Despite the uptick in US inflation, the data supports a Federal Reserve rate pause in September.
The US consumer price index (CPI) accelerated to 3.2% year-on-year in July, up from 3.0% in June but below the consensus estimate of 3.3%. Core CPI dipped to 4.7% in July, down from 4.8% a month earlier, which was also the estimate. On a monthly basis, both the headline and the core rates posted gains of 0.2% in July, unchanged from June and matching the forecast.
The rise in headline CPI ended a streak of 12 straight declines. Still, the upswing is unlikely to concern the Federal Reserve, and the reaction by the US Dollar and the stock markets have been muted. The June reading of 3.0% was unusually low, following a previous reading of 4.0%, so a slight increase was expected. The monthly gain of 0.2% was modest and matched the estimate.
The Federal Reserve pays close attention to the core CPI, which excludes food and energy, and is a better gauge of inflation. Core CPI has proven to be stickier than headline CPI, as the drop in energy prices has pushed down headline CPI but not the core rate.
Fed members have been saying that inflation remains too high. Still, today’s inflation report, which was within expectations, should cement a pause in rate hikes at the next meeting on September 20th. The Fed would like to see inflation fall more quickly but is hesitant to continue raising interest rates, which would increase the likelihood of the US economy tipping into a recession.
Inflation, which was hovering at about 9.1% a year ago, has fallen sharply. That is positive news, but the Fed wants to finish the job and bring inflation down to its target of 2%. That could prove tricky, as much of the drop in inflation is due to lower energy prices. Inflation is driven by services and wages, reflected in a high core CPI rate of 4.7%, more than double the 2% target. The tight labor market will likely have to cool for the core rate to fall substantially.
In the Forex market, the US Dollar is almost unchanged against the major currencies following the US inflation data release. The only exception is the USD/JPY currency pair, which climbed by 0.30% after the inflation release.
US stock markets, which opened just a short time ago, show little reaction to the inflation report. The S&P 500 Index is up 2.80 (0.02%) at 15,323.91, and the Nasdaq 100 Index has gained 2.75 (0.06%) at 4516.38.