The Bureau of Labor Statistics will issue its Consumer Price Index report for April on Wednesday. The measurement, which tracks price movements across a broad range of goods and services, is expected to show the rate of inflation slowed slightly to 8.1% from 8.5%, according to a survey of Bloomberg analysts.
Here are five things to keep an eye out for in the report to be released on May 11 at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.
The tide is turning, but the ocean remains choppy
Inflation is a hot topic these days, and it’s gone from just a transitory blip to grabbing headlines for over a year now. Americans across the country have watched with dismay as their hard-earned money’s purchasing power is sapped away month by month while prices increase at their fastest pace since 1982.
Nearly a third of Americans cite inflation as the most important financial problem their family faces, up from 8% a year ago, according to a recent Gallup survey.
Analysts expect inflation to recede as price increases from early 2021 work their way out of the calculation for annual inflation. If the annual rate decreases, it could mean that inflation has peaked, but some experts say that’s still unclear with wild-card factors like a war in Ukraine and renewed coronavirus lockdowns in China.
“I’d prefer to say that we were at peak levels, and it was nothing but green shoots or blue skies ahead, but unfortunately, I do think we’re going to see continued volatility in prices until we resolve these international issues,” said Lindsey Piegza, chief economist at Stifel Financial Corp., an investment banking company.
Gasoline might make a scene but will likely show a slump from March
The average price of gasoline in the United States hit a record on Tuesday, climbing to an eye-popping $4.37 per gallon, but the recent increase in prices will not be captured in this month’s CPI report.
Instead, goods and services tied to energy commodity prices will likely show a decrease from March to April, as part of a short-lived reprieve from the previous peak in gas prices, set at $4.33 per gallon on March 12.
Last month’s report indicated gasoline prices have risen 48% in the 12 months through March. Rising gas prices also accounted for over half of the increases in monthly inflation that month.
Some food for thought – and more dough too
Rising food prices impact everyone, especially households that spend more of their budget on necessities. Analysts expect April’s report to show that food prices have stabilized, but the latest CPI data reflects grocery prices are up 10% compared to a year ago and that food away from home was 6.9% more expensive in the year through March.
Global production issues are adding upwards pressure on food prices, making everything more expensive for producers from fertilizing crops to feeding livestock.
Russia and Ukraine are major exporters of wheat and other agricultural commodities like fertilizer. Prices at the grocery store were climbing long before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but the war has since roiled agricultural markets and sent wheat prices soaring, up 43% over the past year, according to data from trading economics.
Gimme shelter, are prices gonna fade away?
Housing costs make up nearly a third of the consumer price index and 40% of core inflation, which excludes more volatile food and energy prices. Any movement in prices could have a significant impact on how inflation looks for April. The monthly increase for shelter prices in March accounted for nearly two thirds of the gains to core inflation.
Analysts will be watching closely whether there is a deceleration in the climbing price of shelter costs. If prices start climbing at a steeper rate, it will signal that inflation is continuing to spread throughout the broader economy.
The good, the bad and the ugly
In a speech on Tuesday, President Joe Biden delivered remarks from the White House on what his administration is doing to combat inflation and how his approach differs from what Republicans propose.
His chances of reelection in 2024 and the reputation of Democrats heading into the midterm elections will be largely influenced by how quickly inflation comes down and the public’s perception of how hard Biden is fighting to get it under control.
If the numbers in April’s report look as bad as they did in March, it will only build upon the narrative that’s tarnished his approval rating.