The European Central Bank (ECB) shifted away slightly from an inflationary guard on Thursday, as the bank suggested the possibility of reducing interest rates later this year to help spur growth. A European interest rate cut could, some economists say, help reduce U.S. inflation.
As expected Thursday, the central bank’s Governing Council left its benchmark interest rate at 4.25%. But statements by ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet focused on declining economic growth.
“Economic activity in the euro area is weakening with contracting domestic demand and tighter financing condition,” Trichet said. “The economic outlook is subject to increased downside risks.”
Continue reading European inflation pressures recede, and could help U.S.
With the latest financial sector turmoil and easing inflation, many economists were at least thinking the Federal Reserve would reduce interest rates on Tuesday. That was not the case. The Fed left the benchmark federal funds rate stead at 2 %, where it’s been since April and for the third straight meeting.
The vote was unanimous, without even a dissent from Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher, who voted to increase rates during two prior Fed meetings.
A MarketWatch article by Greg Robb aptly opened with the the likely intent on the move:
"[The fed is] trying to project an appearance of calm and stability amid the turmoil of financial markets."
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) statement reflects continual concern over economic growth and the direction of inflation despite the latter showing a slight easing according to a report today by the a Labor Department.
Continue reading Fed leaves rates steady at 2% despite financial turmoil and easing inflation
Inflation eased to 5.4% in the past year, as consumer prices declined 0.1% in August and marked the first decline in nearly two years, according to a Labor Department report released Tuesday.
With inflation’s decline, some economists said the path was paved for a potential interest rate cut after the Federal Reserve’s monthly meeting on Tuesday.
“This frees the Fed’s hands to cut rates, if they deem that to be the right move later today,” said Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wachovia.
“If inflation continued to accelerate, it would make it very difficult for the Fed to cut interest rates,” said Vitner. “But now, if they need to cut interest rates, they will do it.”
Continue reading Inflation eases to 5.4% as consumer prices fall 0.1%
The US Inflation Calculator website has been updated with the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data released Tuesday, September 12. The newest figures show consumer prices rose 5.4% in August from a year ago. On a monthly basis, the Consumer Price Index fell 0.1%.
The Inflation Calculator has been updated to use the latest figures for calculation, as has the following pages:
Consumer Price Index Data from 1913 to 2008
Current Inflation Rates: 1999-2008
Historical Inflation Rates: 1914-2008
Annual Averages for Rate of Inflation
Read Inflation eases to 5.4% as consumer prices fall 0.1% for an in depth look at the released Labor Department data.
That latest Federal Reserve minutes taken during the Fed’s August 5th meeting where they held interest rates steady indicates a concern over greater inflation risks into next year.
The Fed warned against inflation in their statement, but the minutes released Tuesday, August 25, better highlights the extent of their growing worry:
"Participants expressed significant concerns about the upside risks to inflation, especially the risk that persistently high headline inflation could result in an unmooring of long-run inflation expectations. Some viewed the upside risks to inflation as having diminished modestly over the intermeeting period, mainly as a result of the drop in the prices of oil and some other commodities as well as the greater likelihood of persistent economic slack.
However, others viewed these risks as having increased, particularly in light of continued elevated readings on headline inflation, the low level of the real federal funds rate, anecdotal information suggesting that firms were having more success in passing higher costs on to their customers, and some signs of an upward drift over recent months in investors’ expectations and uncertainty regarding inflation over the longer run; moreover, the recent decline in energy prices might well be reversed in coming months.
Continue reading Latest Fed minutes show concern over inflation
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said inflation was on track to ease later this year and next. Bernanke made the comments Friday at an economic conference before leading economists and policymakers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Decreasing commodity prices, increased stability of the dollar, and slower growth were cited reasons for the improved outlook.
"If not reversed, these developments, together with a pace of growth that is likely to fall short of potential for a time, should lead inflation to moderate later this year and next year," Bernanke said.
Continue reading Fed chief Bernanke forecasts moderate inflation
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke spoke before an annual economic conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on August 22, 2008. He touched on several economic items, but his soothing inflation message stood out most noticeably.
Bernanke forecasted moderate inflation, provisioned on commodity prices, growth and dollar stability factors.
The following is the prepared text of his speech, as provided by the Federal Reserve website.
Reducing Systemic Risk
In choosing the topic for this year’s symposium–maintaining stability in a changing financial system–the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City staff is, once again, right on target. Continue reading Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s speech on Aug. 22, 2008
The Producer Price Index (PPI), which measures prices at the factory door and inflation pressures before they reach the consumer, jumped 1.2% in July and 9.8% in the past year, according to a Labor Department report released Tuesday.
The 1.2% climb was double the rate economists expected and follows a 1.8% jump in June and a 1.4% rise in May. Core producer prices, which exclude food and energy, jumped 0.7 percent in July after a 0.2 percent June increase.
The rise in wholesale prices marks the highest annual rate since June 1981, or 27 years.
Continue reading Growing inflation: Wholesale prices jump to highest annual rate in 27 years
The annual inflation rate climbed to 5.6% in July — the fastest growing rate in 17 years, according to Labor Department figures released Thursday.
Consumer prices jumped 0.8% in July, nearly double the level economists expected. It follows June’s 1.1% increase.
The biggest culprit in inflation’s increase was energy costs, which jumped by 4% on a monthly basis and 29.3% annually. On a somewhat optimistic note, the latest July figures include data collected only from the first three weeks, and do not account for the most recent commodity price decreases, like those seen in oil and gas.
“Energy prices do seem to be coming down a bit. So I’m hopeful that going forward we won’t see as much of an increase,” said UCLA economist Lee Ohanian. “That decline will translate into lower gasoline prices and lower prices across the board.”
However, the core CPI, which excludes volatile food and energy items, still experienced a 0.3% and 2.5% annual increase. Economists expected a 0.2% increase.
Continue reading Inflation fastest in 17 years, rate climbs 5.6%
The Fed and consumers may have less cause for worry over inflation as a continual fall in commodities gives everyone money to purchase more than gas and groceries.
In the last Federal Reserve meeting on August 4, the Fed said "inflation has been high, spurred by the earlier increases in the prices of energy and some other commodities."
While commodity prices have increased, they are nowhere near their punishing spring highs. As an example, oil prices dropped Monday to a low of $112.72 a barrel. A far cry from its record high of $147.27 on July 11.
Continue reading Inflation helped by lower commodity prices