Haver Analytics
Haver Analytics

Economy in Brief: August 2022

    • Applications for purchases and refinancing dropped in the August 26 week.
    • Applications for adjustable-rate mortgages surged.
    • Interest rates rose for fixed-rate loans.
    • ADP introduced new private nonfarm employment measures.
    • Private employment increased 132,000 in August, led by services.
    • This was the weakest gain since January 2021.
    • Pay gains stabilized but remained elevated.
    • Production & new orders improve moderately; inventories surge.
    • Employment weakens & supplier delivery speeds quicken.
    • Price index holds steady.
  • The French statistical agency has released its preliminary HICP estimate for August; the month shows a flat inflation performance compared to July. Unfortunately, August shows only the observation on French inflation for the headline. We really can't dig into the details on why things changed that much in August compared to July. However, the headline shows the 12-month inflation rate in August dipped to 6.5% from July's 6.8%. For France in August the year-on-year inflation rate is decelerating. And the gain of 6.5% year-over-year in compares to a 2.4% pace in August one year ago. While inflation was excessive a year ago, it was excessive in a moderate sense. This makes it clear that the overshoot from inflation is really a recent phenomenon with these very high inflation rates reflecting events mostly over the last 12 months. Sequentially inflation now shows a 6.5% pace over 12 months, a 7.6% pace over six months and a lower 5.7% pace over three months. That is the new August profile.

    Trends as of July The rest of the table concerns how French inflation looks at the up-to-date statistics through July and earlier. In July, the core rate had increased by 0.8% from June's 0.2%, an acceleration even as the headline had cooled to a 0.5% July gain compared to 0.8% in June.

    The sequential calculations on the HICP core show inflation have accelerated from a 4.3% pace over 12 months to 5.8% over six months to 6.2% over three months. On that same timeline, the CPI excluding energy for France accelerated from 4% over 12 months to 5.4% over six months to 5.6% over three months-roughly like the core path in the HICP framework. The CPI headline for France is on the same time dimension in the other data in the table, except of course for the headline of the HICP.

    The headline of the CPI shows both acceleration and the deceleration. The 6% annual gain over 12 months accelerates to 8.4% over six months then it decelerates to 7.5% over three months. This, of course, is a contrary pattern to both core measures both of which are in the same timeline as the CPI headline.

    The French domestic CPI could be translating the recent weakness in Brent oil prices into a somewhat slower headline gains for the CPI. Brent prices have decelerated over the three months ended in July, rising only at a 12.8% annual rate after rising at a 72% annual rate over six months and at a 61% annual rate over 12 months. In fact, in July the month-to-month change in the price of Brent expressed in euros fell by 10.8%. One thing all central banks are looking forward to is getting some relief on their inflation from what has been weakening energy prices even though the longer-run outlook for energy remains quite difficult as many countries have stuck to their ‘Green agendas' despite the pain of it. In the euro area, there is added concern about energy supplies let alone price.

    In the most recent month for which we have detailed data (i.e., July 2022), we see declines in three categories among the 11 detailed and the CPI report. Prices fall month-to-month for healthcare, transportation, and communications. Healthcare prices have been weak for some time in France; they fell by 0.6% over the last year and in the previous 12-month period they had fallen by 1.7%. This is a structural change in healthcare prices. Transportation prices fell by 0.4% in July after rising by 3.3% in June; they have been ramping up at a double-digit pace over three months, six months and 12 months because of the contribution to energy costs from rising energy prices. Communication goods include a lot of technology. Technology alone helps to moderate communications prices; those prices are up by 0.1% over 12 months and up by 1.9% in the previous 12 months. In addition to their fall in July, communication prices were flat in June.

    France saw some inflation pressures too. Month-to-month inflation for restaurant & hotel prices rose by 1.8% in July after rising 0.4% in June. Food prices are still strong rising at 1.3% month-to-month after June's 1.3% rise. Food price gains are still in double digits over three months and accelerating. Restaurant & hotel prices are also in double digits over three months and six months, and they also are accelerating. This reflects the return by consumers to the restaurant and hotel sector after COVID had essentially redlined that sector for a prolonged period.

    • House prices rose minimally in June.
    • House prices posted monthly declines in five out of nine regions.
    • The number of job openings edged up, the first monthly increase in four months.
    • New hires continued to ease.
    • Separations edged down with small declines in both quits and layoffs.
    • Gasoline prices decline an 11th consecutive week.
    • But crude oil prices edge slightly higher.
    • Natural gas prices reach highest level in 18 months.
    • Up 7.9 pts. to higher-than-expected 103.2 in August; the first m/m rise following three straight m/m drops.
    • Present Situation Index at 145.4, the first m/m gain since March.
    • Expectations Index at 75.1, the first m/m rise to the highest level since April, but still below 80, suggesting continued recession risks.
    • Consumers generally less optimistic about the present labor market but more optimistic about the short-term labor market outlook.
    • Inflation expectations, while continuing their retreat, remain elevated.