Surprise Jump in February Inflation Raises Concerns

Despite a positive economic outlook from mainstream economists and financiers, inflation in the U.S. has unexpectedly crept up over the month of February. If you’re interested in finding out how this could affect you, read on.

A Surprising Rise in Inflation

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Last month, inflation rose from 3.1% in January to 3.2%. While this might not seem like a huge increase, most economists hadn’t expected an increase in inflation at all.

Considering that inflation fell from 3.4% in December to 3.1% in January, a rise was entirely unexpected.

Concerns Over Fed’s Interest Rate Decision

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It’s a noteworthy situation that has many worried. The Fed has been debating cutting interest rates, which may now have to be put on the back burner as they wait and see how things pan out.

Fed’s Target Inflation Rate 

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The Fed wants inflation to hit its target rate of 2% as it tries to solve pricing issues and the cost-of-living crisis, which have been exacerbated by high inflation. 

Unexpected Rise in Core Prices

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The U.S. Labor Department has stated that “core” prices – of goods and services, not including energy and food as they are too volatile to be counted – increased by 0.4% from January to February, higher than the month before.

Effect on Fed’s Rate Cut Plans

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However, this rate increase occurred at a rate that’s too fast to achieve that 2% target, throwing a spanner in the works.

Comparison with 2022 Inflation Rate

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In 2022, when inflation hit 9.1% (the highest increase since 1981), the Fed hiked borrowing costs sharply, which reined in inflation. People have been calling for them to cut rates as early as March 2024. 

Fed’s Response to High Inflation in 2022

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Officially, the central bank has planned three rate cuts this year, and markets are expecting the same. However, these new figures indicate that progress may be stalling, and as such, rate cuts may be pushed back indefinitely.

Factors Driving Inflation 

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According to experts, the 0.1% increase is a result of rent and clothing prices increasing, as well as motor and health insurance, which have driven inflation indices up. 

Typical Seasonal Price Increases

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These are typical rises associated with the start of a new year, however the Fed will likely be cautious as fears of a recession and economic stagnation are high.

Market Expectations vs. Current Economic Realities

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Despite the U.S. economy performing stronger than other nations, prices haven’t decreased, which has soured many on President Joe Biden’s economic policies.

Biden Attacks Republican Economic Plans

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Biden has recently been on the attack, criticizing Republicans for their lack of ideas to lower costs and promising to end corporate price gouging and “shrinkflation” (where a company shrinks the size of a product instead of raising prices.)

Inflation Concerns

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The Fed started increasing rates to help prices remain steady, and while many were worried about a recession, the economy bucked all trends and remained robust. 

The White House’s Optimism

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The White House seems confident that this will be a minor uptick, as Biden mentioned in his State of the Union address speech, “The landing is, and will be, soft. It takes time, but the American people are beginning to feel it. Consumer studies show consumer confidence is soaring.”

Consumer Perception of the Economy

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However, it’s a hard sell for many average Americans, despite Biden stating in his State of the Union address that the U.S. economy is “literally the envy of the world.” 

Impact of Inflation on Household Budgets

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Groceries haven’t reduced in price, and when they have, it’s been a negligible amount, and many families are feeling the strain on their wallets.

Investors Holding Out Hope

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Despite the less than ideal numbers, investors are still holding out hope for a rate cut – potentially around June time.

Predictions from CME Group’s FedWatch Tool

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According to the CME Group’s FedWatch Tool – which forecasts the odds of a rate hike or rate cut – investors are predicting there’s still a 65% chance of an interest rate cut.

Although this is slightly lower than the 72% figure from before the inflation data was released, it’s still relatively high.

Economists’ Forecast for Inflation Trend

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Many economists, too, are expecting inflation to decline over the year. Biden may have a challenge on his hands, as polls indicate that Trump is outperforming him on economic issues – with many Americans blaming Biden for the increase in prices from 2021.

Trump’s Critique of Biden

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Trump meanwhile has been on the attack. In an interview with CNBC he stated inflation is “killing America” and went on to explain that “People are going through hell… I believe we have a cumulative inflation of over 50%, that means people are, you know, they have to make more than 50% more over a fairly short period of time to stay up. They’ve gotten routed.”

The post Surprise Jump in February Inflation Raises Concerns first appeared on Swift Feed.

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