January’s CPI report could challenge the narrative that inflation is trending down across a growing range of sectors in the U.S. economy.
The economic calendar is packed to the brim in the week ahead, but inflation data will be most important to investors.
January’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is set for release Tuesday will be heavily scrutinized, particularly after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell acknowledged the presence of “disinflation” in the U.S. economy.
Economists expect headline CPI rose 0.5% month-over-month in January, a notable jump from figures seen in recent months. New seasonal adjustments released by the BLS on Friday also switched December’s initial reading of a 0.1% monthly drop in headline inflation to an increase of 0.1% in the year’s final month.
While the monthly CPI figure likely rose in January, the annual headline number is projected to come down to 6.2% from 6.5% the prior month, consensus estimates compiled by Bloomberg show.
Core CPI, which removes the volatile food and energy components of the report and is closely tracked by the Fed, is forecast to show a 0.4% rise over the month — on par with the upwardly revised 0.4% increase in December.
On an annual basis, economists expect core CPI rose 5.5% over the year, down modestly from the annual 5.7% in December.
Policymakers monitor “core” inflation more closely due to its nuanced look at key inputs like housing, while the headline CPI figure has moved largely in tandem with volatile energy prices this year.
For Chair Powell, shelter inflation — a “stickier” component of CPI that has remained stubbornly high — is a key component of evaluating the path forward for interest rates. In a sit-down interview last week in Washington D.C., Powell said he expects housing inflation to fall in the middle of the year.
“There has been an expectation that [inflation] will go away quickly and painlessly; I don’t think it’s guaranteed that’s the base case,” Powell said last Monday at the Economic Club of D.C. “It will take some time.”
The Producer Price Index (PPI) will give Wall Street another sense of how quickly prices are rising with a look at inflation at the wholesale level on Thursday. Meanwhile, the government’s retail sales report due out Wednesday is expected to show continued strength in consumer spending.
Over the prior month, PPI likely rose 0.4%, a jump from a decline of 0.5% reported in December. Economists expect an annual reading of 5.4%, down from 6.2% in December.
Retail sales are expected to have bounced back in January, rising 1.9% over the prior month following a 1.1% decline in December.
On Friday, U.S. stocks finished their worst week of the year after a strong start to 2023. The S&P 500 closed down 1.1% for the week, the Dow Jones Industrial 0.2%, and the Nasdaq Composite 2.4%.
“Given the strong rally to start the year, the market was due for a cool-off period, and we got that this week,” analysts at Bespoke Investment Group said in a note.
Equity markets have rebounded sharply since December on bets the Federal Reserve may pause rate hikes sooner than expected following a steady downshift in recent rate hikes, but officials and strategists have continued to assert excitement around a pivot is premature.
“I’m actually a bit confused about what’s happened in the market,” Threadneedle Ventures Founder Ann Berry told on Friday. “Powell was super clear that rates are going to go up because inflation has not yet come to the point where it needs to come.”
“We have our doubts about whether the economy is indeed re-accelerating, but we expect incoming data next week on retail sales to keep the question alive,” Bank of America’s Michael Gapen and his team said in a note to clients last week.
On the earnings side, investors are nearing the final stretch of the reporting season. About 69% of companies in the S&P 500 index have reported results as of Friday, with just 69% of that share reporting earnings per share above estimates — below the five-year average of 77%, according to FactSet data.
In the week ahead, investors will get results from headliners including Airbnb (ABNB), Coca-Cola (KO), DraftKings (DKNG), Paramount Global (PARA), and Deere (DE).