The Core PCE Price Index at Its Highest Since February 2013

wall-street-etfJill Mislinski:  The Personal Income and Outlays report for February was published this morning by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The latest Headline PCE price index year-over-year (YoY) rate is 0.96%, down from the previous month’s downwardly revised 1.24%.

The latest YoY Core PCE index (less Food and Energy) came in at 1.68%, up from the previous month’s downwardly revised 1.66%. Core YoY is the highest since February 2013.

The adjacent thumbnail gives us a close-up of the trend in YoY Core PCE since January 2012. The first string of red data points highlights the 12 consecutive months when Core PCE hovered in a narrow range around its interim low. The second string highlights the lower range of the past 14 months. The latest month is back above the 1.5% level.

The first chart below shows the monthly year-over-year change in the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index since 2000. Also included is an overlay of the Core PCE (less Food and Energy) price index, which is Fed’s preferred indicator for gauging inflation. The two percent benchmark is the Fed’s conventional target for core inflation. However, the December 2012 FOMC meeting raised the inflation ceiling to 2.5% for the next year or two while their accommodative measures (low FFR and quantitative easing) are in place. More recent FOMC statements now refer only to the two percent target.

PCE Price Index since 2000

The index data is shown to two decimal points to highlight the change more accurately. It may seem trivial to focus such detail on numbers that will be revised again next month (the three previous months are subject to revision and the annual revision reaches back three years).

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