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US inflation up; Fed a step closer to rate hike

Reuters Washington | Updated on January 24, 2018

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen testifies at a Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on "Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to Congress" on Capitol Hill in Washington, in this February 24, 2015 file photo. The U.S. Federal Reserve should delay a rate hike until the first half of 2016 until there are signs of a pickup in wages and inflation, the International Monetary Fund said in its annual assessment of the economy on June 4, 2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/Files   -  Reuters

US consumer prices post largest gain in more than two years

U.S. consumer prices in May recorded their largest increase in more than two years as gasoline prices surged, suggesting an energy-driven disinflationary trend had probably run its course.

Other data on Thursday showed the labour market continued to tighten, as first-time applications for unemployment benefits declined last week to a near 15-year low. The slight pickup in inflation and a strengthening labour market put the Federal Reserve a step closer to raising interest rates later this year. The Consumer Price Index rose 0.4 per cent last month after gaining 0.1 per cent in April, the Labour Department said. That was the largest increase since February 2013, and left the CPI unchanged in the 12 months through May after a 0.2 per cent yearly decline in April.

While energy prices are stabilising, a strong dollar is curbing underlying inflation pressures.

The so-called core CPI, which strips out food and energy costs, increased 0.1 per cent, the smallest rise since December, after advancing 0.3 per cent in April.

In the 12 months through May, the core CPI rose 1.7 per cent after a yearly increase of 1.8 per cent in April.

Given a tightening labour market, which is expected to spur stronger wage growth, the retreat in underlying inflation pressures likely does not change views that the Fed will tighten monetary policy as early as September.

The US central bank on Wednesday noted the stabilisation in energy prices and expr-essed confidence that inflation will gradually move toward its 2 per cent target. The Fed has kept its short-term lending rate near zero since December 2008.

In a second report, the Labour Department said initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 267,000 for the week ended June 13. It was the 15th straight week that claims held below 3,00,000, a threshold usually associated with a firming labour market.

The claims data covered the period in which the government surveyed employers for the payrolls portion of June’s employment report. Jobless claims fell 8,000 between the May and June survey periods, suggesting another month of job gains above 2,00,000.

CAD widens

In a third report, the Commerce Department said the current account deficit, which measures the flow of goods, services and investments into and out of the country, increased 9.9 per cent to $113.3 billion. That was the largest shortfall since the second quarter of 2012 and likely reflected the dollar’s drag on overseas profits and exports.

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Published on June 18, 2015
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