How the CPI data took one Fed rate cut off the table for 2024 

So far, we have held the line on the market pricing in three rate cuts, but today was a clear break from that. Earlier in the year, the market got well ahead of itself with saying we would have six rate cuts, but I believe, just like last year, the bond market was too bearish on the economy to price in six rate cuts. We have a lot of time left in 2024, and as you can see in the chart below, the 2-year yield has been on a roller coaster since last November.

From BLS: The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.4 percent in March on a seasonally adjusted basis, the same increase as in February, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all-items index increased 3.5 percent before seasonal adjustment.

One note: this report isn’t 100% a result of shelter inflation being hotter than estimates; car insurance and energy have picked up recently, too. However, the giant monster in the CPI world is shelter, as it’s 44.4% of the index.

Shelter inflation

In this report, shelter inflation damaged the month-to-month inflation growth because the owner’s equivalent rent of residences (OER) was the primary driver of monthly inflation.

Regarding shelter inflation, as we can see below, the slow-moving monster is just not dropping fast enough to lower the core inflation data. With CPI inflation, rents are the biggest deal for core inflation. If we have stronger month-to-month inflation, it will slow down the year-over-year data enough to keep CPI elevated.

Rent data

The OER is becoming a more significant issue for the CPI data this year. We must also be mindful that while we see disinflation in apartments, single-family rents are holding up well. However, the slowdown on this index keeps the data elevated. A more real-time shelter model would change the story very quickly, but that’s not going to happen.

Core CPI

We have made some progress on Core CPI, but remember; the Fed doesn’t track CPI inflation for their 2% target; it’s PCE inflation, and the gap between CPI and PCE inflation is massive. Historically, we would see a gap of 0.47%. Currently, it’s double that. However, with shelter inflation slowly moving lower year over year, core CPI is stalling out until this data line breaks it much lower.

Today, the 0.1% miss on estimates on CPI has taken one Fed rate cut off the table, and mortgage rates have gone higher today. I don’t believe the Fed will pivot until the labor market breaks, something I talked about on this HousingWire Daily podcast. We do see some wage-growth trends that the Fed will find suitable to get more dovish, but the labor data isn’t breaking until jobless claims break.

Next up, we will get the PPI inflation data, which filters into the all-important PCE inflation data. Stay tuned!

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