WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. consumer prices were unchanged for a third straight month in January, leading to the smallest annual increase in inflation in more than 1-1/2 years, which could allow the Federal Reserve to hold interest rates steady for a while.
The Labor Department’s report on Wednesday supported the Fed’s recent description of price pressures being “muted.” In a policy statement last month, the U.S. central bank kept rates unchanged, pledged to be “patient” before tightening monetary policy further and discarded promises of “further gradual increases” in borrowing costs.
Inflation - Check - Jim - Baird - Investment
“Inflation still appears to be well in check,” said Jim Baird, chief investment officer at Plante Moran Financial Advisors in Kalamazoo, Michigan. “That should be enough for the Fed to take time to evaluate the gradual effects of its prior rate hikes and move more slowly and thoughtfully in administering rate policy in the months ahead.”
The Consumer Price Index last month was held down by cheaper gasoline, which offset increases in the cost of food, rent, healthcare, recreation, apparel, motor vehicles and household furnishings. In the 12 months through January, the CPI rose 1.6 percent, the smallest gain since June 2017. The CPI increased 1.9 percent on a year-on-year basis in December.
Food - Energy - Components - CPI - Percent
Excluding the volatile food and energy components, the CPI gained 0.2 percent, rising by the same margin for a fifth straight month. In the 12 months through January, the so-called core CPI rose 2.2 percent for a third straight month.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the CPI edging up 0.1 percent in January and the core CPI rising 0.2 percent.
Increases - Core - Inflation - Gain - Months
While the steady increases in core inflation resulted in the biggest three-month annualized gain in 10 months, economists said they did not believe it signaled a material shift in underlying inflation trends.
“The Fed will be focused more on longer time frames,” said...
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