Breaking down April inflation report, and how Fed could respond

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May 15: Inflation Decreases, but Hopes Dwindle for Upcoming Fed Meeting

In the United States, inflation increased by 3.4% in the year leading up to April, down from 3.5% in the year leading up to March. However, this decrease is unlikely to lead to a reduction in borrowing costs when the Federal Reserve announces its decision on June 12, according to Andrew Michael.

The latest data from the Labor Bureau of Statistics also revealed that inflation rose by 0.3% in April itself, compared to a 0.4 percentage point increase in March.

The Bureau attributed nearly three-quarters of the overall monthly increase to rising costs of housing and fuel.

The core annual inflation rate in the US, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, rose by 3.6% in the year leading up to April, down from 3.8% the previous month. The Bureau reported a 0.3 percentage point increase for the core monthly figure in April, slightly lower than the 0.4% increase recorded in the previous month.

After aggressively raising borrowing costs to 5.25% last year, the US central bank, the Federal Reserve, seemed to be successful in bringing soaring inflation levels back down to their long-term target of 2% (shared by the Bank of England and other central banks).

However, in recent months, achieving this target has proven to be more challenging than expected.
According to Lindsay James, an investment strategist at Quilter Investors, the recent decrease in US inflation may seem positive at first glance. However, when looking at the trend over the past year, a different picture emerges. Inflation has been fluctuating between 3% and 4% for an extended period, making it difficult for the Federal Reserve to justify implementing rate cuts.

Richard Flax, the chief investment officer at Moneyfarm, views this as a positive development that could potentially lead to rate cuts in the future. However, he notes that the current inflation rate is still far from the Fed’s target of 2%, suggesting that a swift reaction should not be expected. Flax emphasizes that the Fed’s focus remains on hard data, indicating that the status quo is likely to persist for a while longer.

Janet Mui, the head of analysis at RBC Brewin Dolphin, acknowledges that disinflation is occurring, although the progress is slow and uneven. While the latest data is a relief for those concerned about a further increase in US inflation, it also highlights the persistent nature of inflation and the time it may take to reach the desired 2% level. Additionally, weaker-than-expected US retail sales in April contribute to the narrative of a cooling economy. Mui suggests that the recent US data releases should bolster confidence in the Fed’s inclination towards rate cuts, but also warrant a cautious approach in timing any policy easing.