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US inflation back to undershooting 2 per cent ahead of FOMC meeting

A note from JP Morgan economists on this morning’s release of the Personal Income and Outlays report for March, in which both the consumption and inflation measures arrived weaker than expected (our bold):

On consumption, real consumer spending increased 0.3% in March while nominal spending was basically unchanged. These figures were softer-than-expected and included a 6.5% surge in real spending on household utilities. Excluding this jump (which was weather-related), overall real spending ticked up only 0.1% in March. … Elsewhere in the report, the core PCE deflator declined 0.138% in March, bringing the year-ago change in the index down from 1.77% in February to 1.56% in March. The March figures were close to, although slightly below, expectations. They are still notable, however, because the monthly change was the second weakest on record. Even excluding the very large drop in prices for cellular telephone services (which we estimate subtracted 0.08%-pt from the monthly change in the core PCE deflator), it still looks like March was a weak month for core inflation. The headline PCE deflator was also weak, declining 0.2% in March.



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