Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Except for fictitious shelter and motor vehicle insurance and repairs, consumer inflation is thoroughly contained


 - by New Deal democrat

The October CPI report confirmed yet again what I have been saying for months: except for fictitious shelter, both headline and core inflation are well within what should be the Fed’s comfort zone.

Headline inflation (blue in the first two graphs below) was unchanged in October (thank you, renewed decline in gas prices!) and was up 3.2% YoY. Core inflation less food and energy (red) increased 0.2%, and was up 4.0% YoY.

Shelter, which is 1/3rd of the headline index, and 40% of core, increased 0.3% for the month - still the 2nd lowest increase in over 2 years - and was up 6.7% YoY. More importantly, CPI ex-shelter (gold) was *down* -0.1% for the month, and up only 1.5% YoY.

We don’t have the October read yet from the Atlanta Fed, but as of September 2021, “sticky” CPI ex food, energy, and shelter (gray) was up 2.9 YoY, and will probably be lower for October. [I will update once it is reported later this morning]

Here’s the month over month look:

And here’s the YoY look:

Parenthetically, several weeks ago the Apartment List National Rent Index shows a YoY decline for the 3rd month in a row through October:

Since fictitious shelter lags the change in both house prices and apartment rents by 12 months or more, here’s the update of the YoY% change in the Case Shiller housing index vs. Owner’s Equivalent Rent:

OER rose more slowly than house prices, and is coming down more slowly as well, but I expect the rate of decline to pick up a bit in the months ahead.

Aside from shelter, the only significant categories up 4.0% or higher YoY were food away from home (restaurants), up  0.4% for the month and up 5.4% YoY (vs. 6.0% last month), and transportation services (auto insurance and repairs), up 0.8% for the month and up 9.2% YoY (vs. 9.1% last month). Here’s the YoY trend in both:

The former problem children of new vehicle prices actually *declined* -0.1% in September, and used vehicle prices (/2 for scale in the graph below) continued their cliff-diving, down -0.8%. YoY they are up 1.9% and down -7.1%, respectively:

The bottom line is, except for the lagging index of shelter, and vehicle insurance and repairs, inflation is well-contained. And if shelter were calculated realistically, headline inflation would only be up 1.8%, and core inflation up about 1.2%. We know where shelter inflation is heading, because rents and house prices are already there. So the only remaining question is what happens to other prices, like gas, in the next 6 to 12 months.