June 16th, 2024

Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge eased last month for the first time in 2024

By Christopher Rugaber, The Associated Press on May 31, 2024.

FILE - Salesmen examine an unsold 2024 Cooper Clubman S utility vehicle at a Mini dealership May 1, 2024, in Highlands Ranch, Colo. On Friday, May 31, 2024, the Commerce Department issues its report on consumer spending for April. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) – A price gauge closely tracked by the Federal Reserve cooled slightly last month, a sign that inflation may be easing after running high in the first three months of this year.

Friday’s report from the Commerce Department showed that prices, excluding the volatile food and energy categories, rose 0.2% from March to April, down from 0.3% in the previous month. Measured from a year earlier, the so-called “core” prices climbed 2.8% in April, the same as in March.

Inflation fell sharply in the second half of last year but then leveled off above the Fed’s 2% target in the first few months of 2024. With polls showing that costlier rents, groceries and gasoline are angering voters as the presidential campaign intensifies, Donald Trump and his Republican allies have sought to heap the blame on President Joe Biden.

A stream of recent remarks by Fed officials have underscored their intention to keep borrowing costs high as long as needed to fully defeat inflation. As recently as March, the Fed’s policymakers had collectively forecast three rate cuts this year, starting as early as June. Yet Wall Street traders now expect just one rate cut this year, in November.

One influential Fed official, John Williams, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said Thursday that he expects inflation to start cooling again in the second half of the year. Until it does, though, Fed Chair Jerome Powell has made clear that the central bank is prepared to keep its key rate pegged at 5.3%, its highest level in 23 years.

The central bank raised its benchmark rate from near zero to its current peak in 15 months, the fastest such increase in four decades, to try to tame inflation. The result has been significantly higher rates for mortgages, auto loans and other forms of consumer and business borrowing.

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