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CPI for all items rises 3.4%; shelter and gasoline up (bls.gov)
35 points by impish9208 9 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 58 comments





There's a phenomenon in which inflation-related posts generate lots of comments or concerns that the CPI methodology is manipulated in some way. If you are interested in learning more about CPI, the methodology is very complex but transparent. You can find documentation here: https://www.bls.gov/cpi/factsheets/ and raw datafiles here: https://www.bls.gov/cpi/data.htm

If you would like to publish your own dataset based purely on changes in price level of chocolate cupcakes, per pound, in cities, you can do so by extracting series APU0000702411 from the raw datafiles.

There is also a short summary on "why averages and an individual's experience of inflation may differ" here: https://www.bls.gov/cpi/factsheets/averages-and-individual-e...

Although it was not my main subfield, I spent a bit of time in grad school with people who are deep in the theory and practice of measuring inflation. It's really really hard, and it's the sort of place where there is a great public desire for a single number, but it's not clear that a single number is meaningful to cover all the most common use cases for inflation. (Use cases include: managing cost of living adjustments, understanding money supply, making investment decisions, making historical comparisons of other time series.) The many variant measures of inflation (core, non-core, etc.) exist to try to serve different use cases more effectively.


Thanks for the important context. We are all exposed to inflation in significantly different ways! I think many people feel helpless because you can make every right decision but still get bulldozed by the economy in ways you can not predict.

> because you can make every right decision but still get bulldozed by the economy in ways you can not predict.

There are hedges available to individuals for most common asset classes?

But almost no one I know hedges, beyond basic diversification. (Caveat: I don't have a lot of friends working in professional finance)


The one "normal" people actually use is buying a house; this hedges against inflation in the cost of shelter.

We could buy options on oil, wheat, pork bellies, and such, but normal people don't.


Specifically, buying a house with an American fixed-rate style mortgage hedges against inflation in terms of interest rates (assuming they rise to counter inflation), value (assuming it rises in tandem with inflation), and leverage (broadly-accessible 1:5 with no call isn't bad!).

But to the broader point, bemoaning helplessness in the face of inflation is false.

There are tons of things essentially everyone could do to hedge inflation, if they were willing to pay the fee to do so.


Reminder that:

1) Price is the baseline measure.

2) Inflation is the first derivative.

3) Rate of change of inflation (reflation, disinflation) is the second derivative.

4) Rate of change of the rate of change of inflation (change in reflation/disinflation) is the third derivative.

Just to keep the talking head smoke blowing to the right receptacles.


The example I use for those who didn't take calculus, which usually prevents glazed-stare onset:

1) Position

2) Velocity

3) Acceleration

4) Jerk


Except that non-calculus, non-physics people don't know what jerk is. If you try to explain, they'll decide that it's you ;-)

Jerk is accelerating acceleration. Acceleration is the feeling you get when you're pushed back in your seat in a car or amusement park ride. Jerk is what happens when the depth into your seat is increasing (or decreasing).

Yeah, but that's actually what draws renewed interest about half the time, as a TIL.

And if neither that or the overall comparison works, you probably never had a chance anyway.

ETA- And 9/10 when I use it, it's in the context of engineering, explaining pavement damage and impact loads or similar.

It's a great early tell for which version of the explanation you're going to get.



As a corollary to 2), a reduction in inflation does not return prices back to previous levels. That's a misconception I see all the time. Negative inflation, or deflation, can reduce prices of course, but you really, really don't want deflation.

Why?

I'd guess because it makes hording cash a good investment and thus disincentivizes economic activity.

Edit: corrected misspelling (cache -> cash)


If saving is a better investment than stocks or business, isn't that a healthy way to counter speculation, risk, malinvestment, and scammy exuberance cycles? Seems like a direct answer to the whole-market financialization that people complain inflation incentivizes.

It incentives holding cash and letting it sit, not putting it into productive investments. Deflation was a big part of Japan's economic woes for years. It's hard to climb out of.

Well it doesn't only counter the bad kinds of economic activity, it also counters the good kinds. If a mom-and-pop store with low margins can make more profit by hoarding cash than by expanding their business and employing more people, it can't be good.

If everybody is hoarding cash, then, if we assume markets control interest rates and not a central bank, would banks not lower their interest rates as the supply of deposits increases? Loaning money would become cheaper, and at the same time withdrawing to invest in other things would become incentivized. In sum, high savings would signal that it's safe to start lending and investing.

Because it makes debts grow in real terms. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debt_deflation

Periods of deflation have been very bad historically. Economists debate whether it was cause or effect.

What's so strange do me is how eager and expectant people are of having rate cuts. A noisy data set improves slightly month over month, and all the headlines are "when are rate cuts?".

Rates are not going to 1% again unless there's another financial crisis. 0.25%-0.5% cuts are not going to save over-leveraged people.


A lot of people and businesses use debt to finance the things they want to do. (Buy a home, build a new facility, pay back management). When money is cheaper, people do more.

If you can issue at 6% instead of 7%, your interest expense on that debt has decreased by 16%.

I don't think anyone expects say the fed funds rate to go to 1%, but it could go to 3.5% or 4%. [0]

[0] Fed funds: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=1mM6j [-] Const 10yr Treasury https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=1nYkd


Have you seen the price of housing? Mortgage payments are twice what they were in 2021 for the same house, largely due to high interest rates. Of course people want big rate cuts.

One could make the argument that low interest rates suppressed the housing supply crisis.

Housing prices around me is up 25% since 2021 and show no signs of slowing down.

Interest rates aren't high by historical terms. They are about .75 points above the historical average.


Right. Housing costs for most people are a function of asking price and interest rate.

For a long time, we had high asking price and low interest rate. That was mostly acceptable to people.

Low asking price and high interest would probably also be acceptable.

Now we have both parameters (relatively) high, which just sucks. And yeah, supply is the big constraint, no question.


But if you cut the rate to 1%, the increase in home sales would just drive the principle up. If anything, the high rates have finally slowed the crazy housing market.

This. House prices (MSPUS) have been dropping steadily since early 2022 as a result.

Not really. House price changes are lagging after rate cuts by about a year.

Only since the 2nd half of 2023 do I see some listings have very minor price cuts and stay on the market slightly longer.

Housing prices need to fall ~10% across the board before we can say the rate increases had a measurable effect.

Source: I'm looking for a countryside property and scrape Redfin for a few thousand listings every day.


Housing supply is extremely constrained right now. It’s weird given that prices are so high, you’d think demand would create some more supply.

Yeah Zillow's estimate for my house worth only went down for a short while, and not by much. It's now going back up again (up 3% just this past month). It still thinks the house is worth 60% more than when I bought it 5 years ago.

Granted this will be different depending on where you live. This chart for the median sales price of homes sold in the US[1] seems to think it's still trending slightly downward.

[1]: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/MSPUS


I was proud of my ability to increase my own wages 15% over the last few years, until an inflation calculator revealed that I have merely tracked with inflation.

Feels good to not fall behind? I know that's a lot more than what many are experiencing. At the same time it's disappointing that a "great career trajectory" is actually treading water (technically)


3.6% annualized, 0.3% for the month.

Grocery-store food is down, restaurants up.

Most of the increase driven by fuel and shelter, both normal for this time of year (not sure this dispatch reports changes with seasonality considered).


We've cut down on our restaurant expenses quite a bit, and we're back to cooking a lot more. When we do eat out, we try to keep it fairly cheap now, just an entree and water, and try to go to places when they have nice deals (like one gastropub near us has 50% off pizzas on Monday-Wednesday, we both get a pizza, eat half there, and have lunch the next day for $18 + tip).

annualized means "(1+r)^n" where r is the increase/month and n is number of months.

inflation is generally measured "over year", so "3.6% this month" would mean "3.6% higher than last year at this time", as in "this month's increase plus the increases for the last 11 months total up to 3.6% for the year". It has no predictive power for the future, and it's not an extrapolation of this month's increase for easy comparison to show what it would be for a year.


Isnt normal inflation around 3% annually average over decades?

2% is the target - 3% is not too bad.

For the last few decades, Federal Reserves have actually struggled to get it as high as 2%!


it's going to vary by country=currency, but 3% is a bit on the high side of what's desireable.

the most desirable feature of inflation would be predictability: if inflation in the future is reliably well known, then interest rates and budgets can be calculated and planned, no surprises.

but in general a small amount of inflation is a good thing in no small part because it forces prices to adjust across the economy, including prices for labor. this allows wages to increase more in sectors of the economy where demand is higher, while other wages will go down in a relative sense without actually going down which is very problematic because rent, car payments, etc don't go down.


I'm going to guess that the OP has less than neutral reasons to post the title as he did.

> The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.3 percent in April on a seasonally adjusted basis, after rising 0.4 percent in March, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 3.4 percent before seasonal adjustment.

The index for shelter rose in April, as did the index for gasoline. Combined, these two indexes contributed over seventy percent of the monthly increase in the index for all items. The energy index rose 1.1 percent over the month. The food index was unchanged in April. The food at home index declined 0.2 percent, while the food away from home index rose 0.3 percent over the month.

The index for all items less food and energy rose 0.3 percent in April, after rising 0.4 percent in each of the 3 preceding months. Indexes which increased in April include shelter, motor vehicle insurance, medical care, apparel, and personal care. The indexes for used cars and trucks, household furnishings and operations, and new vehicles were among those that decreased over the month.

The all items index rose 3.4 percent for the 12 months ending April, a smaller increase than the 3.5-percent increase for the 12 months ending March. The all items less food and energy index rose 3.6 percent over the last 12 months. The energy index increased 2.6 percent for the 12 months ending April. The food index increased 2.2 percent over the last year.


The title in my RSS feed: “CPI for all items rises 0.3% in April; shelter and gasoline up”

The title I posted: “CPI for all items rises 3.6%; shelter and gasoline up”

I literally just replaced the monthly rate with the NSA 12-month one since that’s easier to understand. And I put 3.6 instead of 3.4 for the one that excludes food and energy.


Here's some of the data in charts[0], up to 20 years for some categories.

[0] https://www.bls.gov/charts/consumer-price-index/consumer-pri...


When I see things like Bitcoin price and GameStop stock I guess if we still have too much money on the economy.

If you look at both as marginally legalized gambling, the former (crypto) at an 8 billion player table, easier to understand than just through lens of "still too much cash" in the system

Online sports betting as well

gme and bitcoin lower compared to 2021 highs on inflation adjusted basis

I am sure you can make a similar argument that the chance of hitting 31 on a roulette table is ‘lower’ compared to 2021 highs or whatever imaginary gambling stat we can conjure up.

These are all made up numbers so number go down or up isn’t the issue here.


Despite what most media wants you to think, the recent run up of GME isn't directly related to retail investors (having too much money).

The price increases have been happening mostly in pre market and in big blocks, which indicate it's hedge funds or market makers, and might have something to do with option contracts and short covering.

There is a lot of money in the system but most of it is held by banks and sitting on the side lines. Just look at M1 money supply chart via st Louis fed...


Technically wouldn't it be CPI lowered, compared to March?

Shelter and gasoline are self inflicted injuries

Looser zoning, land value tax and investments in energy would solve them


The US is producing more oil than we ever have in history. Not sure “investments in energy” are really needed here, at least if “energy” means oil. Definitely we need to step up our pace on deploying non-fossil energy sources, if only to keep up with China.

I mean it's pretty ridiculous to invest in food. However, with the way things are going, preppers who eventually eat all their storable food after a few years are actually going to save a lot of money. Too bad that, except for a few premium brands, that stuff tastes like cardboard.

If you live where it's viable, gardening with heirloom seeds (many "normal" seeds will not grow plants that are capable of producing viable seeds for the next generation, so make sure they're of the heirloom variety), and learning how to hunt and fish will alleviate some your dry goods shopping and prepping needs. A full grown deer can provide lots of healthy protein for you and your family. Also chickens are very easy to raise and provide you with a nearly unlimited supply of eggs and meat.

Does anyone have the real CPI without all the manipulation they've done recently?

The site shadowstats.com, which is one of the granddaddies of the "inflation stats are rigged" claims, says that it "unrigs" government inflation statistics. It does this by simply adding 10%.

Ironically, the cost of membership at shadowstats has stayed unchanged since 2008.


If real inflation were 10% higher than the government is reporting, then real GDP reported to be growing say 3% would be shrinking 7% per year. (We have fairly accurate numbers on nominal GDP from retail sales, sales taxes, corporate accounting etc.) Over 10 years people's standard of living would drop by 1/2. It's safe to say that has not been happening.

Yes, obviously.

You can look at individual items and see how their prices have changed. Things that scale with technology and efficiency improvements have indeed gotten cheaper or tracked inflation. But things that require human labor or don’t benefit from technology (like a nurse, or food, restaurant) are up 50% just in the past few years.

Here's the one that some crypto folks were harking on earlier as the "true" inflation rate: https://truflation.com/dashboard

Spoiler: 2.26%


What manipulation are you speaking of?



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