Consumer Price Index: Headline CPI At 2.4%

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released the March Consumer Price Index data this morning. The year-over-year non-seasonally adjusted Headline CPI came in at 2.38%, down from 2.74% the previous month. Year-over-year Core CPI (ex Food and Energy) came in at 2.00%, down from the previous month's 2.22%.

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) decreased 0.3 percent in March on a seasonally adjusted basis, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items index rose 2.4 percent before seasonal adjustment.

The March decline was the first 1-month decrease in the seasonally adjusted all items index since February 2016. A decline in the gasoline index was the largest factor, with a decrease in the index for wireless telephone services also contributing. The energy index declined 3.2 percent, with the gasoline index falling 6.2 percent, and other major energy component indexes decreasing as well. The food index rose 0.3 percent, with the index for food at home increasing 0.5 percent, its largest increase since May 2014.

The index for all items less food and energy fell 0.1 percent in March, its first decline since January 2010. The shelter index rose 0.1 percent, and the indexes for motor vehicle insurance, medical care, tobacco, airline fares, and alcoholic beverages also increased in March. These increases were more than offset by declines in several indexes, including those for wireless telephone services, used cars and trucks, new vehicles, and apparel.

The all items index rose 2.4 percent for the 12 months ending March, a smaller increase than the 2.7-percent rise for the period ending February. The index for all items less food and energy rose 2.0 percent over the last 12 months, the smallest 12-month increase since November 2015. The energy index rose 10.9 percent over the last year, while the food index increased 0.5 percent. [More…]

Investing.com was looking for a 0.1% increase MoM in seasonally adjusted Headline CPI and 0.2% in Core CPI. Year-over-year forecasts were 2.6% for Headline and 2.3% 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 currently at the PCE target range of 2 percent.