Consumer price inflation remained quite soft in February at the headline and core levels. Headline inflation posted at 0.1 percent, matching the pace in January and also matching market expectations. Similarly, the CPI excluding food and energy inflation rate held steady at 0.1 percent, equaling the January pace and meeting analysts' forecasts.
The energy component declined 0.5 percent after increasing 0.6 percent in January. Gasoline fell 1.7 percent in February, following a decline of 1.0 percent the month before. Food price inflation, however, jumped to 0.4 percent after nudging up 0.1 percent in January.
Within the core, the shelter index rose 0.2 percent, with the indexes for rent and owners' equivalent rent both rising 0.2 percent, and the index for lodging away from home advancing 0.6 percent. The medical care index increased 0.3 percent in February, the same as January. The index for medical care commodities was up 0.6 percent while the index for medical care services increased 0.2 percent. The index for airline fares rose 1.3 percent in February. The index for personal care was up 0.2 percent. The recreation index was up 0.1 percent. The index for new vehicles rose 0.1 percent. Meanwhile, the index for household furnishings and operations was down 0.4 percent. The apparel index dropped 0.3 percent (the same as January). The index for used cars and trucks fell 0.1 percent. The alcohol and tobacco indexes decreased 0.3 percent and 0.1 percent, respectively.
Year-on-year, overall CPI inflation was 1.1 percent in February, compared to 1.6 percent in January (seasonally adjusted). The core rate increased 1.6 percent year-on-year, matching the rate for January. For February, not seasonally adjusted year-ago percent changes for total and core CPI were 1.1 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively.
Again, inflation remains quite low at the consumer level. The Fed likely will focus more on below target inflation than unemployment at its March 18-19 FOMC meeting.
Market Consensus before announcement
Consumer price index inflation slowed in January at the headline level and core inflation remained soft. Headline CPI inflation in January eased to a monthly 0.1 rise after gaining 0.2 percent in December (new seasonal factors). The CPI excluding food and energy inflation rate held steady at 0.1 percent, matching the December pace. The energy component increased 0.6 percent, following a 1.6 percent boost in December. However, gasoline declined 1.0 percent after jumping 2.6 percent in December. Food price inflation nudged up marginally to 0.1 percent from flat the month before. Within the core, upward pressure was mainly from housing, up 0.4 percent. But softness was seen in apparel, down 0.3 percent. New vehicles dipped 0.3 percent and used cars fell 0.5 percent.