Consumer price inflation hit a new 40-year high in March
The Consumer Price Index rose 8.5% for the year ended in March, not adjusted for seasonal swings. That outpaced February’s elevated reading of 7.9% and marked a level not seen since December 1981 when the CPI stood at 8.9%. Tuesday’s March data was slightly higher than the 8.4% economists had predicted.
Most of the March increase was driven by a jump in gasoline and food prices, which rose as the Ukraine conflict threw global commodities markets for a loop, as well as an upswing in housing costs.
Last month alone, US gas prices rose by more than 18%. Year-over-year, the price of gas soared by 48%.
Stripping out the more volatile food and energy categories, prices rose 6.5% over the 12-month period ended in March — the biggest jump since August 1982.
Energy costs soared 32% over the last year, while food prices rose by 8.8%. It was the biggest increase in food prices since May 1981.
Even though these more volatile items contributed so much to last month’s price hikes, Tuesday’s numbers also show that inflationary pressures are broad across the economy, said Joe Brusuelas, chief economist at RSM US.
“Yes, inflation may soon find its peak. However, that does not imply significant relief is on the way in the near term,” he said.
“Price shocks continue to cascade through the US economy. The risk of further oil and energy shocks given the war in Eastern Europe and the possibility that the European Union may choose to cut off natural gas and oil imports from Russia … would significantly roil global oil prices,” Brusuelas said in a note to clients.
For the month of March, consumer prices rose 1.2% with seasonal adjustments, the biggest jump since September 2005. Excluding food and energy, prices rose 0.3% — less than in February, underlining how big a factor commodity prices are in the current inflation spike.
Airline tickets, furniture, medical care and motor vehicle insurance also increased in price.
“The good news here is that core inflation slowed on a month-on-month basis,” wrote Brian Coulton, chief economist at ratings agency Fitch, in emailed comments. Most of that decline can be attributed to falling car prices, he added.
This is a developing story. It will be updated
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