A key measure of underlying U.S. inflation unexpectedly eased in February amid falling prices for autos and prescription drugs, giving the Federal Reserve more room to stick to its plan for being patient on raising interest rates.
Excluding food and energy, the so-called core consumer price index rose 0.1 percent from the prior month and 2.1 percent from a year earlier, according to a Labor Department report Tuesday. Those figures trailed the median estimates of economists. The broader CPI rose 0.2 percent from January, the first increase in four months, though the 1.5 percent annual gain missed projections and was the smallest rise since 2016.
The data suggest there’s a greater chance that inflation won’t hold up around the Fed’s 2 percent objective, a development that could add to calls for policy makers to hold off on additional rate increases amid rising risks from weakening global growth.
Fed Chairman Jerome Powell made clear Friday that he and his colleagues are in no hurry to adjust interest rates as growth slows and inflation stays subdued. “With nothing in the outlook demanding an immediate policy response and particularly given muted inflation pressures, the committee has adopted a patient, wait-and-see approach,’’ he said in a speech in California.
Responding to questions, Powell said inflation in the U.S. is low, stable and doesn’t react much to slack in the economy. Policy makers will release updated quarterly projections for interest rates as well as inflation, growth and employment when they gather March 19-20.
Source : Bloomberg