Tame US Inflation Bolsters Fed Caution On Rate Hikes

Barack Obama
Barack Obama

UNITED States inflation barely rose in March as consumer spending remained tepid, making it less likely that the Federal Reserve will be able to follow through on its projected two interest rate hikes this year.

The tame inflation backdrop was reinforced by another report on Friday showing labor costs increasing moderately in the first quarter.

The Commerce Department said the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index, excluding the volatile food and energy components, edged up 0.1 percent last month after an upwardly revised 0.2 percent increase in February.

The so-called core PCE rose 1.6 percent in the 12 months through March, after advancing 1.7 percent in February. The core PCE is the U.S. central bank’s preferred inflation measure and is running below its 2 percent target.

Following its latest policy meeting, the Fed said on Wednesday it was continuing to “closely” monitor inflation. It left its benchmark overnight interest rate unchanged and suggested it was in no hurry to tighten monetary policy further.

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It hiked rates in December for the first time in nearly a decade.

Fed policymakers earlier this year forecast two more rate hikes for 2016. But market-based measures of Fed policy expectations are mostly leaning toward one increase this year.

Prices of U.S. Treasuries hit session lows after the data, while U.S. stock futures added to losses. The dollar fell to an eight-month low against a basket of currencies.

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