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Question #5 for 2023: What will the YoY core inflation rate be in December 2023?


Earlier I posted some questions on my blog for next year: Ten Economic Questions for 2023. Some of these questions concern real estate (inventory, house prices, housing starts, new home sales), and I’ll post thoughts on those in the newsletter (others like GDP and employment will be on this blog).

I’m adding some thoughts, and maybe some predictions for each question.

5) Inflation: Core PCE was up 4.7% YoY through November. This was down from a peak of 5.4% in early 2022.  The FOMC is forecasting the YoY change in core PCE will be in the 3.2% to 3.7% range in Q4 2023. Will the core inflation rate decrease in 2023, and what will the YoY core inflation rate be in December 2023? 

Although there are different measure for inflation, they all show inflation well above the Fed’s 2% inflation target.

Note:  I follow several measures of inflation, including median CPI and trimmed-mean CPI from the Cleveland Fed.  Also core PCE prices (monthly from the BEA) and core CPI (from the BLS).

Click on graph for larger image.

This graph shows the year-over-year change for these four key measures of inflation.  The recent spike in inflation is obvious, and inflation appears to have peaked.

On a year-over-year basis, the median CPI rose 7.0% in November, the trimmed-mean CPI rose 6.7%, and the CPI less food and energy rose 6.0%. Core PCE increased 4.7% year-over-year.
The key question is will inflation continue to trend down towards the Fed’s target in 2023?  The Fed is projecting core PCE inflation will decrease to 3.0% to 3.4% by Q4 2023. 
However, the recent sharp slowdown in household formation is impacting the cost of shelter. The surge in household formation during the pandemic was unrelated to monetary policy (it was mostly due to work-from-home and the pickup in divorces). And the recent slowdown in household formation is also unrelated to monetary policy.

This “dramatic shift” in household formation is leading to Rents Falling Faster than “Seasonality Alone”. Since rents are falling – and will likely continue to fall – it probably makes sense to look at inflation ex-shelter for monetary policy over the next several months.

This graph shows the year-over-year change in Core CPI ex-Shelter (blue), and the one month change annualized (red). The year-over-year change was at 5.2% in November, down from 5.9% in October. And the annualized one-month change was negative in both October and November! Core CPI ex-shelter fell at 1.5% annual rate in November.

Pandemic economics are weird.   We saw a shift from services to goods early in the pandemic, a surge in household formation related to work-from-home, and more recently a shift from goods to services and a sharp slowdown in household formation.  My guess is core PCE inflation (year-over-year) will decrease in 2023 (from the current 4.7%), and I think core PCE inflation will be below 3% by the end of 2023.

Tuesday: Fed Chair Powell on “Central Bank Independence”

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