US consumer prices increase more than expected in October

A customer counts his cash at the checkout lane of a Walmart store in Los Angeles, California, November 26, 2013. The Labor Department said November 13, 2019 its consumer price index increased 0.4 per cent last month as households paid more for energy products, healthcare, food and a range of other goods. — Reuters pic
A customer counts his cash at the checkout lane of a Walmart store in Los Angeles, California, November 26, 2013. The Labor Department said November 13, 2019 its consumer price index increased 0.4 per cent last month as households paid more for energy products, healthcare, food and a range of other goods. — Reuters pic

WASHINGTON, Nov 13 — US consumer prices rebounded more than expected in October and underlying inflation picked up, which together with abating trade tensions and fears of a recession, support the Federal Reserve’s signal for no further interest rate cuts in the near term.

The Labor Department said today its consumer price index increased 0.4 per cent last month as households paid more for energy products, healthcare, food and a range of other goods. That was the largest gain in the CPI since March and followed an unchanged reading in September.

In the 12 months through October, the CPI increased 1.8 per cent after climbing 1.7 per cent in September.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the CPI advancing 0.3 per cent in October and gaining 1.7 per cent on a year-on-year basis.

Excluding the volatile food and energy components, the CPI rose 0.2 per cent after edging up 0.1 per cent in September. The so-called core CPI rose as healthcare costs jumped by the most in more than three years. There were also increases in prices of used cars and trucks and recreation and rents.

In the 12 months through October, the core CPI increased 2.3 per cent after rising 2.4 per cent in September.

The Fed tracks the core personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index for its 2.0 per cent inflation target. The core PCE price index rose 1.7 per cent on a year-on-year basis in September and has fallen short of its target this year.

October’s firmer monthly CPI reading and jump in healthcare costs suggest a pick-up in the core PCE price index last month. The core PCE price data will be published later this month.

The US central bank last month cut interest rates for the third time this year and signaled a pause in the easing cycle that started in July when it reduced borrowing costs for the first time since 2008.

Stable inflation comes on the heels of fairly upbeat data, including better-than-expected job growth in October and an acceleration in services sector activity.

There has also been an de-escalation of trade tensions between the United States and China. President Donald Trump yesterday said Washington was close to signing a “phase one” trade deal with Beijing, but provided no new details.

While the 16-month US-China trade war is weighing on the manufacturing industry, the household sector remains solid.

In October, energy prices jumped 2.7 per cent after falling 1.4 per cent in the prior month. Energy prices accounted for more than half of the increase in the CPI last month.

Gasoline prices rebounded 3.7 per cent after declining 2.4 per cent in September. Food prices rose 0.2 per cent, rising for a second straight month. Food consumed at home gained 0.3 per cent.

Owners’ equivalent rent of primary residence, which is what a homeowner would pay to rent or receive from renting a home, increased 0.2 per cent in October after rising 0.3 per cent in September. But other shelter categories softened last month. The rent index rose 0.1 per cent, the smallest gain since April 2011.

Healthcare costs surged 1.0 per cent last month, the most since August 2016, after climbing 0.2 per cent in September. Apparel prices fell 1.8 per cent after dropping 0.4 per cent in the prior month.

Used motor vehicles and trucks prices increased 1.3 per cent after decreasing 1.6 per cent in September. — Reuters

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