Haver Analytics
Haver Analytics

Economy in Brief: May 2022

    • First dip below zero since July 2020.
    • Production and shipments increased while orders and employment fell.
    • Prices paid little changed; prices received edged down.
    • Delivery times shortened markedly.
    • The production index rose 10 points and the orders index increased 8.6 points.
    • Employment still points to contraction in the number of employees.
    • Price pressures intensified in May.
  • Inflation in the European Monetary Union (EMU) rose 0.8% in the preliminary reading. Inflation remains strong across the four largest European economies with inflation in Germany up by 1.1% in May, with Italy at 1.2%, with France and Spain both showing 0.7% increases month-to-month in their headline inflation rates. However, Germany reports an ex-energy rate which was up by 'only' 0.6% in May; Italy's core reading is up by 0.8% month-to-month.

    Over three months, EMU inflation is at an 11% annual rate, with German inflation at a 15% annual rate, French and Spanish inflation at a 9% annual rate, and Italy's rate at a pace of about 6%. These are still high rates and showing acceleration over three months. Italy and Spain are exceptions to inflation accelerating over three-months compared to six-months.

    Inflation does accelerate steadily from 12-months to six-months to three-months in the EMU, Germany, and France. For Italy and Spain, inflation accelerates from 12-months to six-months and then tails off over three-months.

    The increase in inflation is striking. The month-to-month rates picked up in May across the board with the lone exception being German inflation excluding energy. The year-over-year inflation rate in May compared to April accelerates for every comparison in the table except for Brent oil prices.

    One striking feature is the substantial acceleration for inflation over the last 12-months compared to what it was over 12-months one-year ago. In May 2022, the year-over-year inflation rate is 8.1%; one-year ago the year-over-year inflation rate was 1.9%. That is a massive acceleration. The acceleration compared to a year ago is striking for every single comparison except for Brent oil in euros; for that measure inflation 12-months ago was up 118.5% over 12-months compared to being up 80% over 12-months in May 2022. Both are still quite sizeable increases.

    But now China is showing some signs of revival, and oil prices have started to get a lift from that. The ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine raises pricing risks, creates availability problems, and particularly will be hitting food prices very hard. Because of this environment, it makes the outlook for inflation still very difficult. Despite the clear overheated headlines and lesser gains for inflation excluding energy, the outlook for inflation remains uncertain. Everyone 'expects' inflation will be reduced…but how low and how fast?

    Central banks are obsessing about the difference between headline and core inflation for policy purposes. In Germany, for example, headline year-on-year inflation is 8.8%, but ex-energy inflation is only 4.6%. For Italy, headline inflation is 7.4% while core inflation is 3.5%. The excluding energy or core inflation rates are still uncomfortably high, but they don't carry the sticker shock that headline inflation has.

    • Present situation & expectation readings decline.
    • Expectations for employment diminish.
    • Inflation expectations ease.
    • House prices rise to another record level.
    • Strength is broad-based regionally.
    • Int'l trade deficit deepening subtracts near-record from GDP growth.
    • Inventory decumulation continues.
    • Domestic demand picks up.
    • Spending gain led by broad-based durable goods strength.
    • Core price inflation moderates.
    • Wage & salary growth remains firm.
    • Exports rose for third consecutive month while imports fell after outsized gain in March.
    • April deficit well below Q1 average, auguring for trade to contribute to Q2 GDP growth.