Consumer Price Index: April Headline at 4.16%, Largest Increase Since 9/2008

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released the April Consumer Price Index data this morning. The year-over-year non-seasonally adjusted Headline CPI came in at 4.16%, up from 2.62% the previous month. Year-over-year Core CPI (ex Food and Energy) came in at 2.96%, up from 1.65% the previous month and above the Fed's 2% PCE target.

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 0.8 percent in April on a seasonally adjusted basis after rising 0.6 percent in March, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 4.2 percent before seasonal adjustment.

This is the largest 12-month increase since a 4.9-percent increase for the period ending September 2008. The index for used cars and trucks rose 10.0 percent in April. This was the largest 1-month increase since the series began in 1953, and it accounted for over a third of the seasonally adjusted all items increase. The food index increased in April, rising 0.4 percent as the indexes for food at home and food away from home both increased. The energy index decreased slightly, as a decline in the index for gasoline in April more than offset increases in the indexes for electricity and natural gas.

The index for all items less food and energy rose 0.9 percent in April, its largest monthly increase since April 1982. Nearly all major component indexes increased in April. Along with the index for used cars and trucks, the indexes for shelter, airline fares, recreation, motor vehicle insurance, and household furnishings and operations were among the indexes with a large impact on the overall increase.

The all items index rose 4.2 percent for the 12 months ending April, a larger increase than the 2.6- percent increase for the period ending March. Similarly, the index for all items less food and energy rose 3.0 percent over the last 12 months, a larger increase than the 1.6-percent rise over the 12 month period ending in March. The energy index rose 25.1 percent over the last 12-months, and the food index increased 2.4 percent. Read more

Investing.com was looking for a 0.2% MoM change in seasonally adjusted Headline CPI and a 0.3% in Core CPI. Year-over-year forecasts were 3.6% 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 now at the PCE target range of 2 percent.

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