Consumer Price Index: Headline CPI Rises Above 2%

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released the December Consumer Price Index data this morning. The year-over-year non-seasonally adjusted Headline CPI came in at 2.07%, up from 1.69% the previous month. Year-over-year Core CPI (ex Food and Energy) came in at 2.20%, up from the previous month's 2.11%. This is the first month of Headline CPI above 2% since June 2014, 30 months ago.

Here is the introduction from the BLS summary, which leads with the seasonally adjusted monthly data:

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.3 percent in December on a seasonally adjusted basis, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items index rose 2.1 percent before seasonal adjustment.

Continuing their recent trends, the shelter and gasoline indexes increased in December and were largely responsible for the seasonally adjusted all items increase. The shelter index rose 0.3 percent in December, while the gasoline index increased 3.0 percent.

Recent trends also continued in the food indexes, as the food at home index again declined, offsetting an increase in the index for food away from home and leaving the overall food index unchanged for the sixth consecutive month. The energy index continued to rise, advancing 1.5 percent in December, primarily due to an increase in the gasoline index.

The index for all items less food and energy rose 0.2 percent in December, the same increase as in November. Along with the shelter index, the indexes for motor vehicle insurance, medical care, education, airline fares, used cars and trucks, and new vehicles were among the indexes that increased. The indexes for apparel and communication declined in December. [More…]

Investing.com was looking for a 0.3% increase MoM in seasonally adjusted Headline CPI and 0.2% in Core CPI. Year-over-year forecasts were 2.1% for Headline and 2.2% for Core.

The first chart is an overlay of Headline CPI and Core CPI (the latter excludes Food and Energy) since the turn of the century. The highlighted two percent level is the Federal Reserve's Core inflation target for the CPI's cousin index, the BEA's Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) price index.

Headline and Core CPI since 2000

The next chart shows both series since 1957, the year the government first began tracking Core Inflation.

Headline and Core CPI

In the wake of the Great Recession, two percent has been the Fed's target for core inflation. However, at their December 2012 FOMC meeting, the inflation ceiling was raised to 2.5% while their accommodative measures (low Fed Funds Rate and quantitative easing) were in place. They have since reverted to the two percent target in their various FOMC documents.

Federal Reserve policy, which in recent history has focused on core inflation measured by the core PCE Price Index, will see that the more familiar core CPI is above the PCE target range of 2 percent.