The Federal Reserve’s favorite inflation indicator, the PCE Price Index, will be released by the BEA today. The index differs from the better-known Consumer Price Index in that its composition is changed more frequently and is quicker to reflect the impact of real-time pricing fluctuations. In the most-recent report, from March, PCE inflation was reported at 4.2% (the latest CPI report, from April, had inflation at 4.9%). At Argus, we forecast a rate of 4.0% for April PCE. Core PCE, which removes volatile food and energy prices, was 4.6% in the latest month. We expect the Core PCE to dip to 4.5% this month. Inflation appears to have peaked last summer and is continuing to decline, though the rate of decline may slow in the months ahead. We track 21 inflation measures on a monthly basis. On average, they indicate that prices are rising at a 2.5% rate year-over-year, down from 2.8% a month ago and 8.7% nine months ago. The numbers are distorted a bit by a sharp decline in Producer Price Intermediate Goods, which are falling at a 19% rate. Focusing on core inflation (which we obtain by averaging Core CPI, market-based PCE Ex-Food & Energy, the core GDP PCE Price Index, the five-year forward inflation expectation rate and the 10-year TIPs Break-even Interest Rate), our reading is 4.0%, flat month-over-month. That’s largely because, sticky prices at the other end of the spectrum, like shelter and transportation remain high (The Sticky Price Core CPI Index reading is currently 6.3%.) Looking ahead, investors are expecting that the Federal Reserve’s series of rate hikes ultimately will tame inflation, with the three-year forward expectation rate now down to 2.9% and the five-year forward expectation rate at 2.35%.
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