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Driven Up By Housing Costs, January Inflation Rate Worse Than Expected


Inflation data for January came in above expectations, and housing costs are to blame.

The consumer price index rose 0.5% in January on a seasonally adjusted basis and 6.4% year-over-year, the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics announced on Tuesday.

While the latter figure declined for the fifth straight month from its July high of more than 9%, the month-to-month increase was the largest in three months and well above analyst predictions, Bloomberg reports.

Housing was "by far the largest contributor" to inflation in January, the BLS announcement stated, making up nearly half of the overall average rise in prices on its own.

After a January jobs report that blew economists' predictions out of the water, the Federal Reserve has yet to see the indicators that Chair Jerome Powell said would be prerequisites to pausing or reversing interest rate hikes.

Though housing's impact on the CPI lags behind industry metrics by several months, those metrics found that average rents increased nationwide in January after five months of decline. Still, the lag in data could mean the housing component of inflation could decrease in the months to come, independent of real-time trends in private sector data.

The persistent unpredictability of monthly economic data has led Powell to caution investors not to make bets on the Fed's future moves. The agency's leader has signaled that his strategy will be dictated by the unemployment rate and core inflation rates, both of which are far from his stated targets.

One local Fed director has been more dovish, however, predicting the federal interest rate may stabilize after two or three more 25-basis-point hikes, Seeking Alpha reports.