Will Deflation Keep the Fed Printing?

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) decreased 0.2 percent month over month in March, according to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Tuesday. This compares against a 0.7 percent increase in February. Analysts were expecting no movement in the index for March. Over the past 12 months, the all-items index is up 1.5 percent.

CPI1

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

At a glance, today’s report suggests that inflation remains comfortably below the Federal Reserve’s 2.0-2.5 percent speed limit. The core year-on-year growth trend (which excludes food and energy) in the price of the consumer goods edged consistently lower in 2012, and has remained at 2.0 percent or below since August.

Energy

The unexpected decline was led by a 4.4 percent drop in the gasoline index. Usually volatile, this index increased 9.1 percent in February. Over the past 12 months, the gasoline index is down 3.1 percent, while the index for fuel oil is down 2.4 percent. The broader energy index fell 2.6 percent in March after increasing 5.4 percent in February. Over the past 12 months, the unadjusted fuel index declined 1.6 percent.

Food

The food index was unchanged in March. A 0.2 percent increase in the food-away-from-home index offset a 0.1 decline in the food-at-home index. Over the past 12 month period, the food-at-home index has increased 1.0 percent, led by a 4.4 percent increase in the fruits and vegetables index. Overall, the food index is up 1.5 percent over the past 12 months.

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Excluding Food and Energy

The index for all items less food and energy increased 0.1 percent in March. Over the past 12 months, the index is up 1.9 percent. The largest increase in any component of this index was a 1.2 percent increase for used cars and trucks. Apparel experienced the largest decrease at 1.0 percent.

CPI2

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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