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Gasoline Prices Push CPI Higher: +0.4%

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Wednesday, January 13, 2021

We don’t have a lot of economic data this week, especially compared to what we saw in public and private jobs numbers last week, but this morning gives us a little peek at whatever inflation exists in the current market by way of the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The December headline was in-line with estimates at +0.4%, double the previous month’s headline.

Core CPI, meaning subtracting volatile food and energy costs, reached +0.1%, same as expected but half November’s +0.2% read. This tells us quite a bit: clearly, the CPI gains in the past month were in food and energy prices. A quick look under the hood supports this; while food prices were at an as-expected +0.4% in December, energy went up. In specific, gasoline prices rose 8.4% on the month, representing more than 60% of all monthly CPI gains.

Year over year, the CPI headline was +1.4%, 20 basis points higher than the previous month, again due to rising automobile fuel prices. The OPEC+ proposal for lead country Saudi Arabia to cut 1 million barrels of oil per day appears to have had a direct affect on CPI. Also, we are at the heart of natural-gas-burning season here in January in the U.S. These figures released this morning were not seasonally adjusted.

Covid-19 daily case rates are off their most recent peak from last week, but still very high: a total of nearly 214K new cases were registered yesterday, but nearly 100K fewer cases than we saw last Thursday, which came in at 310K — an all-time high. Analysts of these figures cast a wary eye, however; millions of Americans traveled over the holiday season, and healthcare specialists are preparing for yet another spike to manifest in the data over the next few weeks.

Fatalities from the coronavirus, however, are already back to near-all-time highs as of yesterday, climbing back up to more than 4000 deaths from Covid-19 in a single day. Reports from hospital ICUs across the country bring tragic stories of triage like in a war-zone MASH unit: there are some patients too far gone to offer assistance when they arrive at the hospital; healthcare personnel is now being carefully allotted to save the most amount of people with serious cases of the coronavirus.

Vaccine rates are picking up, but there are still questions. While CDC guidelines are to open up vaccinations to Americans over the age of 65, a disturbingly high number of front-line Covid workers have yet to be immunized. Public school teachers in districts looking to reopen schools have largely yet to receive their first shot of the vaccine. Plenty of improvements are in need of being made as soon as possible; if we can stem the tide of caseloads and fatalities sooner than later, our economy stands a much better chance of prospering sooner than later.

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