Monthly consumer prices rose at the fast clip of 0.4% in February, easing slightly from the 0.5% increase in January, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The annual rate of inflation slowed to 6%, down from January’s 6.4%.
February’s results were in line with expectations of economists polled by Dow Jones. Core inflation, which takes out volatile food and energy prices, rose 0.5% for the month and 5.5% for the year.
Shelter costs, the largest driver of inflation according to the BLS, rose 0.8% for the month and 8.1% from last year. The BLS said housing prices account for more than 70% of overall inflation for the month.
Meanwhile, the energy index declined 0.6% from the month prior but remains elevated at 5.2% year-over-year. Used vehicle prices continue to fall at 2.8% from January, down 13.6% since February 2022.
Food, recreation and household furnishings contributed to the slight increase in overall inflation, up 0.4%, 0.8% and 0.9%, respectively.
The Federal Reserve will review its interest rate policy next week. The Fed has been focused on bringing inflation within its 2% threshold. Wall Street now expects the central bank to make a small increase in interest rates next week, the ninth potential hike since its aggressive campaign started in March 2022. Analysts expect the Fed will then pause interest rate increases, even though inflation sits well above its target.
The failure of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank have made future rate decisions more complicated as fears of a broader contagion among the industry spread. Silicon Valley Bank’s troubles were spurred by higher interest rates, which devalued the large bond holdings they had on their balance sheet.
Prior to the bank collapse, many analysts thought the Fed would go back to a 50-basis-point rate hike in March after its preferred inflation gauge, personal consumption expenditures, showed annual inflation rising in January. Now, many are predicting the Fed will pivot and cut rates this year, despite Fed testimony indicating the opposite shortly before the bank failure.