September 30, 2022

New Inflation Developments Are Rattling Markets and Economists. Here’s Why.

Consumer Price Index data from August released on Tuesday illustrated that point. Gas prices dropped sharply last month, which many economists expected would pull overall inflation down. They also thought that recent improvements in the supply chain would moderate price increases for goods. Used car costs, a major contributor to inflation last year, are now declining.

Yet, in spite of those positive developments, quickly rising costs across a wide array of products and services helped to push prices higher on a monthly basis. Rent, furniture, meals at restaurants and visits to the dentist are all growing more expensive. Inflation climbed 8.3 percent on an annual basis, and picked up by 0.1 percent from the prior month.

The data underscored that, even without extraordinary disruptions, so many products and services are now increasing in price that costs might continue ratcheting up. Core inflation, which strips out food and fuel costs to give a sense of underlying price trends, reaccelerated to 6.3 percent in August after easing to 5.9 percent in July.

“Inflation currently has a very large underlying component that is grounded in a red-hot labor market,” said Jason Furman, an economist at Harvard University. “And then, in any given month, you may get more inflation because of bad luck, like gas going up, or less because of good luck, like gas going down.”

He estimated that core inflation would continue to climb at around 4.5 percent, and rising, even if pandemic- and war-related disruptions stopped pushing prices higher.

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