Inflation cooled less than expected in January and showed worrying staying power after stripping out volatile food and fuel costs — a reminder that bringing price increases under control remains a bumpy process.
The overall Consumer Price Index was up 3.1 percent from a year earlier, which was down from 3.4 percent in December but more than the 2.9 percent that economists had forecast. That figure is down from the latest peak of 9.1 percent in the summer of 2022.
But after stripping out food and fuel, which bounce around in price from month to month, “core” prices held roughly steady on an annual basis, climbing 3.9 percent from a year earlier. The measure climbed by the most in eight months on a monthly basis.
Federal Reserve officials had welcomed a recent moderation in inflation, and will likely take the fresh report as an affirmation that they need to remain cautious. Policymakers have been careful to avoid declaring victory over inflation, insisting that they need more evidence that it is coming down sustainably.
Investors sharply pared back chances for an imminent rate cut in the wake of the data, betting that the Fed will not lower interest rates at their next meeting in March and sharply dialing back the odds that it will do so even at their following meeting in May — a sign that they think the fresh inflation figures will keep officials wary.
Fed policymakers have raised interest rates to about 5.3 percent, up from near zero in early 2022, in a bid to cool consumer and business demand and force companies to stop raising prices so quickly. Because inflation has been coming down notably in recent months, they have paused their rate increases and are contemplating when and how much to lower borrowing costs.
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