US inflation, having steadily declined since its four-decade peak last June, is poised for further cooling. This slowdown is attributed to easing car prices, declining rents, and the potential impact of a slower job market.
While rising energy costs have elevated headline inflation to 3.7% in August from a year earlier, core inflation, excluding volatile food and energy prices, decelerated to a 4.3% annual rate in August, signaling a slowdown.
Economists anticipate the continuation of this inflation slowdown, citing weakening price momentum in goods, particularly used cars. José Torres, a senior economist at Interactive Brokers, notes that high interest rates and reduced credit availability are dampening demand in the automobile sector.
Used car and truck prices declined for the third consecutive month in August, falling 1.2% from July and 6.6% lower than the same month a year ago. Prices of new cars also showed minimal growth.
Shelter costs, a significant component of the Consumer Price Index (CPI), are expected to slow in the coming months. Rental costs rose 0.3% in August, the smallest gain since January 2022. Sarah House, senior economist at Wells Fargo, anticipates a further deceleration in rental costs, contributing to inflation easing.
The broader economic slowdown, coupled with a cooling job market, is expected to ease inflation in the services sector, covering businesses like restaurants and hospitals. A San Francisco Fed paper suggests that shelter inflation could turn negative in the second half of 2024, impacting both headline and core inflation.
Saira Malik, chief investment officer at Nuveen, emphasizes that financial markets and the Fed focus more on core inflation. Despite the anticipated drop in inflation, investors expect the Fed to maintain steady interest rates without immediate cuts. Malik suggests that if core inflation becomes too high, markets may price in another rate hike.