US inflation hits its lowest point since early 2021 as prices ease for gas, groceries and used cars

Americans have gained some much-needed relief with inflation reaching its lowest point since early 2021, thanks in part to easing prices for groceries, used cars, airline fares, and gasoline. Over the past two years, Americans have been painfully squeezed by high prices. (AP) WASHINGTON.

Relatively gentle but nonetheless in the preceding month, prices increased 0.2% overall from May to June, surpassing a mere 0.1%. The authorities disclosed on Wednesday that the inflation statistic had significantly declined from a 4% yearly pace in May, albeit still exceeding the Federal Reserve’s 2% objective.

Many economists believe that the central bank may choose to keep interest rates on hold in September, as they expect inflation to continue cooling with prices either falling outright or increasing at a slower pace across a wide range of goods and services. However, the Federal Reserve is still considering raising its benchmark rate when it meets in two weeks, especially in light of Wednesday’s better-than-expected inflation data.

“Expressing her opinion, Laura Rosner-Warburton, a senior economist at MacroPolicy Perspectives, stated, “If that pattern persists, it eliminates the possibility of a second increase.” “It is likely that they will maintain the current interest rates for the remainder of the year.”

Investors on Wall Street have been eagerly anticipating the eventual end of the central bank’s rate increases, as higher prices in stocks and bonds have encouraged them.

Following 10 consecutive rate hikes, the central bank’s choice to halt its increases last month will be in accordance with its anticipated hike this month. Over the past four decades, the most rapid rate at which the Fed’s benchmark rate has been raised is a significant 5 percentage points since March 2022.

Unemployment rates inched up from 3.6% to 3.7% over the course of nearly fifty years. However, the government reported solid hiring in June, compared to the previous year. Without causing a deep recession or a spike in unemployment, the Fed hopes that a 2% decrease in price increases will make it challenging to achieve a “soft landing.” Wednesday’s inflation data may lift the Fed’s hopes.

Some economists say that they think the Fed’s target of 2% inflation can fall to a near level earlier than expected. However, inflation is not fully tamed yet. Many economists expected that raising the key rate a year ago when the Fed began would significantly rise to curb inflation.

Core inflation, which excludes volatile energy prices, remains relatively high compared to a year ago, but it has decreased from an annual rate of 5.3% to 0.2% in June, which is the smallest monthly increase in nearly two years. Economists had expected core inflation to rise by just 0.2% from May, making it lower than the inflation rate observed in the previous month.

Inflation is currently significantly below its peak of 9.1% in June 2022. This decrease in inflation reflects the fading spikes in energy and food prices that followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last spring. Over the past two months, inflation has slowed from nearly 5% in April to just 3% year over year measured.

In the previous year, the cost of milk has decreased by 1.9% for the third consecutive month, experiencing a decline. Grocery prices remained stable from May to June and have remained steady over the past three months. On a national average, gasoline prices have dropped to approximately $3.54 per gallon, decreasing from a peak of $5.

The price of eggs, which had skyrocketed last year after an outbreak of avian flu decimated chicken flocks, has dropped by more than 7% in the past month alone. According to government data, prices peaked at $4.82 per dozen in January and have since remained above the pre-pandemic average of $1.60. Still, they have now declined to $2.22 per dozen.

Economists say that inflation is unlikely to keep falling at such a rapid pace on a 12-month basis, as gas prices have achieved big drops in the months to come.

It is unlikely that there will be a sharp drop in rental car prices and hotel costs from June to May, as airfares in particular plunged by just 8.1%.

This year, there is a possibility that core prices will remain elevated and are expected to remain high as they continue to increase, along with the cost of certain services. Compared to a year ago, auto insurance expenses have drastically surged, experiencing a 16.9% increase. The rise in accidents has led to an increase in the amount of driving by Americans, surpassing levels seen during the pandemic. Consequently, the value of cars has also risen, making insurance more expensive due to the significantly higher vehicle prices compared to pre-pandemic times.

Prices are continuing to rise, with a 0.4% increase from May to June and an almost 8% increase from the previous year. Restaurant owners are raising wages to retain and attract workers, as they pass on the higher labor costs to customers. Prices are still moving up, with a 0.4% increase from May to June and an almost 8% increase from the previous year.

Chrishon Lampley, the owner of Screw Cork Love brand wine, says that meals at her restaurant have become more expensive, so she has decided to lower prices to attract prospective customers. Instead of giving small gifts to potential wine buyers, she now offers affordable meals.

Lampley frequently transports crates of wine, despite the fact that she hires compact vehicles. Presently, she opts for extended-stay accommodations with kitchen facilities instead of conventional hotels. Consequently, she has managed to decrease her travel expenses. Lampley stated that the expenses for printing labels on her wine bottles have almost doubled in the last year, primarily due to increased labor costs.

“Everything has simply become much more thrifty,” she stated. “I need to cut back.”

Several policymakers at the Fed were still talking about the likelihood of hiking rates earlier this week for a big reason. It’s because officials at the Fed, including Chair Jerome Powell, have been focused on high chronic inflation, particularly in the sprawling service sector of the economy, as well as other items such as auto insurance and restaurant meals.

On Monday, Mary Daly, the head of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, stated, “In order to effectively restore inflation to a stable 2% trajectory, it is probable that we will require a few additional increases in interest rates throughout this year.”

Before the Federal Reserve convenes in September, there will be two additional inflation reports for the months of July and August. Daly expressed her commitment to relying heavily on data and indicated that her perspectives could change depending on the information provided in the upcoming reports.

Over the next few months, certain factors contributing to increased costs are expected to gradually diminish and consequently reduce inflation. Following two consecutive months of significant increases, prices for pre-owned vehicles declined by 0.5% from May to June. Consequently, prices for new cars have started to decrease and remained unchanged from May to June as well.

In the previous month, dealers offered an average list price of $28,850 to consumers. However, before the start of the pandemic in June 2019, dealers were paying nearly 70% more for them. Nevertheless, used vehicles still remain relatively expensive. As per data collected by Black Book, a price monitoring agency, dealer prices for used vehicles in June were 5.6% lower compared to the previous year, which contributed to a decrease in inflation.

As the car-buying season commences in the spring, prices usually increase and then decrease in the latter part of the year, thus concluding the year. Although a significant drop is not anticipated, this trend aids in the decline of inflation. Alex Yurchenko, the chief data officer for Black Book, stated that consumers can expect prices to continue declining until the end of the year.

“We anticipate a return to some form of normalcy,” Yurchenko stated.

Based on projections from J.D. Power, the prices of brand-new vehicles decreased by 3% to $45,978 in the previous month, although they reached their highest point in December. The production rate of automakers has been ramped up due to the alleviation of the worldwide scarcity of computer chips, leading to an increase in the availability of new vehicles and a slight decline in prices.

Over the last year, escalating housing expenses have propelled more than two-thirds of the surge in core inflation, as stated by the government, therefore, as that surge diminishes, it should progressively decrease overall inflation. With builders persisting to finish the highest number of new apartment units in decades, it is anticipated that rental expenses, a substantial catalyst of inflation, will continue to decline.

Two years ago, inflation was sparked and overwhelmed supply chains due to three rounds of stimulus checks, as consumers increased their spending on products such as exercise bikes, standing desks, and new patio furniture, leading to a rise in prices.

Many economists have suggested that President Joe Biden’s stimulus package in March 2021 intensified the surge in inflation, even in countries where the stimulus was less pronounced and overseas.