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Latest Inflation Data Sends Mixed Message To Fed


A key inflation metric inched upward month-over-month in January, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, though its year-over-year increase was the lowest in three years.

The BEA's personal consumption expenditures price index, which the Federal Reserve uses in determining the direction of interest rates, increased 0.3% in January compared to a month earlier. That was an uptick from the previous three months, when prices barely moved at all.

Compared with a year ago, however, the PCE price index was up 2.4%, the lowest year-over-year increase for this metric in about three years.

In public statements, members of the Fed remained noncommittal on the question of interest rates, though they still intimated rates could come down this year.

Three cuts this year is a “reasonable kind of starting point” for debate among members of the central bank, Federal Reserve Bank of New York President John Williams said Wednesday, as reported by Reuters. But he cautioned that the data is still coming in.

“While the economy has come a long way toward achieving better balance and reaching our 2% inflation goal, we are not there yet,” Williams said.

Boston Federal Reserve Bank President Susan Collins said Wednesday that it will “likely become appropriate to begin easing policy later this year,” but the path to 2% inflation will “likely continue to be bumpy,” Reuters reported.

“A methodical, forward-looking approach to reducing rates gradually should provide the necessary flexibility to manage risks while promoting stable prices and maximum employment,” Collins said.

The consumer price index also rose in January, causing many economists and analysts to push back their predictions of when the Federal Reserve may drop interest rates. While many in commercial real estate had been hoping for a decrease in March, the consensus is that June is more likely.