Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Comments on June CPI and General Price Inflation

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has released the June Consumer Price Index Summary.
One has to wonder about the reliability of these numbers, viz.:
 The index for all items less food and energy rose 0.2 percent in June
following a 0.1 percent increase in May. Most components of all items
less food and energy posted increases; the indexes for shelter and medical
care rose slightly, while the indexes for new vehicles, used cars and
trucks, recreation, and apparel all increased at least 0.5 percent. The
index for airline fares did decline in June, falling 0.6 percent.

Whether in Macy's, Nordstrom's, or specialty shops, there are significant sales everywhere. The sales are widespread enough that it would be surprising if a large percentage of final dollar sales were not being made at major price reductions. These are generally "real" sales, I believe, in that they are discounts off of ordinary prices. It is thus at best counter-intuitive for BLS to claim that apparel prices rose in June. Similarly, how plausible is it that total cost to buy a new car rose, after rebates and/or low/no interest rates on new car loans?

Yours truly recently bought some "stuff" at CVS. With payment came a $5 off slip on a purchase of $25 or more, plus a $2.50 further discount. Upon responding to this incentive to purchase more "stuff" that was going to be purchased a month or two hence anyway, the wife and I also found various sales and store brands which lowered purchase costs and from which the above discounts were further subtracted.

These questions ignore the topic of how to measure housing costs. The BLS says that the cost of housing is essentially unchanged year on year.

There are price pressures everywhere, modified by frenetic Chinese buying, the future of which is unpredictable. Sustained, major and rising inflation in the U. S. last began in the mid-1960's with LBJ's guns and butter policy. The economy can probably handle Obama butter without big-time inflation. If Afghanistan heats up substantially or another significant war appears, though, watch out.

Copyright (C) Long Lake LLC 2009


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