Consumer prices remain very soft, failing to match what were modest Econoday expectations for July. Total prices edged 1 tenth higher in July as did the core (less food & energy) which are both no better than the low estimates. Year-on-year rates are also at the low estimates, at 1.7 percent each. Moderation in housing costs remains a major disinflationary force, inching only 0.1 percent higher for a yearly 2.8 percent which is down 2 tenths from June. And wireless services, in keeping with the telecom revolution, continue to move lower, falling 0.3 percent on the month for a yearly decline of 13.3 percent.
Vehicle sales have been weak this year and it's being reflected in prices which fell 0.5 percent in the month. Lodging away from home is another major negative in the July report, falling a record 4.2 percent as motels and hotels cut prices. On the plus side, apparel prices, which had been on a long negative streak, rose 0.3 percent though the year-on-year rate remains in the negative camp at minus 0.4 percent. Medical care is a plus in the report, rising 0.4 percent for the second straight month with the year-on-year rate, however, edging lower to 2.6 percent. Energy prices are a negative in the report, at minus 0.1 percent, offset by a 0.2 percent rise for food.
Is the dip in inflation the result of one-time effects that will soon pass? Or is it the result of weak wages and general global disinflation? Lack of inflation remains the central trouble in the Federal Reserve's policy efforts. Today's results will not be improving expectations for the beginning of balance-sheet unwinding at the September FOMC.
Econoday's consensus isn't calling for much needed strength in consumer prices, at a monthly consensus gain of 0.2 percent in July vs no change in June. The yearly rate is seen slipping to 1.8 percent from 1.9 percent. Less food & energy, the rate is also seen rising a monthly 0.2 percent vs June's gain of 0.1 percent with this closely watched yearly rate also called at 1.8 percent which however would be up from June's 1.6 percent. Though this report has been tipped lower by declines in cell phone services, fundamental prices including housing costs have been slowing.