Wednesday, February 12, 2014

“There’s a lack of pricing power in most areas of the economy...” (Bloomberg)

Price Slowdown for Cars, Baby Clothes Raises Fed Concerns

By Michelle Jamrisko and Ilan Kolet Feb 12, 2014 8:07 AM PT

Five years into the U.S. economic expansion, inflation shows little sign of picking up as prices rise more slowly for goods and services from automobiles to medical care, complicating the Federal Reserve’s drive to guide the economy away from the precipice of deflation.
The personal consumption expenditures price index, minus food and energy costs, rose 1.2 percent in 2013, matching 2009 as the smallest gain since 1955. Of 27 categories of goods and services in the gauge, 18 showed smaller price increases over the past two years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The slowdown has been broad-based, with durable goods such as autos, nondurables like clothing and services including health care all playing a role. Fed policy makers are on guard to keep such disinflation from morphing into outright deflation, a persistent drop in prices that prompts households to delay purchases in anticipation of even lower costs and leads companies to postpone investment and hiring.
“There’s a lack of pricing power in most areas of the economy,” said Laura Rosner, an economist at BNP Paribas SA in New York and a former researcher at the New York Fed. “In certain months we see weakness in medical care, and then that passes on to apparel prices in other months. It’s a weakness that never quite fades.”

 Investors predict subdued prices. The five-year breakeven rate, a market gauge of inflation expectations over the next five years based on trading in inflation-linked Treasuries, was at 1.94 percent yesterday, down from 2.3 percent last year at this time... .

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