US CPI Commentary

Updated July 13, 2022

Pre-CPI Outlook

Probably the biggest risk event on the calendar lands on Wednesday in the shape of the US CPI data. Inflation was expected to peak back in March, after the widely watched index eased for the first time in eight months in April to 8.3%. But the rate of price increases is forecast to have pushed north again in June after May’s rise, propelled by soaring broad-based prices.

Consensus estimates annual inflation of 8.7% last month, up one-tenth from May, while monthly consumer price growth is forecast to have remained flat at 1%. Energy, food, shelter and airline fares continue to rise at pace. Gasoline prices especially have moved higher again with estimates of a 9% m/m rise. The 4.5% weight in the basket may add around half a percentage point to the headline monthly figure.

The core number, which excludes volatile items like energy and food, is set to increase by 0.5%, down from the 0.6% print in May. The annual figure is expected to slow marginally to 5.7% from 6%. Economists say this slight slowdown is driven by the reduced impact from clothing and used cars. Indeed, they say that goods prices are under pressure, although these have a marginal weight in the CPI basket of around 10 to 15%.

Business surveys like the S&P Global PMI, which showed that companies raised their selling prices at the slowest pace in almost a year also point to a potential softening in price pressures. The rollover in commodity prices adds weight to this view. 

The Fed raised interest rates last month by 0.75% in June, the most in almost three decades. Policymakers have made it clear that it is prepared to sacrifice growth by hiking rates in order to get a grip on 40-year high inflation. With another similar sized large rate move priced in for the July FOMC meeting, expectations are that consumer spending will begin to slow. Recent data, like the revision to the first quarter GDP numbers and the May personal consumption expenditure report have supported this narrative. A slowdown in the crucial housing market, which has a 35% weighting in the basket, would also translate into a sharply reduced contribution from shelter.

The dollar has recently made new multi-decade highs as risk sentiment and recession worries converge around other parts of the global economy. Any signs of easing in the inflation data will certainly slow the greenback’s ascent. But sticky and elevated price pressures may still give an underlying bid to the world’s reserve currency.

US CPI comes in red-hot at 9.1%

Inflation in the US hit another multi-decade peak, rising well above the median estimates. Investors were hoping to see prices pressures slow, but the month-on-month headline reading rose 1.3% versus the expected 1.1%. The annual print climbed above 9% for the first time since 1981. The core, which strips out volatile items like food and energy, climbed 0.7%, higher than the 0.5% forecast.

FX markets have reacted sharply with the dollar posting fresh 20-year highs and officially hitting parity with the beleaguered euro. Option traders are expected to defend this hugely psychological level but if prices do break to the downside, they many need to sell the major to hedge their exposure. USD/JPY has risen to recent cycle highs and looks to be heading towards 138. The kiwi is the worst performing major currency, even though the RBNZ hiked rates by a half point earlier today. NZD/USD made a new cycle low at 0.6080.

Bets on the Fed raising rates by more than 75bp at its meeting at the end of the month are increasing. There are now 150bps of hikes priced into the next two FOMC meetings. Front loading interest rate rises makes sense as the central bank tries to tame rampant inflation. But policymakers have made it clear they expect to see economic activity impacted. This has affected the yield curve with the 2s-10s now its most inverted since 2006 which signals that recession risks are rising.

Written by Jamie Dutta, Market Analyst for Vantage

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