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With headline inflation hitting a 41-year high, the market has become increasingly skeptical of the Federal Reserve’s ability to combat rising price levels for consumers and producers alike. As market participants await additional action from the Fed, core inflation numbers have broken away from historical trends with core CPI exceeding core services since March last year. Core CPI, which includes all items except food and energy, has historically stayed near 2% and below core services. As the U.S. began to reopen in early 2021, the increased demand for goods amidst supply chain stresses was quickly followed by a rapid rise in core CPI. Recent geopolitical conflicts such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and lasting pandemic mitigation measures taken by China have only exacerbated supply chain disruptions as global trade remains stifled. While policymakers were initially confident in the transitory nature of inflation, it has proved more persistent, with the U.S. now entering a period of a wage-price spiral as higher prices and higher wages threaten a prolonged period of elevated price levels. In addition to supply chain matters, employment dynamics within the U.S. have left many sectors of the economy seeking workers, with many companies resorting to wage increases to maintain or expand their workforce. While wage growth has continued to lag inflation, it has contributed to core services significantly, with year-over-year increases reaching levels not seen in over 20 years. While it remains to be seen whether overall inflation has peaked, it is likely that core services inflation will remain for the time being as persistent labor shortages keep upward pressure on wages.
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