Updated Mar 10, 2022 - Economy

Inflation's latest surge

Data: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

Inflation continued its relentless surge in February, driving the rate of consumer price increases to a new generational high.

  • The new numbers include precious few signs of inflation abating —and mostly don't reflect the impact of the Ukraine war on global commodity prices.

Why it matters: Wall Street forecasters and the Biden administration have been counting on inflation peaking early this year. The February numbers, combined with developments in the news, are more consistent with stubbornly high inflation.

By the numbers: The Consumer Price Index rose 0.8% in February, and was up 7.9% over a year earlier, the steepest 12-month rise since 1982.

  • Excluding volatile food and energy — so-called core inflation — the numbers were still high, at 0.5% for the month and 6.4% year-over-year.
  • Over the last three months, core inflation rose at a 6.8% annual rate while total inflation increased at an 8.4% rate. Those numbers point to an acceleration of inflation this winter, not a deceleration.

Details: The steepest price gains were for gasoline (+6.6%) and fuel oil (+7.7%). But there were price surges for many non-energy items as well, including air fare (+5.2%) and fruits and vegetables (+2.3%).

  • Rents were up 0.6%, and the equivalent rent on homes people own rose 0.4%. Those are extremely rapid rates of increase for some of the biggest components of peoples' spending.

Prices for oil, wheat, and many other key commodities have surged since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began at the tail end of February. That points to higher prices in the months to come.

The bottom line: It looks like inflation will get worse before it gets better.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with new details.

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