The September consumer price data were right on expectations, with 0.2% gain for both headline and core CPI.
The year/year rates for inflation remain significantly below their pre-COVID levels and will not trigger alarm among any remaining inflation hawks, even if further stimulus measures are passed.
Energy prices rose by 0.8% in September, but gasoline prices were up only 0.1%, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Tuesday. Electricity prices rose 0.9%, while natural gas prices surged by 4.2%. Unadjusted energy prices rose by 0.8%, with unadjusted gasoline prices up 0.8% compared with seasonal adjustment expectations for smaller increase.
Food prices were flat in the month, with food at home prices down 0.4% to continue the recent downward trend. In contrast, food prices away from home rose by 0.6%, continuing the long upward trend.
Within the core, the relatively large owners’ equivalent rent category rose by 0.1%, while lodging away from home prices fell by 0.4% and airline fares fell by 2.0%, reflecting decreased demand after the summer.
Apparel prices fell by 0.5% after a 0.6% increase in the previous month. Prices of new vehicles were up 0.3%, while used vehicle prices surged by 6.7% after a 5.4% increase in August and a 2.3% gain in July, suggesting consumers are shifting toward cheaper vehicles.
Overall CPI prices were up 1.4% from their year-ago level, stronger than the 1.3% rate in August but still below the pre-COVID rate of 1.5% in March. Prices excluding food and energy were up 1.7% year/year, the same as in August. The year/year rate was 2.1% in March before the shutdowns.