the dovish hike but we think the real test for inflation is when the base effect starts to wane.