Berliner Boersenzeitung - US consumer inflation eases slightly in April, sending stocks higher

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US consumer inflation eases slightly in April, sending stocks higher
US consumer inflation eases slightly in April, sending stocks higher / Photo: Brandon Bell - GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File

US consumer inflation eases slightly in April, sending stocks higher

US consumer inflation eased slightly last month, according to government data published Wednesday, in a positive sign for President Joe Biden ahead of November's election.

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The data supports his administration's messaging that the US economy has turned a corner, as it looks to quell consumers' concerns about the impact of rising prices going into an expected rematch against former president Donald Trump.

US stock markets set new records in New York following the publication of the inflation data, as hopes rose that the Federal Reserve would start cutting interest rates in the coming months.

The annual consumer price index (CPI) came in at 3.4 percent in April, down 0.1 percentage point from March, the Labor Department said in a statement.

This was in line with the median forecast of economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires and the Wall Street Journal.

Monthly inflation came in at 0.3 percent, slightly below expectations.

"I know many families are struggling, and that even though we've made progress we have a lot more to do," Biden said in a statement, adding: "Prices are still too high."

But Trump, his likely Republican opponent, said in a statement that American workers and families were "literally paying the price for Joe Biden's failed economic policies, with prices on household essentials like gas, food, rent and diapers skyrocketing."

"The American people cannot afford four more years of Bidenomics," he added.

- Core CPI slows further -

The April CPI data marks the first month of slowing annual data since January, although both the annual and monthly figures remain too high for policymakers' liking.

"The index for shelter rose in April, as did the index for gasoline," the Labor Department said in a statement.

"Combined, these two indexes contributed over seventy percent of the monthly increase in the index for all items," it added.

The gasoline index jumped by 2.8 percent from a month earlier, while shelter prices increased by 0.4 percent.

"This is a welcome moderation in consumer prices in April –- especially after the elevated reading that we've had in the first quarter," Nationwide Chief Economist Kathy Bostjancic told AFP.

She added that the data "keeps alive the prospect" of a first Federal Reserve interest rate cut in September.

In more good news for US consumers, a widely-watched inflation measure that excludes volatile food and energy prices also eased last month, rising at an annual rate of 3.6 percent, down from 3.8 percent in March.

This marked its lowest annual rate since April 2021, according to Labor Department data, and suggests the overall inflationary picture is moving firmly in the right direction.

The so-called "core" inflation index rose 0.3 percent in April from a month earlier, according to the Labor Department, also slightly lower than in March.

- Good for the Fed -

The April CPI data provides the US Fed with some welcome economic news as it mulls when to start lowering interest rates from their current 23-year high.

The US central bank has been locked in a battle against rising prices, hiking rates and holding them in a bid to bring inflation back down firmly to its long-term target of two percent.

"We think the data support the case for a patient approach on policy decisions from the Fed going forward although the base case remains one of lower rates this year," High Frequency Economics chief US economist Rubeela Farooqi wrote in a note to clients.

Bostjancic from Nationwide called the April CPI data "encouraging," but said the Fed would likely want to see more evidence that inflation was moving down towards target before they start cutting rates.

Nationwide expects the US central bank to make two interest rate cuts this year, with the first coming in September, she added.

This is one less than Fed policymakers penciled in back in March, when they predicted three quarter-percentage-point cuts this year.

Futures traders have raised their expectations of a September rate cut in recent days, and now put the chances of a cut by mid-September at just over 70 percent, according to data from CME Group.

(A.Lehmann--BBZ)