2012 Economic Calendar
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Consumer Price Index  
Released On 4/13/2012 8:30:00 AM For Mar, 2012
PriorConsensusConsensus RangeActual
CPI - M/M change0.4 %0.3 %0.1 % to 0.5 %0.3 %
CPI - Y/Y change2.9 %2.6 %
CPI less food & energy- M/M change0.1 %0.2 %0.1 % to 0.2 %0.2 %
CPI less food & energy - Y/Y change2.2 %2.3 %
CPI - level228.433 index level
Core CPI - level227.907 index level

CPI inflation at the headline level in March eased slightly but remained on the warm side due to higher energy. Meanwhile, the core rate also firmed. The consumer price index increased 0.3 percent, following a 0.4 percent boost in February. Analysts forecast a 0.3 percent gain. Excluding food and energy, the CPI firmed to a 0.2 percent gain in March, following a 0.1 percent uptick the prior month. Market expectations called for a 0.2 percent rise.

By major components, energy jumped 0.9 percent, following a 3.2 percent surge in February. In contrast to the decline at the PPI level, gasoline rose 1.7 percent after a 6.0 percent spike. Food price inflation increased to 0.2 percent from no change in February.

Within the core, apparel prices rebounded after declining in February. Used car prices jumped sharply. And shelter costs firmed.

Year-on-year, overall CPI inflation eased to 2.6 percent from 2.9 percent in February (seasonally adjusted). The core rate firmed to 2.3 percent from 2.2 percent on a year-ago basis. On an unadjusted year-ago basis, the headline number was up 2.7 percent in March, compared to 2.9 percent in February. The core was up 2.3 percent versus 2.2 percent in the prior month, not seasonally adjusted.

On the news, equities futures dipped somewhat despite meeting expectations. Rates were little changed.

Currently, slack resource utilization is not getting inflation down to the Fed's inflation goal of 2 percent PCE inflation. Even though Fed doves have been speaking a little louder recently, the newest CPI report will give ammunition to the inflation hawks.

Consensus Outlook
Special Note: This Friday April 13, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will make significant changes to the format of the U.S. Consumer Price Index press release. The CPI tables will be restructured to focus on three broad groups -- Food, Energy and All Items Less Food and Energy. The CPI items will be further divided into commodity and services within these broad groups. Previously, this release had focused on eight major groups such as food & beverages, housing, apparel, transportation, etc.

The consumer price index in February rose 0.4 percent, following a 0.2 percent gain in January. Excluding food and energy, the CPI edged up 0.1 percent, following a 0.2 percent increase in January. Turning to major components, energy jumped a monthly 3.2 percent, following a 0.2 percent rise in January. Gasoline spiked 6.0 percent after a 0.9 percent increase the month before. Food price inflation posted at zero, following a 0.2 percent gain in January. Within the core, indexes for shelter, new vehicles, medical care, and household furnishings and operations all advanced, while indexes for apparel, recreation, used cars and trucks, and tobacco all declined.

The Consumer Price Index is a measure of the change in the average price level of a fixed basket of goods and services purchased by consumers. Monthly changes in the CPI represent the rate of inflation for the consumer. Annual inflation is also closely watched.

The consumer price index is available nationally by expenditure category and by commodity and service group for all urban consumers (CPI-U) and wage earners (CPI-W). All urban consumers are a more inclusive group, representing about 87 percent of the population. The CPI-U is the more widely quoted of the two, although cost-of-living contracts for unions and Social Security benefits are usually tied to the CPI-W, because it has a longer history. Monthly variations between the two are slight.

The CPI is also available by size of city, by region of the country, for cross-classifications of regions and population-size classes, and for many metropolitan areas. The regional and city CPIs are often used in local contracts.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also produces a chain-weighted index called the Chained CPI. This measures a variable basket of goods and services whereas the regular CPI-U and CPI-W measure a fixed basket of goods and services. The Chained CPI is similar to the personal consumption expenditure price index that is closely monitored by the Federal Reserve Board.  Why Investors Care
It is always a good idea to look at more than a few months of data to get a sense of changes in established trends. Monthly changes in the CPI are mainly volatile because of sharp fluctuations in food and energy prices. The core CPI eliminates the sharper fluctuations.
Data Source: Haver Analytics
Yearly changes tend to smooth out more severe monthly fluctuations and give a better idea of the underlying rate of inflation. Even with the smoother trend, note that the core CPI does not fluctuate as much as the total CPI.
Data Source: Haver Analytics

2012 Release Schedule
Released On: 1/192/173/164/135/156/147/178/159/1410/1611/1512/14
Release For: DecJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNov

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