Consumer Price Index: December Headline at 2.1%

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 2.11%, down from 2.20% the previous month. Year-over-year Core CPI (ex Food and Energy) came in at 1.78%, up from the previous month's 1.71%.

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

he Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.1 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.

An increase of 0.4 percent in the shelter index accounted for almost 80 percent of the 1-month all items increase. The food index rose in December, with the indexes for food at home and food away from home both increasing. The energy index, which rose sharply in November, declined in December as the gasoline index decreased.

The index for all items less food and energy increased 0.3 percent in December, its largest increase since January 2017. Along with the shelter index, the indexes for medical care, used cars and trucks, new vehicles, and motor vehicle insurance were among those that increased in December. The indexes for apparel, airline fares, and tobacco all declined over the month.

The all items index rose 2.1 percent for the 12 months ending December, compared to 2.2 percent for the 12 months ending November. The index for all items less food and energy increased 1.8 percent over the last year; the 12-month change has now been either 1.7 or 1.8 percent for eight consecutive months. The food index rose 1.6 percent over the past year; the index for energy increased 6.9 percent, with all of its major component indexes rising during 2017. [More…]

Investing.com was looking for a 0.2% increase MoM in seasonally adjusted Headline CPI and 0.2% in Core CPI. Year-over-year forecasts were 2.1% for Headline and 1.7% 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 below the PCE target range of 2 percent.