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Economy in Brief

U.S. Consumer Price Gain Accelerates in March
by Tom Moeller  April 12, 2022

• Twelve-month gain is strongest since December 1981.

• Energy prices soar and food prices remain strong.

• Services prices strengthen, but core goods prices fall.

The Consumer Price Index gained 1.2% (8.5% y/y) last month after rising 0.8% in February. It was the largest monthly increase since October 2005. The increase matched expectations in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. Prices excluding food & energy rose 0.3% last month (6.5% y/y), the weakest monthly increase in six months. It compared to a 0.5% expected gain.

Energy prices were strong in March, surging 11.0% (32.0% y/y). Gasoline prices jumped 18.3% (48.0% y/y) to a record high. Fuel oil prices surged 22.3% (70.1% y/y). The cost of electricity strengthened 2.2% (11.1% y/y), while natural gas prices rose 0.6% (21.6% y/y).

Food price inflation remained strong last month and posted a second consecutive 1.0% gain (8.8% y/y). Egg prices rose 1.9% (11.2% y/y) while fruit & vegetable prices jumped 1.5% (8.5% y/y). Cereal & bakery product prices also gained 1.5% (9.4% y/y) while dairy product costs strengthened 1.2% (7.0% y/y). Meat, poultry & fish prices gained 0.9% (13.8% y/y).

Services prices rose 0.6% (4.7% y/y), the quickest increase since September 1990. The cost of public transportation surged 7.1% (14.9% y/y), twice the elevated February increase. Hotel prices strengthened 3.3% (25.1% y/y) while the owners equivalent rent of primary residences gained 0.4% (4.5% y/y). Rents of primary residences rose 0.4% (4.4% y/y). The cost of medical care services rose 0.6% (2.9% y/y). Recreation services prices rose 0.5% (4.8% y/y). Education prices eased 0.1% (+1.6% y/y).

Goods prices excluding food & energy declined 0.4% (+11.7% y/y) in March. Price changes within categories were mixed. Used car & truck prices slid 3.8% (+35.3% y/y). Education & communication product prices fell 0.6% (+1.3% y/y) while recreation product prices eased 0.1% (+4.7% y/y). To the upside, household appliance prices surged 1.5% (8.0% y/y) while furnishings prices rose 1.0% (10.8% y/y). Apparel prices increased 0.6% (6.8% y/y). New vehicle prices edged up 0.2% (12.5% y/y).

The Consumer Price Index data can be found in Haver's USECON database with additional detail in CPIDATA. The Action Economics survey figure is in the AS1REPNA database.

Consumer Price Index, All Urban Consumers (% chg) Mar Feb Jan Mar Y/Y 2021  2020 2019
Total 1.2 0.8 0.6 8.5 4.2 1.2 1.8
Total less Food & Energy 0.3 0.5 0.6 6.5 3.2 1.8 2.2
  Goods less Food & Energy -0.4 0.4 1.0 11.7 5.6 0.0 0.2
  Services less Energy 0.6 0.5 0.4 4.7 2.5 2.3 2.8
 Food 1.0 1.0 0.9 8.8 3.7 3.3 1.9
 Energy 11.0 3.5 0.9 32.0 18.3 -7.4 -2.4
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