"Economists are pessimists: they've predicted 8 of the last 3 depressions."
--Barry Asmus

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

FW: Consumer Price Index

We've got a bifecta[1] of major economic data hitting the market at 8:30 this morning:  Consumer Price Index and First Time Jobless Claims.
 
For those of you who aren't familiar with it, CPI is a measure of "the change in the average price of a fixed basket of goods and services purchased by consumers" (to quote Econoday).  It is, in essence, a measure of inflation, and tracks month over month change with a one month lag.  CPI gets studied intently, because consumer costs drive the market.  Rising prices mean (in theory) increasing profits.  But the more they rise, particularly in "discretionary" areas, the greater the chances that overall spending in that sector will decline.
 
Also, CPI has a "core"metric:  the change in consumer prices without food and energy factored in.  These areas are considered volatile, and so are removed from the official measures of inflation[2].  I'll try not to rant on the subject.
 
April 2012 saw a 0.0% change in CPI, and a 0.2% change in "core" CPI.  For May, the Econoday-surveyed analysts are feeling marginally optimistic.  The consensus estimate is for a 0.2% decline in CPI (which is a good thing), and a 0.2% increase in "core" CPI.
 
And so, without further ado, we turn to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and their Consumer Price Index - May 2012 news release.  And, it turns out, that the analysts weren't optimistic enough.  CPI declined 0.3%, while "core" CPI increased 0.2%.  The decline in overall CPI was driven largely by energy costs, which fell 4.3% in May (mostly on a 6.8% decline in gasoline costs).
 
So, that's some good news from one half of the bifecta.
 
[1] Like a "trifecta", except that there's only two things.  It's a neologism.  Feel free to share it with your friends.
[2] Because everyone knows that dramatically increasing food and/or energy costs doesn't put a pinch on your budget, right?

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