Core inflation up at just a 0.9% annual rate in May keeping the Fed on hold

06/17/2010 9:53 am EST

Focus: STOCKS

Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor, JubakPicks.com

No inflation in May. The headline Consumer price Index fell by 0.2%. That’s the second monthly drop in a row after April’s 0.1% decline.

Nobody needs to worry about the Federal Reserve raising interest rates to fight inflation any time soon.

No deflation in May either—by a tad.

The drop in the May headline rate came on a 2.9% decline in energy prices, which was itself based on a 5.2% fall in gasoline prices. Most of that, however, was due seasonal adjustments. Non-seasonally adjusted gas prices actually rose 0.7%.

All that added up to a tiny increase in the core inflation rate—that’s inflation minus changes in food and energy prices and that is the inflation rate that the Federal Reserve watches--of 0.1% in May.  On an annual basis the core Consumer Price Index is up just 0.9%. That’s the lowest annual increase in the core rate since 1966.

A 0.9% core inflation rate certainly isn’t enough to reassure those who worry that the U.S. is in danger of slipping into deflation. But at least the rate remains in positive territory.

You had to look only to another statistical release this morning for an explanation for the drop in headline inflation in May and the tiny increase in the core inflation rate. Initial jobless claims rose last week by 12,000 to 472,000. Economists had expected a decline to 450,000.

With so many people unemployed, it’s not surprising that prices aren’t climbing.

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