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Economy in Brief

CPI Up An Expected 0.4% During March
by Tom Moeller April 19, 2006

During March, the consumer price index (CPI-U) rose 0.4% following a 0.1% February up tick and matched Consensus expectations. The 0.3% rise in prices less food & energy, however, was slightly firmer than expected.

Prices for core goods rose 0.3% (0.2% y/y) after a 0.1% February decline. Apparel prices reversed all of the prior month's drop with a 1.0% (-1.2% y/y) increase and household furnishings & operation prices ticked up 0.1% (0.5% y/y) after no change during February. Medical care commodity prices rose 0.4% (4.1% y/y) while tobacco prices rose a strong 0.6% (4.5% y/y). New & used motor vehicle prices fell 0.1% (+0.4% y/y).

Another 0.3% increase in core services prices reflected a second 0.4% (2.6% y/y) increase in shelter prices. Medical care services prices increased 0.4% (4.1% y/y) while school tuition & fees posted a firm 0.5% (6.1% y/y) gain. Public transportation prices fell by 0.3% (+5.9% y/y), the third decline in the last four months.

Energy prices during March reversed all of the prior month's decline with a 1.3% jump led by a 3.6% (17.0% y/y) spurt in gasoline prices, which have moved 10.7% higher so far during April. Natural gas & electricity prices fell 1.1% (+17.8% y/y) for the third decline in the last four months and fuel oil prices ticked up 0.4% (17.9% y/y).

Food prices inched up another 0.1%, the gain held back by a 1.7% (+6.4% y/y) decline in fruits & vegetables prices. Meat, fish & poultry prices reversed all of the prior month's decline with a 0.3% (0.9% y/y) rise.

The chained CPI, which adjusts for shifts in the mix of consumer purchases, jumped 0.5% and less food & energy prices rose a stronger 0.6%.

Minutes to the latest FOMC meeting can be found here.

The Interaction of Labor Markets and Inflation: Micro Evidence from the International Wage Flexibility Project from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francesco is available here.

Consumer Price Index Mar Feb Y/Y 2005 2004 2003
Total  0.4% 0.1% 3.4% 3.4% 2.7% 2.3%
 Total less Food & Energy 0.3% 0.1% 2.1% 2.2% 1.8% 1.5%
  Goods less Food & Energy 0.3% -0.1% 0.2% 0.5% -0.9% -2.0%
  Services less Energy 0.3% 0.3% 2.8% 2.8% 2.8% 2.9%
 Energy 1.3% -1.2% 17.3% 16.9% 10.8% 12.2%
 Food 0.1% 0.1% 2.6% 2.4% 3.4% 2.1%
             
Chained CPI: Total (NSA) 0.5% 0.3% 3.0% 2.9% 2.5% 2.0%
 Total less Food & Energy 0.6% 0.4% 2.0% 1.9% 1.7% 1.1%
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