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WASHINGTON: Inflation remains inexorable, retail sales are muddling along and manufacturing is struggling for momentum, an avalanche of economic data showed in the week before a pivotal Federal Reserve (Fed) policy decision this week.
Consumer prices excluding food and energy jumped 0.6% in August – twice as much as economists expected and double the previous month’s advance – and will likely culminate in a third super-sized interest-rate hike by Fed officials this week.
Tuesday’s consumer price report was followed days later by figures showing widespread inflation is limiting Americans’ ability to spend on discretionary merchandise.
At the same time, high prices have yet to cause an outright retrenchment as the labour market remains solid.
Retail sales, unadjusted for price changes, advanced 0.3% in August though the prior month was revised down to a 0.4% decline.
The overall measure of consumer prices advanced last month, defying expectations for a monthly drop due to cheaper gasoline.,
Shelter, food and medical care were among the largest contributors to price growth, underscoring the breadth and severity of inflation with several categories posting record annual increases.
The government’s marquee inflation report was corroborated by other price data.
The Atlanta Fed’s so-called sticky consumer price index (CPI) measure rose 6.1% in August from a year ago, the biggest gain in 40 years.
Meantime, the Cleveland Fed’s median CPI, which excludes categories with the largest price changes, increased by the most in data back to the early 1980s.
Finally, the Labour Department’s producer price index (PPI) also showed a pick-up in underlying inflation.
The PPI minus food and energy rose a larger-than-forecast 0.4% last month and 7.3% from a year earlier. Nonetheless, the report also showed an easing of pressures in the production pipeline.
The costs of processed goods for intermediate demand minus food and energy dropped 0.8%, the steepest decline since April 2020. — Bloomberg
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