On Tuesday, February 14, the U.S. Consumer Price Index (CPI) figures were released, showing an increase of 0.5% in January and the highest in three months but in-line with expectations. The year-on-year increase, meanwhile, is 6.4%, up slightly from market forecasts of 6.2%.
Meanwhile, the core CPI, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, increased by 0.4% on the month and 5.6% on the year.
Demonstrating that inflation was decorating slower than expected, both the CPI and its core version came in above estimates; while inflation remains much higher than the Fed’s 2% target.
Housing costs are responsible for around half of the monthly price rise, making up more than one-third of the core Consumer Price Index. This sector increased by 0.7% in the month and was up 7.9% compared to the same time the previous year.
These rising prices resulted in a decrease in real wages for workers. According to a separate report by the BLS, which accounts for inflation, average hourly earnings fell by 0.2% for the month and were down 1.8% compared to a year ago.
The U.S. dollar surged earlier in the month as the markets digested somewhat-hawkish FOMC guidance. Following the latest CPI readings, the dollar bounced off a weekly low, jumping to the 104 level before settling around 103 currently. Bond yields were also boosted, with the 10-Year Treasury Yield up to 3.79% and the 2-Year Note jumping to 4.62%.
Strangely enough, the equity markets are also flashing diverging signals, with the S&P 500 edging up 0.28% on the day even as the Fed continues to give signals that interest rates will continue to stay up, with possibly a higher than previous forecast peak rate.
Equities have found some manner of a rally since the start of 2023 after being battered by tightening monetary policy for most of 2022. The latest hawkish Fed guidance, however, seems to have had little effect in quelling that. Even as U.S retail sales data showed the strongest reading in almost 2 years – prompting further price pressures – stocks remain elevated.
Some attribute this disconnect to the divergence in market expectations and their subsequent pricing in. With investors split among believing the Fed can pull off a so-called “soft landing”, or expecting the U.S. to slip into a recession, it looks like the markets are in a “goldilocks” mood with a strong economy and what looks like moderating, if too-high inflation.
Investors are now advised to look out for January’s PPI figures, which will be released on Thursday, 16 Feb at 15:30 (GMT+2). The PPI is another key inflation reading, measuring prices from manufacturers’ perspective.
As a friendly reminder, do keep an eye on market changes, control your positions, and manage your risk well.