Thursday, January 18, 2007

Beige Book's Inflation News is Fair

From the Beige Book:

Overall prices increased moderately. Prices for energy and a number of materials have eased, and competition has kept prices for final goods in check. Atlanta, Chicago, Minneapolis and Kansas City described price pressures as easing or moderating. Manufacturers in the Boston and Cleveland Districts reported that input prices were stable, although contacts noted some increases in metal prices. Meanwhile, manufacturers in the New York District indicated some increases in input price pressures. Retail prices were steady in the New York, Atlanta and Dallas Districts, but were edging up slightly in the Richmond District. Philadelphia noted that reports of price increases at business firms were not as widespread as they were earlier in the fall. Dallas described price pressures as mixed, while San Francisco said final prices rose at a modest pace.

First -- copper prices have dropped since this report was written. That means the "some contacts indicated metal prices were increasing" has either already gone away or is in the process of ameliorating.

This report uses the word "moderating" and "eased" a lot. That plays into the Fed's general story right now, which is as the economy slows price pressures will weaken. This has been the Fed's contention for the last 6 months. When Bernanke first started using this language I was skeptical. However, the economy is making Ben look good right now.

The areas of inflation increases look more like inflation "hot pockets" -- areas of limited scope and influence rather than a system wide problem.

Ben speaks to the Senate today.