Food costs are up 11.2 percent over the past year. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News)
Despite authorities' efforts to reduce increased costs that have dragged on American consumers and companies, inflation accelerated in September, jumping 0.4 percent over the previous month.
Financial markets fell on the news, as investors concerned that the data might lead to higher interest rates from Federal Reserve policymakers. Despite the fact that financial markets matched such losses. For example, the Nasdaq fell over 3% at the outset but had recovered to be down only 1.5% by midday.
According to statistics issued Thursday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, prices jumped 8.2 percent in September compared to a year earlier, a little deceleration from the summer peak but still above four-decade highs.
"Core inflation," a highly monitored metric that excludes more volatile items like food and energy, rose 0.6 percent during the month, reflecting a comparable rate in August. That's a particularly concerning warning that inflation is getting more ingrained in the economy – and will be significantly more difficult to eradicate.
The most recent inflation data was influenced by rising expenses for housing, medical care, health insurance, new automobiles, home furnishings, and education. Higher costs in both categories have lasted for months and have only been somewhat offset by a 4.9 percent decline in the gasoline index, as prices continue to fall from summer highs. The fuel oil index gained 58.1 percent as well.
Rent remains one of the most significant components of the consumer price index, or inflation report. Rent increased by 0.8 percent in September, slightly more than in the previous two months. It has also increased by 7.2 percent in the last year, the most since 1982.
The Fed's rate rises had an immediate impact on the housing market, raising mortgage rates and causing home values to fall. However, experts predict that it will take months for rent prices to fall, forcing many Americans to strain their budgets merely to stay in their homes or move somewhere more cheap.
As in August, the food index increased by 0.8 percent in September. Fruits and vegetables increased by 1.6 percent, while cereals and pastry items increased by 0.9 percent. Flour, turkey, and butter all reached new highs. Food prices have risen 11.2 percent in the last year.
In September, a number of indices fell. Used vehicles and trucks declined 1.1 percent, which was less than analysts projected. Apparel fell 0.3 percent.
The economy's biggest challenge remains inflation, and Thursday's consumer price index data is the final one before the midterm elections next month. Families have been swallowing rising expenses for groceries, petrol, rent, and practically everything else for more than a year. Businesses are battling to balance increasing transportation costs, recruit adequate labor, and overcome recurring supply chain difficulties. Also on Thursday, the Social Security Administration announced an 8.7 percent rise in senior benefit checks beginning next year, in reaction to America's fastest inflation in four decades.
A dismal future looms above today's bleak reality, because no one knows if the Federal Reserve's attempts to cool down prices and the broader economy through higher interest rates will trigger a recession. This week, President Biden took an uncommon step by recognizing the prospect of a recession. "I don't believe a recession will occur." If that happens, it will be a very modest recession," Biden said in a CNN interview aired Tuesday.
Biden said in a statement on Thursday that "prices are still too high," and he chastised Republicans for blocking the Inflation Reduction Act, a significant piece of legislation aimed at decreasing health-care costs and addressing the climate problem. Republicans contend that Democrats' stimulus spending from earlier in the decade was wasteful, and that Biden and Congressional Democrats could not be trusted on economic concerns.
Federal Reserve officials have stated unequivocally that prices are so high that the Fed is far from slowing its aggressive rate raise campaign, even as economists increasingly warn that the Fed risks overcorrecting the economy. The Federal Reserve's policy rate, known as the federal funds rate, is now between 3 and 3.25 percent. Two more significant rises are forecast in November and December, and the latest inflation report raised analysts' estimates for a fourth three-quarters-point boost next month.
"Read and cry," said RSM's head economist, Joe Brusuelas. "Talk about the Fed taking a strong position. They may need to increase their hawkish language and commit to a policy rate of at least 5%."
To combat inflation, the Fed hikes interest rates, which may suffocate economic demand by making a wide range of financing more costly, from auto loans to mortgages. This year, the Fed has raised rates five times, most recently by three-quarters of a percentage point in September.
Uncertainty over the economy has reverberated through financial markets, which have been rocked by recession concerns in the US and elsewhere. The main indices have all dropped in response to the Fed's obvious warnings that it would not lighten off on rate rises, and Thursday's inflation data might send markets much lower. Market volatility, according to Fed officials, has little bearing on their rate rise intentions. However, plummeting stock prices might become a problem in next month's midterm elections, shaping people's perceptions of the economy's resilience.
At the same time, some sectors of the economy have remained robust in the face of rising inflation and sharp rate rises. The employment market is slowing in certain places but has maintained speed overall, with businesses creating a strong 263,000 positions in September. In August, both consumer expenditure and personal income increased. Consumer confidence has returned to pre-summer levels, when petrol prices hit $5 per gallon.
Food expenses have risen by roughly 20% at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, with essentials such as chicken, turkey, pinto beans, and rice all accounting for a higher portion of the organization's budget. Fuel expenditures have increased by 50% and will continue to be a significant operational expense even if gas prices decline.
According to CEO Michael Flood, the food bank served 800,000 individuals in September, a figure that is approximately comparable with the rest of the year. Flood said he frequently hears from families who can't afford to pay their rent, medicine, or fill up their gas tank and are forced to forgo meals.
"We expected 2022 to be a quieter year, with the job situation improving so dramatically compared to 2020 and 2021," Flood added. "But it's actually inflation that's sustained this demand for food aid at such a high level."
After misjudging inflation for the majority of the year, several analysts are concerned that the Fed's effort to reign it down would backfire. Rate rises have a lag, and it takes months for their full impact to be felt in the economy. Furthermore, governments can only address consumer demand issues. Their methods do not assist in addressing supply-side challenges such as chip shortages and housing shortages, which have drove up prices for used vehicles and new residences.
So far, Fed policymakers believe that not doing enough to combat inflation poses a higher danger. They agree, however, that these instruments are inaccurate and harsh, and that any fresh global shocks make preventing a recession considerably more difficult.
"The Federal Reserve considers the spillovers of higher interest rates, a stronger dollar, and lower demand from other countries into the United States, as well as the opposite way," Fed Vice Chair Lael Brainard said in a speech on Tuesday. "We are concerned about the possibility of more negative shocks, like as Russia's conflict against Ukraine, the pandemic, or China's zero-covid policies."
The Fed and other global central banks are facing increasing headwinds. The International Monetary Fund cut its global growth estimates on Tuesday, stating in a new study that "the worst is yet to come," and that "for many people, 2023 will feel like a recession." Russia's invasion of Ukraine is also causing havoc in the global economy, with a coalition of oil-producing countries led by Russia and Saudi Arabia stating last week that they will cut oil output, potentially sending gas prices back up. According to government statistics released Wednesday, wholesale prices grew more than expected in September.
Brunch at LuLu's in Richmond is still booming. However, the expense of supplying clients is reducing every profit margin. Payroll expenditures have increased by 20 to 30 percent since the epidemic began. It's difficult to find enough experienced kitchen employees. Owner Paul Keevil admitted that he knows he'd have to pay a few dollars more per hour for an unskilled line chef than he would have paid a veteran only a few years ago.
According to Keevil and General Manager Aaron Clifton, there is a limit to how much they can boost pricing at their intimate cafe. And because ingredient prices fluctuate so dramatically, they can only plan so far ahead.
"The price of eggs rises 400%." "If you raised the price of an omelet to $25, you'd be out of business," Clifton remarked. "No one would pay for it."