November saw consumer prices back on the rise again, but only slightly, continuing a string of reports showing inflation continues to moderate.
The U.S. Department of Labor announced said on Thursday that November’s consumer price index (CPI), which measures the change in prices on a variety of consumer goods and services, came in bit higher (0.1%) compared to October on a seasonally adjusted basis. Year-over-year, price growth was up 3.1%, marking a small deceleration from the previous month’s 3.2% YoY growth.
Meanwhile, “core” CPI—a measurement that backs out food and energy costs, which are more volatile than the other costs tracked by the Labor Department—was up just 0.3% MoM and 4.0% YoY.
Most of these figures came in near or right at estimates from economists surveyed by Dow Jones:
- MoM CPI: +0.1% (vs. unchanged)
- YoY CPI: +3.1% (vs. +3.1% est.)
- MoM Core CPI: +0.3% (vs. +0.3% est.)
- YoY Core CPI: +4.0% (vs. +4.0% est.)
Tuesday’s CPI report showed big drops in gasoline (-6.0%) and fuel oil (-2.7%) prices, as well as a 1.3% decline in apparel costs. Consumers absorbed the biggest increases in utility (piped) gas service (+2.8%), electricity (+1.4%), used car and truck prices (+1.6%), and transportation services (+1.1%).
Following a hotter-than-expected November jobs report, economists and strategists were scouring the latest consumer price data for anything that might alter the Federal Reserve’s course on interest rates. The next announcement is due out Wednesday at the conclusion of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting.
They found little to suggest any change.
“Today’s Core CPI print was below [Goldman Sachs] expectations,” says Lindsay Rosner, head of multi-sector fixed income investing at Goldman Sachs Asset Management. “The number was expected to be higher due in part to residual seasonality and new source data that was incorporated in the health insurance calculation. However, the important indicator on inflation in focus was [owners’ equivalent rent]. Big reversion from upside miss on shelter last month to a meaningful deceleration in shelter. This should solidify the Fed on hold in December.”
More Pros’ Takes on November CPI
Here’s what several experts have to say about November’s CPI numbers and what they mean for consumers, the Federal Reserve’s future actions, and more:
“If there’s one thing to nitpick from today’s CPI report, it’s that services inflation is staying sticky. Excluding the notoriously volatile food and energy components, core goods registered an outright decline in prices (-0.3%) while services modestly accelerated (0.5%). The Fed would prefer to see broad-based participation in the inflation normalization process, which is happening on the goods side of the equation but has further to go on services.
“Today’s inflation report cements the idea that the Fed most likely opts to leave its policy rate unchanged in December. It would have taken a seismically hot inflation print for the FOMC to seriously consider raising rates tomorrow, as the market was already pricing in a near-certainty of an extension of the rate hike pause. The FOMC session won’t be a non-event though, as the closely watched dot plot will update investors on the Fed’s thinking for the trajectory of rates over the next few years.”
—Jason Pride, Chief of Investment Strategy & Research at Glenmede
“Today’s CPI print is expected to set the stage for tomorrow’s updated dot plot. Over the last month, markets brought forward interest rate cut expectations as economic data softened. Labor market tightness has reduced, and inflation has been on an improving trend. Today’s CPI print, while marginally above expectations, continued to reflect an encouraging trend.
“Markets went into this report expecting a softer print. So, Treasury yields increased slightly following the announcement. But overall, this report came in very close to market expectations and is unlikely to have any meaningful impact on near-term interest rate expectations. The Fed is expected to remain on hold at tomorrow’s FOMC meeting, but the focus is on whether there is an update to the number of cuts reflected in the dot plot for next year.”
—Michelle Cluver, Portfolio Strategist at Global X
“What does the Fed pause mean for portfolios? Our analysis shows that sitting in cash during this pause period can hurt overall portfolio returns. Investors added over $1.1 trillion in cash in 2023, and we believe that waiting for the Fed to cut rates before deciding to invest may lead to missing out on attractive opportunities. Historically, equities and bonds have had the best returns during the “pause” period. … In an elevated-inflation but slowing-growth environment, we believe investors should remain focused on quality companies with strong earnings and margin resiliency while also adding in “equity guardrails” to protect against potential market downside.”
—Gargi Chaudhuri, Head of iShares Investment Strategy, Americas
“The in-line CPI report is unlikely to change the direction of markets or the Fed. Though service prices remain stubborn, the overall picture is one of slowly normalizing inflation. However, it is unlikely to allow the Fed to relax its fight and, as such, could keep an aggressive tone.”
—Matt Peron, Director of Research and Global Head of Solutions, Janus Henderson Investors
“This was an in-line print that should not change expectations for the Fed being on hold over the next several months, and in turn should lead to steady investor expectations. … The broader trend in inflation is intact, with the underlying trend still consistent with something much lower than we have experienced over the last two years but still above the Fed’s 2% target, with the last mile the hardest part of the journey.
“The market reaction to this print (10-year Treasury yield up a few basis points, equity futures a few basis points lower) suggests investors were looking for a softer print, which would have supported the Fed cutting rates a bit earlier and more aggressively. Instead, nothing in this print suggests rate cuts are on the immediate horizon and is consistent with the Fed’s higher-for-longer stance.”
—Josh Jamner, Investment Strategy Analyst at ClearBridge Investments
“Markets had a lot of optimism coming into CPI and now they could feel a little bit disappointed. Higher costs for shelter, services and used vehicles suggest the road to 2% inflation might not be as quick as hoped. The trend continues to be lower, but Jerome Powell may not want to rush cutting rates. Today’s inflation report might give investors some pause, given their big gains in recent weeks.”
—David Russell, Global Head of Market Strategy at TradeStation