Fed’s Main Inflation Gauge to ‘Calm Some Nerves’ After CPI

Fed’s Main Inflation Gauge to ‘Calm Some Nerves’ After CPI
Shoppers, in Berlin, Germany, on Thursday, Dec 14, 2023. Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

The Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge is set to come in softer than another report this week on consumer prices that rocked financial markets.

The so-called core personal consumption expenditures price index, excluding food and energy, probably advanced 0.2% or 0.3% in March, several analysts said Thursday after the Bureau of Labor Statistics published its producer price index.

Fed's Core PCE Gauge to Come in Softer After Producer Prices |

That compares with a 0.4% advance in the core consumer price index published Wednesday that shocked investors, who responded to the bigger-than-expected increase by pushing out the expected timing of Fed rate cuts.

A number of categories from the PPI and CPI feed into the PCE, so economists tend to firm up their forecasts after these releases. The March PCE is due on April 26.

“The numbers won’t fundamentally change any minds at the Fed, but they should calm some nerves,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, wrote in a note after the PPI figures came out.

Key details in Thursday’s producer-price data that feed into PCE — mainly in health care services — showed muted increases, fueling expectations for a softer PCE reading. Categories tied to portfolio-management services and auto insurance were also tame.

The two-year Treasury note, which is the most sensitive to Fed policy, advanced after the PPI, recovering somewhat from the CPI-driven selloff.

Read More: US Producer Prices Rise But Show Some Relief in Key Categories

Shepherdson predicts the core PCE gauge rose 0.28% in March, though “given the inevitable margin of error in the PPI/CPI-to-PCE translation, we can’t rule out a 0.2% print,” he said.

Economists at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Citigroup Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Santander US Capital Markets LLC and Inflation Insights LLC published similar estimates for core PCE that round to 0.3%. Matthew Martin, a US economist at Oxford Economics, predicted a 0.2% reading, as did Paul Ashworth at Capital Economics.

“After another sizzling CPI report, producer prices offer some relief for Fed officials who may view the recent price reports as too hot to consider rate cuts in the immediate future,” Martin wrote in a note.

“While we see the odds of the first rate cut occurring in September rising, cooler reports such as the PPI report keep the June meeting on the table, which is our current baseline.”


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