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Inflation is rising at the fastest pace in 40 years, pushed up by record high gas prices


The pain of higher prices continues for US consumers.

Record gas prices drove inflation to 8.6% for the 1[ads1]2 months ending in May, higher than the pace in April, according to the latest consumer price index, the government’s basic inflation target.

The reading for the core CPI, which removes volatile food and energy prices, showed an increase of 6% in the same period, higher than last month’s level. Both measurements are among the largest price jumps consumers have experienced since 1981.

Overall, the increases were higher than the forecasts of economists, who had expected prices to jump by 8.3% during the 12 months ending in May, and which would have matched the April reading. This report shattered hopes that inflation had peaked earlier this year.

“Inflation is going higher and wider with worse prospects,” said Sung Won Sohn, professor of finance and economics at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. “The probability of a recession in the next year or so increases. Inflation erodes consumers’ purchasing power. Since consumption expenditure accounts for about 70% of the economy, a real decline in consumption expenditure will have a major impact on the economy. ”

The typical American household spends about $ 460 more each month than they did last year to buy the same basket of goods and services, said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.

Energy prices rose 34.6% compared to a year ago, driven by a jump of almost 50% in gas prices last year. AAA’s gas price tracking shows that the price of a gallon of ordinary gas across the country is now $ 4.99, after setting records in 31 of the last 32 days. The CPI report from June next month will definitely show another big jump in gas prices.

But energy price increases were not limited to record high petrol prices. Electricity prices rose 12% in the last 12 months, the largest annual increase since 2006. And the price of natural gas used by consumers rose by 30.2%, the biggest jump since 2008.

The higher energy prices alone gave 2 percentage points to the total CPI.

It is not just energy that drives up prices. The Ministry of Labor said that almost all the main components that make up the index showed increased prices.

Prices for food purchased to eat at home rose 11.9%, the largest increase in 12 months since 1979, with eggs up 32.2%, milk up 15.9% and poultry up 16.6%.

The crisis center index, which measures rent and other housing costs, showed an increase of 5.5%, the largest increase in 12 months since 1991. Although it may not be as large an increase as the double-digit price increases in other categories, the money consumers spend on Their home, whether they rent or buy, is usually the biggest expense they make each month.

Used car prices, which had shown signs of moderating with monthly declines over the past three months, rose once again, increasing prices by 16.1% over the past 12 months. At the same time, the prices of new cars are up 12.6% in the same period. A shortage of computer chips has dampened production at car manufacturers, and the limited inventory is responsible for price growth.

Strong demand for flights at the start of the summer travel season also lifts airline tickets, which had a jump of one month of 12.6% in May, the third monthly increase in a row with more still 10%. In the last 12 months, air fares have increased by 37.8% and prices in May are 21.7% higher than in May 2019, before the pandemic almost stopped the demand for flights.

The continued high inflation rate means that the Federal Reserve is almost certain to continue to raise interest rates aggressively when it meets next week. At its meeting in May, the Fed raised interest rates by half a percentage point, the first such move in 22 years. Another half-point hike is likely at next week’s meeting, with some predictions now which requires a three-quarter point hike in light of Friday report.

But there are concerns that the Fed’s monetary tightening could put the US economy into a recession. It has been an important factor in the sharp decline in US stock prices in recent months that has wiped out much of households’ wealth. Shares fell sharply again on Friday after the inflation reading.

“Inflation is proving to be more persistent than previously thought, when it was a temporary buzzword,” said Jim Baird, chief investment officer at Plante Moran Financial Advisors. ¬ęThe two key questions now? How far will the Fed go to bring inflation down, and how far can the Fed go without pushing the economy into recession? ”

While the Inflation Report brought new attacks on the Biden administration from Republicans, the White House tried to blame the worst of inflation on the rise in oil and gasoline prices after Russia invaded Ukraine.

“Today’s inflation report confirms what Americans already know. Putin’s price increase is hitting the United States hard, said President Joe Biden at the Port of Los Angeles, where he stopped from a regional summit to address what his team sees as the most pressing issue: high prices for everything from gas to groceries.

Biden tried to both acknowledge the pain Americans feel, explain how he was looking to resolve it, and blame others.

“I understand,” Biden said. “Inflation is a real challenge for American families.”

He apologized to shipping conglomerates for raising prices and oil companies for their share repurchases, and designated oil giant Exxon to make “more money than God” last year.

– CNN’s Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

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