Inflation Cooled to 4.9% in April

The lower CPI reading could further prompt the Fed to stop interest-rate hikes.

May 11, 2023

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Inflation slid slightly in April to 4.9% year over year, reports the Wall Street Journal. April’s consumer-price index reading was down over March’s 5% reading, and although, inflation has fallen 10 straight months, it remains historically high.

On a monthly basis, consumer prices rose a seasonally adjusted 0.4% in April, versus a 0.1% gain in March. Housing costs, gas and used car prices drove April’s increase. The slight lowering of inflation gives the Federal Reserve more reason to pause rate hikes. The Fed has been aggressively increasing interest rates in hopes to slow down inflation, and is looking for signs that inflation is lowering to its 2% target.

“We feel like we’re getting closer or maybe even there,” Fed Chair Jerome Powell said at a news conference last week.

While the April report contains some positive signs for a continued slowdown in price gains, “it does suggest a risk that rates will need to remain high for a little longer than we have assumed,” Andrew Hunter, an economist at Capital Economics, told the Wall Street Journal.

Core prices remain inflated due to consistently high housing costs. Housing price changes can take time to show up in inflation data due to the lag in mortgage and rental contracts. Gasoline prices were up in April, but they’ve since moderated. Prices rose 3.7% last month if shelter, food and energy costs are not taken into account.

Food costs have been flat over the past two months, and grocery prices actually declined in April, but they were offset by an increase in the cost to dine out.

That divergence could provide relief to household budgets by giving them “an option to avoid inflation by cutting out at least one discretionary spending indulgence from their routines,” PNC senior economist Kurt Rankin told the Wall Street Journal.

Inflation is also remaining high because of a continued demand for workers. The average hourly wage soared 4.4% in April year over year, which was slightly faster than in March, and the unemployment rate dropped to its lowest level since 1969.

Companies have passed along high labor costs to consumers, as well as boost profits, without much pushback from consumers. However, consumers are starting to pull back on spending, as consumer spending has stagnated after increasing at the beginning of the year.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “A slowdown in business investment and a weak housing market, both influenced by interest rates, have contributed to a broader economic cooling this year.”