Friday’s Consumer Price Index release will have extraordinary power. Maybe even enough to move the financial markets.
Ordinarily, the monthly report of inflation in the Consumer Price Index isn’t a market-shaking event. The CPI isn’t the inflation index that the Federal Reserve prefers so the effect on interest rate policy is muted. And a shift of a few tenths of a percentage point in the annual inflation rate doesn’t usually signal a shift in trend.
But, maybe, not this week. And that’s because inflation took an unexpected tumble in March as prices for cars and clothes dropped. Headline inflation fell by 0.3% and core inflation, that is without volatile energy and food prices, dropped by 0.1%.
Economists were puzzled by the data. Was it an aberration–something to do with flagging demand for cars and added incentives, perhaps? Or was the decline a signal that the economy really wasn’t as strong as the Federal Reserve had thought? Since inflation running at a near 2% annualized rate had been one of the Fed’s justifications for raising interest rates in March, a decline in trend-line inflation would remove much of the incentive for the central bank to raise interest rates in June or so.
Which will it be? Aberration or new trend?
The consensus of economists surveyed by Briefing.com says that the March readings were an aberration and that headline and core inflation will climb 0.2% in April.
The U.S. dollar, which has shown four straight weekly declines, is likely to be very sensitive to Friday’s numbers, especially if the U.S. currency has climbed ahead of the news on continued profit-taking on the euro after the French election.