US Inflation in January Tops Expectations with Broad Gains in Consumer Prices

Inflation in the United States exceeded projections in January as American consumers paid more for a broad range of goods and services, including gasoline, shelter, clothing, medical care, car insurance, personal care, and used cars and trucks, according to government figures released Wednesday, February 14, 2018.

In two unique standouts, clothing costs rose 1.7% for their biggest monthly increase since 1990 and auto insurance climbed 1.3% for its largest advance since 2001. In addition, higher gasoline prices were again in play following a reprieve in December.

Consumer prices in January jumped 0.5% — well above the most cited projection of 0.3%, and after they rose by 0.2% in December, the Labor Department said in its monthly report on the Consumer Price Index. The CPI measures what Americans pay for everything from fruit to fuel.

In key categories:

  • Gasoline prices surged 5.7% last month after dropping 0.8% in December. They grew 8.5% from January 2017. The broader index for energy, which combines items like gasoline, electricity and fuel oil, moved up 3% last month after falling 0.2% previously. The report shows its year-on-year increase at 5.5%.

  • Food prices rose 0.2% for a second straight month, with an increase of 1.7% over the past 12 months.

Stripping the more volatile food and energy components, so-called core consumer prices rose 0.3% in January after advancing 0.2% in December.

Within the grouping, shelter or housing costs rose 0.2% after climbing 0.4% previously. The index is 3.2% higher on a year-over-year basis. Components of shelter include pricing items like rent for apartments, rental equivalence, lodging away from home such as hotels, and housing at schools. The index accounts for about one-third of the entire CPI.

U.S. inflation advanced 2.1% through the 12 months ending January, matching the rate of inflation in 2017.

Core inflation rose 1.8% on an annual basis 2018, again matching the pace the pace in 2017. The 12-month reading has been stuck at either 1.7% or 1.8% for nine consecutive months. The core annual measure is one of the benchmark inflation rates monitored by the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) as it helps the central bank decide where to set its key interest rate.

"The Fed’s job now is to prevent the economy from overheating," Reuters quoted Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial in Pittsburgh. "The Fed’s task is complicated by the recent tax cuts and spending deal."

The following table of key inflation figures is for the last seven months through January, as published by the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov/cpi). To index the data each month, the BLS monitors the prices of about 80,000 consumer goods and services from around the nation. All monthly and annual pricing changes are in percentages.

July to January 2018 Consumer Prices – Gains & Losses in Percent

  Jul 2017 Aug 2017 Sept 2017 Oct 2017 Nov 2017 Dec 2017 Jan 2018 12 Month
All items 0.1 0.4 0.5 0.1 0.3 0.2 0.5 2.1
  Food 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.1 .0 0.2 0.2 1.7
    Food at home 0.2 -0.1 .0 0.1 -0.1 0.2 0.1 1.0
    Food away from home 0.2 0.3 0.3 0.1 0.2 0.2 0.4 2.5
  Energy -0.7 3.3 4.7 -1.4 3.2 -0.2 3.0 5.5
    Energy commodities -1.5 7.2 9.6 -3.0 5.8 -0.7 5.8 9.0
      Gasoline (all types) -1.5 7.4 10.0 -3.2 6.0 -0.8 5.7 8.5
      Fuel oil -1.7 5.2 6.4 1.4 5.6 0.9 9.5 22.5
    Energy services .0 -0.1 0. 0.4 0.5 0.4 -0.8 1.9
      Electricity 0.3 .0 0.1 0.4 0.5 0.2 -0.2 2.4
      Utility (piped) gas service -1.3 -0.5 -0.4 0.4 0.7 1.0 -2.6 0.2
  All items less food, energy 0.1 0.2 0.1 0.2 0.1 0.2 0.3 1.8
    Commodities less food, energy -0.1 -0.1 -0.2 .0 -0.1 0.2 0.4 -0.7
      New vehicles -0.4 .0 -0.3 -0.2 0.2 0.5 -0.1 -1.2
      Used cars and trucks -0.2 -0.1 -0.3 0.7 0.5 0.7 0.4 -0.6
      Apparel .0 .0 0.1 -0.2 -0.9 -0.3 1.7 -0.7
      Medical care 0.8 -0.2 -0.5 .0 0.5 0.9 -0.1 1.8
    Services less energy 0.2 0.3 0.2 0.3 0.2 0.3 0.3 2.6
      Shelter 0.2 0.4 0.2 0.3 0.2 0.3 0.2 3.2
      Transportation 0.3 0.4 0.3 0.4 0.1 0.3 0.8 4.0
      Medical care 0.2 0.2 0.1 0.3 -0.1 0.2 0.6 2.0

 

The BLS releases inflation data around the middle of every month based on consumer prices surveyed in the previous month. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) for February and the latest annual period become public on March 13, 2018.

CPI data is used in calculating inflation rates and in this site’s calculator for inflation. The US Inflation Calculator shows cumulative inflation and the change in buying power of the U.S. dollar over time.

Leave a Reply