Inflation expectations pick up after record jump in gas outlook: NEW Fed survey

A Sheetz customer gets gas at a gas station in Plains, Pennsylvania, US on October 19, 2022.

Aimee Dilger | Reuters

Americans became more concerned about inflation in October, with fears stemming from an expected explosion in gasoline prices, a Federal Reserve survey showed on Monday.

Inflation expectations for the year ahead rose to 5.9%, up half a percentage point from September to the highest level since July, according to the New York Fed̵[ads1]7;s monthly survey of consumer expectations. Three-year expectations also accelerated to 3.1%, while the five-year outlook rose to 2.4%, increases from 2.9% and 2.2% respectively.

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Inflation expectations pick up after record jump in gas outlook: NEW Fed survey

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The reason for the heightened concerns was an expected jump in prices at the pump, which have declined over the past month.

Respondents think gas prices will rise 4.8% over the next year, up from 0.5% in September for the biggest one-month increase in survey data going back to June 2013.

Estimates for food prices going forward this year increased, and consumers now expect an increase of 7.6%, up from 6.8% in September. Outlooks for medical costs and rent were little changed, with the latter up 0.1 percentage points, while expectations for college costs fell to 8.6%, down 0.4 percentage points from September.

The survey comes less than a week after the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that inflation, as measured by the consumer price index, rose 0.4% in October. That was lower than the Dow Jones estimate of 0.6% for the monthly gain, while the annual gain of 7.7% was half a percentage point lower than last month.

Fed policymakers have raised interest rates aggressively this year to bring down inflation. A series of increases have brought the central bank’s benchmark interest rate up to around 3.75 percentage points, with markets expecting further increases in early 2023.

The increases have already had some impact, particularly in the housing market, where 30-year mortgage rates around 7% have affected sales and prices.

House prices were expected to increase by 2%, the same as in September and tied for the lowest since June 2020.

The Fed’s efforts to cool the red-hot labor market are also expected to have some impact. Some 42.9% of respondents expect unemployment to rise a year from now, representing the highest level since April 2020.

However, the survey showed a median household income expectation of 4.3% over the next year, a record high. Expenditure growth rose a full percentage point to 7%.

Credit is expected to be more difficult to obtain – a record high 56.7% believe it will be more difficult to get financing in a year’s time.

A separate gauge released Monday from the quarterly Survey of Professional Forecasters also pointed to higher inflation combined with lower economic growth. The survey sees GDP growth of just 1.6% this year and 1.3% in 2023, while CPI inflation is projected to be 7.7% in 2022 and 3.4% in 2023, up from previous estimates of 7 .5% and 3.2%.

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