Best of the Week
Most Popular
1.Gold Price Crash Through Key Support, Crude Oil in Freefall - Clive_Maund
2.Marc Faber Warns Japan's Bond-Buying Program is a Ponzi Scheme - Bloomberg
3.Silver Price and Powerful Forces - DeviantInvestor
4.Stocks Bear Market Catastrophe as Stocks Flash Crash to New All Time Highs - Nadeem_Walayat
5.Marc Faber Warns Not to Hold Any Gold in the U.S. - GoldCore
6.U.S. Housing Market San Francisco at Critical Mass - Harry_Dent
7.Global Scramble For Silver - Coins “Hard To Get,” “Premiums Likely To Jump” - GoldCore
8.Major World Stock Market Indices Analysis: SPY, QQQ, DAX, FTSE, CAC, HSI - Michael_Noonan
9.Japan's kaput?! - Axel_Merk
10.Tesco Empire Strikes Back, £5 off £40 Discount Voucher Spend Explained, Exclusions Warning! - Nadeem_Walayat
Last 5 days
Gold's Volatility and Other Things to Watch - 21st Nov 14
Australia Stock Market and AUD Dollar Analysis (ASX200 and AUDUSD) - 21st Nov 14
New Algae Research May Have Uncovered an “Energy Forest” Under the Sea - 21st Nov 14
The Cultural and Political Consequences of Fiat Money - 20th Nov 14
United States Social Crisis - No One Told You When to Run, You Missed the Starting Gun! - 20th Nov 14
Euro-Zone Tooth Fairy Economics, Spain Needs to leave the Euro - 20th Nov 14
Ebola Threat Remains a Risk - New Deaths in Nebraska and New York - 20th Nov 14
Stock Market and the Jaws of Life or Death? - 20th Nov 14
Putin’s World: Why Russia’s Showdown with the West Will Worsen - 20th Nov 14
Making Money While The World Burns - 20th Nov 14
Why This "Quiet Zone" Is Now Tech Stocks Biggest Profit Sector - 20th Nov 14
My Favorite Stock McDonalds Just Got Kicked Off My “Buy” List - 19th Nov 14
European Economies in Perpetual State of Shock, What's Scarier Than Deflation? - 19th Nov 14
Breakfast with a Lord of War and Nuclear Weapons - 19th Nov 14
The U.S. Economy’s Ebb and Flow - 19th Nov 14
What You Need to Know Before Investing in Alibaba - 19th Nov 14
Forget About Crude Oil Price Testing 2009 Low - 19th Nov 14
What Blows Up First? Part 5: Shale Oil Junk Bonds - 19th Nov 14
Bitcoin Price Did We Just See an Important Slump? - 18th Nov 14
How to Profit From Oversold Crude Oil Price - 18th Nov 14
Stock Valuations Outrunning Profits Growth - And the Band Played On - 18th Nov 14
ECB Buy Gold Bullion? Japan's Monetary Policy Dubbed "Ponzi Scheme" - 18th Nov 14
Gold, Silver, Crude and S&P Ending Wedge Patterns - 18th Nov 14
How High Could USD/JPY Go? - 18th Nov 14
On Obama and the Nature of Failed Presidencies - 18th Nov 14
Globalism Free Trade Immigration Connection - 18th Nov 14
An Epiphany From Hell - Buy Gold and Silver - 18th Nov 14
Too Difficult to Get a U.S. Home Loan - 18th Nov 14
Has the Gold Bear Trap Been Set - 18th Nov 14
Gold Price and Miners Soar on Huge Volume - 17th Nov 14
Cameron Says Second Global Economic Crash is Loomin, Japan in Recession - 17th Nov 14
How to Play the Stock Market 2014 Year-End Rally - 17th Nov 14
What The Fed Has Wrought, Who Needs Wage Earners Anyway? - 17th Nov 14
Stock Market Indexes Fluctuate Along Record Levels - Will Uptrend Continue? - 17th Nov 14
Stock Market Trend Deceleration Tends To Precede Corrections - 17th Nov 14
Stocks Bull Market Set to Continue After Consolidation - 17th Nov 14
The World Is Run By Fools, And We Let Them - 17th Nov 14
Gold Price Golden Bottom? - 17th Nov 14
Gold Dragons Grand Strategy - 16th Nov 14
Gold and Silver 2015 Trend Forecasts, Prices to Go BOOM - 16th Nov 14
Stocks Bull Market Grinds Bears into Dust, Is Santa Rally Sustainable? - 16th Nov 14

Free Instant Analysis

Free Instant Technical Analysis


Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

Dramatic Stock Market Selloff

What Inflation Means For You: Inside the Consumer Price Index CPI

Economics / Inflation Dec 15, 2012 - 01:55 PM GMT

By: PhilStockWorld

Economics

Courtesy of Doug Short. The Fed justified a previous round of quantitative easing “to promote a stronger pace of economic recovery and to help ensure that inflation, over time, is at levels consistent with its mandate” (full text). In effect, the Fed has been trying to increase inflation, operating at the macro level. But what does an increase in inflation mean at the micro level — specifically to your household?


Let’s do some analysis of the Consumer Price Index, the best known measure of inflation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) divides all expenditures into eight categories and assigns a relative size to each. The pie chart below illustrates the components of the Consumer Price Index for Urban Consumers, the CPI-U, which I’ll refer to hereafter as the CPI.


The slices are listed in the order used by the BLS in their tables, not the relative size. The first three follow the traditional order of urgency: food, shelter, and clothing. Transportation comes before Medical Care, and Recreation precedes the lumped category of Education and Communication. Other Goods and Services refers to a bizarre grab-bag of odd fellows, including tobacco, cosmetics, financial services, and funeral expenses. For a complete breakdown and relative weights of all the subcategories of the eight categories, here is a useful link.

The chart below shows the cumulative percent change in price for each of the eight categories since 2000.


Not surprisingly, Medical Care has been the fastest growing category. At the opposite end, Apparel has actually been deflating since 2000. The latest Apparel number is the first fractional nudge above zero in about nine years. Another unique feature of Apparel is the obvious seasonal volatility of the contour.

Transportation is the other category with high volatility — much more dramatic and irregular than the seasonality of Apparel. Transportation includes a wide range of subcategories. The volatility is largely driven by the Motor Fuel subcategory. For a closer look at gasoline, see my weekly gasoline updates.

The Ominous Shadow Category of Energy

The BLS does not lump energy costs into an expenditure category, but it does include energy subcategories in Housing in addition to the fuel subcategory in Transportation. Also, energy costs are indirectly reflected in expenditure changes for goods and services across the CPI.

The BLS does track Energy as a separate aggregate index, which in recent years has been assigned a relative importance of 9.679 out of 100. In other words, Uncle Sam calculates inflation on the assumption that energy in one form or another constitutes about 9.68% of total expenditures, over half of which (5.46%) goes to transportation fuels — mostly gasoline. The next chart overlays the highly volatile Energy aggregate on top of the eight expenditure categories. We can immediately see the impact of energy costs on transportation.


The next chart will come as no surprise to families footing the bill for college tuition. Here I’ve separately plotted the College Tuition and Fees subcategory of the Education and Communication expenditure category. Note that the steady staircase in this cost matches the annual cost increases in late summer for each academic year. As we see in this non-seasonally adjusted data, we’re probably near the end of the riser in the 2012 stair step.


Core Inflation

Economists and policy makers (e.g., the Federal Reserve) pay close attention to Core Inflation, which is the overall inflation rate excluding Food and Energy. Now this is a somewhat peculiar metric in that one of the exclusions, Energy, is an aggregate that combines specific pieces of two consumption categories: 1) Transportation fuels and 2) Housing fuels, gas, and electricity. The other, Food, is the major part of the Food and Beverage category. I should explain that “beverage” for the BLS means alcoholic beverages. So coffee and Coca Colas are excluded from Core Inflation, but Budweiser and Jack Daniels aren’t.

The next chart shows us the annualized rate of change (solid lines) and the cumulative change (dotted lines) in CPI and Core CPI since 2000.

Consumers, especially those who’ve managed expenses over several years, are most closely attuned to the top line.

Inflation and Your Household

The universal response is to moan over price increases and take delight when prices are cheaper. But in reality, households vary dramatically in the impact that inflation has upon them. When gasoline prices skyrocket, a two-earner suburban family with long car commutes suffers far more than the metro family with short subway commutes or retirees with no commute. And the pain is even more extreme for low income households whose grocery money shinks with gas prices rise. And remember, Uncle Sam excludes energy costs from Core Inflation.

Households with high medical costs are significantly more vulnerable than comparable households with low expenses in this category.

The BLS weights College Tuition and Fees at 1.695% of the total expenditures. But for households with college-bound children, the relentless growth of tuition and fees can cripple budgets. Often those costs get bundled into loans that saddle degree recipients with exorbitant debt burdens. Consider the following numbers from the CollegeBoard.com website:

■Public four-year colleges charge, on average, $8,240 per year in tuition and fees for in-state students.

■Public four-year colleges charge, on average, $20,770 per year in tuition and fees for out-of-state students.
■Private nonprofit four-year colleges charge, on average, $28,500 per year in tuition and fees.
Of course, Mr. Bernanke would point out that, with a healthy dose of Core Inflation (extended of course to wages), those debt-burdened college grads will pay down the loans with inflated dollars.

Which brings us back to the Fed’s efforts to manage the level of Core Inflation. At the macro level, Mr. Bernanke and his Federal Reserve team can doubtless make a theoretical argument for playing puppet master with inflation. But will their efforts — ZIRP and Quantitative Easing — achieve the desired goal?

The one thing we can be certain about is this: An increase in inflation will have a painful effect on lower income households, those on fixed incomes, those with higher ratios of transportation costs, college tuition and any household whose discretionary spending is more dream than reality.

- Phil

Click here for a free trial to Stock World Weekly.

www.philstockworld.com

Philip R. Davis is a founder of Phil's Stock World (www.philstockworld.com), a stock and options trading site that teaches the art of options trading to newcomers and devises advanced strategies for expert traders. Mr. Davis is a serial entrepreneur, having founded software company Accu-Title, a real estate title insurance software solution, and is also the President of the Delphi Consulting Corp., an M&A consulting firm that helps large and small companies obtain funding and close deals. He was also the founder of Accu-Search, a property data corporation that was sold to DataTrace in 2004 and Personality Plus, a precursor to eHarmony.com. Phil was a former editor of a UMass/Amherst humor magazine and it shows in his writing -- which is filled with colorful commentary along with very specific ideas on stock option purchases (Phil rarely holds actual stocks). Visit: Phil's Stock World (www.philstockworld.com)

© 2012 Copyright  PhilStockWorld - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.

PhilStockWorld Archive

© 2005-2014 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

Free Report - Financial Markets 2014