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Prices rise twice as fast due to gas surge and highest inflation in 7 months

Rising gasoline prices forced Americans to spend more in August and pushed up the Federal Reserve’s main measure of inflation, providing further evidence that the path to lower inflation will not be probably not easy.

The personal consumption expenditures price index, which the Fed uses in its official 2% inflation target and projections released by policymakers, rose 0.4%, twice as fast as the month previous. This increase is in line with economists’ expectations.

Compared to the previous year, the PCE price index is up 3.5 percent, an acceleration from July’s 3.3 percent.

Rising energy costs were the driving force behind inflation in August. Core prices, which exclude food and energy, rose a more moderate 0.1 percent in August. However, compared to the previous year, base prices increased by 3.9 percent, more than the overall figure.

A month earlier, core prices jumped 0.2 percent from the previous month and 4.3 percent from a year earlier. The year-on-year figure was revised slightly upwards from the initial estimate of 4.2 percent.

The Federal Reserve and many economists view core inflation as a better measure of underlying inflation and therefore a better indicator of future inflation trends. Critics say too much focus on underlying inflation can lead policymakers to underestimate the impact of rising food and energy prices on households. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell insisted he was paying close attention to headline inflation as well as measures such as core inflation. He has also repeatedly mentioned that he is watching what some now call “super-core” inflation, a measure that suppresses housing as well as fuel and energy.

The sharp rise in oil prices disrupted the decline in inflation. This shows no signs of letting up. While U.S. strategic oil reserves have been depleted after unusual and large releases by the Biden administration ahead of last year’s midterm elections, there is no ready new source of supply to lower prices.

U.S. production is unlikely to increase because it has already reached high levels and investors are reluctant to commit capital to fossil fuel extraction or refining at a time when climate change policies are being declared public enemies oil, gas and coal.

Consumer spending rose a seasonally adjusted 0.4% in August, according to data released Friday by the Commerce Department. This suggests that consumers were able to cope with higher prices by shifting their consumption to the gas pump and away from other goods and services.


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