Just about everything is getting more expensive in the United States as the stimulus-fueled economy rebounds, sending Americans back to shops and restaurants. But the pandemic is far from over, and supply-chain woes mean supply isn’t meeting demand — sending prices even higher.
US consumer prices in April increased 4.2% from a year earlier, more than the 3.6% economists had predicted, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Wednesday. It was the biggest 12-month increase since September 2008.
Prices rose 0.8% on a seasonally adjusted basis between March and April — also more than analysts had expected.
Price increases, supply chain problems and shortages have become hot-button issues for the global economy as it recovers from the pandemic shock of 2020. Higher inflation was expected as the economy began to reopen. The Federal Reserve, whose mandate it is to keep prices stable, continuously said that moderately higher prices this summer will be temporary.
But the supply chain issues — including the Suez canal traffic jam in March and the hack on the Colonial pipeline last weekend — exacerbated the problems already created by a shortage of shipping vessels. Raw material prices for all sorts of goods — oil, steel, lumber — are going up as demand is outpacing what can be supplied. All of this is pushing inflation up further.
For investors, the worry is that runaway inflation will force the Fed to change its ultra-loose monetary policy stance sooner than hoped, either by raising interest rates or tapering its billion dollar asset purchases. That would be bad news for the stock market.
Another worry is that if inflation is too high for too long it will discourage Americans from spending the money in their wallets because things are too expensive. That would be really bad new because the US economy runs on consumer spending.
This is a developing story. It will be updated