The consumer price index (CPI) dipped to 8.25% (seasonally adjusted) for the 12 months to August but disappointed stock and bond markets who were anticipating a sharp fall.
The S&P 500 fell 4.3% to test support at 3900. Follow-through below 3650 would confirm earlier bear market signals.
Services CPI — which has minimal exposure to producer prices and supply chains — climbed to 6.08%. Rising services costs indicate that inflation is growing embedded in the economy.
Fueled by strong growth in average hourly earnings.
But it is not only services that present a problem.
Food prices are growing above 10% p.a. — signaling hardship for low income-earners.
The heavily-weighted shelter component — almost one-third of total CPI — climbed to 6.25%. We expect further increases as CPI shelter lags actual home prices — represented by the Case-Shiller 20-City Composite Home Price Index (pink) on the chart below — by 6 to 12 months.
CPI energy is still high, at 23.91% for the 12 months to August, but the index has fallen steeply over the past two months (July-August).
The decline is likely to continue until the mid-term elections in November, as the US government releases crude from its strategic reserves (SPR) in order to suppress fuel prices.
The reduction in strategic reserves is unsustainable in the longer-term and reversal could deliver a nasty surprise for consumers in the new year.
Strong CPI growth for the 12-months to August warns that inflation will be difficult to contain. Services CPI at 6.08% also confirms that inflation is growing embedded in the economy.
Energy costs are falling but this may be unsustainable. Releases from the strategic petroleum reserve (SPR) are likely to end after the mid-term elections in November.
The Fed is way behind the curve, with the real Fed funds rate (FFR-CPI) at -5.92%, below the previous record low of -4.97% from 1975.
We expect interest rates to rise “higher for longer.” A 75 basis-point hike is almost certain at next weeks’ FOMC meeting (September 20-21).
Long-term Treasury yields are rising, with the 10-year at 3.42%. Breakout above resistance at 3.50% is likely, signaling the end of a four decade-long secular bull trend in bonds.
Stocks and bonds are both falling, with the S&P 500 down 18.0% year-to-date compared to -25.4% for TLT.
The best short-term haven is cash.