Inflation Coming? How About Deflation?

Economists expect higher inflation based on rising producer prices. But will producer prices feed consumer prices? When?

Do producer prices eventually feed into consumer prices? If so, what’s the lead or lag time?

The Wall Street Journal article Why the Inflation Picture Looks Starkly Different for Businesses and Consumers got me thinking about these questions and I do not believe they came up with the correct answer.

This month consumers said they expected a 2.7% rise in inflation over the next year, a level unchanged since December, according to the University of Michigan’s latest sentiment survey.

Other survey data indicate businesses are feeling inflationary pressures. Take, for instance, the rising percentage of executives in the Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing survey who say they’re paying higher prices for materials: In January, 46.6% reported higher prices, up from 42% a year earlier.

Households’ inflation expectations tend to lag behind the behavior of inflation itself, which means as consumer prices rise, inflation expectations for this group should rise, too, said Michael Pearce, economist at Capital Economics.

“We’ve seen pickups in producer-price inflation before that haven’t really fed through to higher consumer prices, but there are good reasons to expect that the story this time around could be a bit different,” Mr. Pearce said. This, he said, is because a whole slew of factors are converging to put pressure on business prices and ultimately consumer inflation, a divergence from some past patterns when oil was the main driver.

Lagging the Leader or Noise?

The above chart is easily creatable in Fred. Here is a longer term view.

Cope PPI vs Core CPI

The overall correlation seems easy to spot but it was far stronger prior to 1988. Since then movement seems somewhat random.

I expected the divergences to be oil-related but they do not all seem to be.

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Author: Travis Esquivel

Travis Esquivel is an engineer, passionate soccer player and full-time dad. He enjoys writing about innovation and technology from time to time.

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