Dear Mr. Bernanke, Don’t Mean To Be Rude, But Inflation’s Picking Up

If you listen to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke tell it, there’s no inflation.

Recent data suggests otherwise.

Inflation has been picking up across the board in recent months, and not just because of “volatile food and energy prices” (the prices most Americans care deeply about but that Mr. Bernanke ignores).

Here’s the evidence, from Asha Bangalore at Northern Trust:

First, the headline CPI (all items). On this measure, inflation is now over a 5% annualized rate.

CPI May 2011

[credit provider=”Northern Trust” url=””]

Then, the “core” CPI (excluding the food and energy prices Mr. Bernanke doesn’t pay attention to). That’s now running above a 2% annualized rate, which is the rate the Mr. Bernanke has said is as high as it should go. It has also headed straight-up-and-to-the-right for the past six months.

CPI (core) May 2011

[credit provider=”Northern Trust” url=””]

And here’s a breakdown of some of what’s driving this core inflation. This is actually a bit more encouraging. The headline inflation is being driven by food and energy prices. The core inflation is being driven by healthcare costs, which are apparently going to rise faster than the economy grows until Judgment Day (which, by the way, may be this Saturday). And it is also being driven by rising car prices–new and used. Asha Bangalore points out that the car price increases aren’t likely to be sustained, which bodes well–or at least better–for the core CPI going forward.

CPI (breakdown) May 2011

[credit provider=”Northern Trust” url=””]

And then there’s something that is encouraging: Inflation expectations. Inflation expectations have actually been ticking down of late, as the economy shows signs of weakening.


Inflation Expectations May 2011

[credit provider=”Northern Trust” url=””]

Now, when presented with evidence that inflation is rising, the Fed’s response is that this inflation is nothing to worry about, because it’s only “transitory.”  And it might be.

But, unfortunately, the way it is most likely to be “transitory” is if the US economy takes another dive. So we shouldn’t take solace in that.

(And it also might NOT be transitory. Inflation in the UK so far, which is rapidly becoming stagflation, has not been transitory, and the UK economy sucks.)

In any event, whether it should be or not, inflation is on the march–and not just for food and energy prices.

See Also: 10 Signs The Economy Is Weakening Again