- Fed Vice-Chair Richard Clarida has said that if inflation does not decline at year-end, it might be more than transitory.
- Producer prices shot higher in March, beyond base effects.
- The dollar may benefit from rising expectations for a rate hike.
Infections, not inflation – that message by Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell may be insufficient to keep the dollar down as prices are beginning to rise. Moreover, Powell's No. 2 has circled year-end as a key time to test inflation.
After a technical error caused a delay, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) resorted to Twitter to release its Producer Price Index (PPI) statistics. Economists had expected a year-over-year jump from 2.8% to 3.8% due to "base effects." Prices plunged last March due to the pandemic. and taking the annual comparison would cause a jump. Yet these proved to be underestimated.
Annual PPI jumped to 4.2%, due to a leap of 1% in monthly factory gate prices – double the early expectations. Moreover, Core PPI also smashed estimates with 0.7% against 0.2% MoM and 3.1% versus 2.7% YoY. If the Fed is indeed focused on outcomes rather than outlooks, the facts are beginning to come in.
Producer prices are now set to make their way to consumer prices and may force the Federal Reserve to raise rates. However, the Fed insisted that price rises would be due to those base effects and would subside later – transitory inflation.
And how would the bank know if such prices are temporary or not? That is where Federal Reserve Vice Chair Richard Clarida provides clarity. In an interview with Bloomberg TV, he said that if year-end inflation has not declined from mid-year levels, that may serve as "good evidence" that it is not transitory. Investors are marking their calendars for December.
However, traders may react earlier in anticipation that inflation is here to stay and that the Fed is on course to raise rates sooner rather than later. The world's most powerful central bank may first opt to taper down its bond-buying scheme, which currently stands at $120 billion per month. That would send stocks down, also supporting the safe-haven US dollar.
Before jumping on the greenback, it is probably wiser to wait for consumer prices to rise. The publication of CPI figures on Tuesday, April 13, may prove far important than usual. Time to fasten seatbelts?
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